Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Tale of Two Conferences: The Social and Ecological Crises of Capitalism

By Chris Williams
Dissident Voice
June 23rd, 2012

It’s impossible! I said.

No Johnny, we’re impossible. It’s like it always was ten million years ago. It hasn’t changed. It’s us and the land that’ve changed, become impossible, Us!

— Ray Bradbury, from the short story The Foghorn

Sometimes the calendar of international conferences attended by global elites serves up potent lessons for the rest of us, when they shine a spotlight on the deliberately murky affairs of the people who run the system. As the 20 most powerful world leaders deliberate on economic issues in Los Cabos, Mexico for the G20 summit, representatives of the rest will be simultaneously converging on Rio de Janeiro to consider how to follow up on the original Earth Summit, 20 years ago this year.

At these seemingly separate gatherings, we in truth observe the two sides of the capitalist coin. Namely, how can the capitalist elite continue the necessary work of exploiting both humans and the natural world in the service of profit, while cloaking their intentions in the benign language of growth, development and sustainability? Fine words to cover nefarious ends. No doubt, as people’s livelihoods and world decay around them as a direct consequence of the system the elite oversee, and in response the flame of revolt is rekindled from Cairo to Athens, political elites in the two locations will reflect on the fact that it’s not getting any easier. From the other side, critics and commentators of the two conferences are missing an important and significant lesson when they consider them in isolation.

Friday, June 22, 2012


Rio de Janeiro/Ottawa – Following Peter Kent’s statement to Canadian and international media and his address to the Rio+20 plenary, Canadians in Rio and back home issued the following statements.

“Canada has been trampling our rights here in Rio and back home by expanding the controversial tar sands into our homeland and poisoning our water, air and earth, and negotiating on their behalf here at Rio+20. Our First Nation Rights are protected by both the Canadian constitution and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. They guarantee our access our lands to hunt, fish, and forage, as well as our rights to clean air and water. Canada has just been singled out for these horrible environmental and social abuses at the final assembly of the People’s summit here in Rio. It was the only country to be named in the portion of the assembly dealing with Energy and Extractivism.” Said Crystal Lameman member of Beaver Lake Cree Nation and Member of the Indigenous Environmental Network.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Rio+20: Proposing a utopia

June 20, 2012

The Earth Summit of the United Nations being held in Rio de Janeiro had yet to begin, and the specialists were already predicting a dire impasse over the issues of climate change and even setbacks on such central challenges as the human right to water and the protection of biodiversity. In parallel with this tragicomedy and a few weeks after the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) launched a dramatic appeal for the protection of natural resources, social and environmental movements have marshaled their forces in the heart of the People’s Summit to propose a vision of the world based on social and environmental justice. The 50,000 and more people who are participating in this process invites international social movements and the entire population in general to share and disseminate this vision which insists on a world respectful of life and the common goods.

What is the Green Economy?: Anil Naidoo of Blue Planet Project at Rio+20

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Science, Ecology, and Socialism

By Michelle Foy & Fernando Marti 

All life on this planet is at a crossroads. Science, as well as our everyday experience, tells us so. The mass disappearance of bees, rising food prices, a lack of healthy jobs, and the privatization and decreasing access to clean, drinkable water are just a few examples of the related and deep crises we're facing. If many things don't fundamentally shift in the next 50 years, then we'll be facing some of the biggest challenges we've seen in our history as a human species.

This piece will not be a laundry list of what's happening in our world today. Again, each and everyone of us lives it everyday. If you are interested in understanding more about what's happening, specifically about the crises with climate, energy, toxics, water, and food and what it means for us, particularly working class and oppressed communities today, please check out:

What needs to shift and what might things look like for life on this planet under a different economic, political and social system, under 21st century socialism? We humbly offer some thoughts, after the fortune of engaging with a range of visionaries and revolutionaries around humanity's potential and necessity to live in a fully re-imagined way in our relationships to each other and to all life on earth.

