Saturday, May 31, 2014

1432. Americans’ Varied Views of ‘Global Warming’ and ‘Climate Change’

By Andrew C. Revkin, The New York Times, May 24, 2014

Anthony Leiserowitz, the director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, has distributed a note summarizing the findings of “What’s In A Name? Global Warming vs Climate Change,” an interesting new study of Americans’ perceptions of the two dominant shorthand phrases used to describe the building human influence on the climate system.
“Global warming” clearly better captures the essence of the issue, across a wide range of societal sectors, according to the report.
Of course, there are continual calls for other names, from James Lovelock’s “global heating” to John Holdren’s “global climate disruption.” And another oldie, of course, is “the greenhouse effect.”
But we’re pretty much stuck with the two dominant phrases.
Global warming should dominate for other reasons. As Roger A. Pielke, Jr., has pointed out for a decade, “climate change” has proved problematic in a more technical sense — with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change defining the term differently, in ways that have significant ramifications in treaty negotiations. (The climate panel definition includes both human-driven and natural change; the treaty process only deals with climate change driven by the buildup of greenhouse gases.)
Here’s an excerpt from Leiserowitz’s summary:
We found that the term global warming is associated with greater public understanding, emotional engagement, and support for personal and national action than the term climate change.
For example, the term global warming is associated with: Greater certainty that the phenomenon is happening, especially among men, Generation X (31-48), and liberals;
Greater understanding that human activities are the primary cause among Independents;
Greater understanding that there is a scientific consensus about the reality of the phenomenon among Independents and liberals;
More intense worry about the issue, especially among men, Generation Y (18-30), Generation X, Democrats, liberals and moderates;
A greater sense of personal threat, especially among women, the Greatest Generation (68+), African-Americans, Hispanics, Democrats, Independents, Republicans, liberals and moderates;
Higher issue priority ratings for action by the president and Congress, especially among women, Democrats, liberals and moderates;
Greater willingness to join a campaign to convince elected officials to take action, especially among men, Generation X, liberals and moderates.
In a separate nationally representative survey, we found that while Americans are equally familiar with the two terms, they are four times more likely to say they hear the term global warming in public discourse than climate change. Likewise, Americans are two times more likely to say they personally use the term “global warming” in their own conversations than climate change.
The results strongly suggest that global warming and climate change are used differently and mean different things in the minds of many Americans. Scientists often prefer the term climate change for technical reasons, but should be aware that the two terms generate different interpretations among the general public and specific subgroups. Some issue advocates have argued that the term climate change is more likely to engage Republicans in the issue, however, the evidence from these studies suggests that in general the terms are synonymous for Republicans – i.e., neither term is more engaging than the other, although in several cases, global warming generates stronger feelings of negative affect and stronger perceptions of personal and familial threat among Republicans; they are also more likely to believe that global warming is already affecting weather in the United States.
By contrast, the use of the term climate change appears to actually reduce issue engagement by Democrats, Independents, liberals, and moderates, as well as a variety of subgroups within American society, including men, women, minorities, different generations, and across political and partisan lines.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

1431. Did Dogs Help Mammoth to Their Grave?

By David Grimm, Science Magazine, May 29, 2014
The "mammoth cemetery." The Siberian site of Berelekh is home to thousands of mammoth bones. Photo: P. N. Kolosov, Natural Resources, 5, 3 (2014)
It’s known as the mammoth cemetery for good reason. Along the banks of a Siberian river not far from the Arctic Ocean lie thousands of bones, most of them belonging to the giant, shaggy relatives of today’s elephants. A new study argues that such mysterious graveyards were not the results of a natural catastrophe, but rather the work of early human hunters—who may have had help from some of the world’s first dogs.
“This is the first time that someone’s gone out on a limb and suggested something different than what we thought before,” says Angela Perri, a postdoctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and an expert on dog domestication. “But it’s still very speculative at this stage.”
Study author Pat Shipman first became interested in what she calls “mammoth megasites” in 2009. About 30 such spots have been unearthed in central Europe and North Asia, some with tens of thousands of bones packed tightly on top of each other across areas as small as 60 square meters. The massive tusks and femurs of mammoths jut out among the remains of wild horses, deer, foxes, and other animals. “They’re crazy sites,” says Shipman, an anthropologist at Pennsylvania State University, University Park. “The sheer number of dead mammoths is astounding.” More than 160 of the tusked goliaths lie in the mammoth cemetery—a site known as Berelekh—alone.
How did they get there? Some scientists think it was an act of nature—perhaps a flood that swept dozens of animals to a particular spot, or an unlucky herd that fell through thin ice. But recent evidence has suggested that people may to be blame. Shipman says the mammoth megasites begin to appear about 44,000 years ago, just about the time that modern humans entered this part of the world. What’s more, archaeologists have found evidence of huts made of mammoth bones at some of these locations, as well as cuts and burn marks on the bones that could only have been made by people.
To get a clearer picture, Shipman combed through the literature on more than a dozen mammoth megasites, paying particular attention to the age and sex of the mammoths unearthed there. She then compared these demographics with those seen with the deaths of large numbers of elephants, the mammoth’s closest living relative. Natural disasters such as droughts kill the youngest and oldest elephants, but other sudden die-offs—such as a herd falling through ice or a cull of elephants to control their population—kill indiscriminately, leaving behind the carcasses of young and old, male and female. Elephant hunters, meanwhile, tend to kill each animal in a different place. “To my surprise, hardly anything matched these patterns,” Shipman says of the mammoth bones. What’s more, the dating on the bones indicated that they had been laid down over hundreds of years. That suggests that the animals were killed over and over in the same spot over many generations, she reports in Quaternary International. “There’s something that’s drawing them to that location.”
Shipman says the data point to a scenario in which humans killed the mammoths, but not in the way people do today. Instead of culling them or hunting them across vast plains, ancient peoples may have ambushed the creatures. The reason so many bones are found in the same location may be that these spots were ideal for such ambushes. Perhaps they were surrounded by thick brush, in which spear-hurling humans could hide, or maybe they lay along a commonly traveled migration route. Shipman also thinks the hunters may have had some help from dogs.
It’s still unclear exactly when or where dogs became domesticated, but some recent archaeological evidence suggests it may have happened around the same time and place as the mammoth megasites. A skull recovered from a cave in southern Belgium, for example, has both wolf- and doglike features, and it dates to about 32,000 years ago. Though genetic evidence indicates that this animal may not have been an ancestor of today’s dogs, the find suggests that the process of canine domestication could have begun tens of thousands of years ago. Significantly, Shipman says, similar skulls have been found among the mammoth bones at several megasites. Many of the skulls bear healed fractures, a possible indication that these animals were cared for by humans.
Shipman speculates that the mammoth megasites may be the first significant evidence of a cooperative relationship between man and dog. The canines could have corralled the mammoths at the ambush sites and held the prey in place while human hunters moved in for the kill, Shipman says. Once the mammoths were dead, the dogs could have protected the sites from scavengers. “All of that mammoth meat would have brought predators from miles around,” she says. In return, the humans may have provided these canines with food and protection. And slowly, a closer relationship may have begun to form.

Finding more large and strong doglike animals at these sites would support her hypothesis, Shipman says. Such finds will be necessary to convince archaeologists like Nicholas Conard that the new work is more than just a leap of faith. “I like it as an idea, but there’s no smoking gun,” says Conard, who works at the University of Tübingen in Germany and who has personally excavated mammoth megasites. Perri agrees. “We don’t know enough about what early dogs—or even the wolves of the time—looked like,” she says. “This is extrapolating from too few examples.” Still, Conard says, “there are so few ideas about how these sites formed, and what Shipman is arguing is possible and testable. It’s a move in the right direction.”

1430. Northern Hemisphere Hits Carbon Dioxide Milestone in April

By Reuters, May 26, 2014

GENEVA  - Carbon dioxide levels throughout the northern hemisphere hit 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in human history in April, an ominous threshold for climate change, the World Meteorological Organization said on Monday.
The 400 ppm level in the atmosphere, up 40 percent since wide use of fossil fuels began with the Industrial Revolution, is rapidly spreading southwards. First recorded in 2012 in the Arctic, it has since become the norm for the Arctic spring.
The WMO expects the global annual average carbon dioxide concentration to be above 400 ppm in 2015 or 2016. Rising concentrations of the heat-trapping gas raise risks of more heatwaves, droughts and rising sea levels.
"Time is running out," WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said in a statement.
"This should serve as yet another wake-up call about the constantly rising levels of greenhouse gases which are driving climate change. If we are to preserve our planet for future generations, we need urgent action to curb new emissions of these heat-trapping gases."
Almost 200 governments have agreed to work out a deal by the end of 2015 to slow climate change as part of efforts to limit the average temperature increase to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times.
Temperatures have already risen about 0.8C (1.4F).
In April, the U.N.'s panel of climate experts said that greenhouse gas concentrations, led by carbon dioxide, would have to be kept below 450 ppm to give a good chance of achieving the 2C goal. 
The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is seasonal, since plants absorb more in the summer months, causing a peak in the spring. The northern hemisphere, with more human-related sources of the gas, has a more pronounced seasonal cycle.
Carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for hundreds of years. It is emitted by fossil-fueled vehicles and coal-fired factories and power plants as well as by natural activities such as breathing.
During the last 800,000 years, the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide fluctuated between 180 ppm and 280 ppm, and has probably not been above 400 ppm for millions of years, scientists say.
With the widespread burning of coal and oil during the Industrial Revolution, the concentration of carbon dioxide rose to about 290 ppm by the end of the 19th century.

