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Whiteness & Aversive Racism

Misunderstanding the Civil Rights Movement and Diversity of Tactics

The Hampton Institute

June 13, 2015

By Lorenzo St. Dubois

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s gotten to be a pattern on the Left. When Black protest erupts into insurrection, as it did in Ferguson and Baltimore, most liberals and white radicals express empathy for the cathartic release of anger, but urge the oppressed that this is not the way. This is “not strategic,” says the leftist concern-troll. This is “what the police want.” Most of the time they manage to stop short of asking “why are they burning down their own neighborhood?” -if only to be mindful of clichés-but some can’t even help themselves there. In the aftermath, Amy Goodman (seemingly channeling Alex Jones) will spread conspiracy theories on how the government “orchestrated” the rioting.[1] The respectability politics of nonviolence will return.

It’s hard to believe that anyone who has paid attention to Black Lives Matter takes these positions in good faith because, of course, the riots in Ferguson were objectively the best thing that happened to a movement that was already more than a year old. In August 2014, Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman had been almost completely forgotten by white America except as grim punchlines, while national civil rights leaders were more concerned with Chicago’s gang killings than with the national wave of police terror. Yet by December, in the wake of recurring rioting in both Ferguson and the Bay Area, the Ferguson PD was under investigation by Amnesty International, the Justice Department and the United Nations ( and #BlackLivesMatter had been named Word of the Year by the American Dialect Society ).

This month the pushback comes with Jonathan Chait’s promotion of a scholarly paper on the effects of rioting on Black liberation in the 1960s. Chait’s argument can be critiqued on just about every level: the paper has a distorted idea of what liberation is (apparently, it means electing Democrats), an undefined idea of what rioting is, and on top of that the paper isn’t even accredited scholarship, in the sense that it hasn’t been peer-reviewed by anyone (except of course by Jonathan Chait).

Chait first got uptight about this subject last year, when he and Ta-Nehesi Coates had an indirect back-and-forth over the efficacy of Black insurrection. Chait wrote regarding Ferguson that “Property damage and looting impede social progress.” Coates replied with a concise historical sketch of militancy in the civil rights era:

The Civil Rights Bill of 1964 is inseparable from the threat of riots. The housing bill of 1968-the most proactive civil-rights legislation on the books-is a direct response to the riots that swept American cities after King was killed. Violence, lingering on the outside, often backed nonviolence during the civil-rights movement. “We could go into meetings and say, ‘Well, either deal with us or you will have Malcolm X coming into here,'” said SNCC organizer Gloria Richardson. “They would get just hysterical. The police chief would say, ‘Oh no!”

But now Chait claims that a draft research paper by Omar Wasow, an assistant professor at the department of politics at Princeton, fills in the blanks left within the broad strokes of that sketch. “And his answer is clear,” Chait announces. “Riots on the whole provoke a hostile right-wing response. They generate attention, all right, but the wrong kind.”

Chait and Wasow’s position is a restatement of the timeworn “backlash thesis.” Over the years, this thesis has been largely discredited by various studies (studies which, unlike Wasow’s, were peer-reviewed). The weakness with the thesis is not that there was no serious white backlash to the anti-racist movement, but that the backlash started as soon as the civil rights struggle began in the mid-1950s, not suddenly after the mid-60s Northern rebellions.

The Limits of Nonviolence

Take for instance Michael Klarman’s book From Jim Crow to Civil Rights (which one reviewer calls “the first great and indispensable work of American constitutional history in the twenty-first century”). Klarman demonstrates that Brown vs. Board of Education didn’t inspire an unambiguously effective civil rights movement; it inspired an uncertain experiment in passive resistance which in turn provoked the segregationist “massive resistance” movement. And just as Brown didn’t lead to widespread desegregated schools, the Supreme Court decision that emerged from the Montgomery bus boycott didn’t lead to widespread desegregated buses-most Southern municipalities simply ignored it, and launched highly effective repression against Black activism and liberalism generally. Montgomery itself enacted new segregation laws after the boycott victory, and terrorized both moderate and radical political figures (Rosa Parks fled the city after the campaign, both because she was blacklisted from work and because of credible death threats). On the rare instances where the federal government stood up for school desegregation, like in Little Rock in 1958, the conservatives were strong enough to wait out the withdrawal of troops, or else simply shut down the schools rather than comply.

A new hope seemed to emerge in the early 1960s with the lunch counter sit-ins, the Freedom Rides, and the Mississippi voter registration drives. But the sit-in movement only led to the desegregation of Woolworth’s luncheonettes-most Southern eateries remained Jim Crow. The Freedom Rides were actually unpopular with the American public, most of whom thought Blacks were moving too fast. And the Freedom Rides led to yet another federal decision that was seldom honored in the South. The Mississippi movement provoked a wave of lynchings that the Kennedy administration did nothing to prevent. Klarman noted that the early civil rights movement had a “backlash-counterbacklash” dynamic.

Klarman’s work builds on that of scholar Gerald Rosenberg who demonstrated that no dramatic change for Black liberation occurred until the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The direct impetus for that law was rioting in Birmingham in May of 1963: thousands of local blacks defied Martin Luther King’s exhortations to nonviolence, set fire to nine square blocks of downtown, and sent a police officer to the operating room. The author of the most comprehensive study of President Kennedy’s civil rights policy, Nicholas Bryant, noted that

It was the black-on-white violence of May 11 – not [the nonviolence of the previous weeks] – that represented the real watershed in Kennedy’s thinking…Kennedy had grown used to segregationist attacks against civil rights protesters. But he – along with his brother and other administration officials – was far more troubled by black mobs running amok.[2]

Birmingham wasn’t an isolated episode; Black insurrection flared across the country for the rest of 1963 and into 1964. Sometimes it was milder than Birmingham and sometimes it was more explosive. SNCC leader Gloria Richardson recalls that in her campaign in Cambridge, Maryland, activists exchanged gunfire with National Guardsmen just a few months prior to the passage of the Civil Rights Act.

“Burning in Every City, North and South”

President Kennedy’s response to Birmingham is the key historical moment of the movement. According to White House tapes, the president initially thought about sending federal troops to Alabama in May 1963 with the idea of acting against Blacks if the rioting continued-not against Bull Connor. He ultimately kept the troops on stand-by. As the month wore on and Kennedy saw Black rebellion spread to Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York, he eventually concluded he would have to make a major gesture of support for African-Americans. On June 11, he gave his landmark Civil Rights Address, in which he first proposed the Civil Rights Act. The Address acknowledged the role of riots:

This is not a sectional issue. Difficulties over segregation and discrimination exist in every city, in every State of the Union, producing in many cities a rising tide of discontent that threatens the public safety… The fires of frustration and discord are burning in every city, North and South, where legal remedies are not at hand. Redress is sought in the streets, in demonstrations, parades, and protests which create tensions and threaten violence and threaten lives.

Kennedy’s speech is the first time the federal government even acknowledged it had a major racial problem in the North. The post-Birmingham uprisings were indeed the root of the nationwide white backlash, but they were also the beginning of a truly nationwide civil rights movement. And they proved to be the first real federal breakthrough in either the North or South.

Some of Professor Wasow’s charts actually illustrate my points better than they illustrate his:

2015 0611satmis ch

We can see in this chart that there was little violent activity in the early sixties movement-but we can also see that there was very little nonviolent activity in the movement either. The marked decline of nonviolent protest shown in 1962 confirms Malcolm X’s characterization in his “Message to the Grassroots” speech that the movement seemed to be on its last legs that year. Then, in 1963, we see violent and nonviolent activity spike in unison – if anything violent protest leads the trend. The riotous tendency in that year helped to stimulate nonviolent protest (including preparations for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom). And as we’ve already seen, it directly inspired Kennedy’s Civil Rights Address and proposal of his civil rights bill.

The chart also shows a smaller but still significant curve towards violence in 1964. The peak of this curve appears to be June 1964- the month the Civil Rights Act was finally passed. And once again, riots and peaceful protests rose and fell together in similar timeframes. Also note that the Watts rebellion doesn’t spring out of nowhere in August 1965; it’s part of a general increase in militancy that begins in the first half of the year, which means that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is also inseparable from the threat of riots (Note too that the overall rates of violent protest in 1965 and 1963 are nearly the same).

Wasow doesn’t mention the Birmingham riot, or the Cambridge riot, or the “fires of frustration and discord…burning in every city, North and South,” in 1963. They don’t help his case. But they do prove the case of the anarchist writer Peter Gelderloos, who’s noted for years that the civil rights movement at its strongest was a model of diversity of tactics.

The underlying premise of Wasow and Chait seems to be that since it’s dangerous to win (there’s a backlash) it’s much better to lose. In his study of the struggle for the Civil Rights Act, legal historian Gerald Rosenberg has a more heartening message:

“Overcoming discrimination is a good news/bad news story.The bad news is that discrimination is deeply enmeshed in the fabric of American life; it is hard to change. But there is good news. The good news is that change is possible.”

Notes:

1. Democracy Now! uncritically publicized the idea that the National Guard stood down in Ferguson in order to encourage rioting. However, it was documented later that the officials’ motivation was concern about the public image of militarized policing.

2. Nicholas Andrew Bryant, The Bystander: John F. Kennedy And the Struggle for Black Equality (Basic Books, 2006), p. 393

Originally posted at Lorenzo’s blog, Diversity of Tactics.

How the US Mental Health System Makes Natives Sick and Suicidal

Indian Country

June 18, 2015

by David Walker

At a youth wellness conference at Yakama Nation I helped organize in 2001, an elder of the Kah-Milt-Pah honored us with her presence. For the first two days, she sat next to her daughter in the front row, one palm resting on a handmade cane, watching and listening as keynote speakers stepped up. I remember she became particularly focused when a youth invited to the stage to share his life challenges broke down mid-sentence.

At 4:30 p.m., near the end of the last day, she struggled to rise and then stood next to her chair. Members of the discussion panel fell silent while she was helped to the stage by her daughter. She then turned around to face the 700 or so mostly Native attendees and began speaking in her native dialect about the sacredness of children. A microphone was hurriedly brought over as her daughter stood beside her, carefully translating her words into English.

This translating was time-consuming, and as an organizer, I knew the event center closed at 5 p.m. Soon, a custodian approached me and whispered, “We need to shut down.”

We stood together for a moment listening to and watching her, dressed in her dark calico dress, a kerchief holding back her grey braids, leaning over her cane.

“Fine,” I said, “you tell her.”

He smiled and shook his head. She finished at about 7:30 p.m., and I don’t believe anyone left, not even that custodian.

Later on, I found out that she understood and spoke English well; she just chose not to speak it. Her insistence on using her native language told everyone present how she felt about the colonizing language of English, imposed in her lifetime by coercion and force. It may have become the common tongue of Indian Country, but she would not feel obliged to use it. Only her Native words could speak to the heart about “what has happened” to the children.

The intrusion of a new language upon a people can build bridges, tear them down, or serve an oppressive agenda. It can do all three at once. In the last 40 years, certain English words and phrases have become more acceptable to indigenous scholars, thought leaders, and elders for describing shared Native experiences. They include genocide, cultural destruction, colonization, forced assimilation, loss of language, boarding school, termination, historical trauma and more general terms, such as racism, poverty, life expectancy, and educational barriers. There are many more.

One might expect such words to be common within the mental health system in Indian Country. Yet the major funder and provider of Native mental health, the Indian Health Service (IHS), doesn’t seem to speak this language.

For example, the agency’s behavioral health manual mentions psychiatrist and psychiatric 23 times, therapy 18 times, pharmacotherapy, medication, drugs, and prescription 16 times, and the word treatment, a whopping 89 times. But it only uses the word violence once, and you won’t find a single mention of genocide, cultural destruction, colonization, historical trauma, etc.—nor even racism, poverty, life expectancy or educational barriers.

