Counterpunch Weekend Edition May 2-4, 2014
Part four of an investigative series
Divestment Investigative Report Series [Further Reading]: Part I • Part II • Part III • Part IV • Part V • Part VI • Part VII • Part VIII • Part IX • Part X • Part XI • Part XII • Part XIII • Part XIV • Part XV
“Of all our studies, it is history that is best qualified to reward our research.” — Malcolm X
Prologue: A Coup d’état of Nature – Led by the Non-Profit Industrial Complex
t is somewhat ironic that while anti-REDD climate activists, organizations (legitimate grassroots groups do exist) and self-proclaimed environmentalists – who consider themselves progressive – speak out against the commodification of nature’s natural resources, they also simultaneously promote the divestment campaign. The irony comes from the fact that the divestment campaign will result (succeed) in a colossal injection of money shifting over to the very portfolios heavily invested, thus dependent upon, the intense commodification and privatization of Earth’s last remaining forests (via REDD), water, etc. (environmental “markets“). This tour de force will be executed with cunning precision under the guise of environmental stewardship and “internalizing negative externalities through appropriate pricing.”Thus, ironically (if in appearances only), the greatest surge in the ultimate corporate capture of Earth’s final remaining resources is being led, and will be accomplished, by the very environmentalists and environmental groups that claim to oppose such corporate domination and capture.
Beyond shelling out billions of (tax-exempt) dollars (i.e., investments) to those most accommodating in the non-profit industrial complex, via foundations, the corporations need not lift a finger; the feat is being carried out by both the legitimate and the faux environmentalists in tandem with an unsuspecting public (a public with almost no comprehension of 1. the magnitude of our ecological crisis, 2. the root causes of the planetary crisis, or 3. the non-profit industrial complex as an instrument of hegemony).
The commodification of the commons will represent the greatest, and most cunning, coup d’état in the history of corporate dominance – a fait accompli extraordinaire of unparalleled scale, with unparalleled repercussions for humanity and all life.
Further, it matters little whether or not the money is moved from direct investments in fossil fuel corporations to so-called “socially responsible investments.” The fact of the matter is, all corporations on the planet (thus, all investments on the planet) do and will continue to require massive amounts of energies (including fossil fuels) to continue to grow and expand ad infinitum – as required by the industrialized capitalist economic system.
The windmills and solar panels serve as the beautiful (marketing) imagery, yet they are somewhat illusory – the veneer for the commodification of the commons that is the fundamental objective of Wall Street, the very advisers of the divestment campaign.
Thus we find ourselves unwilling to acknowledge the necessity to dismantle the industrialized capitalist economic system, choosing instead to embrace an illusion designed by corporate power.
The purpose of this investigative series is to illustrate (indeed, prove) this premise.
Marketing a Fallacy
t is imperative to understand that the “solutions” being proposed in response to our unparalleled planetary ecological crisis will be only those that have the ability to enhance profits or build brand value, thus increasing revenues/profits. Yet, the fallacy of such “solutions” cannot be understated. The industrialized capitalist system is dependent upon growth. Infinite growth on a finite planet is not possible – a 5-year-old child can understand this fact because it is simple common sense (i.e., he or she would not wish to keep growing forever). Growth is dependent upon destruction of the natural world and exploitation of the world’s most vulnerable people. Violence is inherently built into the system. The idea that a “green economy” under the capitalist system will somehow slow down our accelerating multiple ecological crises and climate change is a delusional fallacy of epic proportion. Ceres allows corporations to continue this delusion and constructs a paradigm that conditions a culture to believe the fallacy.
“Bloomberg is built on the core belief that bringing transparency to capital markets through access to information could increase capital flows, produce economic growth and jobs and significantly reduce the cost of doing business. That includes sustainability.” (2010 Ceres Annual Report) [Emphasis added]
“… it is difficult to envisage anything other than a planned economic recession being compatible with stabilisation at or below 650ppmv CO2e.” (Anderson & Bows, 2011)
” … the 2015-16 global peaking date (CCC, Stern & ADAM) implies … a period of prolonged austerity for Annex 1 nations and a rapid transition away from existing development patterns within non-Annex 1 nations.” (Anderson & Bows, 2011)
Ceres Success Stories
“… the optimistic end of the science – there’s your emission reduction for energy – that’s a 10-20% annual reduction, from 2020 peak. 10-20%, year on year, for a couple of decades. And those to go down to zero. That’s no gas, no coal, no oil, no shale gas, no carbon capture and storage. You can’t get carbon capture & storage down to zero.” — Professor Kevin Anderson
Not surprisingly, the Ceres Success Stories presented to the public are many of their funders/partners. Primary examples include Nike, McDonald’s and Ford.