That accelerated last century, with levels between 370 and 380 ppm by the year 2000. An animated graph that shows the history of atmospheric carbon dioxide is online here

1429. Climate Change and Collapse of Ancient Civilizations

Eric H. Cline, The New York Times, May 27, 2014

THIS month, a report issued by a prominent military advisory board concluded that climate change posed a serious threat to America’s national security.
The authors, 16 retired high-ranking officers, warned that droughts, rising seas and extreme weather events, among other environmental threats, were already causing global “instability and conflict.”
But Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee and a stalwart believer that global warming is a “hoax,” dismissed the report as a publicity stunt.
Perhaps the senator needs a history lesson, because climate change has been leading to global conflict — and even the collapse of civilizations — for more than 3,000 years. Drought and famine led to internal rebellions in some societies and the sacking of others, as people fleeing hardship at home became conquerors abroad.
One of the most vivid examples comes from around 1200 B.C. A centuries-long drought in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean regions, contributed to — if not caused — widespread famine, unrest and ultimately the destruction of many once prosperous cities, according to four recent studies.
The scientists determined the length and severity of the drought by examining ancient pollen as well as oxygen and carbon isotope data drawn from alluvial and mineral deposits. All of their conclusions are corroborated by correspondence, inscribed and fired on clay tablets, dating from that time.
Ancient letters from the Hittite kingdom, in what is now modern-day Turkey, beseech neighboring powers for shipments of grain to stave off famine caused by the drought. (The drought is thought to have affected much of what is now Greece, Israel, Lebanon and Syria for up to 300 years.) One letter, sent from a Hittite king, pleads for help: “It is a matter of life or death!”
Another letter, sent from the city of Emar, in what is now inland Syria, states simply, “If you do not quickly arrive here, we ourselves will die of hunger.” The kingdom of Egypt, as well as the city of Ugarit, on the coast of what is now Syria, responded with food and supplies, but it is not clear if they were able to provide enough relief.
It certainly created problems of national security for the great powers of the time. Correspondence between the Egyptians, Hittites, Canaanites, Cypriots, Minoans, Mycenaeans, Assyrians and Babylonians — effectively, the Group of 8 of the Late Bronze Age — includes warnings of attacks from enemy ships in the Mediterranean. The marauders are thought to have been the Sea Peoples, possibly from the western Mediterranean, who were probably fleeing their island homes because of the drought and famine and were moving across the Mediterranean as both refugees and conquerors.
One letter sent to Ugarit advised the king to “be on the lookout for the enemy and make yourself very strong!” The warning probably came too late, for another letter dating from the same time states: “When your messenger arrived, the army was humiliated and the city was sacked. Our food in the threshing floors was burned and the vineyards were also destroyed. Our city is sacked. May you know it! May you know it!”
While sea levels may not have been rising then, as they are now, changes in the water temperature may have been to blame for making life virtually unlivable in parts of the region.
A 2012 study published in the Journal of Archaeological Science found that the surface temperatures of the Mediterranean Sea cooled rapidly during this time, severely reducing precipitation over the coasts. The study concluded that agriculture would have suffered and that the conditions might have influenced the “population declines, urban abandonments and long-distance migrations associated with the period.”
To top it off, catastrophic events, in the form of a series of earthquakes, also rocked many ancient cities in these areas from around 1225 to 1175 B.C. These, together with the famines and droughts, would have further undermined the societies of the time, most likely leading to internal rebellions by the underclass and peasant populations who were facing severe food shortages, as well as invasions by migrating peoples.
We still do not know the specific details of the collapse at the end of the Late Bronze Age or how the cascade of events came to change society so drastically. But it is clear that climate change was one of the primary drivers, or stressors, leading to the societal breakdown.
The era that followed is known as the first Dark Ages, during which the thriving economy and cultures of the late second millennium B.C. suddenly ceased to exist. It took decades, and even hundreds of years in some areas, for the people in these regions to rebuild.
We live in a world that has more similarities to that of the Late Bronze Age than one might suspect, including, as the British archaeologist Susan Sherratt has put it, an “increasingly homogeneous yet uncontrollable global economy and culture” in which “political uncertainties on one side of the world can drastically affect the economies of regions thousands of miles away.”
But there is one important difference. The Late Bronze Age civilizations collapsed at the hands of Mother Nature. It remains to be seen if we will cause the collapse of our own.

Eric H. Cline, a professor of classics and anthropology at George Washington University, is the author of “1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed.”

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

1428. Advances and Challenges Facing the Gay Community in Cuba: An Interview

By Julian Guthrie,, May 26, 2014

Dr. Alberto Roque, a physician in Cuba, has faced few problems living as an openly gay man in his neighborhood in Havana. But he knew his experience was not the norm for gays, lesbians and transgender people in his machismo land.
In 2003, Roque began working as a gay and transgender activist and is now one of Cuba's best known advocates on gender issues and equality. He worked with the Cuban National Center for Sex Education from 2003 to 2013, and in 2010 founded Hombres por la Diversidad, an advocacy and reflection group.
Roque, 44, is in San Francisco this week to talk about the challenges facing the LGBT community in Cuba.
Q: What got you into this field?
A: I'm a medical doctor. I'm openly gay. I live with my partner of 15 years. I was chief of the ER at my hospital in Havana, and I didn't have problems being open. I decided to work on these issues because I wanted to help the community, to help people whose rights were denied or not recognized.
Q: Is Cuba largely homophobic?
A: People today are more tolerant regarding sexuality and sexual orientation. But discrimination based on gender identity is very strong. I would say that Cubans today are more trans-phobic than homophobic. You see a lot of gay people working and living openly. We have neighbors who are gays and lesbians. There's progress.
Q: How important has it been to have Mariela Castro - daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro and niece of former President Fidel Castro - as an advocate for gay marriage and transgender equality?
A: She's a congresswoman now. She is an advocate, but she doesn't say she supports gay marriage. The proposal now is for gays and lesbians to have the same rights as heterosexual people, even if you don't call it marriage. She's also about fighting other forms of discrimination, such as racial discrimination.
Q: What are some of the gay rights victories in Cuba?
A: There are major victories. The Communist Party and the state have recognized sexual orientation and gender identity as a source of discrimination. So that's a big and outstanding issue. This is very good. And the Ministry of Health now recognizes all health care for trans people. All procedures are universal and free of charge for transsexual people, from medical to psychological treatments.
Q: What are the remaining challenges?
A: Marriage for people who are interested in marriage. Another issue is for hate crimes to be clearly recognized under the penal code. Another issue is the right to adoption in the family code. In my opinion, this is very discriminatory. Also, if you are in the army and you say you are gay, you will be fired.
Q: What about educational programs?
A: We need to improve education strategies, to have more participation of the community, of neighborhoods, concerning gender and sexual identity. You can have a lot of revolutionary laws, but if you don't change people's minds, it won't be possible to really tackle homophobia. We need to erase all sorts of discrimination that are still alive in the Cuban way of thinking.
Q: Is Cuba any closer to marriage equality?
A: I don't think so, yet. Though we are closer in terms of recognizing same-sex unions. There is a lot of opposition from government officials, from churches, and from the Cuban population to the marriage of gay, lesbian and transgender people.
Q: What can the LGBT community of San Francisco learn from your story? And what can Cuba learn from San Francisco?
A: There is a lot of misinformation about what is going on in Cuba. We have a lot of problems. But we can share our experiences. Although we are very different, we have some things in common, and it's a good opportunity to exchange ideas and strategies on how to fight against homophobia.

Dr. Alberto Roque: "Dissident Sexualities in Cuba: Historical Background and Current Challenges." 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. Donation suggested but not required. Answer Coalition Space, 2969 Mission St., S.F. 7 p.m. Thursday. Free LGBT Community Center, 1800 Market St., S.F.

Monday, May 26, 2014

1427. Capitalist Economics and the Economics of Capital

By John Weeks, Philosophers for Change, May 27, 2014

All social sciences carry a heavy burden of ideology, but none heavier or more explicit than what currently passes for mainstream economics. Critics often complain that economists arrogantly pretend to understand far more than they actually do. As I explain in my new book, Economics of the 1%, this criticism is too weak. The mainstream of the economics profession, “neoclassical economics”, claims profound knowledge, yet provides understanding of almost nothing and obscures almost everything by peddling ideology in the guise of analysis. The profession practices and promotes pseudo-science.
Imagine if you can that astrologers seized the observatories, alchemists occupy the chemistry laboratories and creationists dominate the study of genetics. This has occurred in economics, burdening the professional with a dead weight of absurd inconsistencies presented as theory. There is no policy or economic outcome so reactionary or outrageously anti-social that some mainstream economist will not defend it, many will give their tacit support, and very few will denounce it as the ideology it is. Among these reactionary absurdities we find the conclusions that income discrimination by gender and race is an illusion, unemployment is voluntary, and sweatshops are good. I designate this reactionary mainstream to consist of econfakers, practicing a pseudo-scientific fakeconomics, just as astrologers practice astrology and alchemists alchemy.
If after appropriating the profession, the neoclassical school had driven it into disrepute, which would happen if the creationists took over the field of genetics, astrologers astronomy and alchemists chemistry, their offense would rank as a minor intellectual crime. Fakeconomics would wither under ridicule. But to the contrary, the econfakers have successfully sold their nonsense as an unchallengeable wisdom to guide governments. It is not wisdom. On the contrary, it is nonsense, a virus of the intellect.
It is obvious that the nonsense posing as economics gained its ideological hegemony because it faithfully serves the interest of the most reactionary elements of capital. Harder to explain is why so many people in so many countries of the world revere economists as gurus. In great part the undeserved credibility of economists results from the systematic fostering of ignorance. Understanding society’s economy is not simple, but no more difficult than understanding the political system sufficiently to vote. People regularly go into voting booths and choose among candidates or reject them all. Most of the same people would profess an economics that leaves them unable to evaluate competing claims about the state of the economy.
An astoundingly high proportion of the adult population regards the economy and economics as something understood only by experts. It is quite extraordinary that when asked, for example, whether fiscal policy should be more expansionary, people frequently begin statements with, “since I am not an economist…”, or “not being an economist…” If asked whether a national health system should be private or public, the same people would not say, “I am not a doctor, so I can’t comment”. Yet, the health system is at least as technically complex as economics.
Somehow the mainstream economics profession has been successful in convincing people, regardless of level of education or political orientation, that economics is a subject so complex and esoteric that the non-expert is excluded from understanding it. If people do venture opinions on economic issues, it is frequently on the basis of breath-taking banalities and clichés inculcated by the econfakers themselves. Common ones are the vacuous, “well, that’s the result of supply and demand working”; the old cliché, “too much money chasing too few goods” causes inflation; or, the meaningless, “governments should not live beyond their means”.
These are the clichés of the ignorant, repeated shamelessly by the media. Even worse, they are repeated by the “experts” the media bring forth to foster our, and their, continued ignorance. Consider, for example, a typical justification of reducing the government budget deficit by cutting social services when unemployment is high: “the government has to consider the reaction of financial markets”. The insight in that banality is equivalent to seeing the terrible photographs of people leaping to their deaths from the World Trade Center Tower on 11 September 2001, and commenting, “Well, that’s the law of gravity for you”.
The Idolatry of Individualism
From tiny acorns great oaks grow. In a case of nonsense imitating nature, from low and banal theory capitalist economics ascends to great ideological heights. With superficial and simplistic propositions the economics mainstream constructs a great and complex ideological edifice from which it issues oracle-like judgments over the affairs of humankind. The reactionary policy parables of the mainstream derive from a short-list of putatively incontestable propositions.
Desires and preferences are unique to each person.
On the basis of these desires and preferences people enter into exchanges of their free will, seeking to satisfy themselves through market exchanges with other people.
These market activities, including the exchange of a person’s capacity to work, are to obtain the income to buy the goods and services dictated by the person’s desires and preferences.
Many people seeking simultaneously to buy and sell is competition; and this competition ensures that people buy and sell, including their abilities to work, at prices that are socially beneficial.
Action by any collective or individual authority, private or public, that restricts the potential for people to buy and sell reduces the social benefits generated by markets.
In the private sector monopolies (sellers) and monopsonies (buyers) reduce welfare. Much more pernicious are the welfare reducing actions of governments, which proclaim good intentions while restricting freedom. These restrictions include all forms of taxation, which reduce people’s incomes, alter market prices of goods and services, and lower the incentive to work below its “natural” level (that is, its market level). Many government expenditures have the same effect, such as unemployment compensation reducing the incentive to work, and subsidies to public schools that distort individual choice among potential providers.

