Saving Capitalism or Saving the Planet? • Global Research


The UK government’s Behavioural Insights Team helped to push the public towards accepting the COVID narrative, restrictions and lockdowns. It is now working on ‘nudging’ people towards further possible restrictions or at least big changes in their behaviour in the name of ‘climate emergency’. From frequent news stories and advertisements to soap opera storylines and government announcements, the message about impending climate catastrophe is almost relentless.

Part of the messaging includes blaming the public’s consumption habits for a perceived ‘climate emergency’. At the same time, young people are being told that we only have a decade or so (depending on who is saying it) to ‘save the planet’.

Setting the agenda are powerful corporations that helped degrade much of the environment in the first place. But ordinary people, not the multi-billionaires pushing this agenda, will pay the price for this as living more frugally seems to be part of the programme (‘own nothing and be happy’). Could we at some future point see ‘climate emergency’ lockdowns, not to ‘save the NHS’ but to ‘save the planet’?

A tendency to focus on individual behaviour and not ‘the system’ exists.

But let us not forget this is a system that deliberately sought to eradicate a culture of self-reliance that prevailed among the working class in the 19th century (self-education, recycling products, a culture of thrift, etc) via advertising and a formal school education that ensured conformity and set in motion a lifetime of wage labour and dependency on the products manufactured by an environmentally destructive capitalism.

A system that has its roots in inflicting massive violence across the globe to exert control over land and resources elsewhere.

In his 2018 book ‘The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequalities and its solutions’, Jason Hickel describes the processes involved in Europe’s wealth accumulation over a 150-year period of colonialism that resulted in tens of millions of deaths.

By using other countries’ land, Britain effectively doubled the size of arable land in its control. This made it more practical to then reassign the rural population at home (by stripping people of their means of production) to industrial labour. This too was underpinned by massive violence (burning villages, destroying houses, razing crops).

Hickel argues that none of this was inevitable but was rooted in the fear of being left behind by other countries because of Europe’s relative lack of land resources to produce commodities.

This is worth bearing in mind as we currently witness a fundamental shift in our relationship to the state resulting from authoritarian COVID-related policies and the rapidly emerging corporate-led green agenda. We should never underestimate the ruthlessness involved in the quest for preserving wealth and power and the propensity for wrecking lives and nature to achieve this.

Commodification of nature

Current green agenda ‘solutions’ are based on a notion of ‘stakeholder’ capitalism or private-public partnerships whereby vested interests are accorded greater weight, with governments and public money merely facilitating the priorities of private capital.

A key component of this strategy involves the ‘financialisation of nature’ and the production of new ‘green’ markets to deal with capitalism’s crisis of over accumulation and weak consumer demand caused by decades of neoliberal policies and the declining purchasing power of working people. The banking sector is especially set to make a killing via ‘green profiling’ and ‘green bonds’.

According to Friends of the Earth (FoE), corporations and states will use the financialisation of nature discourse to weaken laws and regulations designed to protect the environment with the aim of facilitating the goals of extractive industries, while allowing mega-infrastructure projects in protected areas and other contested places.

Global corporations will be able to ‘offset’ (greenwash) their activities by, for example, protecting or planting a forest elsewhere (on indigenous people’s land) or perhaps even investing in (imposing) industrial agriculture which grows herbicide-resistant GMO commodity crop monocultures that are misleadingly portrayed as ‘climate friendly’.

FoE states:“Offsetting schemes allow companies to exceed legally defined limits of destruction at a particular location, or destroy protected habitat, on the promise of compensation elsewhere; and allow banks to finance such destruction on the same premise.”

This agenda could result in the weakening of current environmental protection legislation or its eradication in some regions under the pretext of compensating for the effects elsewhere. How ecoservice ‘assets’ (for example, a forest that performs a service to the ecosystem by acting as a carbon sink) are to be evaluated in a monetary sense is very likely to be done on terms that are highly favourable to the corporations involved, meaning that environmental protection will play second fiddle to corporate and finance sector return-on-investment interests.

As FoE argues, business wants this system to be implemented on its terms, which means the bottom line will be more important than stringent rules that prohibit environmental destruction.

Saving capitalism

The envisaged commodification of nature will ensure massive profit-seeking opportunities through the opening up of new markets and the creation of fresh investment instruments.

Capitalism needs to keep expanding into or creating new markets to ensure the accumulation of capital to offset the tendency for the general rate of profit to fall (according to writer Ted Reese, it has trended downwards from an estimated 43% in the 1870s to 17% in the 2000s). The system suffers from a rising overaccumulation (surplus) of capital.Reese notes that, although wages and corporate taxes have been slashed, the exploitability of labour continued to become increasingly insufficient to meet the demands of capital accumulation. By late 2019, the world economy was suffocating under a mountain of debt. Many companies could not generate enough profit and falling turnover, squeezed margins, limited cashflows and highly leveraged balance sheets were prevalent. In effect, economic growth was already grinding to a halt prior to the massive stock market crash in February 2020.