“NIKE commits by 2011 to eliminate all ‘excessive overtime’ from its supplier factories and to set up an educational program on workers’ rights to freedom of association in all of its contract facilities.” — Ceres Annual Report, 2006 & Beyond
Other examples of “successes” as highlighted by Ceres include: the Ford Motor Company’s commitment “to reduce the amount of water used to make each vehicle by 30 percent globally by 2015”; Levi Strauss & Co. “pioneering a new, collaborative approach to improve global worker well-being throughout its supply chain”; Best Buy launching a “cutting-edge ‘Buy Back’ program for its electronics products and setting an additional goal to recycle 1 billion pounds of consumer products by end of 2014″; Gap setting its first GHG emissions reduction target – a 20% reduction by 2015.” [Source]
Such “success stories” all provide fine fodder embossed with polished green veneer for “progressive media” to dispense like busy little worker bees. As well, initiatives like these all have built-in market value for the corporations that implement such policies. Yet, such “successes” will not stop ever-accelerating climate change. Further, does one actually believe that sweatshop workers (those on the receiving end of the capitalist whip stick) really give a flying fuck about Levi’s “new, collaborative approach”? A better approach “to improve global worker well-being throughout its supply chain” would be, in reality, to hire out-of-work American citizens to make their own clothes and stop exploiting the world’s most vulnerable. A better solution yet, would be to dismantle the industrial machine – by sabotage or by any means necessary. In the corporate world of psychopaths, they actually believe there is such a thing as “ethical exploitation.” Let’s call such apathetic delusion what it actually is: capitalism as pathology.
Bank of America began its relationship with Ceres in 1996 when it adopted The Ceres Principles. In 2007, Bank of America gave $1 million to Ceres and the United Nations Foundation to establish a “National Task Force on Energy Efficiency.” [The UN Foundation was created in 1998 with Ted Turner’s historic $1 billion gift.] Ceres was an integral stakeholder involved in the launch of Bank of America’s $20 billion initiative focused on addressing change. It appears that this task force began to be referred to as the Task Force on Domestic Energy Efficiency in 2008.
Also, in 2007 Bank of America embarked on an unprecedented 10-year goal to give $1.5 billion to the non-profit industrial complex. The Bank of America Charitable Foundation gave more than $200 million to nonprofits in 2007 alone. This coincides with the rise in rhetoric on the “green economy” echoed from the chambers of the complex.
According to Ceres annual reports, those donating (i.e., investing) in excess of $100,000 include some of the globe’s most powerful corporations and institutions such as Energy Foundation, Ford Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Foundation, V. Kann Rasmussen Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, United Nations Foundation, Nathan Cummings Foundation, The Energy Foundation, Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, Blue Moon Fund, Marisla Foundation, The Pew Charitable Trusts, Skoll Foundation, Better World Fund, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Civil Society Institute, Educational Foundation of America, Henry P. Kendall Foundation, John Merck Fund, New York Community Trust, Oak Foundation, Wallace Global Fund, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Betsy and Jesse Fink Foundation, Compton Foundation, Overbrook Foundation, Bank of America, The Kresge Foundation, the Surdna Foundation and many more.