This short list of literally anti-social generalities can be summarised briefly: people have a desire for goods and services beyond their current earning capacity, requiring them to make choices, to allocate their incomes among their wants in the manner that will best fulfil those wants. For all people added together, wants are unlimited and the resources to satisfy them are finite. Economics is the study of the allocation of scarce resources among unlimited wants to maximize individual welfare. Government actions restrict, limit and distort the ability of people to make their choices. Its role should be strictly limited to minimize those restrictions, limits and distortions.
This is the central narrative of mainstream economists, that markets are efficient organizers of economic life. Its origins in eighteenth century individualism could not be more obvious, for it is the doctrine of the Hobbesian “state of nature” ideologically spun as the language of liberty. Winston Churchill famously defended political democracy by arguing that “democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried” (UK House of Commons November 11, 1947). The mainstream economics profession accepts no such ironic minimalism in its defense of markets.
In the ideological myopia of big money and its economic priests, markets are not only more efficient than alternative methods of allocation and distribution, they are the only efficient method. Even more, markets are efficient if and only if they are not regulated in any manner, when they are allowed to operate freely of intervention by non-market forces (i.e., governments). “Controlled” economies (socialist and communist) are by far the worst and regulated markets in capitalist countries almost as bad.
Economic life organized through free markets is not merely the Best, it is the only Good thing. Irrefutable evidence for this assertion is demonstrated in the fact that markets cannot be eliminated even in the most draconian communist state, they can only be “suppressed”. As a result, attempts at regulation of markets, even more the banning of them, does no more than drive them underground (“black markets”), distorting the natural tendency of people to “truck, barter and exchange” (Adam Smith). Human activity is market driven: There Is No Alternative, the TINA principle so commonly found in the public pronouncements of mainstream economists.
The Fundamental Divide
It is rare in the social sciences — perhaps even in the physical sciences — for different analytical frameworks to be totally different. We usually encounter some common ground even in the face of the most basic disagreements. Closely related to common analytical ground is agreement on the empirical tests which would verify or at least grant greater credibility to one framework over another.
In the economics field the fundamental difference between the neoclassicals, on the one hand, and the entirety of the heterodoxy, on the other, can be stated in one sentence. The entire theoretical edifice of neoclassical economics rests on the assumption of full employment of labor. The neoclassical theory of value (prices), keystone in any economic framework, collapses in the absence of full employment. In the neoclassical analysis the value of any commodity or production input reflects its monetary return in the most profitable alternative use to which it could be assigned (the principle of “opportunity cost”). If an economic system has involuntarily idle workers, the opportunity cost of labor is zero.
At issue is nothing less than the definition of economics itself. Let me demonstrate the split by two quotations from the 1930s, the first by Robbins and the second by Keynes where he reveals the epiphany that forced his break with the mainstream:
Economics is the science that studies human behavior as a relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternative uses. — Lionel Robbins, Nature and Significance of Economic Science, 1932.
…[M]y lack of emancipation from preconceived ideas showed itself in…the outstanding fault of that work [Treatise on Money], that I failed to deal thoroughly with the effects of changes in the level of output. – J. M. Keynes, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, 1936.
The Robbins definition, that students find in textbooks to this day, even putatively progressive ones, requires full employment. If workers are unemployed and factories idle, “means” are not scarce. The theoretical necessity for full employment explains why the neoclassicals must purge any hint of Keynes from the profession. Even to entertain the possibility of involuntary unemployment threatens to destroy the entire neoclassical paradigm. No neoclassical conclusion is safe without the full employment assumption, yet it is in continuous conflict with reality.
The greatest economist of the nineteenth century, Karl Marx, was a less-than-full-employment theorist. He shared with Keynes the analytical insight that in a capitalist economy aggregate demand determines aggregate output. Marx pursued the implications of less-than-full-employment more profoundly that Keynes, stressing the driving role of capital, rather than Keynes’ underconsumption approach. But we should not deny the importance of Keynes in attempting to affect the economics equivalent of a Copernican Revolution. In the case of economics, the Ptolemaic disciplines expelled the Copernicans.
The Copernican Revolution in astronomy and the Keynesian Revolution in economics, one victorious, the other defeated by counter-revolution.
What appears as an intellectual division is the ideological manifestation of the fundamental political struggle in almost all advanced capitalist societies, between the tiny minority that controls production and finance, and the vast majority that work for the minority. The full employment framework is non-credible to the point of absurdity and beyond. In no other intellectual discipline would such a chaotic collection of logical inconsistencies and arbitrary assumptions be taken seriously. The full employment paradigm is based on an unambiguously false premise: that the normal condition of capitalist economies is full employment. Yet, this framework dominates mainstream economics, the media and political debate. The less-than-full employment or demand-constrained framework, as obviously sensible as its opposite is absurd, has been relegated to the margins of the discipline.
This inversion, in which the absurd is embraced as science and science is dismissed as absurd, reflects the great victory of the minority over the majority during the final decades of the twentieth century after a brief interruption during the 1950s and 1960s. For almost sixty years, 1870-1930, a relatively primitive form of the full employment framework dominated the emerging economics profession. During the early stages of development of this framework, the undisguised purpose of leading economists was to refute Karl Marx and justify capitalism.
Two great human disasters prompted a rebellion against the free market doctrine, the Great Depression and the Second World War. It was obvious to all that the first resulted from the excesses of a capitalism unconstrained by public regulation. The second was the consequence of the first. Denying this chain of causality requires considerable intellectual invention. By the end of the war a broad consensus emerged in Europe and North America that the excesses of capitalism demanded strict regulation of markets, and especially of the financial sector. This consensus could be found in the most prestigious journal of the profession, the Economic Journal, where K. W. Rothschild asserted that fascism was the fruit of unregulated markets
…[W]hen we enter the field of rivalry between [corporate] giants, the traditional separation of the political from the economic can no longer be maintained. Once we have recognised that the desire for a strong position ranks equally with the desire for immediate maximum profits we must follow this new dual approach to its logical end. Fascism…has been largely brought into power by this very struggle in an attempt of the most powerful oligopolists to strengthen, through political action, their position in the labour market and vis-à-vis their smaller competitors, and finally to strike out in order to change the world market situation in their favour. (Rothschild 1946: 317)
The minority that controlled production and finance considered this consensus a temporary arrangement to be destroyed as soon as possible, because its main economic consequence was to limit the freedom of capital. Those who judged the post-war regulated capitalism as a new norm would be quickly proved wrong. The system of international regulation of exchange rates ended in 1970, deregulation of the financial sector in the United States and parts of Europe began in the 1980s, and the decline of the political base for a managed capitalism, the trade unions, fell into secular decline in most advanced countries. The collapse of the Soviet Union complemented these trends, eliminating the global rival to unmanaged capitalism.
The purpose of destroying the post-war regulatory consensus was to liberate capital from civilizing constraints. The macroeconomics of Keynes and those he influenced provided both the theoretical explanation for why these constraints were needed and the practical policy tools to manage an economy within those constraints. The “Keynesian revolution” briefly institutionalized the singularly sensible principle that governments have policy tools that they can use to pursue the welfare of the populations they were elected to serve. The most important of the tools are fiscal policy, monetary policy and management of the exchange rate. The active use of all these tools was implied by another sensible proposition, the Tinbergen Rule, which states that achieving several policy goals requires an equal number of policy instruments. For example, a government seeking internal and external stability would use fiscal policy to reach a desired unemployment rate, monetary policy to make that unemployment rate consistent with a target inflation rate, and adjust the exchange rate to maintain a sustainable balance of payments.
The obviously sensible proposition that governments should use the tools available to them to pursue the public welfare, while enforcing constraints on the excesses of capitalism, would be discredited by repeated ideological attacks beginning in the 1970s. The constraints would be dismantled and tools de-commissioned by increasingly reactionary governments. Against weak internal opposition the economics profession would provide the ideology for the de-commissioning of the policy tools to support those constraints.
De-commissioning Democracy
The ideology of full employment economics has a clear purpose, to remove economic policy from democratic control. Until the Great Depression of the 1930s, macroeconomic policy in the advanced countries meant monetary policy; exchange rates were tied to an international gold mechanism and fiscal policy constrained by the goal to balance public budgets. Fiscal policy was used by a few governments during the depression, notably in the United States, but in an ad hoc manner. Perhaps the first clear legal commitment to an active fiscal policy was the US Full Employment Act of 1946, the preamble of which states, “The [US] Congress hereby declares that it is the continuing policy and responsibility of the Federal Government to use all practicable means…with the assistance and cooperation of industry, agriculture, labor, and State and local governments…to promote maximum employment, production, and purchasing power”.
In the early 1970s, right wing elements in the economics profession would initiate an assault on this legal commitment, with an analytical de-commissioning of fiscal policy. The right wing of the profession argued, with the logical consistency that frequently accompanies madness, that since the economy was continuously at full employment public policy interventions were unnecessary.
Before Keynes economists argued that the unemployment one observes is voluntary, the result of minimum wages and trade union pressure in labor negotiations. However, the membership and economic strength of trade unions declined after 1970 in advanced countries and problems of enforcement and erosion through inflation made minimum wages a weak reed for a general theory of voluntary unemployment. Unemployment compensation itself, a major reform arising from the Great Depression, offered an alternative explanation. Unemployment persists because payments to the unemployed reduce the incentive to seek work, an argument that would garner a Nobel Prize in Economics in 2010. The argument carries great political power, because it converts involuntary misery into willing avoidance of work, and cautions that well-meaning reforms make matters worse.
The combination of the full employment assumption and benefit-induced unemployment are necessary elements to de-commission fiscal policy. The sufficient argument is that active fiscal measures, even if they were to temporarily reduce unemployment, are intrinsically undesirable. An active fiscal policy is rendered undesirable through three complementary and equally fallacious arguments, all focusing on public sector deficits: direct crowding out of private expenditure, inflationary impact and reduction of private confidence.
First, a fiscal expansion would directly reduce private expenditure (crowding out) and would be realized through a rise in interest rates. Second, the argument that fiscal expansion and fiscal deficits cause inflation is in part designed to rescue the crowding out argument. If all else fails to convince, the agents of capital play their trump card — fiscal deficits reduce private sector confidence. The great strength lies in its vagueness that makes it almost impossible to refute.
One of the few progressive aspects of US economic policy institutions is the legislatively mandated political oversight of the central bank, the Federal Reserve System (FRS). This oversight is through required reports to Congress, which typically involves testimony by the FRS chairman. In addition there is a requirement that the board of governors of the Federal Reserve System has “fair representation of the financial, agricultural, industrial, and commercial interests and geographical divisions of the country”. Perhaps more important, the Federal Reserve System has a mandate that requires it to consider employment as well as inflation — “to promote effectively the goals of maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates”. In practice the effectiveness of the political oversight has waxed and waned, depending on the chairman and the politics of the time.
In Britain until the Labour Government of 1997 the Bank of England, and therefore monetary policy, was under the direct control of the elected government of the day. Gordon Brown changed this relationship fundamentally, assigning major issues to an unelected “Monetary Policy Committee”. He and others, especially in the City, lauded this change as extracting monetary policy from the whims of politics and placing it into the hands of “experts”.
The so-called independence of central banks, a dogma zealously pursued by the International Monetary Fund, is profoundly anti-democratic. The essence of the argument is that monetary policy is a technical matter, and any degree of democratic oversight results in reckless and irresponsible policies. As for fiscal policy, monetary decisions are not a matter for public involvement. They should be under the dictatorship of a technical elite.
Who Decides Policy?
The reactionary program is especially pernicious because it need not be defended on its intrinsic merits. Its ultimate justification is the infamous TINA principle: there is no alternative. The theoretical conclusion that flexible exchange rates stabilize economies may prove wrong, but would be of no practical consequence because there is no alternative. A balanced public budget may have a pro-cyclical effect on the economy, deepening recessions and exaggerating booms, but deficits would produce worse outcomes. Using monetary policy in the single-minded pursuit of lower inflation may result in persistent unemployment and slow growth, but failing to do so courts disaster. Balanced budgets, low inflation and flexible exchange rates are all necessary to prevent adverse reaction in “financial markets”, discussed in the next section.
The power of these arguments comes from their repetition and the money behind them, not from their theoretical or empirical validity. They are based on a theory that is internally contradictory and ideologically driven. The fundamental issue in a democratic society is not whether inflation, deficits or unemployment are too high or too low. The fundamental issue is — who decides? The general rule in democratic societies is that experts advise and democratically elected representatives decide. Mainstream economics provides the ideological foundation for canceling that rule: elected representatives should enact laws that make the advice of neoclassical experts legally binding. Then, the danger that the many will pressure for policy that limits the privileges of the few is minimized.
There is an alternative to the Hobbesian neoclassical world in which the capitalist minority defines and limits social and economic policy. As happened in the 1930s in the United States, the crisis of the 2000s demonstrated that a range of government actions could be effective to rescue national economies from collapse. The experience of the United States and Western Europe after the Second World War, during the so-called golden age of capitalism, suggests what the component parts of the alternative must be. The reconstruction of a capitalism controlled for the common good will require the reassertion of the strength of trade unions in advanced countries.
Controlling capitalism would require four fundamental reforms, whose purpose would be to severely restrict the economic and political power of capital. First, because capitalist economies do not automatically adjust to full employment, governments must institutionalize an active countercyclical macroeconomic program. The active element in the countercyclical program would be fiscal policy, supported by an accommodating monetary policy, and, if necessary, with exchange rate management and capital controls to stabilize the balance of payments.
Countercyclical policies, and many other sensible and humane economic measures, are dismissed as impractical because of the alleged affect they might have on “financial markets”. This personification of markets, universal in the media and appallingly common in the economics profession, is an essential part of the justification of a capitalist economy free from the constraints of democratic oversight. This personification is applied across all types of markets, as if the market itself were an independent actor in society. In the twenty-first century it became integral to the justification of a socially dysfunctional financial system, national and global.
This personification, an ideological abstraction from the real world of speculators and financial fraud, is an essential part of the mystification of financial behavior. It facilitates the mythology that the dysfunctional financial system is not the work of men and women (mostly the former) within institutions that have socially irrational rules and norms. It promotes the disempowering argument that financial dysfunction is a manifestation of the inexorable operation of the laws of nature that no government can change. It seeks to hide that specific financial speculators wish to coerce governments to take actions in their narrow economic interests.
While it is in the interests of capital to exaggerate the power of finance, the dire warnings about the behavior of financial markets carry some truth. The solution to this threat to humane macroeconomic policies is to tame those markets, not to yield to them. The manner to tame them is public control of the financial sector. In part this could be through direct nationalization, and in part by conversion of financial activities into non-profit or limited profit associations such as mutual societies and savings and loan institutions (building societies). Even in the United States, the heartland of minimalist public regulation, non-profit and limited profit financial institutions have been common in the past.
Third, government regulation of internal markets would be based on the principle of the International Labor Organization that “labor is not a commodity”. The purpose would be to eliminate unemployment as a mechanism of labor discipline. The most effective method to achieve this would be a universal basic income program. A properly designed universal income program would facilitate labor mobility, by reducing the extent to which people were tied to their specific employer. Also, by reducing the volatility of household income, it would provide an automatic stabilizer at the base of the economy, the labor market. It would be similar to the automatic stabilizing effect of unemployment compensation, and more effective.
Fourth, and the basis for all others would be the protection of workers’ right to organize. The program of fundamental reform of capitalism would be based on the political power of the working class, in alliance with elements of the middle classes. This is the political alliance that brought about major reforms throughout Europe after the Second World War. An effective reform of capitalism that eliminates its economic and social outrages requires a democracy of labor and its allies in which the political power of capital is marginalized.
For 250 years a struggle has waxed and waned to restrict, control or eliminate the ills generated by capitalist accumulation: exploitation of labor, class and ethnic repression, international armed conflict, and despoiling of the environment. When a progressive majority has allied, this struggle would have brought great strides. When capitalists, the tiny minority, have been successful in creating their own anti-reform and counter-revolutionary majority much is lost. The last thirty years of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first was such an anti-reform period during which capital achieved a degree of liberation it had not enjoyed for 100 years. With the rise of capital many of the more absurd elements of neoclassical economics, such as the alleged stabilizing effect of financial speculation, manifested themselves in reality, as nature imitated bad art.
The sufferings caused by the Great Depression of the 1930s, quickly followed by the horrors of the Second World War, generated a broad consensus in the developed countries. This consensus agreed on the need for public intervention to protect people against the instability and criminality that results from the accumulation of economic and political power by great corporations. Franklin D. Roosevelt, four times elected president of the United States, had this dangerous power in mind when he addressed the US Congress in 1938:
Unhappy events abroad have retaught us two simple truths about the liberty of a democratic people. The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic State itself. That, in its essence, is fascism — ownership of government by an individual, by a group or by any other controlling private power. The second truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if its business system does not provide employment and produce and distributes goods in such a way as to sustain an acceptable standard of living. Both lessons hit home. Among us today a concentration of private power without equal in history is growing.
The advanced industrial countries, especially the United States and the United Kingdom, reached the point early in the twenty-first century in which private power was stronger than “their democratic state”. This private power manifested itself in unconstrained corporate control that over-rides democratic decisions, justified by an ideology of self-adjusting markets. Rejection of that ideology and fundamental reform of those markets is required to prevent unconstrained corporate power from a latter-day realization of the fascism Roosevelt warned against.