This federal agency doesn’t acknowledge the reality of oppression within the lives of Native people. Instead, it uses another powerful word, depression. For about a decade, IHS has set as one of its goals the detection of Native depression. This has been done by seeking to widen use of the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9), which asks patients to describe to what degree they feel discouraged, downhearted, tired, low appetite, unable to sleep, slow-moving, easily distracted or as though life is no longer worth living.

The PHQ-9 was developed in the 1990s for drug behemoth Pfizer Corporation by prominent psychiatrist and contract researcher Robert Spitzer and several others. Although it owns the copyright, Pfizer offers the PHQ-9 for free use by primary health care providers. Why so generous? Perhaps because Pfizer is a top manufacturer of psychiatric medications, including its flagship antidepressant Zoloft® which earned the company as much as $2.9 billion annually before it went generic in 2006. Even with the discovery that the drug can increase the risk of birth defects, 41 million prescriptions for Zoloft® were filled in 2013.

The most recent U.S. Public Health Service practice guidelines, which IHS primary care providers are required to use, states that “depression is a medical illness,” and in a nod to Big Pharma suppliers like Pfizer, serotonin-correcting medications (SSRIs) like Zoloft® “are frequently recommended as first-line antidepressant treatment options.” (iStock)
The most recent U.S. Public Health Service practice guidelines, which IHS primary care providers are required to use, states that “depression is a medical illness,” and in a nod to Big Pharma suppliers like Pfizer, serotonin-correcting medications (SSRIs) like Zoloft® “are frequently recommended as first-line antidepressant treatment options.” (iStock)

The Pfizer PHQ-9’s lead developer, Dr. Spitzer, was the “task force leader” for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-III-Revised (DSM III-R) when I started graduate training as a clinical psychologist in 1986. The DSM III-R created 110 new psychiatric labels, a number that had climbed by another 100 more by the time I started working at an IHS clinic in 2000.

Around that time, Pfizer, like many other big pharmaceutical corporations, was pouring millions of dollars into lavish marketing seminars disguised as “continuing education” on the uses of psychiatric medication for physicians and nurses with no mental health training.

I recall being asked if I was going to one of these seminars, held at the fanciest restaurant in a city north of the Yakama Nation Reservation. Although a government employee is technically not allowed to accept gifts of more than $20, this lavish (and free) meal seemed a grey area. After all, it was “educational.” I didn’t happen to drink alcohol, so I wasn’t interested. After this event, several primary care colleagues began touting their new expertise in mental health, and I was regularly advised that psychiatric medications were (obviously) the new “treatment of choice.”

Since those days, affixing the depression label to Native experience has become big business. IHS depends a great deal upon this activity—follow-up “medication management” encounters allow the agency to pull considerable extra revenue from Medicaid. One part of the federal government supplements funding for the other. That’s one reason it might be in the best interest of IHS to diagnose and treat depression, rather than acknowledge the emotional and behavioral difficulties resulting from chronic, intergenerational oppression.

The most recent U.S. Public Health Service practice guidelines, which IHS primary care providers are required to use, states that “depression is a medical illness,” and in a nod to Big Pharma suppliers like Pfizer, serotonin-correcting medications (SSRIs) like Zoloft® “are frequently recommended as first-line antidepressant treatment options.” This means IHS considers Native patients with a positive PHQ-9 screen to be mentally ill with depression. And in just the last four years, the Indian Health Service has spent over copy.1 billion to treat Mentally Ill Indians. In quiet ways, IHS admits to being obsessed on this point. For instance, in its National Behavioral Health Strategic Plan 2011-2015, IHS states an objective to “recognize the heavy influence of biomedical models” (it’s not certain what happens after recognition), but in its very next objective, notes a desire to “assist the Indian Health System to make needed prescribed psychotropic medications available to persons served.”

There are many things wrong with this model. For instance, the biomedical theory IHS is still promoting is obsolete. After more than 50 years of research, there’s no valid Western science to back up this theory of depression (or any other psychiatric disorder besides dementia and intoxication). There’s no chemical imbalance to correct. Even psychiatrist Ronald Pies, editor-in-chief emeritus of Psychiatric Times, admitted “the ‘chemical imbalance’ notion was always a kind of urban legend.”

Unhinged Trouble With Psychiatry
Unhinged Trouble With Psychiatry

Researchers, writers, and mental health professionals have sought to get word out about the deceptiveness of this false science for decades. In 2011, Marcia Angell, former editor of the New England Medical Journal, summarized the work of three such voices for the New York Review of Books. Angell reviewed The Emperor’s New Drugs by Harvard psychologist Irving Kirsch in which he concludes that there is no significant difference between the drugs and sugar pills for reducing depression. Angell also reviewed award-winning investigative journalist Robert Whitaker’s book, Anatomy of an Epidemic, in which he describes the pharmaceutical industry’s funding of “key opinion leaders” for promoting its medications and its profound influence on increasing the number of DSM “disorders” eligible for medicating. Dr. Angell closes with a review of Daniel Carlat’s Unhinged: The Trouble With Psychiatry. After Carlat thoroughly “follows the money” in pharmaceutical funding of psychiatry, he admits to nearly doubling his hourly income by seeing his patients for “psychopharmacology” instead of therapy.

The Emperors New Drugs
The Emperors New Drugs

IHS continues to apply the PHQ-9 in its stated belief that “early identification of depression will contribute to reducing incidence” of suicide, violence, etc. while allowing “providers to plan interventions and treatment to improve the mental health and well being of American Indians and Alaska Natives.”

Antidepressants do not reduce suicide. Much money has been spent on studies trying to support such an idea that either fail or are easily exposed for poor science and shoddy designs that result in retractions and back-pedaling. A 2010 study of sales of antidepressants in Norway, Finland, Sweden and Denmark from 1975 to 2006 found no relationship between suicide rates and the great popularity of psychiatric drugs.

In an astonishing twist, researchers working with the World Health Organization (WHO) concluded that building more mental health services is a major factor in increasing the suicide rate. This finding may feel implausible, but it’s been repeated several times across large studies. WHO first studied suicide in relation to mental health systems in 100 countries in 2004, and then did so again in 2010, concluding that:

“[S]uicide rates… were increased in countries with mental health legislation, there was a significant positive correlation between suicide rates, and the percentage of the total health budget spent on mental health; and… suicide rates… were higher in countries with greater provision of mental health services, including the number of psychiatric beds, psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses, and the availability of training in mental health for primary care professionals.”

Global Suicide Rates World Health Organization
Global Suicide Rates World Health Organization

In fact, authors of the 2010 study stated rather specifically that the suicide rate climbed alongside the increased “availability of training in mental health for primary care professionals.” This describes the very strategy IHS has been using to try to reduce suicide.

Mental health folks didn’t care for such findings and wanted to try again. A 2013 follow-up study by Anto Rajkumar and colleagues using similar WHO data gathered from 191 countries found, “Countries with better psychiatric services experience higher suicide rates.” It might be beside the point to mention that research repeatedly demonstrates physicians commit suicide at twice the rate of other people. After all, they have more legal access to drugs.

Despite what’s known about their significant limitations and scientific groundlessness, antidepressants are still valued by some people for creating “emotional numbness,” according to psychiatric researcher David Healy. Research undertaken at the University of Washington in 2004 suggested people will quit using antidepressants because of feeling numb while others continue for the same reason.

The side effect of antidepressants, however, in decreasing sexual energy (libido) is much stronger than this numbing effect—sexual disinterest or difficulty becoming aroused or achieving orgasm occurs in as many as 60 percent of consumers. Such a side effect can in itself increase anxiety, depressed mood and hopelessness. In this way, IHS has become complicit in reducing sexual interest while having a potentially negative impact on intimate relationships within the communities it serves. The agency has been spreading lies about faulty brains with “chemical imbalances” for years now and recasting reactions to oppressive social conditions and life challenges as a pathological illness to be numbed or sedated.

Dr. David Healy is better known for his research showing that antidepressant medication increases suicide and violence in certain people. When I mentioned his early work to IHS primary care colleagues, I met great skepticism. But Healy’s work has withstood the test of time, including repeated scrutiny by major scientific authorities worldwide, even by a reluctant FDA that dragged its heels before mandating a “black box warning” about suicide and violence potential. Over the years, I’ve thought about Dr. Healy’s work when incidents of mass violence have occurred at Red Lake, Tule River and Marysville.

A formal report on IHS internal “Suicide Surveillance” data issued by Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Epidemiology Center states the suicide rate for all U.S. adults currently hovers at 10 for every 100,000 people, while for the Native patients IHS tracked, the rate was 17 per 100,000. This rate varied widely across the regions IHS serves—in California it was 5.5, while in Alaska, 38.5. It’s important to note that IHS has experienced chronic difficulties in getting its providers to comply with entering all the suicides they encounter in their practices for this project. Yet there are crucial lessons to learn from what has been tallied.

Suicides for all U.S. youth in the age range of 15 to 24 nearly tripled from 1958 to 1982, but since 1999, this rate has remained stable at between 10 and 11 per 100,000. The IHS Suicide Surveillance data reveals the rate for Native youth to be climbing . Over 52 percent of suicides described in the Great Lakes report were by young Native people aged 10 to 24. Between 2005 and 2010, the average suicide rate for Native 14 to 24 year olds greatly exceeded even the overall Native rate. According to the Center for Disease Control, the Native youth and young adult suicide rate hit an all-time high in 2014 at 31 per 100,000. That’s triple the U.S. youth rate.

According to the Center for Disease Control, the Native youth suicide rate hit an all-time high in 2014 at 31 per 100,000. That’s triple the U.S. youth rate. (National Suicide Prevention Strategic Plan)
According to the Center for Disease Control, the Native youth suicide rate hit an all-time high in 2014 at 31 per 100,000. That’s triple the U.S. youth rate. (National Suicide Prevention Strategic Plan)

It’s not surprising that alcohol was involved in 82 percent of reported suicide attempts. It’s a shocker, however, that medication overdose was the primary method people used. Fifty-nine percent of Native people attempting suicide favored overdosing on meds—well beyond use of firearms, hanging, intentional car wrecks, or other means.

Nearly one in four of these suicidal medication overdoses used psychiatric medications. The majority of these medications originated through the Indian Health Service itself and included amphetamine and stimulants, tricyclic and other antidepressants, sedatives, benzodiazepines, and barbiturates. The Suicide Surveillance report doesn’t specify what “other prescription medications” make up an additional 22 percent of medication overdoses and may have also originated at IHS.

Despite what IHS may say, there’s no evidence to suggest that psychiatric medication reduces either suicide or what it prefers to call depression. However, there’s solid evidence the agency’s expansion of its biomedical model and the drugs it promotes may be increasing the Native youth suicide rate—these drugs are being favored as a means of taking one’s life.

What’s truly remarkable is that this is not the first time the mental health movement in Indian Country has helped to destroy Native people. Today’s making of a Mentally Ill Indian to “treat” is just a variation on an old idea, a fitting example of George Santayana’s overused adage: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The Native mental health system has been a tool of cultural genocide for over 175 years—seven generations. Long before there was this Mentally Ill Indian to treat, this movement was busy creating and perpetuating the Crazy Indian, the Dumb Indian, and the Drunken Indian.

We need to expose what has been made invisible and forgotten. We need to revisit the displaced and poverty-stricken ancestors subjected to Indian Lunacy Determinations and sent away from their homes and families. We need to learn more about the Hiawatha Asylum for Insane Indians, where people were kept shackled until the cuffs of their chains meshed with their skin.

We need to open the skeleton’s closet through which mental health first entered the boarding schools, determined stilted curricula for generations of children, and used its methods to sterilize those it deemed inferior. We must make peace with the fabled Firewater Myth, a false tale of heightened susceptibility to alcoholism and substances that even Native people sometimes tell themselves.

There are forgotten heroes to know, ancestors of those currently trapped by the Native mental health system—a Lakota diagnosed with “horse-stealing mania,” a Cherokee laying claim to the land of Sweden, and a Mohawk, the first Indian psychologist, stepping up to challenge the white man’s labeling of his community’s children as feebleminded.