Others donors include Baxter International, Coca Cola, Clorox, Ford Motor Company, General Motors Corporation, Walton Family Foundation (Wal-Mart), Consolidated Edison, Water Asset Management, Rockefeller Financial Asset Limited, Rockefeller Family Fund, Rockefeller Foundation, Goldman Funds, TIDES Foundation, PepsiCo Inc., Bank of America Foundation, HSBC, Citigroup, IBM, Northeast Utilities, American Airlines, Nike, Sunoco, Trillium Asset Management, National Wildlife Federation, National Environmental Trust, Turner Foundation, The Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation, Flora Family Foundation, Merck Family Fund, Mertz Gilmore Foundation, Overbrook Foundation, The Scherman Foundation, and many more. [View full list of donors from 2001-2010 Ceres Annual reports: 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011-2012]
The number of organizations that makes up the “Ceres Coalition environmental and public interest groups” is formidable. Examples of groups include: Earth Day Network, Audubon New York, Carbonfund.org, Conservation International, Environmental Defense, Friends of the Earth, Natural Resources Defense Council, Dogwood Alliance, Oxfam America, Rainforest Alliance, Rainforest Action Network, World Resources Institute, Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Scientists, Center for a New American Dream, As You Sow (key partner in the divestment campaign), and World Wildlife Fund.] [See all disclosed members]
Of the Privileged, by the Privileged, for the Privileged | The Key Architects
“… Alternatively, we could continue with the eloquent rhetoric of green growth and win-win opportunities; reject integrity, placate our paymasters and embrace cognitive dissonance – but ultimately renege on our responsibilities to both the current and future generations.” — Professor Kevin Anderson, November 2012
And here we find the documented history of the elite group of individuals who have designed, shaped and strategically disseminated the green economy ideology: the coalition of environmental NGOs, foundations, investment groups, institutional investors, government agencies, consulting firms, labor, economists, universities, and churches. Their success, thus far, is nothing less than stunning. Ignore the fact that the “green economy” is nothing more than an illusory solution to an unparalleled crisis, the illusion visible only through the Euro-American-centric lens of the privileged.
Key architects, representing the crème de la crème of the environmental “movement” with far-reaching power, can be found within the history of the Ceres Board of Directors. They include Bob Massie, co-founder of the Global Reporting Initiative and a founder of the Investor Network on Climate Risk; Stuart Auchincloss of the Sierra Club; Betsy Taylor of 1Sky/350.org; Norman Dean of Friends of the Earth; Green Seal,;TopTen; Ashok Gupta of Natural Resources Defense Council; Michel Gelobter of Redefining Progress and, more recently, Cooler; Paul L. Joffee of National Wildlife Federation; Kevin Knobloch and Lance Pierce of Union of Concerned Scientists; Brooks B. Yeager of WWF; and Joe Uehlein of AFL-CIO (also a founding board member of Ceres).  As mentioned previously in this report, three of the primary NGOs involved in the Valdez principles from their inception were the Sierra Club, the National Audubon Society and the National Wildlife Federation.
On the present-day Ceres Board of Directors we find key NGO affiliations: Ashok Gupta, Director of Programs, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC); Carl Pope, Chairman, Sierra Club; Janet Ranganathan, Vice President for Science and Research, World Resources Institute; Norman L. Dean (Ceres Co-Chair), Executive Director, TopTen USA; Tedd Saunders, President, Ecological Solutions Inc.; and Alisa Gravitz (Treasurer), Executive Director, Green America, to name a few.
Of all international NGOs, Friends of the Earth has managed to illuminate and retain an image of grassroots activism and credibility, perhaps better than any other NGO of their size. To cite a campaign that deemed FoE far more radical, thus legitimate, than other “big greens,” FoE took a public position against carbon offsets which surprised many. This position taken by FoE garnered much respect and admiration from grassroots activists. Yet, while FoE publicly states that they do not support carbon offsets, behind closed doors, FoE is sitting on the Board of Directors of Ceres, who is advocating and building acceptance of carbon offsets as far back as 2005 and most likely, much earlier. Thus, when Friends of the Earth takes a public position that its organization is opposed to carbon offsets, it is little more than good cop – bad cop theatrics. One could argue that such NGOs are on the board of directors merely in an attempt to influence the direction of Ceres. But this argument holds little merit, for without high profile NGO partnerships/collaboration within the Ceres framework, Ceres would never have had the credibility required to present, market and sell their feel-good, greenwash voluntary ideologies – which have protected corporations from state environmental regulation and control for decades. It could be said that Ceres is the foundation of our 21st century corporatocracy.
Environmental racism, covert or overt, is now a global phenomenon. 350.org, Greenpeace, and most all within the non-profit industrial complex and the foundations and think-tanks to which they belong, may express their admiration, utmost respect and “support” for Indigenous movements, cultures and beliefs, but one only has to look at their boards of directors and advisory councils (the majority of “leaders” personifying whiteness and ivy league) to understand that their adoration of Indigenous resistance, and their wish for Indigenous Peoples to lead, is nothing more than two-faced rhetoric in an attempt to further colonize and the dire need to pacify the only segment of the population in North America that the state still actually fears.