The writer is Professor Emeritus, SOAS, University of London, and author of a new book that in non-technical language explains the fallacies of mainstream economics, Economics of the 1%: How mainstream economics serves the rich, obscures reality and distorts policy, Anthem Press. His website is

1426. Scientists Warn of Increased Methane Pollution Due to Shale Gas

By Science Daily, May 14, 2014
Projected world shale gas production
As the shale gas boom continues, the atmosphere receives more methane, adding to Earth’s greenhouse gas problem. Robert Howarth, greenhouse gas expert and ecology and environmental biology professor, fears that we may not be many years away from an environmental tipping point – and disaster.

“We have to control methane immediately, and natural gas is the largest methane pollution source in the United States,” said Howarth, who explains in an upcoming journal article that Earth may reach the point of no return if average global temperatures rise by 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius in future decades. “If we hit a climate-system tipping point because of methane, our carbon dioxide problem is immaterial. We have to get a handle on methane, or increasingly risk global catastrophe.”

Howarth’s study, “A Bridge to Nowhere: Methane Emissions and the Greenhouse Gas Footprint of Natural Gas,” will be published May 20 in the journal Energy Science and Engineering.

Natural gas – that once seemingly promising link between the era of oil and coal to the serenity of sustainable solar, wind and water power – is a major source of atmospheric methane, due to widespread leaks as well as purposeful venting of gas. Howarth points to “radiative forcing,” a measure of trapped heat in Earth’s atmosphere from man-made greenhouse gases. The current role of methane looms large, he says, contributing over 40 percent of current radiative forcing from all greenhouse gases, based on the latest science from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The role of methane as a driver of global warming is even more critical than this 40 percent value might indicate, Howarth notes. The climate system responds much more quickly to reducing methane than to carbon dioxide. If society aggressively controlled carbon dioxide emissions, but ignored methane emissions, the planet would warm to the dangerous 1.5 to 2.0 degree Celsius threshold within 15 to 35 years. By reducing methane emissions, society buys some critical decades of lower temperatures.

“Society needs to wean itself from the addiction to fossil fuels as quickly as possible,” Howarth said. “But to replace some fossil fuels – coal, oil – with another, like natural gas, will not suffice as an approach to take on global warming. Rather, we should embrace the technologies of the 21st century and convert our energy systems to ones that rely on wind, solar and water power.”

Story Source:
The above story is based on materials provided by Cornell University. The original article was written by Melissa Osgood. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

1. Robert W. Howarth. A bridge to nowhere: methane emissions and the greenhouse gas footprint of natural gas. Energy Science & Engineering, 2014; DOI: 10.1002/ese3.35

Sunday, May 25, 2014

1425. The Green Shock Doctrine

By Global Justice Ecology Project, May 12, 2014

According to the editorial policy of OPITW to help disseminate points of view in broad emancipatory movement the following is taken from the PDF document The Green Shock Doctrine.  However, the original PDF version is much easier to read with well done graphics. You are urged to download and read it instead.  Your comments are welcome as always on this page. 
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There is much being said and written today about how to effectively address the oncoming catastrophe of climate change, which is already, for many, tragically real. 

There is a crucial and obvious need for a powerful global movement to tackle the climate crisis. But this movement will not be based on reform. Capitalism and the markets have led us to the brink of the abyss. They will not provide our parachute. The system cannot be reformed. It must be transformed.