English will necessarily be the shared language of inquiry, but let’s use it to be accurate about these seven generations of harm.

Because it’s oppression, plain and simple.

Portions of this story appeared in Dr. Walker’s blog postings at Mad In America. His award-winning Medicine Valley novels and some scholarly papers can be perused at www.tessasdance.com.

 

 

 

 

Fundacion Pachamama is Dead – Long Live ALBA | Part II

The Art of Annihilation

May 7, 2014

An investigative report by Cory Morningstar with Forrest Palmer

 

[This report references both REDD[1] and the REDD+[2] mechanism. REDD refers to Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation while REDD+ was updated to reflect: “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries; and the role of Conservation, Sustainable Management of Forests and Enhancement of Forest Carbon Stocks.”] For the sake of continuity, the authors of this investigative series will use the original acronym REDD in this series unless REDD+ appears in references or quotes.]

 

No-REDD+-in-Rio+20

Image: No REDD in Rio

REDDy for Hypocrisy

“[REDD is] a policy that grabs land, clear-cuts forests, destroys biodiversity, abuses Mother Earth, pimps Father Sky and threatens the cultural survival of Indigenous Peoples. This policy privatizes the air we breathe. Commodifies the clouds. Buy and sells the atmosphere. Corrupts the Sacred…. It is time to defend Mother Earth and Father Sky. Your future depends on it.” — Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director, Indigenous Environmental Network, October 22, 2013

Industrial capitalists, employing those in the non-profit industrial complex as their personal soft-power sycophants, have every intention of controlling what remain of Indigenous People’s natural resources. Adding to centuries of colonialism, slavery, and genocide, native peoples now face a 21st century corporatocracy that seeks full privatization and commodification of the Earth’s remaining commons. As an example, the creation of ecological reserves on Indigenous land is rampant yet proceeds relatively unnoticed. The theft of biological wealth under the guise of conservation is stealth and must be acknowledged as such – nothing less than a brilliant coup.

In the final frontier of Earth’s last remaining natural resources, with capitalism on its knees with nowhere else to go, a silent war has begun that few yet notice. It can be summarized in two words: environmental markets.

REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) is one such key market. [“REDD+ is a climate change mitigation solution that many initiatives, including the UN-REDD Programme, are currently developing and supporting. Other multilateral REDD+ initiatives include the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) and Forest Investment Program (FIP), hosted by The World Bank. Source] This scheme (creating / obtaining permits to pollute via corporate capture of Earth’s last remaining forests) will not mitigate the escalating climate and ecological crises in any way. Rather, it simply allows polluters to continue polluting. REDD allows, and even encourages, our multiple ecological crises to further accelerate while ensuring the seizure / commodification and further exploitation of Earth’s remaining natural resources. Tina Vahenen, from the UN REDD Secretariat, addressed an auditorium of timber executives and foresters at the World Forestry Congress in 2009 and stated, “REDD would be very beneficial for forestry.” Not forests – forestry. Ms Vahenen explained to the room that REDD would be worth $45 billion for the timber industry and insisted that “the forestry sector cannot afford to lose this opportunity.” [Key Arguments Against REDD, 2011- Source]

At first glance it appears that Pachamama Alliance (and Pachamama Foundation by extension) are “more legitimate” than most big greens – and they may very well be, to some extent. Their progressive language is demonstrated in the positions put forward on REDD by Pachamama Foundation that appear on their website and in the mainstream.

August 8, 2011: Pachamama Foundation Website (translated from the Spanish by Google Translate):

“Aware of the urgent need to reduce deforestation in the country, Fundación Pachamama’s participation at international level in the Accra Caucus and national level in the monitoring group UN-REDD and the National Standards Committee Socio-environmental REDD +, aims to participate in advocacy spaces to ensure the inclusion of human and collective rights, self-determination, land rights, and full and effective participation of the subjects of law, and monitoring the construction of political national government for the conservation and the importance of forests. In domestic spaces acts as delegate CEDENMA, representing a sector of environmental civil society organizations to advocate for getting the highest standards of conservation and the guarantee of human and collective rights and the rights of nature. Pachamama Foundation disagrees with any attempt of the Government of Ecuador to participate in carbon markets, is in a stage of preparation and implementation stages. Markets do not do more than consider nature as a commodity and encourage perverse and inequitable business that promotes a model of capitalist development and unsustainable. Pachamama Foundation does not promote any REDD mechanism. Rather, it maintains a very critical position, this being insufficient and incomplete to combat climate change mechanism, whose origin is in a biased account of the forest that does not include the Indigenous world, does not recognize rights for nature and the commodification and intended to be inserted into the woods in the perverse world market.”

This sounds like an honourable, even radical, position. And it is. But consider the following text exactly three months later on November 8, 2011, also from the Pachamama Foundation website:

María Belén Páez, director of Pachamama Foundation, spoke about the REDD mechanism during the plenary of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA). In her speech, she addressed the following topics [translated from the Spanish]:

Financing: The REDD finance mechanism should be transparent, reliable, and accessible.

Additionality: The reductions under the REDD mechanism must be in addition to emission reductions required under the Kyoto Protocol for developed countries, ie, [REDD credits providing carbon offsets] should not replace these reductions.

Integrity: It is important that the parties agree that funding for REDD ensures social and environmental integrity, in addition to sustainable development and good governance.

Innovation: Funding for REDD should focus on a variety of innovative sources.

Carbon markets: Carbon trading has been declared as merchandise with the worst performance in the world. Its growth has stagnated and declined. Forests are not within this market due to concerns about leakage and impermanence of the forest.

Offset credits: It has been shown that these loans are prone to fraud and market manipulation. They should not be part of any package of funding for REDD.

Multi-functionality: It is important to recognize that forests have multiple functions in addition to their ability to store carbon. Payments resulting from REDD have to compensate more than the amount of reduced tonnes of carbon, for example, their spiritual and other environmental services. [Emphasis added to the word spiritual.]

Effectiveness: To improve the effectiveness of REDD and the ultimate goal of reducing pressures on deforestation and forest degradation, countries should be compensated not only for reducing emissions, but also for the implementation of measures to improve governance, respect for human and collective rights, and conservation of biodiversity.

Although Páez, executive director of Pachamama Foundation, publicly voices opposition to both carbon markets and offsets, she speaks as though financing/payments for REDD, from sources outside of environmental markets, are a realistic option. The intent of REDD by capitalists is to turn the services provided by Earth’s forests into globally tradable commodities. Sources of REDD finance are intentionally presented as hazy and vague while simultaneously espousing half promises that non-market finance will miraculously materialize from nowhere. The simplistic notion that altruistic REDD finance funds from “innovative sources” will come raining down from the sky is a sugar-coated Venus flytrap that easily lures those that are greedy, extraordinarily naïve or cloaked in denial,particularly those dependent upon the non-profit industrial complex.

Note the phrase “spiritual services” as cited by Páez. One must ask how “payments results in REDD” would/could compensate for the loss of spiritual services. Can an exemplary amount of money compensate for spiritual services? If you are a spiritual capitalist, the answer appears to be yes.

At COP17, Páez “represented civil society” (even though unelected to do so) and Accra Caucus (of which Pachamama Foundation is a member). [1] Accra Caucus on Forests and Climate Change is a network of southern and northern NGOs representing around 100 civil society and Indigenous Peoples organizations from 38 countries, formed at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in Accra, Ghana in 2008. The Caucus works to place the rights of Indigenous and forest communities at the centre of negotiations on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD), and to ensure that efforts to reduce deforestation promote good governance and are not a substitute for emission reductions in industrialized countries. [“A full list of members of the Accra Caucus is available on request.” Source. Note that requests were made to acquire this full list, with no success.] Incidentally, Accra Caucus is also partner to the UN REDD Desk. [2] For further information it provides a link to the partner, Rainforest Foundation. At this link we find that Pachamama Alliance is also an “actor” within the UN for implementing REDD, as is Fundación Pachamama. [3]

As mentioned prior, Pachamama Foundation is also partner with the Coordinadora Ecuatoriana de Defensa de la Naturaleza y el Ambiente (CEDENMA) (Ecuadorian Coordinator of Organizations for the Defense of Nature and the Environment). At COP17, Natalia Greene, program coordinator of “Political Plurinationality and Rights of Nature” at Pachamama Foundation was also responsible for chairing CEDENMA, of which she is president.

“Nationally we have participated as a representative of the Ecuadorian Coordinator of Organizations for the Defense of Nature and the Environment (CEDENMA) in building REDD spaces and policies with a MAE (Ministerio del Ambiente) mechanism to guarantee the rights of Indigenous peoples. — Pachamama Foundation [Source]

The Spanish website of CEDENMA (an “Agency Partnership and political representation of Ecuadorian civil nonprofit organizations”), which represents the Global Alliance for Rights of Nature, “a network of organizations and individuals committed to the adoption and implementation of legal systems that recognize, respect and enforce the rights of nature individuals” (to be discussed further in this report) is registered to an address in West Jacksonville, Florida, US. Under the link “I am Nature,” the website redirects you to Pachamama Foundation’s YouTube channel. The vast majority of the members are of US/foreign origin with masses of tentacles to hegemony. In one instance, the “collaborators” cited are World Bank, USAID, US Fish and Wildlife Service, WWF, Nature Conservancy, Conservation International and many other hegemonic institutions.

Theatre

 “Political rhetoric and sophistries do not exist, after all, in order that they be believed; rather, they have to serve as a common and agreed upon alibi.” Milan Kundera

The matrix of alliances and the repertoire of concerned/attentive language as briefly touched upon above is a brief overview and screenplay of exquisite theatre – theatre also performed for the benefit of the actors and extras themselves, carefully ensuring that all involved can bear to face themselves each morning when they must wake and look in the mirror. As defined by Kundera, it’s an “agreed upon alibi” to alleviate the conscience.

It is a spectacular feat to continually walk the fence wearing Prada heels. The script dictates that corporations, foundations, governments, organizations/NGOs (hierarchal/top down) must unequivocally demonstrate that “civil” society and Indigenous peoples, in particular, have been absolutely involved in the entire process of decision-making. Again, language is instrumental: safeguards; Free, Prior and Informed Consent; transparency; social and environmental integrity; self-determination; sustainable development; cultural integrity; good governance; respect for human and collective rights; rights-based forestry;and conservation of biodiversity, etc. etc. The list of ethical, beautiful and soothing turns of phrase that both ease and suppress well-founded anxieties flows like the River Nile. The i’s will be dotted and the t’s must be crossed. There will be nothing left undone that allows for litigation, that allows for any groups to claim they were not consulted. The capitalists will claim that civil society was not only consulted, they were invited to come to the table, with a heavy emphasis on outreach to Indigenous peoples. It’s all theatre, ladies and gentleman. And everyone in the production knows how the show ends. The ending was written long before anyone was assigned to their roles or studied their lines.

This is not activism. This is corporatized environmentalism – the ultimate oxymoron. A thriving industry for hegemony cloaked under the thin guise of ethics and human rights.

No big greens intend to actually stop REDD. In fact, many NGOs are planning to profit from the scheme just as they have from forestry, for example, Forest Stewardship Council, founded by WWF: “Probus is retained by the Forest Stewardship Council, founded by WWF, to advise on non-conflict of interest global funding mechanisms for environmental stewardship councils and NGO development of global sustainable timber and aquaculture standards. In tandem with the financial aspects of environmental stewardship, Probus develops corporate structuring to enable large NGOs to gain independent revenues via ‘for-profit’ sister companies without impinging upon the impartiality and not-for-profit or charitable status of the NGO.” In the end, “important concessions” will have been made to “protect the Indigenous” and these special considerations will be celebrated as “win win!” victories. Yet, the considerations for concessions were also written into the script with many undoubtedly pre-determined from inception. The predacious capitalist gives nothing he does not wish to give. [Further reading on WWF’s certificationschemes and green washing can be found here, here, and here.]