Under 21st century socialism, our structures, our institutions, our economies, our communities, and our families will develop out of a fundamental understanding of interdependence and relationship. Why? Because in this new system, where the "bottom line" does not reign supreme, where people and all life on the planet come before profits, we will understand that in order to survive and thrive we have to live within our limits as a species and understand the consequence of living as a part of a whole.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Environmental activists 'being killed at rate of two a week'

Death toll of campaigners involved in protection of forests, rivers and land has almost doubled in three years

Jonathan Watts in Rio de Janeiro,

19 June 2012

Amazon rainforest activists José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva and Maria do Espirito Santo, who were murdered last year. Photograph: Reuters 

The struggle for the world's remaining natural resources is becoming more murderous, according to a new report that reveals that environmental activists were killed at the rate of more than two a week in 2011.

The death toll of campaigners, community leaders and journalists involved in the protection of forests, rivers and land has risen dramatically in the past three years, said Global Witness.

Brazil – the host of the Rio+20 conference on sustainable development – has the worst record for danger in a decade that has seen the deaths of more than 737 defenders, said the briefing, which was released on the eve of the high-level segment of the Earth Summit.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Rio+20: Canada shielding fossil fuel subsidies at Earth Summit

By Mike De Souza
Postmedia News
June 16, 2012

An indigenous man from the Tsleil-Waututh nation of Canada, prays to sacred fire during a ceremony of the "ancient indigenous fire lighting" ceremony at Kari-Oca village in Rio de Janeiro June 13, 2012. Indigenous people from many countries have gathered in the village for the "Rio +20" United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, that will be held from June 20 to 22.Photograph by: Ricardo Moraes , Reuters

Canada is making waves heading into the global Rio+20 Earth Summit by trying to prevent the conference from adopting commitments requiring an end to public fossil fuel subsidies.

Environment Minister Peter Kent was unable to explain why Canadian negotiators were trying to ask the conference to "consider" eliminating the subsidies instead of supporting the positions of others, such as the European Union, who are calling for a firm commitment for a full phase-out.

The details of the Canadian government negotiating tactics have emerged through a leaked draft text obtained by Britain's Guardian newspaper.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Beautiful green world? On the myth of the green capitalist economy

By the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation

Confronting the Rio+20 “greed economy:” Calls for rights for Mother Earth

Global  Justice Ecology Project
June 16, 2012

“Green economy is about cheating nature while making profit out of it.” – Pablo Solón, Former Bolivian Ambassador to UN, Director Focus on the Global South

With over 50,000 accredited participants registered, Rio+20 is expected to be the largest gathering in the history of the UN. The Green Economy put forward by the United Nations Environment Program (nicknamed the “Greed Economy” by many) is about promoting the idea that we can only “save” nature by putting a price tag on what nature “does” for us. Proponents call it “ecosystem services” and from forests generating the air we breathe to the decomposition process resulting in the ground we walk upon, everything has its price, and corporate executives are wringing their hands with anticipation of what the Greed Economy could do for profit margins.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Climate change to warm Canada with increased temperatures of up to 2˚C by 2020 and 4˚C by 2050

Canada NewsWire
June 11, 2012

Canada's most comprehensive climate change adaptation report calls for immediate action

Intact Financial Corporation and the University of Waterloo, along with more than 80 experts from across the country, today released the Climate Change Adaptation Project report, which provides a roadmap for adaptation in Canada. It projects rising temperatures across the country and substantial fluctuations in precipitation levels, all of which will leave a range of sectors, cities and rural regions in Canada vulnerable. City infrastructure, biodiversity, freshwater resources, Aboriginal communities and agriculture were targeted as the most vulnerable areas where adaptive solutions to address climate change are most urgently required. The report outlines 20 practical and cost-effective recommendations that can be implemented on a priority basis in the short term.

To guide the project, climate projections for Canada were developed. The results are striking. Canada will continue to warm by up to 2˚C by 2020 and 4˚C by 2050. The most significant impact will be in the Arctic, which will see increases of up to 4˚C by 2020 and 8˚C by 2050, along with increased precipitation of up to 20 per cent by 2020 and 40 per cent by 2050. Climate change will impact regions across Canada differently. For example, Vancouver will see a decrease in summer precipitation, Winnipeg will see an increase in winter precipitation and Toronto and Montreal will see milder winters.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Rio+20: The Great Greenwashers

By Xanna Ward-Dixon and Nick Harvey
New Internationalist 
June 2012

The Rio+20 Earth Summit will take place June 20-22. Make this month's New Internationalist your unofficial guide to the conference. Remember things are not always what they seem...

