How to Profit from Environmental Destruction

Pricing the Planet Part 2

Al Jaceera (2018)

Film Review

Part 2 of Pricing the Planet is even more disgusting than Part 1. It concerns the “green conferences” organized by oil, chemical and mining companies to promote ways they can invest in “credits” to mitigate their activities that degrade the environment.

All the industries that attended a recent “green conference” continue to lobby heavily against government regulation to curb the environmental damage they cause. However now that they see an opportunity to profit from carbon and species trading they’re suddenly spouting off about the future of our planet.

The documentary shows footage of Dow Chemical and Nestle executives at a recent green conference. Dow has one of the worst reputations for environmental degradation. Dow produced Agent Orange, responsible for cancer and birth defects in thousands of Vietnam veterans and Vietnamese civilians and their offspring. They also own the subsidiary responsible for the chemical factory that exploded in Bhopal India, poisoning thousands. Nestle is notorious for depleting fresh water all over the planet, which they sell back to us as bottled water.

Unsurprisingly the World Bank supports corporations who buy and sell the right to destroy the environment by selling Green Bonds (which corporations use to mitigate their environmentally harmful activities). Carbon and endangered species trading are also strongly supported by the United Nations.

The high point of the film is a vignette featuring Indian environmentalist Vendana Shiva explaining how financialization always leads to degradation. She further states, “Wherever a price is placed on nature, nature has been destroyed.”

She maintains the continual destruction of the environment in the name of economic growth is a sickness in the human mind.

The documentary can be viewed free at Pricing the Planet Part 2

Should We Pay Corporations to Destroy the Planet?

Pricing the Planet Episode 1

Al Jazeera (2018)

Film Review

This documentary is about an endangered species trading scheme in which banks like J P Morgan and Goldman Sacks invest in projects that protect endangered species (eg bees, coral reefs, orangutans) or ecosystem services (eg (rain forests, clean water, wetlands clean air, topsoil). They then sell credits in these projects to corporations who wish to engage in mining and development that kill these species or destroy rain forests and wetlands.

In 1988, Bush Senior was the first to promote this model of environmental protection with his No Net Wetlands Loss policy. It enabled corporations that were destroying wetlands to purchase credits in wetlands that being set aside for preservation. This model was later employed in carbon trading schemes in which industries are allowed to emit CO2 pollution if they purchase credits in reforestation projects that capture CO2. After nearly 20 years of operations, this scheme has made speculators in carbon credits fantastically rich while allowing CO2 emissions increase exponentially.

Bankers and corporate executives argue that endangered species trading is the only way to save the planet because government regulation hasn’t worked (largely because banks and corporations have blocked effective environmental regulation). Most grassroots environmentalists oppose species trading. They argue that bees, reefs, orangutans and rain forests can only be saved with a total ban on activities that endanger them.

Globally Malua BioBank runs the largest “mitigation” project. They recently purchased the Malua Forest in Borneo for $64 million. They sell credits in the Malua Forest to palm oil companies to enable them to destroy other Indonesian rain forests, as well as companies that use palm oil products.

The Nature Conservancy (whose current CEO is a former Goldman Sachs banker) and other large environmental NGOs support “species banking” because they rely on large corporate donations to cover their staff salaries.

The video can be viewed free at the Al Jazeera website: Pricing the Planet

 

Reclaiming China’s Deserts: A Tale of Two Videos

These two videos are about China’s vast reforestation project aimed at reducing the size of the Gobi Desert. The project, which started in 1978, has planted 68 billions trees altogether and reduced the Gobi Desert by 4,800 acres. It has also forced roughly 350,000 rural farmers to relocate to urban areas. Most are unable to find work and receive no government assistance other than housing.

The first film is by France 24 – the second by China 24. Although the latter is clearly a government propaganda piece, most of the facts appear accurate. It claims China is reducing the size of its deserts by 2,000 square kilometers a year, as well as offering training to all Silk Road countries in reforestation technology.

The Chinese government is also quite proud of endangered species laws they have enacted, which make harming endangered plants, animals and marine life a crime (hopefully they have also quit locking up environmental activists). They also boast about new laws to penalize companies for polluting their waterways, as well as decreasing urban air pollution by reducing steel production by 65% and coal production by 290 million tons.

The end of the China 24 documentary boasts about lifting millions of Chinese residents out of poverty, though it fails to mention China’s skyrocketing inequality. Nor the millions of Chinese farmers who have lost their livelihood after being driven off their land – nor the millions of urban street vendors whose businesses are being bulldozed for urban renewal projects.