Via the financial institutions, the media and the non-profit industrial complex, the capitalists perform the most malevolent activities that inflict further pain and destruction onto Earth’s most vulnerable societies, sentient beings and living ecosystems. Yet as long as they appear to be polite, conciliatory, and attentively listening to grievances, feigning concern for the associated plight and risks, alongside the pie in the sky “benefits,” of course, the majority of people will acquiesce to the predetermined, “politically feasible” reformist “solution.” Behind closed doors, the ménage of human drones defending capital do not waver. Tenacious as hell, they quietly shuffle forward – impassive, undeterred, absolutely focused on their strategic objectives. This may take years. It may take decades. It matters little. Time is of no essence. The end justifies the means. Call it Machiavellian. Or call it what it is: steady state pathology.

One simply has to look at The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to see how such conventions are essentially worthless. Our children today are unlikely to live to old age due to cataclysmic ecological collapse, yet each waking day, the global economic system that ensures our annihilation continues unabated. Which begs the question: Why would anyone in sound mind believe that Indigenous Rights will be respected in the final scramble for the Earth’s last remaining natural resources?

Tragedy is, then, an enactment of a deed that is important and complete, and of [a certain] magnitude, by means of language enriched [with ornaments], each used separately in the different parts [of the play]: it is enacted, not [merely] recited, and through pity and fear it effects relief (catharsis) to such [and similar] emotions. — Aristotle, Poetics, VI 1449b 2–3

“[A]nd through pity and fear it effects relief to such [and similar] emotions.”

The embracing of deception (deception that must be swallowed whole, and willingly, if one is to protect their privilege) is warm and consoling. Not unlike a tightly spun cocoon. A metamorphosis into the same pathology we claimed to oppose.

Lying to oneself is easy for those within the non-profit industrial complex. They profess to oppose it – knowing full well that their funding (meaning their privilege and very identities) is fully dependent on what they claim to contest coming to fruition. In many cases, concern and voiced opposition are sincere. It makes no difference. Everyone understands the rules of the game. They understand from the onset that what they object to (at least publicly), which almost always falls under the expansion of capital, is going to be realized. They will voice their distrust and unease and demonstrate just how incredibly noble and ethical they are (with great concern for the natives, of course – natives in faraway exotic places, that is) prior to the proposed policy/scheme being realized. It’s theatre for the audience. Theatre for our conscience. Theatre for the absurd.

Feeding at the REDD Trough

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Image: Accomplices Not Allies: Abolishing the Ally Industrial Complex

It’s easy to talk smack against REDD when one (in this case, Pachamama Foundation) is partnered with UN REDD Desk and funded by Norway Rainforest Foundation (RFN), et al. All it takes is a heightened level of hypocrisy and superiority.[“RFN’s finances are to a significant degree based on multiyear contracts with Norwegian public authorities regarding long-term financial assistance. The organization derives additional funding from individuals and bequests (including from regular private donors designated ‘Rainforest Guardians’); contributions from members of the business community such as Nordic Choice Hotels; and international funds and foundations such as the Ford Foundation and the Rainforest Foundation Fund…. In Indonesia, RFN and its partners have made use of the opportunity presented by the international attention which followed the country becoming a target of many REDD initiatives, including a USD 1 billion bilateral agreement between Norway and Indonesia, in order to provide advice, criticism and input in dialogue with the government and in the media…. As stated by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), ‘the Rainforest Foundation Norway support to the Civil Society National Climate and REDD working group in DRC has brought full Congolese civil society participation and involvement in developing the national REDD+ strategy and all of its components.'”] Norad is a key funder promoting REDD. [4]

“Norway continues to be UN-REDD’s first and largest donor, committing US$52.2million for 2008-2009, US$31 million for 2010, and at least US$40 million for 2011-2012.” [Source: June, 2011]

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Image: The WWF, REDD and Tanzania

The current/previous Board of Directors on the Rainforest Foundation (US division) include representatives of Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, AMG Wealth Partners, George Soros Open Society Foundations, Kingdon Capital Managementamong others. After the billion dollar deal was announced between Norway and Indonesia, it was revealed that Norway’s Government Pension Fund – Global had millions invested in many of the predatory corporations circling in on vulnerable Indigenous land owners in Papua and West Papua. This included a corporation that forced a four year old boy to sign land release contracts (PT Henrison Inti Persada, a subsidiary of the Noble Group, which it purchased from Kayu Lapis Indonesia Group, and Medco International and LG International – which sought 1 million hectares of Papua for industrial timber plantations).

Pachamama Alliance and Foundation may (and do) go far further in their criticisms against REDD and other market mechanisms, but at the end of the day they will fulfill the needs/interests of the foundations (fed by corporate profits). Just like every other NGO whose entire existence is dependent upon those profits.

The necessity for healthy dissent is critical. No one understands this more than the foundation. The oligarchy acknowledges there must be space for dissent and venting. To not ensure these needs are met is to invite elements that could lead to economic sabotage and revolutionary revolt. To have a handful of groups publicly objecting to the implementation of policies/schemes when one funds hundreds/thousands of groups to ensure their success is not threatening to the oligarchy whatsoever – rather, it ensures the populace will continue to believe (the falsehood) that they remain part of a true and healthy democracy. Who cares if a handful of groups highlight dangers of REDD – when the cat is already in the bag and the so-called “opposition” is addicted to and reliant on the foundation dole?

If the UN had a program called UN Climate Colonialism Desk (and that is what the UN REDD Desk essentially is), would we all join as “partners” to ensure we had “our say”? It is common knowledge that partners are sought after to 1) increase credibility, legitimacy and brand, and 2) accelerate the original intent/purpose. [5] Some organizations may attempt to justify such partnerships, but at the end of the day, they have lent much needed credibility and legitimacy to yet another instrument of colonialism that should have been isolated, exposed and scorned.

One can be absolutely certain that a key goal of the oligarchy, which has finally overcome most all obstacles in the indefatigable goal to implement REDD (two decades in the making, sought by Rockefeller, Ford, etc. [6], is to now expand REDD throughout Ecuador, Latin America and the rest of the world now that REDD+ framework has been achieved at COP19/Warsaw. [December 13, 2013: “WWF has worked towards realizing REDD+ for many years, engaging both on the ground in the key tropical forest nations of Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Peru, Colombia, the Guyanas and Brazil, as well as at the global policy and finance levels.”]

It is essential to note that none of the NGOs (over 100 at this point) participating in the Pachamama “solidarity” campaign disclose the fact that the Pachamama Foundation is financed by US interests. As an example, on December 5, 2013, The REDD-Monitor, demonstrating solidarity with Pachamama Foundation, voices its criticisms of the Ecuador Government, writing:

“As in other countries, REDD in Ecuador takes place in parallel to business as usual, including the suppression of the right to dissent. On its website, the UN-REDD programme reports that, ‘In order to reverse forest loss, Ecuador is implementing a series of initiatives to reduce deforestation in the country as part of good governance of forest resources and to simultaneously contribute to climate change mitigation by reducing GHG emissions related to this activity.'”

The REDD Monitor goes further, correctly spelling out why REDD is a false solution to climate change. Yet the REDD Monitor never mentions that both Pachamama Alliance and Pachamama Foundation are UN REDD “actors,” and financed by the very oligarchs (via foundations) that are heavily invested in REDD. For a poverty stricken state such as Ecuador, the support and pursuance of REDD is, without doubt, misguided and regrettable. For multi-million dollar NGOs (which, although unelected, claim to represent civil society) to support and pursue REDD is without doubt inexcusable. Yet, as far as support for REDD is concerned, the government of Ecuador alone will be the egregious villain while Pachamama Alliance and Foundation will be the virtuous victims. (It must be noted that the REDD Monitor is also a beneficiary of funding from Rainforest Foundation Norway.)

At this juncture it is critical to note two items of great significance.

“According to a recent policy brief from the Overseas Development Institute, $2.72 billion has been pledged for REDD+ since 2007.” — Rich Nations Agree to Fund Forest Protection for Climate, November 20, 2013 [7] [“Since 2007, USD 2.72 billion has been pledged to five multilateral climate funds and two bilateral initiatives that support efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation plus conservation (REDD+).”]

The $2.72 billion that has been pledged for REDD+ since 2007 is approximately the same monetary amount (with a similar timeline) that Ecuador required for the Yasuni-ITT Initiative. The Yasuni-ITT Initiative was the proposal by the government of Ecuador to refrain indefinitely from exploiting the oil reserves of the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) oil field within the Yasuni National Park, in exchange for 50% of the value of the reserves, or $3.6 billion over 13 years from the international community. During the six-year history of the initiative, only $336 million had been pledged, and of that only $13.3 million had actually been delivered. [Source] Hence, the project, however flawed, has failed, opening President Correa up to yet another attack by “the left.” [“It is worth remembering that the first trust set up to receive donations was designed, among others, by Yolanda Kakabadse, president of the World Wide Fund for Nature and trustee of the Ford Foundation, and businessman-environmentalist Roque Sevilla, both well connected in the NGO conservation world.” [Source]

This represents the greatest case of victim blaming, which has been the hallmark identifier of the Western response to the non-Anglo plight the world over. Correa and the state have little choice but to exploit these resources (in the case of Yasuni-ITT, 200 hectares (the actual size to be affected contested by some) directly impacted within the million-hectare National Park). This is due to the fact that the global economic system dictates that Ecuador MUST provide these raw materials for financial capital and everyday goods and services – or face the consequences of the West taking what Ecuador will not give willingly. The weak-willed left will point the finger at the leaders in the Global South who must acquiesce for the lives of their people rather than point the finger at the torturers of the Global North, who turn the screws while continuing to inflict the centuries-long pain of this parasitic relationship. Reparations be damned.

Yet a sister campaign, the international outcry regarding the projected tar sands mining/strip-mining designated to destroy 300,000 hectares of the Canadian Boreal Forest, is nowhere to be heard. [“The projected strip-mining of 740,000 acres (300,000 hectares) of forests and wetlands in the tar sands will result in the loss of breeding habitat for between 480,000 and 3.6 million adult birds. The corresponding impact on breeding will mean a loss of 4.8 million to 36 million young birds over a 20-year period, and 9.6 million to 72 million birds over a 40-year period.” [Source] Rather, we hear only cries against a single pipeline (the Keystone or KXL) – a campaign in large part funded by Buffett moneythat has allowed oil, gas and a 21st century oil-by-rail industrial revolution to expand and flourish. Production stopped at the source (on American soil) is of no focus. International cries for production to be crushed prior to drilling are only directed/applied to resource-rich states and their “dictators” (a phrase only applied to the uncooperative) who refuse to get down on all fours and lick the feet of imperialism. Once imperial states take control of foreign soil and natural resource wealth (via occupation, coercion or puppet presidencies), we never hear of campaigns to “keep the oil in the soil” again. A case in point would be the oil-rich state of Nigeria or recently illegally invaded and now occupied Libya where foreign interests pump and steal the oil as fast as modern day technology allows.

There is valid point to be made that defending the rights of nature cannot be based on the promise of compensation, yet the reality is that we, civil society, have a “movement” that refuses to make anti-capitalism the very foundation of all dialogue. A movement financed in full by the very interests we claim to oppose.

