Green Capitalism and the ‘Peoples Summit’ at Rio+20
The United Nations Rio+20 Summit on Sustainable Development will take place in Rio de Janeiro from June 15 to 22, 2012. Over 135 heads of state and government may or may not show up, and up to 50,000 participants, including business executives and civil society representatives are expected to attend. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon calls it “one of the most important conferences in U.N. history”.
Moon may be right about that, but it will only be important if the groups with clear vision about the disastrous future the earth and her inhabitants are facing are able to make enough of a media splash to offset the expected yawn the Summit is expected to be. If, and only if, the world takes notice of The Peoples’ virtual consensus on the causes and heed their many warnings, solutions and suggestions, many of which require immediate action, some require institutional frameworks designed to longer term permanent mechanisms.
There is no shortage of online critiques of the dismal failure of the agreed-upon ‘goals’ that came out of the first Earth Summit twenty years ago. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Convention to Fight Desertification, and the Convention on Biological Diversity were all formed out of the conference, and both have tragically fallen prey to an environmental form of Disaster Capitalism promulgated by transnationals dictating national policy in far too many nations.
By all accounts, the pre-Summit working group meetings (most closed-door, apparently) have been so contentious that little is left on the agenda that concerns the environment. Even the outcomes from the first Summit were mainly about voluntary reductions in pollutants, no teeth at to enforce…anything.
This piece by Phil England at the New Internationalists blogsite says that the agenda says the Draft Declaration is being called “The Zero Draft” by the conference itself, out of frustration that it embodies “Zero Ambition”, as in: a totally voluntary approach. (Fail.)
England points out several reports from NGOs that should be implemented in areas of planetary boundaries (environmental tipping points) to be recognized as international law; making Ecocide the Fifth International Crime Against Peace; giving nature equal rights under international law as Bolivia has done; creating an International Court for the Environment and an Ombudsman for Future Generations; and some mechanism to prevent the capture of the process by transnational profiteers.
The UN ‘Keeping Track’ environmental program gives ‘snapshots’ of the changes since 1992 are available; this one via CBC News covers the past twenty years; I might quibble some of the Good News, not to pile on to the Bad News presented.
In any event, the Summit agenda seems to amount to: “So long environment; saddle up the Sustainability Ponies and …let’s ride!”
Now the largest major of that ‘captured process’ is, of course, that the ‘sustainability’ trope has been coopted into the warm-feeling but empty ‘Green Sustainability’ and “Green Economics’ verbiage, which is at its core ‘Green Capitalism’.
The most easily understood (meaning that even I could grasp most of it) I found was this piece by Heather Rogers who has written a book on the subject. She mentions a few potential positives of Green Capitalism, and explains the merits and downsides of ‘true cost pricing’ the pitfalls of eco-capitalism even while it attempts to reverse “the externalization of costs onto the environment, into the future, and onto less politically powerful populations.” Part of the problem she sees is that customers aren’t able to make informed choices (as in: No Invisible Hand present), since what she discovered in travelling the world to check into the notion was that there were many dirty secrets behind ’free trade’ and ‘organic’ products shipped to the US, for instance. She found many examples of the clear-cutting of Native forests for biofuels (what a terrible waste of aerable land and water, imo), ‘organic sugar’ from cane being fertilized with manure from factory chicken farms that used antibiotics and arsenic, and many other dirty secrets. From her final paragraphs:
“As these examples, and others in the book, flesh out, the market has a distinct inability to solve environmental crises because it can’t adequately value nature. That doesn’t mean great methods and technologies for balancing out the trauma of the biosphere don’t exist—they do. [snip]
“Instead of our greater environmental consciousness transforming the way business is done, what we more often see is the market contorting ecological problems so they fit into some sort of profitable framework. To bring about change we must experience ourselves as political actors and not simply shoppers who are supposed to vote with our wallets.”
I’ll add that her analysis falls short of grasping the larger dangers green capitalism poses; more about that later.
The Good News
Many well-organized indigenous groups around the world know what Green Capitalism really amounts to first hand, and more, and are going to show up in Rio for the People’s Summit. This statement that the large Mexican peace group Teotihuacan (of Mayan fame) will deliver to the Summit fully grasps that it is multinationals and neoliberal economics via bodies like the World Bank and IMF who are either raping, or abetting the raping of the earth for profit, quashing protests about it, spying on activists; that media and educational narratives are increasingly replacing true human values with conspicuous consumerism and competition, abetting the exploitation of human beings in the name of profit…in other words, hijacking and commodifying human labor as well as the planet’s beauty and resources to profit the 1%. From their statement:
“Powerful governments, headed by the U.S.A., are preparing a big coup against the Environment and Mother Earth during the United Nations Rio+20 Summit.
In a desperate bid to solve the worldwide economic crisis, powerful governments, led by the United States, prepare a new strike against Mother Earth’s gifts and the Environment during the United Nations Rio+20 Summit, which they have had sequestered since many years ago. Together with Big Banks and multinational corporations, they want an ominous world policy on economics approved. Something like the so called sustainable development introduced in the Earth Summit, Río 1992 that has so gravely undermined Nature. They now have agreed to launch globally the Green Economy scheme presenting it as the major global solution to the environmental and social disasters that we are undergoing; as a perverted response to social demands in favor of a real clean environment and the preservation of Nature’s gifts. They want to open great business opportunities by applying false solutions to these predicaments, aiming, specifically at promoting and legitimating carbon markets, environmental services, biodiversity markets, REDD+ Programs, CDM, Clean Development Mechanisms, among other seedy “environmental” dealings which incorporate the true meaning of the term Green Economy.” (REDD: Reducing Emissions from Deforestations and Forest Degradation; 10 of the worst examples here.)