The more we understand how the roots of the many issues we are fighting are intertwined, the better we can cooperate to change the system driving them. In diversity is strength, as any ecologist understands, and our movements for change are no exception.

Global Justice Ecology Project is publishing The Green Shock Doctrine as a means to help expose and examine the deeper issues behind the climate crisis and their links to many of the other crises we are facing. In doing so, we hope to help advance the effort to transform the global system driving climate catastrophe.

Part I: Introduction 
Many are talking about “solutions” to the crisis of climate change. Some, like US President Barak Obama, argue that we can achieve effective action on climate change by merely tweaking the status quo–making business as usual a little more energy efficient; or promoting the use of industrial-scale “clean” energy like fracked natural gas, nuclear power, or wood-based bioenergy–all part of the scheme to create a “green” version of capitalism. Others feel change will best be achieved by divesting from fossil fuels. Still others believe lobbying UN delegates and politicians is the best way to avert climate catastrophe.

Because these approaches do not address the underlying systems of injustice, however, they do nothing to stop the climate train from hurtling off the cliff. Nothing short of fundamental systemic transformation away from the economy of death and toward a society based on justice and ecology will be sufficient to head off, or at least dampen the effects of, the oncoming climate catastrophe.

In our decade of work within the global climate justice movement, and the work since 1992 against unjust trade and neoliberalism by Global Justice Ecology Project co-founders Orin Langelle and Anne Petermann, one thing has become abundantly clear: It is not enough to merely move money around–we must fundamentally challenge the very idea of wealth accumulation, the commodification of both people’s labor and the natural world, and the existence of the corporate and power elite.

The climate crisis is one of the  most serious problems we face. However, rather than seriously responding to climate change, rich and corrupt governments are teaming up with corporations, the United Nations, World Bank, and other institutions to implement a new type of “disaster capitalism,” which advances market-based climate mitigation nstrategies to create new business opportunities.

These schemes do nothing for the climate, but rather promote and prolong the dominant development model that is unjust, immoral, genocidal, and ultimately, suicidal. The dominant worldview that turns land, life, and humans into market commodities is antithetical to buen vivir: life in harmony between humans, communities, and the Earth–where work is not a job to make others wealthier, but a livelihood that is sustaining, fulfilling, and in tune with the common good.

But while the capitalist system seems inextricably entrenched, too powerful to change, in fact that change is inevitable. How it will change is the challenge we must collectively face.

The Green Shock Doctrine and the Next Phase of Capitalism
In The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, Naomi Klein revealed how global elites use public “shocks” such as military coups and natural disasters to push through neoliberal economic reforms. These reforms, designed to liberate trade from regulation and open markets to exploitative foreign private investment, create new wealth for the economic elite while pushing the rest of society and the planet further into a hole of despair and inequality.

In the shadow of both worsening climate chaos and the 2008 financial collapse, bankers, corporate elites, and international institutions have evolved the Shock Doctrine into a Green Shock Doctrine. This “Green” version of the Shock Doctrine involves use of the global ecological and social crises to create a whole new system of economics based on financial speculation and trade in so-called “environmental services.” It is called The Green Economy and sets the framework to privatize and commodify every natural organism and ecosystem on the planet, along with the so-called “services” they provide—such as clean water. Social movements, Indigenous Peoples, peasants, and grassroots groups are denouncing this greening of capitalism, which has the sole purpose of enabling the continuation of business and profits as usual.

As Gerak Lawan, the Indonesian People’s Movement Against Neocolonialism and Imperialism, explained:

“The capitalist system is in a deep crisis. Since the 2008 financial crisis [when] the system nearly imploded, it has yet to fully recover. And instead, the crisis has spread and has deepened the food, economic, energy and climate crises. The deep systemic crisis is crystal clear evidence that the neoliberal regime must come to an end. ... [But instead] there is a new push for further free trade liberalization, pushing a new wave of free trade agreements (FTAs) such as the Transpacific Partnership Agreement... and a new model of capitalist exploitation of nature called the ‘green economy.”

The Green Economy
The Green Economy is being advanced at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC), UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), UN Environment Programme, and other bodies in partnership with some of the planet’s greatest corporate and governmental pillagers.

Their efforts are being aided by corporate non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Conservation International, Environmental Defense Fund, The Nature Conservancy, and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The collaboration of these corporate NGOs in the greening of capitalism is not surprising given who sits on the Boards of Directors of these giant organizations, including representatives of Goldman Sachs, Google, the National Bank of Mexico, Citigroup, Walmart, JP Morgan Chase, Unilever, Coca Cola, and Bank of America, to name a few.

The UN FCCC (also called the UN Climate Conference) laid the foundation for what would later become the Green Economy back in 1997 during the negotiations around the Kyoto Protocol, where the US used the climate crisis to create new markets in carbon pollution. While the Kyoto Protocol is the only legally binding international climate agreement, it was hopelessly weakened when US Vice President Al Gore insisted it include carbon markets or the US—then the world’s largest polluter—would not sign on. The markets were included, but the US never joined. In The Guardian, Madeleine Bunting commented on the US role in weakening the Kyoto Protocol: “[The] whole international effort had been hijacked and corrupted by the United States’ ideological obsession with the disciplines of the market as a panacea for all ills.”

Countries in Europe did sign the Kyoto Protocol, and the development of the Emissions Trading Scheme led to record profits for some of Europe’s largest polluters, though it did nothing to limit carbon emissions and has since collapsed. This has not discouraged climate profiteers, however, who are now creating markets in the carbon stored by forests.

At the UN FCCC in Bali, Indonesia in 2007, the UN and World Bank announced the development of new markets in forest carbon, that is, carbon stored by living trees. The UN’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) scheme was developed to pay countries in the Global South to reduce their levels of deforestation and protect their intact forests. Once this occurs, the carbon stored by those forests can be quantified and sold to polluters in the Industrialized North who want to buy that stored carbon to “offset” rather than reduce their own carbon emissions. Corporate profit making and pollution as usual continue unabated at the expense of forest dependent communities, Indigenous Peoples, and communities located near industrial polluters.

At the Bali climate conference, the World Bank launched their Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, designed to bring developing countries into REDD by providing financing to make them “REDD-ready.” REDD was launched without input from the Indigenous Peoples and forest dependent communities whose lands are in the cross-hairs of REDD agreements, and REDD has already led to land grabs and human rights violations. The World Bank launched the new facility with a press conference that was met with a huge protest outside. Since then, REDD’s dubious objectives have led to numerous protests at the UN FCCC–most led by Indigenous Peoples.

During another protest in Bali by Indigenous Peoples against their exclusion from UN FCCC decisions impacting them, Fiu Mata’ese Elisara-La’ulu, of the O Le Siosiomaga Society of Samoa stated,

“[This] process has become nothing but developed countries avoiding their responsibilities to cut emissions and pushing the responsibility onto developing countries. Projects like REDD sound very nice but they are trashing our indigenous lands. People are being relocated and even killed; my own people will soon be under water. The money from these projects is blood money.”

In 2008 in Bonn, Germany, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) launched its own models for marketing environmental services through the Business and Biodiversity Initiative, which includes the Business and Biodiversity Offsets Programme (BBOP), The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), and
a new Green Development Mechanism.

The Little Biodiversity Finance Book, published in 2010 by the Global Canopy Programme (GCP) with the financial assistance of the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation is widely distributed at CBD conferences. In it, Andrew Mitchell, founder of the GCP, twists a quote by Oscar Wilde to justify its premise that privatizing the natural world is the best way to protect it:

“The English [sic] playwright Oscar Wilde once commented that the cynic knows the price of everything, but the value of nothing. Today’s cynics are those who claim that biodiversity is priceless, yet are not prepared to pay for it. ... the financial crisis is forcing a re-think of how products and services are valued. Investors are thinking, ‘if we got it so wrong with one property, what else out there is incorrectly valued?’ There is a growing realization that wealth creation cannot continue based on financial and social capital alone, but must recognize natural capital too–for without this, national accounts, business accounts and consumer accounts–long term, are ultimately built on sand.”

In this way, Mitchell uses the economic crisis to advance the GCP’s true agenda of using so-called “natural capital” to create new wealth.

As REDD redefines forests as carbon, these biodiversity markets transform the
vast, ancient interconnected web of life into an array of environmental services to
be quantified, privatized, and sold on the market. Tropical forests, oceans, grasslands and their “services” (i.e. biodiversity protection or water purification) become a source for offset credits to be priced according to supply and demand.

Corporations and governments may purchase these offsets and continue ecological destruction as usual. Biodiversity offsets have been described as “a license to trash nature,” as Carrington reported for The Guardian. In the same article, Carrington quotes Sandra Bell of Friends of the Earth: “Nature is unique and complex–not something that can be bulldozed in one place and recreated in another at the whim of a developer.”

Additionally, because the price of ecosystem services is linked to supply and demand, the price rises and profits increase as the ecosystems providing the services become more scarce–which is inevitable under an economic system that transforms natural resources into capital. Similarly, because some REDD funding is tied to how much a country reduces its deforestation, it creates a perverse incentive for countries to increase their deforestation now in order to receive more REDD funding in the future.

At the 2008 UN Climate Conference in Poznan, Poland, the Climate Justice Now! alliance denounced REDD as creating 

“the climate regime’s largest ever loophole, giving Northern polluters yet another opportunity to buy their way out of emissions reductions. With no mention of biodiversity or Indigenous Peoples’ rights, this scheme might give a huge incentive for countries to sell off their forests, expel Indigenous and peasant communities, and transform forests into tree plantations under corporate-control.”

In the film A Darker Shade of Green: REDD Alert and the Future of Forests, Gopal Dayaneni, of Movement Generation Justice & Ecology Project adds,

“In reality [carbon trading schemes are] a lot like trying to lose weight by paying someone else to go on a diet. The idea is you give somebody else
a bunch of money to lose weight and you add your two weights together, divide by half, and your average weight goes down if they lose enough weight. [With REDD] it’s a lot more like starving somebody someplace else as a way of losing weight.”

The Green Shock Doctrine, Climate Finance and Debt
As extreme weather continues to take its toll on public budgets, countries in the global south—already struggling under decades of neoliberal World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) policies designed to ransack natural resources, dismantle public services, and saddle them with debt—are having to fight for financial assistance from the very countries responsible for the climate crisis in the first place.

The battle over ‘climate finance’ has increasingly taken center stage at the UN FCCC as developing countries demand that rich countries pay compensation to help them recover from climate-related disasters they played no role in causing.

Led by the US, however, rich countries have repeatedly rejected these demands. Instead, they are borrowing a page out of the Green Shock Doctrine playbook to use these climate “shocks” to push through yet more unjust conditional finance, through which rich countries set conditions on money lent or given to the South to help them recover from climate disasters.