Drum roll please. Let me introduce to you the greatest magicians, conjurers and illusionists of all time. The greatest masters of deception. The Great Greenwashers...

Step up Royal Dutch Shell, the only company cheeky enough to describe sucking oil from Canadian tar sands as a contribution to a sustainable energy future. For Shell it’s a no-brainer: why invest in renewables like you promised when you can be the first foreigners to frack in China? One thing’s for sure, you can never be sure of Shell!

Next up is GM agricultural giant and master of deception Monsanto. The company that brought the world Agent Orange wants to hypnotize away seeds of doubt with its boasts of ‘improving lives’ through ‘sustainable agriculture.’ But before you sign up for their magic beans you may want to check the small print: it’s been argued that paltry crop yields and the need for more pesticides can make their seeds a farming nightmare...

And last but most definitely not least is HSBC. The world’s local bank promises to respect environmental limits. It does this by investing in such daring acts as coal mining, offshore oil and gas drilling, tar sands, mega-dams, the arms trade, logging and so much more!
‘Eight Great Greenwashers’ which examines the green claims of Shell, Monsanto, Vale and others features in June's magazine Protection racket? Guide to the Rio+20 earth summit. Other featuresinclude:
‘Sustainability for sale?’ – a battle is brewing over the future of global action. Danny Chivers presents the unofficial guide to the Rio+20.

‘The good life is the realistic solution’ – indigenous activist Ruth Buendia's take on sustainable development.

‘Tools that might help us’ – an overview of ideas that different groups and movements have suggested for inclusion in the Rio+20 Final Declaration.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Bill C-38: Implementing Environmental Neglect?

By Joe Gunn
June 4th, 2012

Bill C-38 is supposed to implement provisions made in the March 29th federal budget. But as CPJ wrote last week, this omnibus Bill includes much more.

Over one-third of this legislation deals with environmental issues, much of which was not mentioned in the Budget Speech itself. Here, there are enormous implications for Canadians and the environment.

For example, let’s look at what Bill C-38 does about climate change.

Scott Vaughan, Canada’s Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, reported to Parliament on May 8. Vaughan said that the federal government has not complied with the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, and will not meet its current target for greenhouse gas emission reductions of 17 percent by the year 2020. In fact, Environment Canada’s own forecast shows that in 2020, Canada’s emissions will be 7 percent above the 2005 level.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Stephen Harper government turns environmentalists into public enemies

By Linda McQuaig
June 4, 2012

Nicole Eaton
Nicole Eaton may be Canada’s Mitt Romney.

The Republican presidential candidate comes across as a wealthy patrician with little sense of how tough the world can be for people who don’t have tens of millions of dollars at their disposal.

That tendency also seems to afflict Eaton, a wealthy Conservative fundraiser appointed to the Senate by Stephen Harper. She’s a leading figure in the Harper government’s campaign to aggressively go after environmental activist groups by threatening their charitable status.
“I don’t understand their fear of a chill,” Eaton told the Globe and Mail last week. Eaton, who was born wealthy and married into the Canadian department store fortune, has probably never experienced the kind of fear that the Harper government seems bent on instilling in environmental activists who dare to challenge its agenda.

Mission Tree: Six Years Boosting Eco-Socialism in Venezuela

Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela
June 4, 2012

Today, Mission Tree, Venezuela’s national reforestation program, celebrates its sixth anniversary promoting environmentalism and giving people the possibility to build a model of development that helps recover and preserve wooded areas in Venezuela.

On June 4, 2006, Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez launched this mission to rescue and preserve the country’s wooded areas through reforestation efforts to protect agro-forest and commercial-industrial areas.

Through the program, communities throughout the country present proposals for protecting the environment and preserving drinking water and biodiversity. These efforts are possible thanks to the conservationist committees that work in each state with support of the government.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Budget Blackout

Harmony and Ecological Civilization: Beyond the Capitalist Alienation of Nature

By Fred Magdoff
Monthly Review
June 2012

This article was prepared for presentation to the conference on “Harmony and Ecological Civilization” organized for a group of visiting Chinese academics interested in ecological Marxism by the Institute for Postmodern Development of China (IPDC), Claremont, California, on April 27 and 28, 2012. Sponsors of the conference from China included: the Central Bureau of Compilation and Translation of the CCP and the China Society for the Dialectics of Nature.