CERES Board of Directors include/have included representation and chair positions from many influential environmental organizations including:
-Breakthrough Strategies and Solutions: Position within NGO held by Board Member: President (Betsy Taylor) (2008-2009). Taylor is the co-founder and board president of 1Sky (1Sky, officially launched in the spring of 2007, and officially merged with 350.org in April of 2011) and serves on 350.org’s U.S. advisory council.
-Center for A New American Dream: Position within NGO held by Board Member: President (Betsy Taylor) (2002-2007) Taylor has been present on the Ceres board of directors from 2002-2010 serving as chair in 2005 and 2006. Center for A New American Dream maintains partnership in the Ceres Coalition. [Source: Ceres 2011-2012 annual report.]
-Ecological Solutions: Position within NGO held by Board Member: Ted Saunders, 2004-present. “Mr. Saunders is often credited with pioneering luxury urban ecotourism worldwide… In 1992 Mr. Saunders formed Ecological Solutions, which has advised The White House, HRH The Prince of Wales’ Business Leaders Forum, Harvard University, Taj Hotels of India, Choice Hotels International and properties around the globe.”
–Friends of the Earth: 2001-2007 Positions within NGO held by Board Member: Executive Director (Norman Dean), Director; International Programs (Leslie Fields 2001-2004). Dean served as Ceres chair in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 (co-chair), 2006 (co-chair), 2007 (chair), 2008, 2009 (co-chair), 2010 (co-chair) 2011 (co-chair), 2012 (co-chair) to present (co-chair). [August 28, 2009 – “Norman L. Dean, former Executive Director of Friends of the Earth and Green Seal CEO (one of the earliest green certification programs in the US) will lead TopTen, a non-profit environmental organization accelerating innovation in energy efficiency.” The five TopTen partners that are publicly disclosed include WWF, which espouses perhaps the most corporate ideology-driven agenda of all NGOs. [TopTen is represented by Norman Dean on the Ceres Board of Directors from 2008-2012 serving as Ceres co-chair.] In March 2011 it was reported that Fields, then the Environmental Justice and Community Partnerships Director for the Sierra Club, was being appointed by President Obama to the Board of Directors of the Mickey Leland National Urban Air Toxics Research Committee. Friends of the Earth maintains partnership in the Ceres Coalition. [Source: Ceres 2011-2012 annual report.] It is of interest to note that “[w]hen, for example, David Brower broke with the Sierra Club, it was Robert O. Anderson of Atlantic-Richfield and RFF who gave him $200,000 to set up Friends of the Earth (prudently channelling the donation through the organization’s tax exempt affiliate, the John Muir Institute).” [Source]
-Global Development & Environment Institute, The Fletcher School at Tufts University: Position within NGO held by Board Member: Co-Director Dr. Neva Goodwin, 2005, 2006, 2009, 2011, 2012.
-Green America: Ceres Treasurer & Executive Director, Alisa Gravitz (2008-present).
-National Wildlife Federation: 2001-2007. Position within NGO held by Board Member: Director, Senior Director, International Affairs (Paul L. Joffe, 2002-2007) and Program Manager, Finance and Environment (Julie Tanner, 2001). Joffe is a current Director at Ceres, Inc. Previously Joffe was the Acting General Counsel, U.S. Department of Commerce in 1997, having served earlier as the Deputy General Counsel (1996-1997) and as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Import Administration (1994-1996). Mr. Joffe was the General Counsel to Senator John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia (1988-1993), and he was Counsel, Subcommittee on Commerce, Consumer Protection and Competitiveness, House Committee on Energy and Commerce (1982-1987) [Bio]. National Wildlife Federation Maintains partnership in the Ceres Coalition. [Source: Ceres 2011-2012 annual report.]
-Natural Resources Defense Council: Position within NGO held by Board Member: Director of Energy Policy, Air & Energy Program, Senior Economist and Director of Programs, Ashok Gupta (2001-present). [Bio.]