The fact of the matter is, if NGOs had campaigned for Yasuni (with no allowances for carbon offsetting / markets), rather than working behind the scenes with corporate interests and leading greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting Annex 1 statesto sanction / advance REDD, perhaps our situation today would be far different. But of course, this is not why the non-profit industrial complex exists. Instead, these NGOs and their foot soldiers, financed by the oligarchs, attacked the Ecuadorian Government, framing the failure as Correa’s alone, strategically pardoning the leading GHG-obstructionist states from their failed obligation and reparations while simultaneously ignoring the nature of the capitalist beast. [Opinion: Yasuní: Entre el eco-fundamentalismo y el Socialismo del Buen Vivir]

“It is becoming more apparent every day that there is no radical Left in this period, just a bunch of middle class intellectuals, politicians, preachers, businesspeople, and academics, many of whom are seeking or receiving government jobs, grants, contracts, or elevation to high political office from the very corporations or the capitalist state they claim to be fighting. They just want us to replace one group of masters for another, while the system itself keeps humming along.” Lorenzo Kom’boa Ervin

And while NGOs such as Pachamama Alliance/Foundation, Avaaz (partner of Rockefellers Pro-REDD Climate Group), Greenpeace, Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, etc. assist in the corporate capture of our commons, consider this:

“The work of environmental scientists supporting the UN’s GEP [green economy program] will give scientific authority to the project, but the important decisions will have already been made…. The project is a deepening commitment to neoliberal free markets…. Meanwhile, scientific institutions, environmental NGOs and government agencies are working to build institutional infrastructure to give scientific authority to the UN’s GEP.… The historical critique of capitalism presented by John Bellamy Foster (2002) and others describes that the appropriation of the commons is an integral aspect of capitalism. Capitalism is always looking for new means of producing profit from activities that were otherwise not managed through commodity relationships.” Dr. Joanna Boehnert, Re-imaging the Commons as “The Green Economy”

The second item of significance is the State of Bolivia’s “Proposal for the Development of the Joint Mitigation and Adaptation Mechanism for the Integral and Sustainable Management of Forests,” which was presented to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)in August of 2012. Although in appearances many organizations have voiced opposition to REDD and carbon markets, it appears that absolutely none have seized the opportunity to campaign on the alternative proposal presented by the State of Bolivia.

Consider this: As the Bolivia delegation stood alone (and continues to stand alone) on the world stage opposing carbon markets (which include REDD) while also developing and presenting alternatives, behind the marketing and branding veneer of the non-profit industrial complex, some realities are crystal clear. “In September 2011, the 64th Annual UN DPI/NGO Conference took place in Bonn, Germany. About 1,500 people from 70 countries turned up. On the third day of the meeting, a remarkable thing happened. Not a single participant at the conference put up their hand to disagree with a declaration which promotes REDD as a carbon trading mechanism.”

“No one raised their hand to object to a single word in the declaration text. In an email distributing the document, Dodd states that, ‘The Declaration was accepted unanimously by the 1500 NGOs and other stakeholders present.'” Manufacturing Consent on Carbon Trading, Chris Lang

The declaration ended with “the call for governments to support forest certification. The ‘gold standard’ of forest certification is the Forest Stewardship Council. Yet FSC has certified vast areas of monoculture tree plantations. FSC also certifies industrial logging in primary forests. But none of the 1,500 people in the meeting objected to any of this – or any of the other statements in the more than 9,000-word declaration.” [Source]

So-called “progressive” media (also financed by and dependent upon foundation funding) apparently have no interest in alternatives to carbon markets either. Bolivia continued to fight for Mother Earth during the 18th Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC in Doha, Qatar. The Bolivian delegation reaffirmed its rejection of the use and expansion of the carbon market as a tool to reduce emissions that cause climate change in the world and presented a proposal with alternative tools in carbon markets. But what use are such alternative tools in the growth of global capitalism? In the mind of the Western world, this is akin to a child handing a bow and arrow to a warrior who is accustomed to using an Uzi, when in fact the “civilized” is now dependent upon the “savage” for help in solving the problem of Earthly destruction. But it appears we would rather die a thousand deaths than actually take this under consideration. As the world hangs in the balance, there is no more time left for the Western world to hold such ideologies. Yet, this will more than likely be the mindset that the West, as a collective, takes to the grave – taking all of the world with it.

Like Bolivia’s alternative proposal for carbon markets, the essential People’s Agreement (April 2010, Cochabamba), has been also been vigilantly marginalized and buried by the non-profit industrial complex. There has been almost zero support for any of these ground-breaking proposals/declarations. When climate justice groups on an international climate justice listserv were asked openly if there were flaws in these alternative proposals, the response was silence. Rather, the environmental “movement,” dominated by the privileged left while residing in the leading GHG-obstructionist NATO states, prefers to condemn leaders of ALBA states as phony “extractivists.”

“I deeply respect American sentimentality, the way one respects a wounded hippo. You must keep an eye on it, for you know it is deadly.” Teju Cole

Imperialism and enslavement is a narrative as old as time. The transformation of Western influence over sovereign states of the world can be traced back to what transpired after the overthrow of French colonizers by Haitian slaves in 1804.

As a result of their audacious desire to be free – a basic human right co-opted mainly by global white male supremacy – the Haitian slaves traded physical oppression, which had been the norm to that juncture, for an economic domination that they were unable to resist. Since then, this has been the blueprint imposed by the West over all the nation states that have attempted to overthrow physical domination.The forms of subjugation have changed over these past 200 years, yet subjugation remains.

Reddy to Manipulate

Consider the following:

In the February 21, 2013 article (Growing Coalition Joins Indigenous Leaders in Houston) featured on the Pachamama Alliance website, the following information is reported, demonstrating the close relationship between Pachamama Alliance and The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (CONFENIAE). [8]

… [O]ther citizen groups also turned out and spoke up to show their solidarity and support Vargas and Narcisa Mashienta, a Shuar leader and coordinator of Fundación Pachamama’s Jungle Mamas program who also traveled to Houston.

The leaders brought with them an open letter from the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador’s Amazon (CONFENIAE), which called for solidarity from the national and international community to resist oil exploitation in Ecuador’s remaining Amazon rainforest, among the most biodiverse in the world….

The petition has also garnered positive media coverage in Ecuador and internationally, ensuring that the issue of oil exploitation in what’s left of Ecuador’s Amazon would become part of the popular discourse and debate around Ecuador’s recent presidential election. (That election was held on February 17th and Rafael Correa was re-elected for a third term as President.)

Fundación Pachamama, Amazon Watch, and other allied NGOs have joined forces with Avaaz.org …. [Further Reading: AVAAZ: IMPERIALIST PIMPS OF MILITARISM, PROTECTORS OF THE OLIGARCHY, TRUSTED FACILITATORS OF WAR]

It is clear and reasonable that the Indigenous populations would oppose the drilling of oil on their ancestral land and that they have every right to defend it. Yet, there is another grave threat to the forests and their ancestral lands. And this very real threat is REDD. Pachamama Foundation is certainly “lending a hand” in ensuring that the devastating impacts of drilling oil are understood in the Indigenous populations, yet when it comes to REDD, the market incentive is discussed as though it can somehow be “made to behave” and evolve into an ethical, non-threatening market mechanism. This is a clear example of how foundation dollars and Western interests come into play. Drilling for oil is an obvious threat to forests. However, REDD, although equally threatening, does not “look” like oil. Workers don’t show up in coveralls, work boots and dirty rigs. REDD arrives in a shiny new Land Rover, full of designer suits, new Italian shoes and shiny white faces. Like CO2, the commodification of the forests is invisible.

Video (Running time: 9:26). Chief Aritana Yawalapiti explains how his people and his region are aggressively targeted by NGOs (ISA) to agree on REDD+ projects. [Published August 22, 2010 by documentary filmmaker Rebecca Sommer.]

On August 3, 2009, CONFENIAE (the logo and letterhead list of members includes organizations of the Shuar, Kichwa, Achuar, Waorani, Siona, Secoya, Cofan, Zapara, Shiwiar and Andoa Peoples) demonstrated that they were vehemently opposed to REDD:

 “We reject the negotiations on our forests, such as REDD projects, because they try to take away our freedom to manage our resources and also because they are not a real solution to the climate change problem, on the contrary, they only make it worse.

“We inform COICA, of which we are a part, that, as Ecuadorian Amazonian representatives with the right to voice and vote, that no person, entity, NGO, etc., is authorized to speak on our behalf in favor or against any issue without our knowledge and participation.”

Yet, in a paper titled “Making REDD a Success – Readiness and Beyond” by Woods Hole Research Center published about a year later (December 2009), both CONFENIAE and COICA (Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin (Amazon region) are now identified as REDD partners with Pachamama Foundation, the World Bank, WWF, etc. on page 5. The Woods Hole Research Center’s work on REDD is financed by USAID, The World Bank, Goldman Sachs, WWF and many others (page 2).

[“The WWF, The Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, Environmental Defense Fund, Woods Hole Research Center, CIFOR, Wildlife Conservation Society and other ‘conservationist’ NGOs are among those who stand to make billions of dollars from REDD+.” Source]

“In recognition of the vital role of Indigenous Peoples in the REDD process, the Forum, in collaboration with COICA and the national Indigenous network in each country, convened three national-level workshops on REDD for Indigenous Peoples in Ecuador, Colombia and Bolivia. Partners in these workshops include EDF, IPAM and the Pachamama Foundation.” — “Making REDD a Success – Readiness and Beyond” by Woods Hole Research Center [Source]

The “forum” referred to in the above quote is the Forum on Readiness for REDD. EDF refers to Environmental Defence Fund USA and IPAM refers to the Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazonia (Brazil).

Demonstrating further disrespect for the State of Bolivia, which has been ardently opposed to REDD and carbon markets, “The Forum” conducted REDD workshops with Indigenous communities in Bolivia via FAN-Bolívia (Fundacion Amigos de la Natureza) [Funders and Donors] with REDD partner CIDOB (The Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of Bolivia). [“… various social sectors have been infiltrated by USAID, which openly funded CIDOB, by the NED, and by the army of NGOs, which unfortunately has become another mechanism for hegemony to evade responsibilities.” Source] [CONAIE was formed out of the union of two already existing organizations, ECUARUNARI and CONFENIAIE. ECUARUNARI, the regional organization of the Sierra that has been functioning for over 20 years, and the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (CONFENIAE), formed in 1980, created that same year the National Coordinating Council of the Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONACNIE).]

As mentioned prior, documents demonstrate that Pachamama Foundation has also partnered with USAID-WCS.

Attorney and writer, Eva Golinger(winner of the International Award for Journalism in Mexico, 2009), speaking in reference to USAID/NED:

“This type of funding/aid/advice is very complex and effective because it enables US agencies to infiltrate groups of all spectrums. I am not alleging all of these groups and their members are US agents or receive US funding, but the evidence is quite clear that certain factions within them have close relations w/ US agencies and receive their funding. And, they share a common agenda, against President Rafael Correa. That is undeniable.

“I have never said all of CONAIE or Pachakutik receives funding from US agencies, I have always said sectors, individuals and elements connected to them do receive such funding and training.

“Anyone who dismisses receiving funding or training from NED/USAID and related agencies as having no impact on politics has no understanding of the complex workings of these US agencies. They attempt to recruit, infiltrate and capture influential groups, parties and people who then promote US agenda. This is fact. Unfortunately, they are quite successful.”

The emphasis on local participation, encouraged and even mandated by the foundations and financiers, laid the pivotal groundwork for Indigenous participation regarding REDD. In the 2007 report led by Ricken Patel, founder of Avaaz, for the Gates foundation (“Prospects for e-Advocacy in the Global South”), this is referred to as “cultivating the fringe”: “If possible, fund the fringe, but if this is perceived as too high a risk then invite them to the table by including them in conferences and convenings.” [Prospects for e-Advocacy in the Global South: A Res Publica Report for the Gates Foundation | Source]

It is difficult to place any blame on the Indigenous communities/groups who have entered (or been coerced) into REDD partnerships. The manipulation by the elite foot soldiers within the complex is as smooth as fresh-churned butter. It is important to note that although many Indigenous Peoples are traditional, there are also those “selected” by the World Bank et al that have been completely assimilated by the Western culture and do fully understand that REDD, along with every organization and institution advancing/implementing it, is compromised or fraudulent, or both.

