Reclaiming Our Future at Rio+20: The Green Economy Versus Rights of Mother Earth

The international peasants and farmers organization, La Via Campesina, ends their global Call to Action for the upcoming June 16-18 Rio +20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) with ‘GLOBALIZE THE STRUGGLE!! GLOBALIZE HOPE!!!’

The stakes are high in Rio. As Via Campesina points out, “Twenty years later, governments should have reconvened to review their commitments and progress, but in reality the issue to debate will be the “green economy” led development, propagating the same capitalist model that caused climate chaos and other deep social and environmental crises.”

Critiquing the focus on corporate ‘Green Economy’ evident in the march to Rio documents and planning, Via states:

“Today the “greening of the economy” pushed forward in the run-up to Rio+20 is based on the same logic and mechanisms that are destroying the planet and keeping people hungry. For instance, it seeks to incorporate aspects of the failed “green revolution” in a broader manner in order to ensure the needs of the industrial sectors of production, such as promoting the uniformity of seeds, patented seeds by corporation, genetically modified seeds, etc.

The capitalist economy, based on the over-exploitation of natural resources and human beings, will never become “green.” It is based on limitless growth in a planet that has reached its limits and on the commoditization of the remaining natural resources that have until now remained un-priced or in control of the public sector.

In this period of financial crisis, global capitalism seeks new forms of accumulation. It is during these periods of crisis in which capitalism can most accumulate. Today, it is the territories and the commons which are the main target of capital. As such, the green economy is nothing more than a green mask for capitalism. It is also a new mechanism to appropriate our forests, rivers, land… of our territories!

Since last year’s preparatory meetings towards Rio+20, agriculture has been cited as one of the causes of climate change. Yet no distinction is made in the official negotiations between industrial and peasant agriculture, and no explicit difference between their effects on poverty, climate and other social issues we face.

The “green economy” is marketed as a way to implement sustainable development for those countries which continue to experience high and disproportionate levels of poverty, hunger and misery. In reality, what is proposed is another phase of what we identify as “green structural adjustment programs” which seek to align and re-order the national markets and regulations to submit to the fast incoming “green capitalism”.

Investment capital now seeks new markets through the “green economy”; securing the natural resources of the world as primary inputs and commodities for industrial production, as carbon sinks or even for speculation. This is being demonstrated by increasing land grabs globally, for crop production for both export and agrofuels. New proposals such as “climate smart” agriculture, which calls for the “sustainable intensification” of agriculture, also embody the goal of corporations and agri-business to over exploit the earth while labeling it “green”, and making peasants dependent on high-cost seeds and inputs. New generations of polluting permits are issued for the industrial sector, especially those found in developed countries, such as what is expected from programs such as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD++) and other environmental services schemes.

The green economy seeks to ensure that the ecological and biological systems of our planet remain at the service of capitalism, by the intense use of various forms of biotechnologies, synthetic technologies and geo-engineering. GMO’s and biotechnology are key parts of the industrial agriculture promoted within the framework of “green economy”.

The promotion of the green economy includes calls for the full implementation of the WTO Doha Round, the elimination of all trade barriers to incoming “green solutions,” the financing and support of financial institutions such as the World Bank and projects such as US-AID programs, and the continued legitimization of the international institutions that serve to perpetuate and promote global capitalism.

In April 2011 Global Exchange, in collaboration with the Council of Canadians and Fundacion Pachamama, released a book called The Rights of Nature: The Case for a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth, which featured a chapter by then-Ambassador to the UN for Bolivia, Pablo Solon, titled ‘The Green Economy Versus the Rights of Mother Earth’. In it, he states,

“…From the point of view of these proponents of the green economy, in order to re-establish equilibrium with Nature, we must assign an economic value to the environmental “services” nature provides. An underlying assumption is only that which can be owned and profited from deserves stewardship.”

“…We are facing a debate in the United Nations among those that believe we need to strengthen the capitalist logic as it related to Nature, and others that suggest we should recognize the Rights of Nature. These are two very different conceptions. One advocates the path of the market, and the other the past of recognizing and respecting the larger system of the planet Earth on which we all live. The future of humans and Nature depends on the path humanity chooses.”

Global Exchange will be on the ground in Rio – promoting the Rights of Nature. Read more about the Community Rights Campaign here and join Via Campesina in the Call to Action. They:

… declare the week of June 5th, as a major world week in defense of the environment and against transnational corporations and invite everyone across the world to mobilize:

•    Defend sustainable peasant agriculture;
•    Occupy land for the production of agroecological and non-market dominated food;
•    Reclaim and exchange native seeds;
•    Protest against Exchange and Marketing Board offices and call for an end to speculative markets on commodities and land;
•    Hold local assemblies of People Affected by Capitalism;
•    Dream of a different world and create it!!

Global Exchange stands with Via Campesina to ‘GLOBALIZE THE STRUGGLE!! GLOBALIZE HOPE!!!’

  • Live in the Bay Area and want to learn more about the call for the Rights of Mother Earth at Rio+20? Attend the upcoming Rights of Nature seminar hosted by the Women’s Earth and Climate Caucus in Marin County April 13th-14th.