-Redefining Progress: Position within NGO held by Board Member: Executive Director, Michel Gelobter) 2002-present). Gelobter is founder and chairman of Cooler, which has been represented on the Ceres Board of Directors from 2008-present. “Cooler is a for-profit social venture that connects every purchase to a solution for global warming…. A Few Cooler Funded Projects | Gold Standard Projects: Cooler invests a significant fraction of our revenue in Gold Standard projects. The Gold Standard is a certification scheme that recognizes the best projects in the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), Joint Implementation (JI) and voluntary offset markets. Endorsed by over 44 non governmental organizations around the world, The Gold Standard is just that – the world’s highest quality source of carbon offsets. | Clean, Green, and 3rd Party Verified. In addition to the Technical Advisory Committee’s review, all of Cooler’s investments are verified by third parties who ensure that the emissions are truly reduced and appropriately accounted for to ensure real impact.” [Source] Gelobter has served as a member of the Clinton Global Initiative, the Advisory Board of Vice-President Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection, and is presently on the board of the Natural Resources Defense Council. [Bio] After 2007, Redefining Progress no longer appears to have an association with Ceres, rather, Gelobter is on the Ceres board of directors as a representative of Cooler.
-Sierra Club: 2001-present. Representing a minimum of one position on the Ceres board each year. Position within NGO held by Board Member: Atlantic Chapter (Stuart Auchincloss, 2001-2009), Chief Operating and Development Officer (Deborah Sorondo, 2008-2009), Chairman (Carl Pope, 2010-present). Auchincloss’s role within Sierra Club: member of Corporate Relations [Bio]. Pope has served as the Chairman and Executive Director of the Sierra Club for 18 years with overall Sierra Club service of 36 years with a salary of over $200,000.00 plus benefits.
-Union of Concerned Scientists: 2002-2012. Position within NGO held by Board Member: Executive Director, president (Kevin Knobloch, 2001-2007), Climate Program, Director (Lance Pierce, 2008-2009). UOCS remains a member of the Ceres Coalition (2001-2012 annual report). On June 19, 2013 it was announced that Knobloch, the president of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), “will take a new post as chief of staff to Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Ernest Moniz, a respected physicist and leader on energy technology and policy.” Pierce is now Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer of Ceres. [Source] [“With these decisions, the REDD house is built…. Now we need to furnish it and pay for it.” Union of Concerned Scientists, November 23, 2013]
-World Resources Institute: Position within NGO held by Board Member: Vice President for Science and Research Janet Ranganathan 2010 to present).
-World Wildlife Fund: 2001-2007. Maintains partnership in the Ceres Coalition. [Source: Ceres 2011-2012 annual report] Position within NGO held by Board Member: Strategic Conservation Initiatives include: Vice President of U.S. Programs (Bill Eichbaum, 2001), Vice President, Global Threats Program (Brooks B. Yeager, 2002-2006). [“At Clean Air-Cool Planet, he promotes effective policies for reducing global and national greenhouse gas emissions, and for national approaches to adaptation to unavoidable climate change impacts. During eight years in the Clinton Administration, Brooks served in senior positions in the Department of the Interior and the State Department.” Source] Vice President, Strategic Conservation Initiatives (Chris Holmes, 2007). [“… Holmes has held senior executive positions in the business, government, academia and non-governmental organization sectors. Mr. Holmes was the Chief Financial Officer and third ranking executive at the US Environmental Protection Agency … and Vice President of Enron, responsible for due diligence on potential investments in the environmental and energy sectors…. Prior to this, Mr. Holmes served as Executive Director for Rice University’s Shell Center for Sustainability, supporting research on methane hydrates…. His international economic development assignments include: Director of US Trade and Development Agency, which developed environment, energy, and infrastructure projects throughout the developing world …. Mr. Holmes received his B.A. in Government from Wesleyan University. He served as a Second Lieutenant, Civil Affairs, US Army Reserve, receiving the US Army Soldiers Medal for Heroism.” Although the WWF affiliation is not publicly disclosed, today, Holmes is the Global Water Coordinator for USAID. Also at USAID, he served concurrently as the deputy assistant administrator for Private Enterprise and the executive director of the President’s Task Force on International Private Enterprise. Since rejoining USAID in January 2010, initially as the senior advisor for Energy and Environment, Holmes has “been in the field supporting USAID missions in Pakistan, Yemen, Bangladesh and Ghana on water and food security matters.” Both Pakistan and Yemen are targets of US covert wars. [Source] World Wildlife Fund maintains partnership in the Ceres Coalition. [Source: Ceres 2011-2012 annual report] One must note that the late Godfrey Rockefeller was a founder of WWF and a former executive director. The WWF Founders are Prince Bernhard (Royal Dutch Petroleum/Shell Oil), Julian Huxley, Max Nicholson, Peter Scott, Guy Mountfort and Godfrey A. Rockefeller.