On December 14, 2013, it was reported that “At odds with Ecuador, USAID moves to leave. USAID expects to close its doors in Ecuador by September 2014 due to an increasingly acrimonious relationship with President Rafael Correa. This comes six months after it was kicked out of Bolivia.” The article quoted Steve Striffler, a professor of Latin American studies at the University of New Orleans who studies Ecuador, who stated “[T]hese countries are able to carve out independence from the US in a way they weren’t in the past. The idea they would have kicked out USAID 10 or 15 years ago is unimaginable…. In some ways these actions, and the [USAID decision] can be put in there too, are intended to say that we are an independent sovereign nation…. In the perspective of many in Latin America, and with good reason, USAID is seen as an agent of US imperialism.”

 

 

End Notes:

[1] “Since 2008, we are a member of Accra Caucus, a coalition of civil society in countries with tropical forests, seeking recognition and respect for the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities to their lands, territories and resources, and traditional uses of forest policies in fighting climate change.” [Source] [2] “The UN-REDD Programme was launched in September 2008 to prepare and implement national REDD+ strategies in developing countries and was formed by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). UN-REDD currently has 29 partner countries in Africa, Asia-Pacific and Latin America, of which 13 are receiving support for national programme activities, worth US$55.4 million.” [Source, June, 2011] [3] The Pachamama Foundation is listed as an “actor” on the UN REDD Desk website, which states: “The Pachamama Foundation was created in 1997 in Ecuador as the sister organization of the Pachamama Alliance that was itself born in Ecuador following the visit of a group of tourists from California, USA, to the Achuar territory, home of an indigenous group that maintains its traditional lifestyle within the tropical rainforest in a remote region of the Ecuadorian Amazon.” [Source: http://theredddesk.org/countries/actors/pachamama-foundation] [4] “Furthermore, through its ongoing REDD project, which got under way in May 2009, RFN and its local partners have sought to influence the REDD process in the DRC by disseminating information at the grassroots level on the opportunities and challenges of REDD – to local communities, small NGOs, and members of government and research institutions. RFN has also strengthened the capacity of a large number of Congolese civil society organisations to influence the REDD agenda of the DRC, both at the national and at the international level and has, alongside its partners, succeeded in securing civil society participation in the DRC’s National Steering Committee for REDD.” [Source] “There are many more layers that are pushing for legitimizing and expanding REDD+. For example, key funders that are promoting REDD+ are the Climate and Land Use Alliance (Ford Foundation, Packard Foundation, Climate Works, Betty and Gordon Moore Foundation), the Clinton Foundation, the Norwegian Agency for Development and Cooperation (NORAD), the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ, Germany), the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) to name a few.” [Source: Some Key REDD+ Players] [5] “This multi-donor trust fund states that “the final phase of REDD+ involves developed countries paying developing countries carbon offsets for their standing forests,” making it clear that they see REDD+ as a carbon trading scheme. [Source: June 2011] [6] The following text appears March 8, 2010 in an article titled Getting REDDy to Cross the Finish Line, Two Decades in the Making: “It’s hard to imagine with all the progress REDD has achieved, that it all started less than 20 years ago with the Rio Summit in ’92, when the makings of a global sustainability architecture in the form of a climate treaty began to take shape. But a forestry treaty had yet to happen …. With over 20 years of experience in the forestry sector, Michael Northrup, Program Director of Sustainable Development at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, was invited by the Pinchot Institute for Conservation to give a Distinguished Lecture, ‘After Copenhagen: Implications for U.S. Climate, Energy, and Forest Policy’ at the high brow, exclusive Cosmos Club. Northrup casually described to the 30 or so people in the room where we are with REDD today and how we got here. Plus he played the ‘name game’ as he knew most of the people in the room.”

[7] “Rich Nations Agree to Fund Forest Protection for Climate: Promises turn into ‘definite’ dollars. REDD+ finance, the money needed to set up and implement a system that pays countries to leave forests standing, has followed a long road since the 2007 U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in Bali, Indonesia, where nations pledged to take meaningful action to reduce emissions from deforestation. A 2008 study found it would cost between $17.2 billion and $28 billion per year to cut the global rate of deforestation in half. According to a recent policy brief from the Overseas Development Institute, $2.72 billion has been pledged for REDD+ since 2007 through five multilateral funds and two bilateral funds, more than half of it to Indonesia and Brazil. About one-tenth of the pledges have been disbursed to projects on the ground.” http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=rich-nations-agree-to-fund-forest-protection-for-climate&WT.mc_id=SA_DD_20131120

[8] The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (Spanish: La Confederación de las Nacionalidades Indígenas de la Amazonia Ecuatoriana) or CONFENIAE is the regional organization of indigenous peoples in the Ecuadorian Amazon or Oriente region. Nine indigenous peoples present in the region – Quichua, Shuar, Achuar, Huaorani, Siona, Secoya, Shiwiar, Záparo and Cofán – are represented politicalily by the Confederation. CONFENIAE is one of three major regional groupings that constitute the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE). It is also part of the Amazon Basin indigenous organization, COICA. [Source: Wikipedia]

 

For All Those Who Were Indian In A Former Life

Manataka American Indian Council

by Andrea Smith

The New Age movement has sparked a new interest in Native American traditional spirituality among white women who claim to be feminists. Indian spirituality, with its respect for nature and the interconnectedness of all things, is often presented as the panacea for all individual and global problems. Not surprisingly, many white “feminists” see the opportunity to make a great profit from this new craze. They sell sweat lodges or sacred pipe ceremonies, which promise to bring individual and global healing. Or they sell books and records that supposedly describe Indian traditional practices so that you too, can be Indian.

On the surface, it may appear that this new craze is based on a respect for Indian spirituality. In fact, however, the New Age movement is part of a very old story of white racism and genocide against the Indian people. The “Indian” ways that the white, New Age “feminists” are practicing have little grounding in reality.

True spiritual leaders do not make a profit from their teachings, whether it’s through selling books, workshops, sweat lodges, or otherwise. Spiritual leaders teach the people because it is their responsibility to pass what they have learned from their elders to the youngest generations. They do not charge for their services.

Furthermore, the idea that an Indian medicine woman would instruct a white woman to preach the “true path” of Indian spirituality sounds more reminiscent of evangelical Christianity than traditional Indian spirituality. Indian religions are community-based, not proselytizing religions. For this reason, there is not ONE Indian religion, as many New Agers would have you believe. Indian spiritual practices reflect the needs of a particular community. Indians do not generally believe that their way is “the” way, and consequently, they have no desire to tell outsiders about their practices. Also, considering how many Indians there are who do not  know the traditions, why would a medicine woman spend so much time teaching a white woman? A medicine woman would be more likely to advise a white woman to look into her OWN culture and find what is liberating in it.

However, some white women seem determined NOT to look into their own cultures for sources of strength. This is puzzling, since pre-Christian European cultures are also earth-based and contain many of the same elements that white women are ostensibly looking for in Native American cultures. This phenomenon leads me to suspect that there is a more insidious motive for latching onto Indian spirituality.

When white “feminists” see how white people have historically oppressed others and how they are coming very close to destroying the earth, they often want to disassociate themselves from their whiteness. They do this by opting to “become Indian.” In this way, they can escape responsibility and accountability for white racism.

Of course, white “feminists” want to become only partly Indian. They do not want to be part of our struggles for survival against genocide, and they do not want to fight for treaty rights or an end to substance abuse or sterilization abuse. They do not want to do anything that would tarnish their romanticized notions of what it means to be an Indian.

Moreover, they want to become Indian without holding themselves accountable to Indian communities. If they did they would have to listen to Indians telling them to stop carrying around sacred pipes, stop doing their own sweat lodges and stop appropriating our spiritual practices. Rather, these New Agers see Indians as romanticized gurus who exist only to meet their consumerist needs. Consequently, they do not understand our struggles for survival and thus they can have no genuine understanding of Indian spiritual practices.

While New Agers may think that they are escaping white racism by becoming “Indian,” they are in fact continuing the same genocidal practices of their forebears. The one thing that has maintained the survival of Indian people through 500 years of colonialism has been the spiritual bonds that keep us together. When the colonizers saw the strength of our spirituality, they tried to destroy Indian religion by making them illegal. They forced Indian children into white missionary schools and cut their tongues if they spoke their Native languages.

Sundances were made illegal, and Indian participation in the Ghost Dance precipitated the Wounded Knee massacre. The colonizers recognized that it was our spirituality that maintained our spirit of resistance and sense of community. Even today, Indians do not have religious freedom. In a recent ruling the Supreme Court has determined that American Indians do not have the right to sue under the American Indian Religious Freedom Act. They have also determined that if Indian religious freedom conflicts with any “compelling” United States interest, the government always supersedes Indian peoples’ freedom of religion.

Many white New Agers continue this practice of destroying Indian spirituality. They trivialize Native American practices so that these practices lose their spiritual force, and they have the white privilege and power to make themselves heard at the expense of Native Americans. Our voices are silenced, and consequently the younger generation of Indians who are trying to find their way back to the Old Ways becomes hopelessly lost in this morass of consumerist spirituality.

These practices also promote the subordination of Indian women to white women. We are told that we are greedy if we do not choose to share our spirituality. Apparently, it is our burden to service white women’s needs rather than to spend time organizing within our own communities. Their perceived need for warm and fuzzy mysticism takes precedence over our need to survive.

The New Age movement completely trivializes the oppression we as Indian women face: Indian women are suddenly no longer the women who are forcibly sterilized and tested with unsafe drugs such as Depo Provera; we are no longer the women who have a life expectancy of 47 years; and we are no longer the women who generally live below the poverty level and face a 75 percent unemployment rate. No, we’re too busy being cool and spiritual.

This trivialization of our oppression is compounded by the fact that nowadays anyone can be Indian if s/he wants to. All that is required is that one be Indian in a former life, or take part in a sweat lodge, or be monitored by a “medicine woman,” or read a how-to book.

Since, according to this theory, anyone can now be “Indian,” then the term Indians no longer refers specifically to those people who have survived five hundred years of colonization and genocide. This furthers the goals of white supremacists to abrogate treaty rights and to take away what little we have left. When everyone becomes “Indian,” then it is easy to lose sight of the specificity of oppression faced by those who are REALLY Indian in THIS life. It is no wonder we have such a difficult time finding non-Indians to support our struggles when the New Age movement has completely disguised our oppression.

The most disturbing aspect about these racist practices is that they are promoted in the name of feminism. Sometimes it seems that I can’t open a feminist periodical without seeing ads promoting white “feminist” practices with little medicine wheel designs. I can’t seem to go to a feminist conference without the woman who begins the conference with a ceremony being the only Indian presenter. Participants then feel so “spiritual” after this opening that they fail to notice the absence of Indian women in the rest of the conference or Native American issues in the discussions. And I certainly can’t go to a feminist bookstore without seeing books by Lynn Andrews and other people who exploit Indian spirituality all over the place. It seems that, while feminism is supposed to signify the empowerment of all women, it obviously does not include Indian women.

If white feminists are going to act in solidarity with their Indian sisters, they must take a stand against Indian spiritual abuse. Feminist book and record stores should stop selling these products, and feminist periodicals should stop advertising these products. Women who call themselves feminists should denounce exploitative practices wherever they see them.

Many have claimed that Indians are not respecting “freedom of speech” when they demand that whites stop promoting and selling books that exploit Indian spirituality. But promotion of this material is destroying freedom of speech for Native Americans by ensuring that our voices will never be heard. Feminists have already made choices about what they will promote (I haven’t seen many books by right-wing, fundamentalist women sold in feminist bookstores, since feminists recognize that these books are oppressive to women.) The issue is not censorship; the issue is racism. Feminists must make a choice either to respect Indian political and spiritual autonomy, or to promote materials that are fundamentally racist under the guise of “freedom of speech.”

Respecting the integrity of Native people and their spirituality does not mean that there can never be cross-cultural sharing. However, such a sharing should take place in a way that is respectful to Indian people.