In the form of COVID ‘relief’, there has been a multi-trillion bailout for capitalism as well as the driving of smaller enterprises to bankruptcy. Or they have being swallowed up by global interests. Either way, the likes of Amazon and other predatory global corporations have been the winners.

New ‘green’ Ponzi trading schemes to offset carbon emissions and commodify ‘ecoservices’ along with electric vehicles and an ‘energy transition’ represent a further restructuring of the capitalist economy, resulting in a shift away from a consumer oriented demand-led system.

It essentially leaves those responsible for environmental degradation at the wheel, imposing their will and their narrative on the rest of us.

Global agribusiness

Between 2000 and 2009, Indonesia supplied more than half of the global palm oil market at an annual expense of some 340,000 hectares of Indonesian countryside. Consider too that Brazil and Indonesia have spent over 100 times more in subsidies to industries that cause deforestation than they received in international conservation aid from the UN to prevent it.

These two countries gave over $40bn in subsidies to the palm oil, timber, soy, beef and biofuels sectors between 2009 and 2012, some 126 times more than the $346m they received to preserve their rain forests.

India is the world’s leading importer of palm oil, accounting for around 15% of the global supply. It imports over two-­thirds of its palm oil from Indonesia.

Until the mid-1990s, India was virtually self-sufficient in edible oils. Under pressure from the World Trade Organization (WTO), import tariffs were reduced, leading to an influx of cheap (subsidised) edible oil imports that domestic farmers could not compete with. This was a deliberate policy that effectively devastated the home-grown edible oils sector and served the interests of palm oil growers and US grain and agriculture commodity company Cargill, which helped write international trade rules to secure access to the Indian market on its terms.

Indonesia leads the world in global palm oil production, but palm oil plantations have too often replaced tropical forests, leading to the killing of endangered species and the uprooting of local communities as well as contributing to the release of potential environment-damaging gases. Indonesia emits more of these gases than any country besides China and the US, largely due to the production of palm oil.

The issue of palm oil is one example from the many that could be provided to highlight how the drive to facilitate corporate need and profit trumps any notion of environmental protection or addressing any ‘climate emergency’. Whether it is in Indonesia, Latin America or elsewhere, transnational agribusiness – and the system of globalised industrial commodity crop agriculture it promotes – fuels much of the destruction we see today.

Even if the mass production of lab-created food, under the guise of ‘saving the planet’ and ‘sustainability’, becomes logistically possible (which despite all the hype is not at this stage), it may still need biomass and huge amounts of energy. Whose land will be used to grow these biomass commodities and which food crops will they replace? And will it involve that now-famous Gates’ euphemism ‘land mobility’ (farmers losing their land)?

Microsoft is already mapping Indian farmers’ lands and capturing agriculture datasets such as crop yields, weather data, farmers’ personal details, profile of land held (cadastral maps, farm size, land titles, local climatic and geographical conditions), production details (crops grown, production history, input history, quality of output, machinery in possession) and financial details (input costs, average return, credit history).

Is this an example of stakeholder-partnership capitalism, whereby a government facilitates the gathering of such information by a private player which can then use the data for developing a land market (courtesy of land law changes that the government enacts) for institutional investors at the expense of smallholder farmers who find themselves ‘land mobile’? This is a major concern among farmers and civil society in India.

Back in 2017, agribusiness giant Monsanto was judged to have engaged in practices that impinged on the basic human right to a healthy environment, the right to food and the right to health. Judges at the ‘Monsanto Tribunal’, held in The Hague, concluded that if ecocide were to be formally recognised as a crime in international criminal law, Monsanto could be found guilty.

The tribunal called for the need to assert the primacy of international human and environmental rights law. However, it was also careful to note that an existing set of legal rules serves to protect investors’ rights in the framework of the WTO and in bilateral investment treaties and in clauses in free trade agreements. These investor trade rights provisions undermine the capacity of nations to maintain policies, laws and practices protecting human rights and the environment and represent a disturbing shift in power.

The tribunal denounced the severe disparity between the rights of multinational corporations and their obligations.

While the Monsanto Tribunal judged that company to be guilty of human rights violations, including crimes against the environment, in a sense we also witnessed global capitalism on trial.