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) was formally established at the UN FCCC conference in Cancun in 2010, to oversee $100bn in climate finance pledged through President Obama’s secretly negotiated “Copenhagen Accord” in 2009. It is modeled on the same old unjust development financing of the World Bank, IMF, and others, but this time it is being done through a sort of climate blackmail. If countries want critically needed climate assistance, they must agree to the strict conditions.

Not coincidentally, in Cancun, the US and its allies successfully positioned the World Bank to be the first trustee of the Green Climate Fund. The Bank is now a leading facilitator of private-sector investment in climate mitigation strategies.
The UN Promotes Privatized Response to Catastrophe
In theory the “multilateral” consensus-based decision-making process of the UN is designed to prohibit the most powerful countries in the world from exerting control over the weakest nations. It is intended to be transparent and participatory, and to distribute power more equally. This has not been the case with international efforts to slow climate change.

About the 2007 UN Climate Conference in Bali, Walden Bello, then Senior Policy Analyst at Focus on the Global South, wrote,

“Bali will probably be remembered as the conference where big business came to climate change in big way ... Shell and other big-time polluters have been making the rounds touting the market as the prime solution to the climate crisis, a position that meshes well with the U.S. opposition to mandatory emission cuts.”

The trend has continued, and at the 2008 UN Climate Conference in Poznan, Poland more than 1,500 industry lobbyists attended.

US negotiators and their allies, acting on behalf of the corporate elites, have repeatedly denounced legally binding targets and accountability mechanisms, arguing instead for voluntary action. They have used bribes to force small countries to go along with positions against their best interests; included corporate representatives on government delegations; and met in small secret cabals to hammer out agreements in direct contravention to the official consensus-based process. 

After the disastrous outcomes of the Durban, South Africa FCCC in December 2011, where once again no concrete action was taken to address the climate crisis, Nature Magazine stated,

“It is clear that the science of climate change and the politics of climate change now inhabit parallel worlds.” Christina Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, speaks
to protesters at the march in Durban, South Africa during the UN Climate Conference. South African activist Virginia Setshedi (left) watches in disgust. 

Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of Friends of the Earth International similarly condemned Durban’s outcomes: “Developed countries, led by the US, accelerated the demolition of the world’s international framework for fair and urgent climate action. And developing countries have been bullied and forced into accepting an agreement that could be a suicide pill for the world.” A report from Petermann and Langelle on Durban later quoted him saying,

“An increase in global temperatures of four degrees Celsius, permitted under this plan, is a death sentence for Africa, small island states, and the poor and vulnerable worldwide. This summit has amplified climate apartheid whereby the richest 1% of the world have decided that it is acceptable to sacrifice the 99%.”

Public-Private Partnerships
Parallel to the official UN climate negotiations, events organized by corporate alliances such as the Avoided Deforestation Partners (which claims to be an NGO), the Consumer Goods Forum, and the World Climate Summit harness global concern about climate change to promote so-called “public-private partnerships.” These partnerships, or PPPs, divert public funds into privately managed and profit-oriented false solution schemes. These schemes include lofty-sounding initiatives like Zero Net Deforestation, Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All), and Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD).

The World Climate Summit described its preparations for the 2013 UN Climate Summit in Warsaw as such:

“For the first time this year, World Climate Ltd and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development are collaborating to provide a complementary series of business activities over two days alongside the annual United Nations Climate Change Conference. The World Climate Summit will take place on Sunday, 17 November 2013 and the WBCSD Business Day on Monday, 18 November 2013. These two days, united under CLIMATE SOLUTIONS, will provide the pre-eminent business platform for debate and action during the Warsaw Climate Change Conference: COP19.

Ambassador Donald Steinberg of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) emphasized the importance of these private gatherings during the Rio+20 UN Earth Summit in 2012, saying, “These events are not side events, these are the main events.”

Indeed, it is increasingly at these private forums where the world’s largest institutions and corporations sit down with the Big Green NGOs like the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Conservation International (CI) to devise new policies completely protected from public oversight or input. Ironically, these events get very little attention from organizations negotiating at the international level—preferring as they do the familiarity of the dysfunctional and largely irrelevant halls of the UN climate summits.

NGO Complicity in Public Private Partnerships and the Green Shock Doctrine
Big Green NGOs are complicit in the advancement of the pro-corporate, market-obsessed, and profit-motivated Green Economy—including prominent organizations like the IUCN, CI, the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), The Nature Conservancy, and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).

At an event organized by the Avoided Deforestation Partners during Rio+20, IUCN’s Martin-LeFevre argued that the way to protect nature was to “harness the capacity of the markets through [strategies like] payment for biodiversity and ecosystem services,” adding that big NGOs play an important role in this process.

Counseled by big green NGOs and seduced with promises of easy money, some countries are initiating REDD-type programs to “protect” their forests for use as offsets. The model of forest conservation promoted by the big corporate NGOs often results in the forced removal of local land stewards. This is considered necessary in order protect biodiversity, ecosystems, or the carbon stored by trees from traditional uses.

With communities out of the way, these ecosystems can be privatized and re-engineered into income-generating commodities that can be traded on the market. This form of imperialist conservation, however, not only fails to recognize and uphold the customary
rights and roles of local communities, it removes the very people who have traditionally
protected the forest from destruction. It is not by accident that most of the remaining intact forests and ecosystems on the planet are home to indigenous peoples and communities that depend on them. Devoid of local community oversight, forests and ecosystems are an easy target for illegal loggers, poachers and developers, some with the support of corrupt state and local elites.

In 2003, Conservation International supported a plan by the Mexican government to forcibly relocate indigenous communities from the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve in the state of Chiapas. An emergency delegation organized by Global Exchange exposed the plan. Their press release stated,

“We denounce the imminent forced relocation of indigenous communities settled in the Montes Azules. Further, we concur with other nongovernmental organizations that the dislocations are being carried out as a pretext for further commercial exploitation of the region, such as oil exploration, bioprospecting and the construction of hydroelectric dams.”
Following the release of the findings, the communities were not relocated.

As a result of these and many other criticisms, the global REDD scheme of the
UN and World Bank has been met with serious challenges. As a result, sub-national REDD agreements outside of UN oversight, such as one between California; Chiapas, Mexico; and Acre, Brazil are being developed. In Chiapas, this scheme is yet another attempt to take control of the resource-rich lands of the Montes Azules.

APPPs, REDD and Impacts in Chiapas, Mexico
A day-long event was organized at the UN’s Rio+20 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012 to promote private sector investments in subnational REDD projects. It was sponsored by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the Governors’ Climate Change Task Force and included participation of government leaders from forested states in Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, and elsewhere, as well as private companies like Google and Wildlife Works. Unsurprisingly, the event lacked participation by indigenous peoples and local communities from those states that would be directly affected by REDD policies, and who have strongly condemned them.

In Chiapas, Mexico, the California-Chiapas-Acre REDD deal has been focused on the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve in the Lacandon Jungle, where the Mexican government is attempting to use the climate crisis to gain control over the carbon rich Lacandon Jungle for REDD projects–lands they have been trying to conquer for decades without success, in a large part owing to the indigenous Zapatista uprising in 1994. Communities are again being pressured to relocate.

Several communities that agreed to relocate were moved into “sustainable rural cities,” which are part of former Governor Juan Sabines’ Chiapas Development and Solidarity Plan, and linked to the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. These cities consist
of tiny, shabbily built shacks crammed together on steep barren hillsides with no room
for growing food and no basis for making a living. As one community stated, “They offered us a dream, but they gave us a nightmare.”

In 2010, when the community of Amador Hernández refused to voluntarily leave their land in the Lacandon jungle, the Mexican government cut off medical supplies and emergency transport. The community also faced intense military intimidation and the threat of forced relocation for refusing to cooperate. When GJEP sent a photojournalist, writer, and two videographers to document and expose these injustices, the government backed off. Due to the resistance and organizing of the people of Amador Hernandez, along with an international campaign that included other organizations like the Indigenous Environmental Network, Carbon Trade Watch and Friends of the Earth, Amador Hernández was never relocated. Since then, the Chiapas side of the REDD agreement has been amended, and seeks to use 70% of the land area of Chiapas as a carbon offset.

The Green Economy and ‘Zero Net Deforestation’
WWF and other institutions are advancing “Zero Net Deforestation” schemes that use the deforestation and climate crises to promote the rapid expansion of fast growing industrial timber plantations. At the Avoided Deforestation Partners event in Rio during Rio+20, it was announced that the US government was joining the Consumer Business Forum to achieve the goal of “Zero Net Deforestation by 2020.” The Consumer Goods Forum is a global industry network of 650 corporations with combined sales of over US $3 trillion.

Eliminating deforestation is not possible without a massive reduction in wood and paper consumption. It is highly unlikely that the world’s largest corporations,
as well as the US government, are committed to this objective. In fact, Zero Net Deforestation does nothing to reduce wood consumption, and is being advanced hand in hand with the promotion of wood-based bioenergy–which is driving more rapid deforestation. What Zero Net Deforestation really promotes is the replacement of logged native forests with fast growing monoculture timber plantations. In
their proposal for Zero Net Deforestation, WWF is careful to distinguish it from ‘zero deforestation’ They take for granted that forest loss will continue; for zero net deforestation, this loss can be offset by so-called reforestation efforts. Unfortunately, the “reforestation” they promote is problematic for many reasons.

The UN has no science- based definition for forests; they include plantations of non-native trees and ignore all non-tree components of a forest (biodiversity, soils,
etc.). In addition, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization defines reforestation as “[forests] established artificially...on land which carried forest within the previous 50 years or within living memory, and [involving] the replacement of a previous crop by a new and essentially different crop.” In other words, ‘reforestation’ allows deforestation to continue as long as industrial plantations of non-native trees like eucalyptus and pine replace the lost forest.

For this reason, ‘Zero Net Deforestation’ schemes carry a heavy price for forest dependent communities whose forests are converted to plantations. Industrial plantations of non-native trees provide no food, medicine or shelter, do not support biodiversity, and are heavily sprayed with toxic chemicals that contaminate ground water. Some plantations, like eucalyptus, even deplete precious groundwater and can cause or worsen droughts. Unless prohibited, future ‘reforestation’ could even include dangerous and unproven genetically engineered (GE) trees.

The Green Shock Doctrine and “Sustainable” Energy for All (or at least for some)
The UN is teaming up with the fossil fuel industry in a scheme to use the 1.3 billion people who lack access to energy services to justify the diversion of public funds into private-sector projects designed to expand energy infrastructure globally. This scheme is called the “Sustainable Energy for All” initiative (SE4All). In 2011, the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon established SE4All, which includes representatives from major energy and finance corporations, including Statoil, Eskom, Siemens, OPEC, and Bloomberg New Energy Finance, among others.