The way to be respectful is for non-Indians to become involved in our political struggles and to develop an on-going relation with Indian COMMUNITIES based on trust and mutual respect. When this happens, Indian  people may invite a non-Indian to take part in a ceremony, but it will be on Indian terms.

I hesitate to say this much about cross-cultural sharing however, because many white people take this to mean that they can join in our struggles solely for the purpose of being invited to ceremonies. If this does not occur, they feel that Indians have somehow unfairly withheld spiritual teachings from them. We are expected to pay the price in spiritual exploitation in order to gain allies in our political struggles.

When non-Indians say they will help us, but only on their terms, that is not help – that is blackmail. We are not obligated to teach anyone about our spirituality. It is our choice if we want to share with people who we think will be respectful. It is white people who owe it to us to fight for our survival, since they are living on the land for which our people were murdered.

It is also important for non-Indians to build relationships with Indian communities, rather than with specific individuals. Many non-Indians express their confusion about knowing who is and who is not a legitimate spiritual teacher. The only way for non-Indians to know who legitimate teachers are is to develop ongoing relationships with Indian COMMUNITIES. When they know the community, they will learn who the community respects as its spiritual leaders. This is a process that takes time.

Unfortunately, many white feminists do not want to take this time in their quest for instant spirituality. Profit-making often gets in the way of true sisterhood. However, white feminists should know that as long as they take part in Indian spiritual abuse, either by being consumers of it or by refusing to take a stand on it, Indian women will consider white “feminists” to be nothing more than agents in the genocide of their people.

OUR SPIRITUALITY IS NOT FOR SALE!

 

Editor’s Note:  The article above first appeared in the “Cultural Survival Quarterly”, Winter 1994 and was written by Andrea Smith, who is a member of “Women Of All Red Nations” in Chicago, and she is the Chairperson for Women of Color for the “National Coalition Against Sexual Assault”.  While branded by right-wing Catholics as controversial, pro-gay, pro-abortion and a radical feminist, her opinions bear a strong resemblance to truth that some people find offensive.  We do not.

 

Human Rights vs. Right Based Fishing: The Ideological Battleground in Siem Reap

World Forum of Fishers People

April 28, 2015

By the international secretariat of the World Forum of Fisher Peoples – 26 April 2015

WFFP-679x1024

(2014) Photo courtesy of Masifundise 

On 23-27 March 2014, six representatives from the global fisher movements, the WFFP and WFF, supported by ICSF and a couple of researchers, participated in the UserRights2015 Conference in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Few in numbers, these delegates represents millions of people from indigenous and small-scale fishing communities. The additional 130 participants were from government, inter-governmental organisations, academia, big business, and international conservation organisations.

Even after the five days in Cambodia, it remains somehow unclear what the conference aimed at achieving. Bringing together 140 people from across the world – of whom only about 45 were women – should clearly aim at something more concrete than providing “… guidance on how to support appropriate rights-based systems in fisheries and thereby contribute to a sustainable future:”1

During the five days, it became clear that the dominant, hegemonic view brought to the fore by most speakers and delegates centred around ‘private property’ as a fundamental basis for user rights in fisheries. In fisheries governance this is also referred to as Rights Based Fishing, ITQs, Wealth Based Fishing or Catch Shares by various different players.

There is an irony in this almost fundamentalist belief in private property. On the one hand the FAO – the key host of the conference – and the World Bank aims at eliminating huger and reducing rural poverty. On the other hand, the World Bank – as one of the most powerful players in fisheries governance globally – admitted that the private property system is good for some and bad for many. If the very system aggressively promoted by the World Bank – and many other participants at the UserRights conference – is bad for many, how then can it contribute to eliminating hunger and reducing poverty?

For more examples on the devastating consequences of private property systems in fisheries – or Rights Based Fishing – see the Global Ocean Grab: A Primer.

The WFFP delegates repeatedly argued – from the floor, as panellists and in presentations – that small-scale fisheries must be governed by applying a Human Rights Based approach. The underpinning principles of such an approach include equality, indigenous peoples rights, food sovereignty, gender equity, poverty alleviation for all, customary and traditional rights, traditional low-impact fishing, and participation in governance. Yet, these arguments only gave rise to a minimal dialogue, and on numerous occasions the responses were degrading and unwarranted.

The form of the conference allowed for many short and long presentations but limited scope for real engagement and dialogue. As such, it took the shape of an ideological battleground, where the strongest voice may end up being the one that finds its way into a conference report. Considering that proponents of private property were stronger in numbers and were allocated the majority of slots – air time – at the conference, it is feared that the views of the WFFP will becomes oppressed in the outcomes of the conference. While we do not know what to expect in terms of concrete outcomes, it is speculated that the conference will produce a report that will be used by the FAO with respect to its future work on fisheries governance, including the International Guidelines on the responsible Governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forests (Tenure Guidelines) and the International Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries (SSF Guidelines).

Considering that the FAO recently endorsed the SSF Guidelines (2014) and the Tenure Guidelines (2012), it was expected that the FAO would use the guidelines to set the scene and inform the contents of the programme. Yet, aside from a couple of references on the official conference website and the mentioning of the guidelines in an opening speech, it was only the WFFP, WFF and ICSF who consistently made use of the guidelines to inform presentations and dialogue. Many participants seemed unaware of the guidelines – or outright ignored their existence – and the FAO officials showed disappointingly little interest in picking up on the linkages between the main theme of the conference – ‘user rights’ – and the Tenure and SSF Guidelines.

Considering that the FAO has invested huge amounts of human and financial resources in the development of the guidelines, this almost ignorant position is even more controversial.

The strategic use of language in Siem Reap

While many of the ‘usual suspects’ spoke openly about the need for private property, ITQs and similar terms in relation to fisheries governance, some adapted the language and thereby masked their underlying belief in private property as the one and only solution. This way of adapting the language is used to strategically persuade others – including fisher movements across the world – about their ‘honest’ and ‘sincere’ support and not only in Siem Reap but more generally so. At face value, it can be difficult to distinguish the good from the bad, but by looking just a bit deeper it’s not that difficult at all. One approach is to look where the funding comes from, and another is to do a bit of research on the political positions of the various actors and to find out who is serving on their boards. Too often, and in particular with international conservation organisations, we see a very close tie with multinational agri-businesses, super-market chains or other financial giants, and some are even governed by top-business people from the same funding corporations.

In the light of the above, it should come as no surprise that the overall impression of the WFFP is that the conference failed in ‘providing guidance’ – which was the only concrete objective of the conference mentioned on the website. Yet, the participation in the conference was crucial for a couple of reasons. Firstly, without the interventions of the WFFP and friends from WFF, ICSF and a couple of researchers, the conference would have been an assembly of neo-liberal thinkers and institutions who would have had an unhindered opportunity to develop their own plans for fisheries governance on the basis of private property regimes. Secondly, the knowledge and information about some of the key actors and their agendas, which we have gained by participating in the conference, is critical for developing and refining strategies on how to push for a Human Rights Based approach and the implementation of the FAO Guidelines.

A couple of facts about UserRights2015

Donors/partners: Environmental Defence Fund (EDF), Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) Norad and Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida)

Participants: 95 men and 45 women

1 The only concrete reference to the objectives of the conference on the official website: http://www.fao.org/about/meetings/user-rights-2015/en/

WATCH: Omali Yeshitela Calls Out White Media

uhuru

Published on Apr 28, 2015

“We know who the looters are & it ain’t no poor Black People in Baltimore!”

 

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.

Just Say No to 350

A Culture of Imbeciles

April 30, 2015

By Jay Taber

privatization of commons

When 350 targeted Bolivia and The Peoples Agreement on Climate Change for subversion in 2010, it was an act of aggression with roots in the 2009 attempted coup — funded by the U.S. State Department — in reaction to the 2008 constitutional revolution of Bolivia’s indigenous peoples. The inspiration for the indigenous uprising, that saw the world’s first indigenous head of state elected, was the 2005 attempt at privatization of Bolivia’s water by the US-based Bechtel Corporation that foreshadowed the “new economy” promoted by 350 in 2014.

Privatization Future

That “new economy” builds on other privatization schemes on a global scale; REDD and other carbon-market shell games, like fossil fuel divestment, are the ultimate institutionalization of the theft of public resources by the finance sector. The finance sector – that in 2008-2009 devastated the US and EU economies through loan fraud and bank bailouts – has now set its sights on privatizing all aspects of life on earth.

waves_accounting_0

Cheerleading global privatization — enabled by UN agencies like the IMF and World Bank — are financier-sponsored NGOs like 350, Avaaz and Ceres–all of which have fundamental ties to Wall Street moguls and finance sector criminals. Having hijacked the environmental movement on behalf of Wall Street, these false fronts are currently pressing for changes in international law that would give the finance sector carte blanche in privatizing all of nature.

bank-of-natural-capital2

With the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – a threat to globalization – the finance sector immediately began co-opting the indigenous peoples movement through foundation grants to compromised NGOs approved by the UN. These compromised NGOs and individuals are paid to legitimize the annihilation of indigenous nations via UN agencies in partnership with Wall Street.

Greed Economy

Indigenous peoples from five countries told the UN Rio+20 summit that the green economy is a “crime against humanity” that ‘dollarises’ Mother Nature and strips communities of their rights.

Photo: KeystoneUSA-ZUMA / Rex Features

As indigenous nations challenge Wall Street and the UN over globalization, compromised NGOs like 350 distort reality through social and mainstream media. The “new economy” they promote is essentially what used to be called fascism. While finance sector puppets like Naomi Klein charm gullible liberals with bromides and syllogisms about sustainability, what they are in reality sustaining is totalitarian corporate control of world governance and human survival.

 

[Jay Taber is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, a correspondent to Forum for Global Exchange, and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as communications director at Public Good Project, a volunteer network of researchers, analysts and activists engaged in defending democracy. As a consultant, he has assisted indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations. Email: tbarj [at] yahoo.com Website: www.jaytaber.com]

Green Economy, Red Herring

2012

by Clive Spash

revolt4

“We see the goals of Rio+20, the ‘Green Economy’ and its premise that the world can only ‘save’ nature by commodifying its life-giving and life-sustaining capacities as a continuation of the colonialism that indigenous peoples and our Mother Earth have faced and resisted for 520 years.”
Photo: EPA/MARCELO SAYAO


This year sees Rio plus 20 years and much activity especially from United Nations (UN) related institutions to push forward various agendas which the environmentally concerned might welcome. The financial and banking crisis signals for many the tip of the iceberg of reality into which modern industrial economies must inevitably run. Growth of material and energy throughput is then doomed to sink. However, the reports and rhetoric prepared for Rio have little to do with attempts to revive the anti-growth and limits to growth discourse under de-growth or décroissance (a topic explored in a special issue of Environmental Values next year). No, the thrust of the argument being put on the agenda is that re-establishing growth as fast as possible is good, if not essential and unquestionable, but it should be a bit greener. We might venture to ask why this is deemed an adequate response to biophysical limits, increasing social inequity and general systems failure?

At the base of the international response is a dispute over ‘what is the problem?’ in the first place. If you are amongst the top few per cent of the worlds’ population who own the vast majority of its wealth and run its business interests then there is no problem. A financial crisis is just another opportunity to make money by switching assets (e.g., out of dollars or Euros and into gold) and then switching back when the time is ripe. War, famine and environmental disasters are all opportunities for the business men and women with the right goods and services in the right place at the right time. One man’s poverty is another man’s cheap labour and source of cost-efficient profit making. This line of thinking is what we now see being expressed far and wide as necessary to address environmental problems from climate change (Stern 2006) to biodiversity (TEEB2010) using newly created financial instruments (Spash 2010a; 2011).