Global conglomerates can only operate as they do because of a framework designed to allow them to capture or co-opt governments and regulatory bodies and to use the WTO and bilateral trade deals to lever influence. As Jason Hickel notes in his book (previously referred to), old-style colonialism may have gone but governments in the Global North and its corporations have found new ways to assert dominance via leveraging aid, market access and ‘philanthropic’ interventions to force lower income countries to do what they want.

The World Bank’s ‘Enabling the Business of Agriculture’ and its ongoing commitment to an unjust model of globalisation is an example of this and a recipe for further plunder and the concentration of power and wealth in the hands of the few.

Brazil and Indonesia have subsidised private corporations to effectively destroy the environment through their practices. Canada and the UK are working with the GMO biotech sector to facilitate its needs. And India is facilitating the destruction of its agrarian base according to World Bank directives for the benefit of the likes of Corteva and Cargill.

The TRIPS Agreement, written by Monsanto, and the WTO Agreement on Agriculture, written by Cargill, was key to a new era of corporate imperialism. It came as little surprise that in 2013 India’s then Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar accused US companies of derailing the nation’s oil seeds production programme.

Powerful corporations continue to regard themselves as the owners of people, the planet and the environment and as having the right – enshrined in laws and agreements they wrote – to exploit and devastate for commercial gain.

Partnership or co-option?

It was noticeable during a debate on food and agriculture at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow that there was much talk about transforming the food system through partnerships and agreements. Fine-sounding stuff, especially when the role of agroecology and regenerative farming was mentioned.

However, if, for instance, the interests you hope to form partnerships with are coercing countries to eradicate their essential buffer food stocks then bid for such food on the global market with US dollars (as in India) or are lobbying for the enclosure of seeds through patents (as in Africa and elsewhere), then surely this deliberate deepening of dependency should be challenged; otherwise ‘partnership’ really means co-option.

Similarly, the UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) that took place during September in New York was little more than an enabler of corporate needs. The UNFSS was founded on a partnership between the UN and the World Economic Forum and was disproportionately influenced by corporate actors.

Those granted a pivotal role at the UNFSS support industrial food systems that promote ultra-processed foods, deforestation, industrial livestock production, intensive pesticide use and commodity crop monocultures, all of which cause soil deterioration, water contamination and irreversible impacts on biodiversity and human health. And this will continue as long as the environmental effects can be ‘offset’ or these practices can be twisted on the basis of them somehow being ‘climate-friendly’.

Critics of the UNFSS offer genuine alternatives to the prevailing food system. In doing so, they also provide genuine solutions to climate-related issues and food injustice based on notions of food sovereignty, localisation and a system of food cultivation deriving from agroecological principles and practices. Something which people who organised the climate summit in Glasgow would do well to bear in mind.

Current greenwashed policies are being sold by tugging at the emotional heartstrings of the public. This green agenda, with its lexicon of ‘sustainability’, ‘carbon neutrality’, ‘net-zero’ and doom-laden forecasts, is part of a programme that seeks to restructure capitalism, to create new investment markets and instruments and to return the system to viable levels of profitability.

Colin Todhunter, independent writer and analyst specialising in development, food and agriculture based in Europe/India, Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG)

2 thoughts on “Saving Capitalism or Saving the Planet? • Global Research

  1. The Green Agenda, from what I see, is about taxing people to death in order to support it; making companies richer by supporting new technology that people may or may nor want but which will be forced down our throats; government control of everybody and everything; and shifting ecological damage to less prosperous countries, as you pointed out. With strict environmental rules in place in the USA, we began getting more food from Mexico and other countries where banned pesticides are being used, so consumers are still getting the high doses of pesticides that were originally banned. Makes no sense. And who’s going to force China to comply with environmental regulations when they don’t care if their own people live or die? Also, when I see morally questionable people like Bill Gates buying up farmland – after he has publicly stated that 15% of the human population should be reduced – I have to wonder about his motives. Controlling the food supply is how you really control the people, and that hasn’t worked out too well in Africa, has it? Reminds me of the movie, “The Omen.” I’ve been watching the climate change for the last 40 years, so it’s already happening – not something that anyone can prevent. And no human – no matter who they are – can control Mother Nature and the weather. Not even China. And what about the unintended consequences that scientists always create? I see this is a power grab more than anything else by people who may or may not really believe in climate change. It’s up to us – all the people -whether we go along with it or not.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. This absolutely is a power grab. Multinational, juggernaut corporations are in control. Their control; it’s ownership of the world’s needed, natural and precious resources (land, precious metals, clean water, food supply, fuels, materials). True control over the people, indeed.

      Furthermore, they possess carte blanche authority over distribution of the resources (ie market prices, supply chain management). The ordinary people need them and ordinary people are at the mercy of the multinational corporations methods of conducting business.

