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The green economy, last frontier of capitalism (The three actors in Rio +20: a masked ball)

The green economy, last frontier of capitalism (The three actors in Rio +20: a masked ball)

By Paco Puche

From June 20 to 22, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development will be held in Brazil, better known as Rio +20 on the basis that another summit of the same tenor had been held 20 years ago and in the same city. The central debate on this occasion will be centered on what is called "green economy" defended by rich countries, big companies and the spokesmen of neoliberalism.


But again and again the need to strengthen the capacity to see beyond propaganda, misinformation and lies is repeated (1)

From June 20 to 22, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development will be held in Brazil, better known as Rio +20 on the basis that another summit of the same tenor had been held 20 years ago and in the same city. The central debate on this occasion will be centered on what is called "green economy" defended by rich countries, big companies and the spokesmen of neoliberalism.

To try to counteract the official meeting, from the 15th to the 23rd of the same month, the so-called People's Summit will be held, which will bring together social, union, peasant and indigenous movements that already bring a version of rejection of the proposals of the official conference . In a recently published document, La Via Campesina, one of the most active social movements in recent years, has stated that “we repudiate and denounce the“ green economy ”as a new mask to hide higher levels of greed from corporations and imperialism food in the world and as a brutal way to wash the face of capitalism ... ”(2)

And so that no one was missing, on Copacabana beach, also in Rio, the foundations of the big capital (AVINA - Ashoka - Rockefeller, etc.) will appear to mount their Forum of Social Entrepreneurship in the New Economy, from June 15 to 17 .

Like the Summit, this other Forum of philanthropic entities has also been rejected with individual initiatives. One of them from the World Associations of Asbestos Victims in the World, which has asked the UN Secretary General and the President of Brazil to declare Stephan Schmidheiny, AVINA's founder, as “persona non grata” (3) , for being one of the main responsible for the tragedy of the asbestos industries in the world, sentenced a few months ago to 16 years in prison, for the death of more than 2000 Italian workers in one of its asbestos factories. The other, at the initiative of Ecologists in Action and signed by more than 170 organizations from more than 25 countries, of rejection against AVINA and Ashoka for their links with big capital, polluting industries and the alliance with Monsanto to bring GMOs to Africa .(4)

Capital turns its eyes to nature, the primary sector, and the commons.

Contrary to the theories that have sustained capitalism, by which the overcoming of primary activities were the sign of progress and which considered substitutable natural "capital" (5), that nature was largely dispensable, again in Rio +20 stage a return to nature. Not only to the materials and products that it provides but also to the essential processes for life, that is, to ecosystems. Capital becomes "environmentalist".

But make no mistake, what big capital is proposing at this new Earth Summit is how to do new business with this last frontier of profit. First, by monetarily valuing the services that nature provides for free to all its inhabitants, in order to later create a world market for environmental services. For example, converting forest services into carbon credits that multinationals buy, sell and take to speculative secondary markets.

The common goods (water, land, biodiversity, ecosystems, minerals from the crust, etc.), as long as they have such condition, are not appropriable, therefore they are not subject to monetary valuation or commercialization. The first step, then, is to make something immeasurable, not translatable into money, into something that is. The second step is to eliminate the commons and establish private property over all of them, or public property, which can also, ultimately, be subject to concessions or privatizations (6). This is called the economics of ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB): price, privatize, sell.

We are witnessing, again, an assault on what remains of the commons, which is a lot. States and mutual and pension funds buy fertile land all over the world. The free circulation of seeds among peasants is restricted and prohibited, and attempts are even being made to control overseeding by the peasants themselves. Biopiracy is practiced to patent genomes, or living beings known and used for millennia by indigenous populations. It is about charging for the use of rainwater. The management of coastal borders and national parks is privatized, dislodging indigenous populations ...

As Vía Campesina sums up, in its document “Rio +20 and beyond”, the green economy promoted in Rio aims to generalize the principle that those who have money can continue to pollute; convert biomass into a substitute for oil; restrict access to the use of irrigation water, which tends towards scarcity, to export crops and agrofuels; propose highly dangerous technological solutions to solve climate change or hunger problems, such as geoengineering and transgenics, and “the most ambitious and the one that some governments identify as the greatest challenge, which is to put a price on all the goods of nature (such as water, biodiversity, landscape, wildlife, seeds, rain, etc.) and then privatize it (with the excuse that conserving them requires money) and charging us for their use ”.