SE4All co-chair Charles Holliday described SE4All as “the greatest public-private partnership of all,” with $50bn in commitments and 50 countries having signed
up to its initial assessment. SE4All’s Action Agenda is clear: Government’s role is
“to spur investment [by creating] national policy and financial environments that enable change.” In February 2012, SEFA co-chair Kandeh Yumkella told attendants at a private sector consultation that ‘the initiative will focus on profit-making business opportunities, not charity.’ Furthermore, as Biofuelwatch’s Dr. Rachel Smoker pointed out,

“While the term ‘sustainable’ is used, there is absolutely no indication what this means. Large-scale biofuels, natural gas projects, large hydroelectric dams, waste incinerators, even fossil fuels and nuclear energy all appear to be acceptable under this initiative and all are referred to as ‘sustainable.’”

During Rio+20’s “Sustainable Energy for All Day,” a Norwegian representative spoke about Norway’s plans for Africa, including the “Oil for Development” program, which offers financing to develop Africa’s abundant oil and gas reserves. One of SE4All’s first national commitments was a natural gas pipeline through Ghana.

Likewise, the Climate Action Plan announced by President Barak Obama on June 25, 2013 used the umbrella of “clean energy’ to include virtually all energy options. Particularly emphasized were hydrofracked natural gas, new nuclear power plants, and oil produced from the Bakken shale oil fields of North Dakota. Also included were so-called clean coal and biofuels.

In November 2011, the US State Department launched the Energy Resources Bureau, which has been a leader in formulating the engagement strategy for SE4ALL, including the Ghana pipeline project. Like SE4All, the Bureau uses the concept of providing universal access to ‘environmentally sustainable energy,’ to further top-down neoliberal policies. This includes its “Connecting the Americas 2022” initiative. Modeled on international trade schemes, this initiative would create an interconnected power grid stretching from Canada to the southern tip of South America.

Even the non-fossil energies being promoted by the US and the UN are leading to rampant environmental destruction and human rights abuses. Land grabs, deforestation, forced displacement, toxic GMOs, slave labor, assassinations, loss of access to fresh water and food––these are just a few of the impacts of these supposedly alternative energies.

An example of one of the more destructive ‘sustainable’ energies is large-scale hydroelectricity, which was singled out for praise at Rio+20’s SE4All Day. Prior to
the Rio+20 summit, Brazil, which hosted the summit and wrote the manual on “sustainable hydropower” for SE4All, had begun constructing the Belo Monte dam in the middle of the Amazon jungle. This dam on the Xingu River would be the third largest in the world. If completed, it will flood vast expanses of forest, excavate more land than the Panama Canal, and displace 25,000 Indigenous People. Far from providing electricity to the poor, however, its energy will power a bauxite mine and aluminum smelter.

Fossil fuels and so-called “sustainable” energies are both being promoted and financed
by the same companies and institutions, with grave consequences
for communities, ecosystems, and the climate. Without a fundamental shift in how we live on this planet, including a transformed economy and a massive reduction in consumption, truly “sustainable” sources of energy are not possible.

Fossil Fuel Divestment: Replacing One Disaster with Another
Bill McKibben argues that fossil fuel divestment will allow colleges to “do the right thing without great cost.” This is where the lack of a broader analysis gets problematic. As Keith Brunner of Global Justice Ecology Project and Rising Tide
Vermont pointed out

“Divestment sounds great, except when you look at the trends over the past few years of big institutional investors–like pension funds and university endowments–moving their money into, amongst other things, ‘emerging market’ natural resources and infrastructure funds, which are facilitating land and resource grabbing in the South. It’s what the ‘progressive’ climate- aware fund managers are advocating, and it’s a problem.”

Christian Parenti further pointed out that the fossil fuel divestment campaign
is grounded in a deeply flawed understanding of the root causes of the problem: “[The] assumption that we can hit the fossil fuel giants’ ‘bottom line’ by going after their stock prices is deeply flawed. It unconsciously plays into a very neoliberal, or right-wing, set of nostrums that markets can fix things.” He continues, explaining that dumping Exxon stock might actually “improve the company’s price to earning ratio thus making the stock more attractive to immoral buyers. Or it could allow the firm to more easily buy back stock (which it has been doing at a massive scale for the last 5 years) and thus retain more of its earnings for use to develop more oil fields.” On April 3, 2013, BP announced that, far from moving away from fossil fuels, it “decided to market for sale our US wind energy business as part of a continuing effort to become a more focused oil and gas company.”

Moreover, such divestment campaigns do not honestly take into account the dynamics of global markets as they exist currently. In its 2012 “World Energy Outlook,” the International Energy Agency said, “No country is an energy ‘island’ and the interactions between different fuels, markets and prices are intensifying...[One] current example is how low-priced natural gas is reducing coal use in the United States, freeing up coal for export to Europe (where, in turn, it has displaced higher-priced gas).”
In an interview for his book, Green Illusions: The Dirty Secrets of Clean Energy and the Future of Environmentalism, Ozzie Zehner argues that the perceived sharp distinction between fossil fuels and clean energy technologies such as solar cells and wind turbines is an illusion:

“Alternative energy technologies rely on fossil fuels through every stage of their life... for mining operations, fabrication plants, installation, ongoing maintenance and decommissioning. Also, due to the irregular output of wind and solar, these technologies require fossil fuel plants to be running alongside them at all times. Most significantly, alternative energy financing relies on the kind of growth that fossil fuels drive.”

Green Economy + Techno-fix False Solutions = Business as Usual
In the rush to protect corporate profits from the impacts of climate change, a series of techno-fixes are being pushed forward without regard to their potentially devastating impacts. The most extreme of these is geoengineering. According to the ETC Group, “Geoengineering is the intentional, large-scale technological manipulation of the Earth’s systems, often discussed as a techno-fix for combating climate change.” It is a scheme backed by some of the world’s richest men, including Bill Gates. According to Naomi Klein, “The appeal of geoengineering is that it doesn’t threaten our worldview. It leaves
us in a dominant position. It says that there is an escape hatch.” Unfortunately, the technologies being considered for this “escape hatch” could have devastating impacts on entire continents, like Africa. One proposal, the spraying of millions of tons of reflective particles of sulphur dioxide thirty miles above earth, for example, could alter rainfall patterns and reduce the ability of crops to grow, increasing food and water crises, leading some activists to declare it genocidal.

Another set of novel technologies are being employed by the new “bioeconomy”: Fossil fuels are being replaced with biomass derived from forests, cropland, grasslands and oceans for the manufacture of everything from gasoline to a vast array of commercial products, including plastics and chemicals. These transformations require a range of dangerous technologies including genetic engineering, nanotechnology, and synthetic biology. But the impacts of the bioeconomy go beyond these unproven technologies. In the rush to secure the land to grow this biomass, ecological destruction and violent ‘green land grabbing’ are worsening.

According to the International Land Coalition, biofuels were responsible for around 59% of all land grabs between 2000 and 2010. Additionally, the International Energy Agency warns that although biofuels are expected to contribute a mere five percent of the world’s transportation fuels by 2035, they will increase their use of increasingly scarce fresh water from 38 to 70 billion cubic meters of water annually.

In the US, biomass and biofuels together account for 44% of all “renewable’ energy. In the EU, they account for 55%. The result is a massively increasing demand for wood, vegetable oil, grains and crucially, for land.

In the case of biomass, increased European demand for wood to produce electricity is unleashing what Dogwood Alliance describes as a “green energy bomb” on forests in the southeastern US. Additional biomass production facilities, shipping corridors, and port expansion projects are planned in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.

British government incentives for renewable energies are resulting in coal plants converting to biomass. The plans of the UK’s largest coal-fired power plant—Drax–to convert three of its six generators to biomass will result in the burning of an area
of forest four times the size of the US state of Rhode Island every year. Since these burners cannot use fast-growing young trees as biomass, the source of the 20 million green tons of wood they will need every year will be mature native forests from the Southeastern US and British Columbia, Canada.

New biomass facilities, however, are being redesigned to accept plantation wood. If industry gets its way, in the future this biomass will include dangerous and unproven fast growing genetically engineered (GE) eucalyptus and poplar trees. Rubicon, one of the joint owners of GE tree company ArborGen, projects that if approved by the US government, ArborGen will sell half a billion genetically engineered freeze tolerant eucalyptus trees annually for bioenergy plantations across seven US states.

Even beyond the ecological impacts of logging forests and converting native ecosystems to plantations for electricity production are the impacts to the climate. Several studies have concluded that burning wood for electricity releases significantly more CO2 into the atmosphere than burning coal, belying the notion that biomass is part of the climate solution.

But even wind and solar are not without problems. Industrial-scale wind farms have numerous social and ecological impacts and are being opposed in many regions. In Oaxaca, the Indigenous community San Dionisio del Mar is fighting the construction of an industrial wind farm being developed by a consortium of Dutch, Japanese, and Australian funders. The wind farm threatens to impede the community’s ability to cultivate their lands, and they have experienced violent repression and death threats due to their activism. The wind farm is intended to power a Heineken factory.

Ozzie Zehner further points out that the solar cell industry “is one of the fastest growing emitters of virulent greenhouse gases such as sulfur hexafluoride, which has a global warming potential 23,000 times higher than CO2, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”

And the final nail in the coffin of using industrial-scale “renewable energy” to mitigate climate change is the fact that increasing renewable energy supplies actually encourages greater total energy consumption. As Richard York explained in the journal Nature: “The common assumption that the expansion of production of alternative energy will suppress fossil-fuel energy production in equal proportion is wrong...each unit of electricity generated by non-fossil-fuel sources displaced less than one-tenth of a unit of fossil-fuel-generated electricity.”

Honduras: From Banana Republic to Biofuel Republic
In 2009, Honduras was rocked by a military coup that deposed democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya, whose administration had been ushering in progressive land and social reforms. The wave of shocks that followed were used
to take over peasant lands for biofuel production–specifically the development of oil palm plantations for biodiesel.

Strongly supporting the military coup were the country’s wealthy land and business owners, including biofuels magnate Miguel Facussé, described by the US Embassy as the “wealthiest, most powerful businessman in the country.” Facussé controls thousands of acres of oil palm plantations in Honduras’s lower Aguán valley, and he has been implicated in the murders of dozens of campesino farmers who are fighting the expansion of his green deserts of oil palm.

Shortly after the coup, then-US ambassador to Honduras Hugo Llorens, and
US Representative Dana Rohrabacher hosted a meeting between the California- based firm SG Biofuels, and prominent Honduran policy-makers and businessmen
to discuss investment opportunities. US Ambassador, Lisa Kubiske, who previously worked on US-Brazil biofuels cooperation, presided over the September 2012 signing of the Brazil-Honduras-USA Trilateral Partnership, a core pillar of which is the expansion of the biofuel sector in Honduras.