Let me begin by making clear that I am not a philosopher nor am I well versed in Chinese cultural history. My background is in agriculture, specifically soil fertility and health, from which I have branched out into areas of ecology and ecological approaches to agriculture and society.

With that background in mind, when I consider the concept of harmony in the context of humans, their societies, and the environment I have a particular understanding of the concept. It refers to all people living together peacefully without exploitation of one person by another, each able to reach his or her full human potential, in a society in which everyone has their basic material and nonmaterial needs satisfied, feels secure, safe, happy, and fulfilled as human beings. In addition, the concept also implies harmony between people, the environment, and the other species we share the planet with. People need fully to understand, and act in such ways that indicate, that they are embedded in nature and dependent upon it—not just to obtain natural resources needed for human life, but also that their lives are made richer and protected by biodiversity and the smooth and efficient functioning of the many cycles of nature such as the water and nutrient cycles.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Venezuelan Declaration Toward RIO + 20: Against the Green Economy

Climate Connections
June 1, 2012

We, wrestlers and fighters for the defense of life, gathered in the third Venezuelan Congress of Biological Diversity, we discussed about the multiple dimensions related to the preservation of life by contributing to the deepening of the struggle of the social movements and the new institutions, thus promoting organizational link scenarios in the collective construction of environmental policies of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

The rich debate that was generated during the third CVDB, among more than 3500 people, is a valuable input to strengthen the position of our country in the face of Rio +20, by contributing to the construction of another economy, based on respect for the nature and men and women, to eradicate all forms of poverty, domination and colonialism, which starts from this dialogue of knowledge and the collective construction of speeches, agendas for struggle and deconstruction of a system and logical thinkingexhausted, responsible for current global environmental crisis.

From our different ways of thinking and spirituality, nature is our natural heritage, the basis of diversity of knowledge, cultures, lifestyles and sovereignty of peoples. Nature is for us a source of food, water, building materials, inspiration and therefore can not conceive of a world based on its commercialization.

Inclusive Green Growth or Extractive Greenwashed Decay?

By Patrick Bond
Pambazuka News
2012-05-31, Issue 587

The debate over the Green Economy rages on next month in Rio de Janeiro, at the International Society for Ecological Economics meetings, the Cupula dos Povos alternative people’s summit, and the UN’s Rio+20 Earth Summit. Proponents and critics of ‘green growth’ capitalism will butt heads using narratives about valuations of nature and the efficacy of markets.

Boiling down a complex argument from her book Eco-Sufficiency & Global Justice, University of Sydney-based political ecologist Ariel Salleh observes how a triple externalization of costs ‘takes the form of an extraction of surpluses, both economic and thermodynamic: 1) a social debt to inadequately paid workers; 2) an embodied debt to women family caregivers; and 3) an ecological debt drawn on nature at large.’

At minimum, addressing these problems requires full-fledged re-accounting to toss out the fatally-flawed GDP indicator, and to internalize environment and society in the ways we assess costs and benefits. This exercise would logically both precede and catalyze a full-fledged transformation of financing, extraction, production, transport and distribution, consumption and disposal systems.

RIO+20: Canada, Last Holdout, Drops Opposition to Water as Human Right

By Thaliff Deen
June 1, 2012
Some 3.4 million people die each year from water, sanitation and hygiene-related causes. Credit: Eva Bartlett/IPS
Some 3.4 million people die each year from water, sanitation and hygiene-related causes. Credit: Eva Bartlett/IPS
Canada, in a dramatic political turnaround, has signaled its willingness to recognise water and sanitation as a basic human right.

As negotiations continue over the Rio+20 plan of action on sustainable development to be adopted in Brazil next month, Canada became one of the last Western nations to drop its opposition to a reference to water as a human right in the document titled “The Future We Want.”

Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians, one of Canada’s largest social justice advocacy organisations, said it took “unprecedented pressure” to get the government in Ottawa to change its position.