The approach has been nicely encapsulated in the UN’s promotion of the ‘Green Economy’ with a more than 600 page report released last December. A UNEP policy brief aimed at informing Rio 2012 provides a succinct explanation of what this means:

In the transition to a Green Economy, policymakers should ensure that the full range of goods and services provided by ecosystems, including those which are currently non-monetised, are fully integrated in decision making and public policy. […] Placing a value on ecosystem services through mechanisms that facilitate investment in ecosystems will at the same time benefit local people and the private sector who are rewarded for good environmental stewardship. (UNEP 2011: 3)

Faith is required, namely faith in market mechanisms and the ability of technical experts to first value the environment and then capture those values with market institutions and private property rights. Yet the message is simultaneously intertwined with expressions of concern for the poor, the seriousness of environmentalproblems and the need for change. We are told that, the Green Economy ‘is a new development path that is based on sustainability principles and ecological economics’ (UNEP 2011: 2). The model is of course not new but involves rapid deployment of a growth stimulus package which is now Green because it will use ‘economic models for wealth creation, to focus increasingly on the value of ecosystem goods and services and natural capital’ (UNEP 2011: 7). ‘Compared with previous development paths, the uniqueness of a Green Economy is that it can directly turn natural capital into economic value whilst maintaining it, and conduct total cost accounting’ (UNEP 2011: 8). As if the smell of herring were not strong enough to lose the environmental trail, we are also informed that the aim is for ‘a common language of comprehensive ecosystem valuation’. The environment neatly slips off the agenda and is replaced by growth, jobs, capital investment and wealth accumulation. The environmentalists, conservation biologists and ecologists can be replaced by accountants.

Industrialisation and the spread of markets and consumerism was long ago recognised as corrosive of social and individual values. In this issue, Cannavò (2012) shows this concern formed an integral part of Jeffersonian Republicanism and the writings of Thoreau. The struggle for a more meaningful life which is environmentally benign is both a personal and community challenge. Thoreau’s ideal appears as a halfway house between living in towns to toil for needless luxuries and realising personal integrity and moral virtue from living in wild lands. What the Green Economy lacks is the essential reconnection with Nature that would put humans in context as members of a larger community of organisms. This divergence from conquering Nature is one that separates Thoreau from Jefferson, the environmentalist from the developer. The aim of Thoreau is to tread lightly on the planet while gaining basic requirements for personal flourishing, as exemplified by his experiment growing beans within a semi-wild natural setting. The point is rather different from maximising production while hoping to avoid destroying the basic systems upon which we depend.

The links between human social and environmental relationships are too easily neglected in favour of the simplistic splitting of the world into us and them, man and nature, culture and wilderness, economy and environment. As Matthews (2012) explains, the ontological human-animal distinction has been employed at various points in time to designate women, children, indigenous peoples, and ‘others’, as non-human. This serves to justify violence and oppression. Nature as object for economic exploitation falls within this same frame. Matthews calls for us to deconstruct how we think and conduct our lives so that we might feel, think and act differently.

The complexity of meanings of Nature is too easily brushed aside by calls for comprehensive total cost accounting. Ioris (2012) refers to the technobureaucratic rationality of monetisation and water pricing as removing the plurality of meanings associated with the allocation, use and conservation ofwater. Environmental economics is described as having subverted other values. He recognises a sentient ecology in which knowledge emerges out of feelings, sensitivities and skills developed through long experiences in particular environments. This bears a striking resemblance to Thoreau, and also attacks strong social constructivism as implying human cognition outside the world of Nature. At the same time Ioris argues for the values of water being generated from a perpetual interplay between individuals, their social groupings, and the multiple forms of socio-ecological interaction. Water takes on different meanings for different people. He concludes that systems of valuation are intensely politicised, involving struggles between groups. Thus, no single value dominates but multiple systems of values overlap and meaning is constantly reconstructed in relation to material, symbolic and discursive practices.

That the conceptualisation of reality is subject to contestation and change is exemplified by Van Assche, Bell and Teampau (2012). They argue that knowledge and power are intertwined. An imposed scientific discourse for environmental protection is shown to have in part alienated Romanians in the swamps of the Danube delta. The lack of trust in outside authorities creates a dismissive attitude to the value of wildlife and ecosystem protection. When this mixes with the personal experience of working directly in the swamplands and traditional and cultural values, the result can be confused and self-contradictory discourses. The same birds are at one moment described as beautiful and the next as ugly, while socio-economic problems are blamed on particular species that are derided as needing extermination because they compete with humans. The recent privatisation of common resources (fish and reed) that local people once depended upon did no more to help than earlier development plans and fish farms of the Soviet era. Both economic models have identical core features of growth and exploitation with an imposed technocentric value frame that fails to relate to local people.

Rejecting a single correct discourse challenges the traditional approach of science and claims to truth based upon objectivity. Western governments are increasingly aware of the potential for open scientific debate to undermine policy positions, which they claim are scientific, factually based and objective. Muzzling government scientists to prevent them talking to the media is now openly practised in Canada (Ghosh 2012) and was my personal experience in Australia (Spash 2010b). Contrary to the claims of the Green Economy, protection of the environment is in opposition to traditional economic interests and therefore the discourse must be controlled. Once again a series of dichotomies are employed to support a black-and-white, us-and-them mentality in which rhetoric replaces reason. Such a conflict is discussed by Robins (2012) for the case of genetically modified crops in Australia. The problem goes beyond one of different discourses and values and exposes changing reality through technology. The result is to remove whole ways of life and relationships to Nature.

A core of concern running through the papers in this issue relates to the metaphysical (ontological) questions of what exists, what are the primary entities of concern, what are their most general features and relationships? The ontological understanding of the world we inhabit appears challenged in a changing social and economic system that is undergoing crisis. One tendency, as seen in some of the papers, is to move from the realisation that knowledge is created in contested social and political contexts to assuming that all reality is a social construction. From there it is a small step to claiming all positions are equally valid. However, this seems to confuse ontology with epistemology. The distinction is between what exists and how we form knowledge about the world and what then is the meaning of truly knowing something.

The environmental movement has long depended upon scientific investigation, empirical evidence and the acceptance of a biophysical reality. At the same time the social context and community aspects of valuing and relating to the world are accepted and seen as important, from Thoreau’s good life to the social norms preventing littering, as investigated by Torgler, García-Valiñas and Macintyre (2012). The vision for the future must, then, combine social ecological and economic understanding – but not in some simplistic unifying language of a Green Economy, nor through denying basic realities.

Societal, economic and environmental crises are unified as the result of an old but common deception that growth is good, more is better and there can be more for everyone. In the Green Economy the poor are promised environmental riches, recycled materials and renewable energy can be exploited without environmental impact, and technology always finds a substitute for what runs out. All things can be made compatible by ignoring the basic contradiction between ever-expanding human activity and a finite world. The illusion grows thinner every day, but in Rio expect to see people wearing green tinted spectacles and waving smoked fish at each other.

 

[Clive Spash I am an economist who writes, researches and teaches on public policy with an emphasis on economic and environmental interactions. My 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.]

 

References

Cannavò, P. 2012. ‘The half-cultivated citizen: Thoreau at the nexus of republicanism and environmentalism’. Environmental Values 21(2): 101–124.

Ghosh, P. 2012. ‘Canadian government is “muzzling its scientists”’. Retrieved 22 February 2012, 2012, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-16861468.

Ioris, A.A.R. 2012. ‘The positioned construction of water values: pluralism, positionality and praxis’. Environmental Values 21(2): 143–162.

Matthews, J. 2012. ‘Compassion, geography and the question of the animal’. Environmental Values 21(2): 125–142.

Robins, R. 2012. ‘The controversy over GM canola in Australia as an ontological politics’. Environmental Values 21(2): 185–208.

Spash, C.L. 2010a. ‘The brave new world of carbon trading’. New Political Economy 15(2): 169–195.

Spash, C.L. 2010b. ‘Censoring science in research officially’. Environmental Values 19(2): 141–146.

Spash, C.L. 2011. ‘Terrible economics, ecosystems and banking’. Environmental Values 20(2): 141–145.

Stern, N. 2006. Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change. London, UK Government Economic Service.

TEEB 2010. The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity: Mainstreaming the Economics of Nature: A Synthesis of the Approach, Conclusions and Recommendations of TEEB. Bonn, UNEP.

Torgler, B., M. García-Valiñas and A. Macintyre. 2012. ‘Justifiability of littering: an empirical investigation’. Environmental Values 21(2): 209–231.

UNEP 2011. ‘Restoring the natural foundation to sustain a Green Economy: A centurylong journey for ecosystem management’. International Ecosystem Management Partnership (IEMP) Policy Brief. Nairobi, UNEP: 30.

Van Aasche, K., S. Bell and P. Teampau. 2012. ‘Traumatic natures of the swamp: concepts of nature in the Romanian Danube Delta’. Environmental Values 21(2): 163–183.

 

 

WATCH: The New Economy: The Green Economy, Simply Re-branded

“We’ll build the green economy, we just won’t talk about it and we won’t say that we’re doing it.”

rebrand 4

WKOG Admin: It’s impossible not to notice the recent avalanche of advertisements and campaigns intended to propel “The New Economy” forward. Global in reach, drenched in holistic language and emotive imagery, these campaigns and advertisements are designed to create a global acquiescence (and even desire) for a new economic system. Yet rarely, if at all,  is the very premise of the “new economy” actually mentioned. That is, the financialization of Earth’s natural resources via the global implementation of “payments for ecosystem services” (PES).

The following text and video from the article This Changes Nothing. Why the People’s Climate March Guarantees Climate Catastrophe published September 15, 2014

In the video published on November 21, 2012, Heimans discloses that the “demand for the green economy is in a rut” during a lecture on Purpose’s innovative model of “movement entrepreneurship.” He states:

“…how else could movement building and mass participation help transform society? And that’s what we’re working on at Purpose. We’re thinking at Purpose not just how you build political movements but now what are some of the insights from that, that can be used to do things like scale demand for the green economy? Right? Demand for the green economy is in a rut. There isn’t large-scale demand it. What if we tried to build a movement around that and organize people in a systematic way….”

In the following Tedx talk (published September 7, 2012) the goal and the campaign to achieve the goal is made clear: kill “green” marketing (including the key term “green economy,” in order to push forward the green economy – without saying as much.

Heimans states:

“…Well, the results of our research really have two main conclusions I want to share with you today, and the first is a little startling and it may create a little bit of a disequilibrium… and that is that I think we need to kill the language and imagery and green in order to have any real shot at scaling sustainable consumption. Sustainable consumption just isn’t working right now as we’ll talk about in a moment. We’re going to have to kill green as a frame for consumers in order to try to rework that problem.”

It is worth repeating:

“Sustainable consumption just isn’t working right now as we’ll talk about in a moment. We’re going to have to kill green as a frame for consumers in order to try to rework that problem.”

Hence – you have the new terminology agreed upon and already being employed by both the foundations and the non-profit-industrial complex: The “new economy.”

Heimans continues:

“So they like the idea of green, it’s kind of a value they are happy to cloak themselves in, you know it’s a brand value, but the reality is market share just isn’t there because as soon as it’s even slightly difficult they’re out the door. So what do we do? So here’s some things that I think we can do that might up-end this situation and as I said it does require starting with killing green as a friend. We can’t lead with green, because most of the green products that are out there start by knocking on the front door and hitting you on the head and saying you know ‘We’re green, do the right thing.’ We need a radically different approach to the way we introduce this issue to consumers. We need to put green aside.”

Heimans summarizes the methodology:

“… the answer we think is to get behind the businesses that are at this intersection of mass participation where you can get lots of people in a network, you can grow market share very quickly of the new forms of businesses that are green, but don’t knock on the door and announce themselves as green. If we can do this, if we can create a new economy that takes these models that can very quickly acquire market share and we can give people a sense they’re part of something much bigger, we’ll build the green economy, we just won’t talk about it and we won’t say that we’re doing it.”

Heimans’ last remark is key: “If we can do this, if we can create a new economy that takes these models that can very quickly acquire market share and we can give people a sense they’re part of something much bigger we’ll build the green economy, we just won’t talk about it and we won’t say that we’re doing it.”