Facussé’s oil palm operations were certified in 2011 for use as carbon credits under the UN FCCC’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), despite a major outcry against the egregious human rights abuses and ecological impacts connected to the plantations. The CDM Board concluded that human rights concerns are “outside of the parameters of its mandate,” and that it is the responsibility of the government of Honduras to address these concerns—blatantly ignoring the involvement of the Honduran government’s police and military in the assassination and repression of campesino leaders.

Indonesia: Biodiesel, REDD, Forest Destruction and Human Rights Violations
Indonesia ranks among the top greenhouse gas emitting countries, largely due to the burning of forest and peatlands for conversion to oil palm plantations. The country
is the largest exporter of palm oil in the world, with exports projected to rise as demand increases for biodiesel. Combined with a ruthless, business-friendly regime, Indonesia is the perfect testing ground for Green Shock Doctrine reforms and projects.

To supposedly address this rampant deforestation, in May 2010 Indonesia penned an agreement with Norway to develop and implement a national REDD strategy, with Norway pledging up to $1bn. At the time, Chris Lang of the Jakarta-based REDD Monitor stated that the deal would “do little or nothing to address the pressures faced by Indonesia’s forests, indigenous people, and local communities.”

When the first phase of the REDD strategy was unveiled—a two year “moratorium” on the granting of new permits for logging and the conversion of peatlands–it was
a huge victory for the palm oil giants, due to major loopholes which let existing permits be extended, exempted land slated for energy extraction, and excluded disturbed or secondary forests. Upon its announcement, Agus Purnomo, Indonesia’s climate change advisor noted that: “We are not banning firms for palm oil expansion. We are just advising them to do so on secondary forests.”

In a presentation to Wall Street investors in September 2012, Indonesia’s President Yudhoyono revealed his true vision for Indonesia: “You can find almost everything
in Indonesia: oil and gas, coal, geothermal energy, tin, copper, nickel, aluminum, bauxite, iron, cacao, coffee. When it comes to oil, we have oil underground, under the sea and even above the ground: palm oil.” A few hours later he received the first ever “Valuing Nature Award” from the World Resources Institute, Nature Conservancy,
and World Wide Fund for Nature, for his “leadership in recognizing the importance of natural resources and working to conserve them.”

In 2011, Indonesia’s national land authority reported over 3,500 palm oil related land disputes across the country. In December 2012, Survival International declared that “Indonesia treats its indigenous and tribal people...worse than any other country in the world.”

Plan Nord & Canada’s War on Aboriginal Peoples
While Canada is well known for its tar sands gigaproject in Alberta which has devastated Indigenous lands in the region, another massive project is sliding under the radar: Quebec’s Plan Nord is an $80 billion industrial infrastructure project that will “fast-track [the extraction of] iron ore, gold, uranium, diamonds and other natural resources from the territory of Québec, north of the 49th parallel.”

It is part of an emerging global trend to exploit the warming climate by moving industrial development and resource extraction further and further north.

At Rio+20, however, former Quebec premier Jean Charest sold Plan Nord as the “global model” for sustainable development, since it grants twenty percent of the territory protected status (leaving 80% open for development), and invests $47 billion in 3,000 megawatts of new hydroelectricity. Far from sustainable, however, these new hydroelectric dams will destroy some of the largest and most pristine rivers on the planet, flooding vast expanses of Indigenous land and releasing immense quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas twenty times more potent than CO2.

While Charest sold Plan Nord to international investors, a group of Innu people blockaded roads to stop construction of the mega-dams and transmission lines that were moving ahead without their consent. Plan Nord, no matter how it is branded, is a sure death sentence for Quebec’s last intact wild rivers and boreal forests, and the cultures that depend on them. For the original Innu inhabitants, Plan Nord represents the final chapter of a long history of oppression.

Building the Global Movement
As we pointed out in the beginning of The Green Shock Doctrine, turning land, life, and livelihoods into market commodities for the benefit of global elites is antithetical to burn vivir: life in harmony between humans, communities, and the natural environment, devoid of commodification. With buen vivir, work is not a job to make others wealthier, but a livelihood that is sustaining and fulfilling.

Achieving buen vivir requires an understanding that climate change is at once a social and environmental justice issue, an ecological issue, and an issue of economic and political domination that must be addressed through broad and visionary alliances.

Buen vivir and the many solutions to global warming will come, not from the top down, but from communities working together to identify truly sustainable solutions that are both decentralized and recognize the importance of local control and bioregional distinctions.

Movements will succeed when they make business as usual impossible. As climate chaos escalates, so must our resistance. Any real change is going to have to come from a powerful, diverse, and radicalized grassroots movement that takes important lessons from the successes and failures of previous movements, and which has a clear analysis of the root causes and key actors driving the problem.

Resistance to the UN FCCC
From 2004 through 2012 Global Justice Ecology Project participated in various UN forums with special attention paid to the UN FCCC. It is doubtful if we ever will participate in them again. Too many decisions are made elsewhere and the
entire process has proven to be a distraction from the real steps that are needed to address the climate crisis.

Over those years, GJEP helped build the climate justice movement internationally and in the US. We believe it is important to mention some of the radical activity that took place during the UN climate conferences and which helped to build the global climate justice movement.

The UN FCCC in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2009 was a watershed moment for the climate justice movement. As the climate talks entered their final days, thousands demonstrated in the streets of Copenhagen as part of the “Reclaim Power” protest for climate justice called by Climate Justice Action. About 300 COP 15 delegates who were part of the Climate Justice Now! alliance marched out of the Bella Centre and attempted to meet climate justice activists marching toward the center for a Peoples’ Assembly at the Bella Centre fence. These delegates were met with police truncheons; some were badly bruised.

Following the march, hundreds of UN FCCC accredited Civil Society observers were denied re- entry to the Bella Centre, including the entire Friends of the Earth International delegation, which staged a sit-in in the lobby. Planning for this confrontation with the UN took many meetings in places like Poznan, Poland, Belem, Brazil, Copenhagen itself and cafes and other sites internationally for more than a year. Alliances were formed. Indigenous Peoples, social movements, anarchists, progressive NGOs and some not so progressive worked together (sometimes uneasily) to show the world that the UN FCCC was a sham that catered to the power elite.

But, after Copenhagen, many NGOs, afraid of being permanently shut out of the UN process, opted for a less confrontational direction that complied with the rules and regulations of the UN FCCC. Others abandoned the UN process, deeming it illegitimate and corrupt. But protests on the inside continued.

The international peasant’s movement La Via Campesina joined with Indigenous Peoples for huge protests in the streets outside of the official UN FCCC conference in Cancun, Mexico in 2010.

During this day of action, named “Day of 1,000 Cancuns,” GJEP turned over our official press conference space to Indigenous Peoples, social movements (including the MST and La Via Campesina), and youth. At the end of the press conference, the youth contingent marched out of the venue, yelling and chanting. They were met by then Bolivian ambassador to the UN, Pablo Solon who gave an impromptu press conference in support of climate justice on the front stairs of the building.

At the Cancun press conference, Solon said, “What is most important is the struggle of the people and their demands for real solutions to climate change. Every year, 300,000 people die because of natural disasters caused by climate change. This will grow to millions if we do not have, here, a real agreement, instead of a Cancun- hagen.”

After the press conference many of the youth continued their march, and were then taken by security, stripped of their accreditation, and bused off the grounds. Another group of people occupied the lobby of the official conference in protest of the silencing of civil society at the conference and were thrown out. By the end, the only country that held its ground for a just and effective outcome was Bolivia, who stood alone in opposing the unjust Cancun climate agreement. Their protests were ignored.

Then Bolivian ambassador to the UN, Pablo Solon, stated that the Cancun accord
“replaces binding mechanisms for reducing greenhouse gas emissions with voluntary pledges that are wholly insufficient. These pledges contradict the stated goal of capping the rise in temperature at 2C, instead guiding us to 4C or more. The text is full of loopholes for polluters, opportunities for expanding carbon markets and similar mechanisms – like the forestry scheme REDD that reduce the obligation of developed countries to act.”
The following year at the UN FCCC in Durban, South Africa
it felt as though the radical flickering spark was extinguished as the conference ended, but not before Anne Petermann and Keith Brunner from GJEP were carried out of the conference after sitting down and refusing to leave during a youth-led hours-long occupation inspired by Occupy Wall Street.

Will that spark reignite? Probably not at the UN, but there
are flames of radical resistance all over the globe from social movements, Indigenous Peoples and many groups demanding, not politely asking, for real change. People are organizing and more people are getting involved in the movement for real climate justice and are working toward real solutions to avert climate catastrophe.

Identifying the Real Solutions
Rather than define anew a list of solutions to the climate crisis, this section will put forward statements developed by social movements from around the world on the topic of real solutions. These statements were developed by hundreds of organizations, activists ,and social movements from all over the world who discussed these issues at great length in a variety of venues.

Excerpts from the Cochabamba Peoples’ Agreement
The statement developed by organizations from all parts of the world in Cochabamba, Bolivia at the World Peoples’ Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in April 2010 clearly defined the problems facing the global community in addressing climate change and put forward solutions.
“The corporations and governments of the so-called ‘developed’ countries, in complicity with a segment of the scientific community, have led us to discuss climate change as a problem limited to the rise in temperature without questioning the cause, which is the capitalist system.
The capitalist ...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. 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.
“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 buen vivir “Living Well,” recognizing Mother Earth as a living being with which we have an indivisible, interdependent, complementary and spiritual relationship. To face climate change, we must recognize Mother Earth as the source of life and forge a new system based on the principles of:
  • 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.
"In order to coordinate our international action and implement the resultsof this ‘Accord of the Peoples,’ we call for the building of a Global People’s Movement for Mother Earth, which should be based on the principles of complementarity and respect for the diversity of origin and visions among its members, constituting a broad and democratic space for coordination and joint worldwide actions.
"In order to coordinate our international action and implement the results  of this ‘Accord of the Peoples,’ we call for the building of a Global People’s Movement for Mother Earth, which should be based on the principles of complementarity and respect for the diversity of origin and visions among its members, constituting a broad and democratic space for coordination and joint worldwide actions.”
Additional solutions advanced in Cochabamba and through other international strategy meetings include
  •  Implementing people’s food and energy sovereignty;
  • Full recognition of Indigenous Peoples, peasant and local community rights, including rights based resource conservation that enforces indigenous land rights and promotes peoples sovereignty and public ownership over energy, forests, seeds, land and water;
  • Ending deforestation and its underlying causes;
  •  Ending excessive consumption by elites in the North and in the South;
  • Stopping extractive industries from further destroying nature andcontaminating our atmosphere and our land.
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