The three actors at the Rio +20 Summit

As we have seen, there are three events that will take place simultaneously in Rio:

The official starring the United Nations, countries and companies. In this the proposal of the "green economy" is brought by the hand, which is basically mercantilist. There are already some monetary calculations that say that if everything that nature delivers were turned into merchandise, the business that would be created is equivalent to twice the world gross product (7). Against the control and cooptation that large companies have over the UN, with a view to Rio, some organizations have raised their voices demanding that “the UN and the member states must reject the pressure exerted by large companies in order to obtain positions of privilege… and must focus on its mandate to serve the public interest ”(8)

The other very active agent is the one formed by the different social, worker, peasant and indigenous movements that meets at the Peoples' Summit. In it, alternatives in defense of common goods are presented and a paradigm shift is proposed: to make the transition from an anthropocentric civilization to a biocentric one, centered on life, which implies the recognition of the rights of Nature and the redefinition of nature. good living and prosperity. Social movements will try to oppose the attempt to "green up" capitalism, in short "a new disguise for the system. And citizens are increasingly fed up with the costumes and the system ”(9)


And a third actor appears: the foundations of the big capital, AVINA and Ashoka, also disguised in green, that try to be confused with some social movements, and that mount their own Forum.

Forum on Social Entrepreneurship in the New Economy (10), led by AVINA, Ashoka and the Rockefeller Foundation, among others.

Despite the fact that it is public and notorious that the founder, ideologue and financier of AVINA is the tycoon enriched with the criminal business of asbestos in the world, the Swiss Stephan Schmidheiny. Despite the fact that justice has sentenced him to 16 years in prison for the death of more than 2,000 people in just one of his Italian factories. Despite the fact that many other deaths fall on his person that will continue to pass through the justice of the world, despite this the AVINA foundation appears in Rio, with great fanfare, on the beaches of Copacabana, in a display of impunity, making "A call for entrepreneurs from all sectors and citizens aware of the socio-environmental challenges of the contemporary world to participate in the debate, deepen their knowledge on the subject and contribute to dialogue," according to the call.

Ahoka is AVINA's permanent companion with whom she shares finances, partners, projects, ideas and managers. The Rockefeller Foundation is well known for its contribution to the so-called "green revolution", both linked to one of the largest banks in the world, the J.P. Morgan and currently leading a project with the Gates Foundation and Monsanto to introduce GMOs in Africa.

The most disturbing thing is that if you look at the programming (see) of the conferences and discussion tables, they have managed to place personalities that we would consider as clearly anti-capitalist. This contributes to the confusion and legitimacy of these foundations already fully rejected by alternative social movements. These guests have crossed the red line of surrendering their image and co-opting, by siding with the worst of capitalism. It is the mask of legitimacy. "Come on, I have never seen that to fight against poverty and inequality in North-South relations, it is necessary to go hand in hand with the most representative of multinational companies" (11). This is a class struggle in which the rich are winning for the moment, as the finance magnate Warren Buffet said, and to go hand in hand with the potentates and their institutions is to take their side. The rich and their institutions are in excess, they are the problem

As we asked ourselves not long ago: “But can there be good rich people? No, because their wealth is at the cost of poverty, exploitation, plunder, hunger and misery of the many. If there were no maquilas, Zara would not exist. If workers had not been subjected to the asbestos genocide for a hundred years, there would be no Holcim, no tycoon Schmidheiny, no AVINA. And yes, there can be good rich people, because they cannot prevent the capitalist system from inexorably driving them to the exploitation and misery of the majority. In other words, many of the benefits that the system brings them cannot be avoided. Therefore, to be really good they have to stop being rich, compensating their victims ”(12).

As Pedro Prieto of ASPO says, "capital tries to appropriate reasonable environmental movements, to reconvert them into domesticated green capitalisms or forms of business with the depletion of the planet." Indeed, for all these foundations what it is about is doing business with the poor, which according to their advisers is preached as "the business of business."

It is what has been called plan B of capital, a way of continuing with business disguised as green and philanthropic. This plan can be summarized by saying that it is the sum of maneuvers aimed at gaining consensus, legalizing these forms of enrichment, achieving obedience and / or complicity, advertising its objectives as if they were identical to those of society.