Their calls for various remedial actions and solutions are sincerely sublime. Please read it if you have extra time. Their indictment of their Mexican government is sincere and fulsome.
Right now there are organized caravans of Indigenous People traveling to Rio in solidarity with the Cochacamba Peoples’ Agreement on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in recognition of the fact that the Rio+20 Summit has already been designed to fail in producing any meaningful outcomes at this time of great peril for the planet and workers around the planet. I’d like to clip a few of my favorite parts, but there are so many more thrills and chills contained it; seriously.
“The capitalist system has imposed on us a logic of competition, progress and limitless growth. This regime of production and consumption seeks profit without limits, separating human beings from nature and imposing a logic of domination upon nature, transforming everything into commodities: water, earth, the human genome, ancestral cultures, biodiversity, justice, ethics, the rights of peoples, and life itself.
Under capitalism, Mother Earth is converted into a source of raw materials, and human beings into consumers and a means of production, into people that are seen as valuable only for what they own, and not for what they are.
Capitalism requires a powerful military industry for its processes of accumulation and imposition of control over territories and natural resources, suppressing the resistance of the peoples. It is an imperialist system of colonization of the planet.
Humanity confronts a great dilemma: to continue on the path of capitalism, depredation, and death, or to choose the path of harmony with nature and respect for life.
It is imperative that we forge a new system that restores harmony with nature and among human beings. And in order for there to be balance with nature, there must first be equity among human beings. We propose to the peoples of the world the recovery, revalorization, and strengthening of the knowledge, wisdom, and ancestral practices of Indigenous Peoples, which are affirmed in the thought and practices of “Living Well,” recognizing Mother Earth as a living being with which we have an indivisible, interdependent, complementary and spiritual relationship.
- * harmony and balance among all and with all things;
- * complementarity, solidarity, and equality;
* collective well-being and the satisfaction of the basic necessities of all;
* people in harmony with nature;
* recognition of human beings for what they are, not what they own;
* elimination of all forms of colonialism, imperialism and interventionism;
* peace among the peoples and with Mother Earth.
The International Peasant Movement, La Via Campesina, will also attend; their message to the UN doesn’t mince words about the horrors of ‘green economics’ or ‘green capitalism’ masking as ‘Sustainability’.
“The green economy does not seek to reduce climate change or environmental deterioration, but to generalize the principle that those who have money can continue polluting. Up to now, they have used the farce of purchasing carbon bonds to continue emitting greenhouse gases. They are now inventing biodiversity bonds. This is to say, businesses can continue destroying forests and ecosystems, as long as they pay someone to supposedly conserve biodiversity somewhere else. Tomorrow they may invent bonds for water, natural “views”, or clean air.
These systems of buying environmental services are being used to take lands and territories away from indigenous peoples and peasants. The mechanisms that are most forcefully promoted by governments and businesses are the systems known as REDD and REDD plus. They say that these are systems to reduce greenhouse gas emissions produced by deforestation and degradation of the forests, but they are being used to impose, for a ridiculous price, management plans that deny families and rural communities access to their own lands, forests, and water sources. In addition, they guarantee businesses unrestricted access to collective forest areas, enabling biopiracy. They also impose contracts that tie communities to these management plans for 20 years or more and that leave indigenous and peasant territories with mortgage liens, that increases the likelihood that these communities will lose their lands. [snip]
“The promotion of technological solutions that are not solutions at all is also part of the agenda of the discussions in Rio. Among the most dangerous are geoengineering and the acceptance of transgenic crops. Up until now, none of the solutions proposed by geoengineering have demonstrated any real capacity to solve climate problems. On the contrary, some forms of geoengineering (like the fertilization of the seas) are so dangerous that there has been an international moratorium declared against them. To accept Genetically modified organism (GMOs), we are told that crops resistant to drought and heat will be created, but the only thing new in GMOs are more herbicide-resistant varieties, which are bringing back to the market highly toxic herbicides like 2,4-D.
The most ambitious plan and the one that some governments identify as “the major challenge” is to put a price on all the goods of nature (like water, biodiversity, the countryside, wildlife, seeds, rain, etc.) to then privatize them (arguing that conservation requires money) and charge us for their use. This is called the Economy of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB). It is the final assault on nature and life, but also on the means of work and the lives of the people whose livelihoods are based on agriculture, hunting, and fishing.”
You can read La Via Campesina’s righteous document here; it’s an awesome piece of work, and a heavy indictment of capitalism, monoculture, BigAg, transgenics, and issues a call to return to food production by indigenous agro-ecology.
Bad News/Confusing News
The video, as warbly as the soundtrack is, caused me to wonder how far the Peoples Summit has been coopted already? Digging around a bit, I found some evidence of it, or at least the apparent or possible evidence of it. Different groups, mainly indigenous, like Intercontinental Cry have been locked out of the process. Groups like The Green Economy Coalition seem to be Veal Pen capitalists if you scroll down to their members/supporters; OccupytheEarth.net and @Rio+20? You decide if that’s who the video was referencing. Videos with Van Jones and didn’t inspire confidence, though others did. Anyway: keep your ears peeled for news.
Meanwhile, Lakota Chief Arvol Looking Horse (who keeps the sacred White Buffalo Calf pipe) will lead a day of prayer in Rio to help the shift in consciousness and healing needed to protect the remaining sacredness of Mother Earth and her children.
May the Creator bless the event and us all.
Sorry it’s so bloody long; I really did cut a lot out. It’s sorta the War and Peace of the UN Summit. ;o)