Saturday, June 30, 2012

Rio = Zero

For what was billed as an historic summit, Rio+20 was an anti-climax.

Many are touting a mythical new "green economy" they say will solve all our climate challenges. Under the rhetoric of “green economy”, capitalists are actually attempting to use nature as capital, proposing unconvincingly that the only way to preserve natural elements such as water and forests is through capitalist investment. For capitalists, nature is mainly an object to possess, exploit, transform and especially to profit from. This will open the door to the development of a new speculative market. This will allow some banks, corporations, brokers and intermediaries to make a lot of profit for a number of years until their financial bubble explodes, as can be seen with past speculative markets. While still ill defined, they're generally referring to a model of economic growth based on massive private investment in clean energy, climate-resistant agriculture, and ecosystem services - like the ability of a wetland to filter water. Under this new concept, Wall Street gets to reap profits from a whole new line of business, and governments get to spend less protecting the environment.

Khadija Sharife
, an Africa Report journalist who attended the conference, believes "It is the bankers' dream - the legitimisation of the green economy where valuation deepens the commodification of ecosystems," she said. "This has the extended impact of financialising ecosystems as priced or monetised services."

Patrick Bond
, Director of the Centre for Civil Society and Professor in the School of Development Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal believes the failure of international environmental diplomacy lies in the way it is structured. "Every negotiating team goes to these conferences to secure the right for its business elites to emit more greenhouse gases."

Nature cannot be submitted to the will of the market. Putting a price on things like water or biodiversity as a way of managing their use turn them into commodities and risk having basic needs and services fall victim to speculators who make money off volatile prices. Does it make sense to put the future of our remaining common resources - forests, genes, the atmosphere, food - into the hands of people who treated our economy like a casino? Powerful transnational corporations and international businesses councils have successfully pressed for the ‘marketisation’ which will amount to a dramatic expansion of the commercialisation and commodification of the natural environment and its life services. In effect, genuine sustainable development has therefore been denuded of meaning and is not supported by concrete measures to move away from the logic of capitalist growth that destroys irreplaceable ecological resources.

 Capitalism, a system based on the drive to accumulate more and more (endless and unlimited growth) – is at the root of these crises. Capitalism cannot be green.

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