Two ways of implementing this second plan stand out for their special relevance: one, the so-called “Corporate Social Responsibility” and, another, the one that aims at the co-optation of social movements of resistance and alternative NGOs. To the extent that they manage to penetrate the movements and produce splits within them, they constitute the greatest challenge to be overcome by the civil resistance.

The message of the "green economy" is none other than that of capitalism disguised as an ecologist and philanthropist, which deploys all its weapons to continue doing more business. In one case explicitly, and in another as a hidden lobby that tries to make the interface between business and social movements close to the people.

As one of Ashoka's top leaders, María Zapata, has pointed out, in a frank display, "Social entrepreneurs work with these populations (the poor) and their job is to bring multinationals closer to them, while safeguarding their interests" . (13)

A metaphor can help us understand the damage that AVINA and Ashoka's allies or contractors produce in social movements: that of hormonal behavior.

Hormones are substances generated in the body's endocrine glands, which travel through the bloodstream, and which carry essential chemical messages for good body health. But to fulfill its function, each hormone needs to find its particular receptor, with which it joins in a molecular embrace as if they were made "for each other" and, once coupled, they are ready to enter cells. to do its biological activity.

In the history of endocrinology a disturbing discovery occurred, narrated in the text "Our stolen future" (14). Around 1970, it was discovered that DES, a synthetic estrogen that had been administered to pregnant women for thirty years, was an endocrine disruptor, causing serious health problems in newborns and mothers. The mechanism by which these effects were produced was because DES acted as a hormonal impostor: it mimicked natural hormones and bound to "their" specific receptors, causing disorders in cell activity.

This is how these foundations operate: as an impostor social hormone, which looks for receptors in social movements, which it calls leaders or entrepreneurs, and which stealthily and inevitably produces the well-known disorders of confusion, division and anesthesia of the same.

A conclusion

Any form of green capitalism is a new siren song to swallow the devastation that neoliberalism is causing in the world. In order to overcome the serious social and environmental crisis in which we are plunged, there is no other way than to question and transform capitalism.

As the Andean indigenous peoples have declared, “it is essential and urgent that Rio +20 means a break with predatory developmental capitalism and the adoption of a new civilizational paradigm based on dialogue and harmony with Mother Earth” (15).

If not, we may not get to Rio +40 safely.

Paco puche - Bookstore and Ecologist - Spain

Notes and references:

1. GRAIN-WRM-ATALC (2012), “The background of the green economy. Deepening the climate and environmental crisis as a way to better business ”, at http://www.grain.org/…

2. Vía campesina (2012), “The peoples of the world facing the advances of capitalism: Rio +20 and beyond”, in http://viacampesina.org/…

3. At http://www.asbestosdiseaseawareness.org/…

4. Ecologists in Action and 175 other organizations (2012), “Latin American and Spanish social and environmental organizations denounce the consequences of the activity of supposedly philanthropic foundations”, at http://www.ecologistasenaccion.org/…

5. It is the fallacy of endless substitution. That whimsical belief that whatever the problem, "we will-always-invent something," as Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics, argues.

6. The history of capitalism is a history of dispossession of common goods. Most of the assets were either common or had communal easements. “From the creation of the world until now, the second herb belongs to the community”, it was said in the French Revolution of 1789. And likewise, it is estimated that in England, at the end of the seventeenth century, a third of the landowners were conditioned by common customary rights.

7. Constanza, R and al. (1997), “The value of the world's ecosystem services and natural capital, in Nature, vol 387, May 15.

8. Friends of the Earth International, Via Campesina and the. “No more corporate control and cooptation of the United Nations. Joint declaration of civil society ”, at http://www.google.es/…

9. Ramonet, I., “The challenges of Rio + 20”, Le Monde Diplomatique, June 2012

10. At http://www.avina.net/…

11. Gayol, R., "The new fundraising of NGOs and the exercise of anti-cooperation", in Rebelión, June 9, 2012, at http: //www.rebelion.org…

12. Puche, P. (2012), “Botín”, Ecoportal, January 16, at https: //www.ecoportal.net…

13. Interview with María Zapata in the digital magazine Quo.es, 9.06.2011. http: //www.quo.es…

14. Colborn, T, and el. (1997) Our stolen future, Ecoespaña editorial

15. Andean indigenous peoples "For a new civilizational paradigm: good living in harmony with Mother Earth to guarantee life", in Rebelión, June 9, 2012


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