      Nation-State governmental powers, in my opinion, were subsumed by the transnational globalization intiatives in the early 1990s:

      First, NAFTA: the elimination of all tariff and non-tariff barriers of trade and investment between the United States, Canada and Mexico. Multinational corporations usurped the regulatory compliance powers of the three nations. Along with the essential erasure of borders, hence, national sovereignty of nations (in term of conducting business) – that same energy behind NAFTA inspired multinational corporations to become just that indeed: multinational – no longer having to answer to the laws of individual nation-states.

      Second, the Maastricht Treaty, formally establishing the European Union (EU): with this, like NAFTA, trade regulations amongst participating nations were loosened tremendously. Also, it allowed for open movement of citizens of the nations under the EU umbrella. With restrictive regulatory compliance measures being diminished, like with NAFTA, multinational corporations now superceded the laws of individual nation-states, when it came to conducting business.

      Third, was the opening up of the internet and world wide web to multinational corporations to conduct business. The proponents of globalization, organizations like the World Trade Organization (WTO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), alongside others – in tandem with the European Union and United States congress, passed into legislation, many layers and levels of policy allowing for the multinational corporations to now supercede any national sovereignty of individual nation-states in terms of utilizing the internet to open the floods gates for globalization.

      I would like to point out that along with NAFTA, the EU and the engine of international commerce receiving a tremendous, exponential boost by being allowed to conduct business in various forms on the internet, which all came to be from 1992 thru 1994, also came the United Nations’ Agenda 21, a manifesto for implementation of global governance, with it’s entire framework for this necessitation built around “environmental conservation.” Agenda 21 itself did not gain the traction the United Nations hoped for, however, it’s current iteration, Agenda 2030, has infact, gained ENORMOUS TRACTION – as the World Economic Forum’s “Great Reset”, is the partnership between the United Nations and the World Economic Forum (Davos) to implement a series of seismic movements of the social, economic, academic, political paradigms called the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) called for in Agenda 2030. I spent some time putting together my own analysis of this undertaking here:

      Now, with the “Green Agenda” , we must keep in mind that at first, there were think tanks, foundations and NPO/NGOs established that indeed were concerned for the health of the planet. They were concerned with the vegetation, the endangered species, etc. And others saw “green house gas emissions” as a serious threat to the Ozone Layer. However, the genuine concern about the environment was officially hijacked by the proponents of a One World Order. If you would like, I wrote a blog post in which I put some serious effort into understanding the ramifications of what this organization’s actions have had on the hijacking of “climate emergency” to be used for the implementation of a system of global governance:

      The Club of Rome, a similar type of consortium as the Bilderberg Group or Trilateral Commission or World Economic Forum, introduced the “climate emergency” as a basis for unifying the citizenry of the planet under a shared “salvo” … climate change, like the virus or cyber meltdowns, is a convenient Boogeyman that the power structure can use to inject fear into the people – invisible, ever-growing, ever-evasive, ever-deadly and so on…so any legitimate true-to-life concern for the conservation of the environment has been augmented and manipulated by the powers that be, namely the multinational corporations, to continue the consolidation of worldwide wealth, power and resources that has been the outcome of globalization.

      Along with globalization, multinational corporations have succeeded in capturing the entire legislative apparatus of all nation-states, as lobbying efforts and campaign contributions that come from the multinational corporations aka “special interests” now exceed those from any other form of grassroots efforts. So, with that, here in the United States especially, both incumbents and candidates for Senate, House of Representatives (on the federal level) as well as gubernatorial elections (state level) and so on – policy is enacted at the behest of the supranational special interests.

      As you stated taxation, in regards to the Green Agenda, which has been absorbed by the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals, stated in Agenda 2030, comes a new framework for the valuation of businesses called the ESG – Environmental, Society, Governance performance metrics. I believe that this new standardization will be used in order to levy additional taxation on all types of entities; from lone individual sole proprietorships, to small businesses, to medium sized businesses, to the mega-ultra behemoth supranational global corporations – basing taxation upon violations of the ESG creedo.
      You are absolutely right, no one can overcome mother nature, it has been a motto of mine even long before I added the tagline to this blog “nature has us all in immutable checkmate” – however, the global power structure can most absolutely capitalize upon the ordinary events of nature, attribute them to global warming/climate change, continue to soften the ground with propaganda to gain popular consensus that a climate emergency looms over the survival of humanity – all the while the entire modus operandi of the global power structure is to weaponize climate change in order to implement the rigid surveillance and law enforcement mechanisms with the aim of an inevitable consolidation of all wealth, power and resources into the hands of very few – all the while the ordinary people across the globe acquiesce to the demands of the One World Order.

      Liked by 1 person

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