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‘Green economy’ versus the rights of nature

Pablo Solón, Climate & Capitalism
Almost one thousand dolphins are lying dead on the beach. Another five thousand pelicans have also been found dead. What is the cause of this massacre? There are different explanations. Some argue that it was the offshore oil exploration while others say that these birds are dying because anchovy, their main food, has disappeared as a result of the sudden heating of coastal waters due to climate change.

Whatever the explanation, the fact is that during the past months, the coasts off Peru have become the silent witness of what the capitalist system is doing to Nature.

In the period from 1970 to 2008, the Earth System has lost 30% of its biodiversity. In tropical areas, the loss has even been as high as 60%. This is not happening by accident. This is the result of an economic system that treats nature as a thing, as just a source of resources. For capitalists, nature is mainly an object to possess, exploit, transform and especially to profit from…
(7 June 2012)

We must set planetary boundaries wisely

Simon L. Lewis, Nature
As pressure on resources increases, pollution accumulates and humanity’s impact on Earth escalates, global-scale governance of the environment is increasingly necessary. In June, the United Nations’ Rio+20 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, will grapple with these difficult political issues. Up for discussion is a relatively new scientific concept: planetary boundaries.

Formulated in 2009 by Johan Rockström, director of the Stockholm Environment Institute, and his colleagues, the concept is based on the idea that humanity flourished under the conditions on Earth in the 10,000 years leading up to the industrial revolution — the Holocene epoch. So, to maintain human progress, we should keep the planet under similar biophysical conditions. The researchers set out nine key environmental measures and thresholds that should not be breached for fear of pushing Earth out of the Holocene-like ‘safe operating space for humanity’. The boundaries include thresholds for climate change and biodiversity loss that have already been crossed.

The idea is conceptually brilliant and politically seductive…
(23 May 2012)

The Denialism of Progressive Environmentalists

Bill Blackwater, Monthly Review
In 2003 Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, two prominent environmental lobbyists, founded the Breakthrough Institute, a think tank dedicated to modernizing what they call “liberal-progressive-green politics.” Its focus is on winning support from mainstream businesses, politicians, and consumers with an attractive message: by developing the right technologies and policy tools, tackling climate change and increasing wealth can go hand-in-hand.

In their essay, “The Death of Environmentalism” (2004) and book, Break Through: Why We Can’t Leave Saving the Planet to Environmentalists (2007) Nordhaus and Shellenberger focus on educating and disciplining environmentalists to work with the grain of capitalism, rather than against it. Most of all, this has meant attacking that core principle of environmentalist thought—there are limits to economic growth. They say that this is both too negative in tone, and fundamentally wrong when it comes to tackling climate change. It will require massive investment in low carbon technologies, they argue, which in turn will depend on strong and ongoing growth…
(June 2012)

International trade ‘driving nature loss’

Richard Black, BBC
Almost a third of threats to animal species around the world stem from trade to meet the demands of richer nations, a study concludes.

Forests are cut down for coffee and cocoa plantations, removing animal habitat; elephants and rhinos are poached to provide ivory to East Asia.

Researchers analysed the overall impact of all this on threatened species.

Writing in the journal Nature, they say management of supply chains and product labelling could help stem the trend…
(6 June 2012)