*The Silk Road was a centuries-old trade route connecting Asia with Europe. China has invested billions of dollars in building superhighways and high speed networks along the Silk Road route through Kazakhstan and Russia.

France 24 (2017)

China 24 (2017)

 

Offline is the New Luxury

Offline is the New Luxury

VPRO (2017)

Film Review

This documentary is about taking back control of our Internet connectivity. Ironically it starts by recommending a new app that allows you to identify increasingly rare “white spots” – areas of the earth that aren’t blanketed with WiFi signals. One MIT psychology professor, who bans cellphones, laptops and tablets in her classes, is part of a movement to create sacred spaces in these white spots – areas where people fully engage with each other instead of their electronic devices.

The filmmakers also talk about the late Steve Jobs and other prominent Silicon Valley moguls not allowing their kids to have cellphones and tablets and sending them to low tech Montessori and Waldorf schools. Increasingly the well-to-do are seeking out expensive retreats and detox facilities to cure their Internet addiction. While growing numbers of law firms and security agencies patronize a highly successful Dutch firm selling Faraday cages and microwave shields to protect clients from electronic snooping and damaging microwave radiation.

The Amish, of course, have a cheap low-tech solution to Internet addiction – namely a value system that rejects most advanced electronic technology.

The video concludes by explaining the concept of “surveillance capitalism,” in which our personal information is “monetized,” ie in which the data Google, Facebook and Amazon collect on us is sold to advertisers.

A key strategy of surveillance capitalism is to use drones, satellites and giant balloons to expand connectivity to remote areas of the developing world. At the time of filming, Facebook was pressuring the Indian government to allow the introduction of Free Basics (free Internet connectivity) to all Indian residents, with Facebook retaining control of their Internet access. Google, meanwhile, is pushing to extend 100% connectivity to Sri Lanka by launching giant WiFi balloons.

According to one analyst, the drive to acquire massive troves of Indian personal data is a ploy to placate shareholders. The latter are understandably concerned about a drop-off in Facebook users in the developing world – due to privacy concerns and the recognition that most Facebook content is meaningless drivel.

Melting Arctic Opens Northwest Passage

For people who still have lingering doubts about the reality of global warming, this brief documentary reminds us that the Arctic Ocean (for the first time in recorded history) is now open to navigation during the summer. Prior to 2007, it was frozen solid year round.

During summer months, China, the US, Canada and European countries routinely save travel time and money by shipping freight over the top of the world.

According to filmmakers, Canadian treaties allegedly guarantee indigenous Inuit “input” into the new Arctic waterways – to protect the pristine environment their livelihood (hunting seals) depends on.

Expect Resistance

This was us yesterday protesting seismic blasting in a proposed sanctuary for the endangered blue whale and Maui dolphin. The Amazon Warrior, which is exploring for deep sea oil, lets out loud seismic explosions every eight seconds that disrupt their feeding, breeding and ability to communicate.

Climate Justice Taranaki is campaigning to fight climate change by leaving the fossil fuels that remain in the ground. Fossil fuel mining (mainly in the form of fracking) has been enormously destructive to our local environment and people’s health and lives.

The protest was reported in Taranaki Daily News and on  Maori TV

The Disposable People Who Process Our Toxic E-Waste

ToxiCity: A Graveyard for Electronics and People

RT (2017)

Film Review

Toxic e-waste is equally poisonous to the planet and the third world poor who are forced to process it for a living. The only truly humane and sustainable solution to toxic e-waste is to force big tech giants like Apple, Google and Dell (and the billionaires who run them) to assume responsibility for end-of-life disposal, instead of externalizing this cost to the rest of us.

This documentary is about Agbogbloshie in Acra Ghana, the largest toxic waste dump in the world, and the men, women and children who pick through electronic waste from Asia, the US, Australia and western Europe. Although it’s illegal to employ child labor or import e-waste in Ghana, these laws are never enforced.

The filmmakers interview various “waste managers” who run the site, as well as a 10 year old boy, a fifteen year old girl and the “waste site coordinator.”  The latter  adjudicates disputes and deals with the police when fights break out. The 10 year old (an orphan) earns about $8-10 a days from the scrap metal he collects. This is enough to buy two meals. The 15-year-old was forced to leave school because her parents had no money to pay for her school fees, uniform or textbooks. She prepares food to sell to other scavengers and hopes to return to school and become a nurse.

Scavenging e-waste among the burning rubber and plastics at Agbogbloshie is a highly dangerous occupation due to the high risk of cadmium and lead toxicity. Doctors at a nearly clinic also report an increased incidence of respiratory infection among children who live and work there.