“… Environmental politics has become something that valorizes the individual consumer and aggressively ignores questions of class, race, and gender in the production of environmental inequality. Acceptable expressions of environmentalism are only those that adhere to ‘ethical’ consumption patterns: organics, local, fair-trade. It is a disciplinary logic that taps into a kind of eco-entertainment niche in green capitalism that redefines the leitmotif of existing bourgeois environmentalism: environmentalism as self-improvement via an urban lifestyle performed as an alternative expression of class distinction. It is class based because only the wealthy can afford’ to become ‘ethical’ environmentalists.” — Question: Environmental Politics: What’s Left? Answer: Bourgeois Primitivism, That’s What, May 30, 2012
Today, it is the logic (i.e., delusion) of “sustainability” that exemplifies, shapes and moulds the 21st century mainstream environmental movement: a triumph of a branding campaign extraordinaire that places market forces and the Euro-American consumer at the privileged center of political struggle and cultural domination over Earth’s final remaining resources.
McKibben, Massie, Peter Buffett & the Green Bourgeois
Image: March 2014 Green Transition Scoreboard® Tops $5.3 Trillion
“The conference will also include a major public address on Friday evening by the noted climate change leader, Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org, as well as a Saturday concert by the talented musician Peter Buffett, author of Life is What You Make It: Find Your Own Path to Fulfillment and son of investor legend Warren Buffett.” — Strategies for a New Economy Conference, New Economics Institute press release, May 7, 2012
The expression/noun, elitism, fits seamlessly, like a velvet glove, within the context of the above.
elitism — n
1.a. The belief that society should be governed by a select group of gifted and highly educated individuals
b. such government
2. pride in or awareness of being one of an elite group
Bill McKibben and Peter Buffet headlined the weekend conference (Strategies for a New Economy Conference). The entire press release reads like a list of “who’s who” in the world of elitist, classist, green bourgeoisie. The relationship between McKibben, the Ceres affiliates and the oligarchs they serve is laid bare for all to see with Bill McKibben being featured with Warren Buffett’s son, Peter Buffett. Let us be clear, neither the Ceres “society” nor Bob Massie chose Buffett’s name from a hat nor did Buffett fall from the sky. These are extremely interconnected, well-established relationships with strong alliances and loyalties bound together by privilege, philanthropy – and whiteness. [Further reading: Keystone XL: The Art of NGO Discourse – Part III | Beholden to Buffett]
The 2-day conference was organized by The New Economics Institute (NEI), formerly known as the E.F. Schumacher Society (1980-2010). NEI (financed by a European foundation and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, among others), is closely affiliated with Ceres and close partner of the New Economics Foundation in London. Bob Massie, NEI president and CEO is a former executive director of Ceres (1996 to 2003), Ceres senior fellow and former president, as well as a long-time member of the Ceres Board of Directors (2001-2009). (As previously noted, while at Ceres, Massie co-founded the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) (a collaboration with the UN Environment Programme) of which he served as Chair of the initial Steering Committee, and proposed and led the creation of the Ceres Investor Network on Climate Risk, which currently has over 100 members with combined assets of over $11 trillion.) Other board members of NEI include Neva Goodwin who served on the Ceres Board of Directors (2001-2012) representing the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University (where she holds the position of co-director). Bill McKibben serves on the NEI Advisory Board. The NEI network includes key Ceres associates such as Green America and Friends of the Earth.
Such high-profile conferences give the appearance that participants (more than 500 people were in attendance, representing over 300 organizations) can help create the future. Yet, in truth, the future has already been intricately designed by the chosen few, having been financed to the tune of billions by the global oligarchy. Running parallel to the non-profit industrial complex and U.S.-manufactured “revolutions,” a key purpose of such a conference is to allow the multitudes of well intentioned, creative and privileged individuals (as well as elitists) the opportunity to speak – and therefore to feel that they have been heard, i.e., – it’s a venting mechanism. For the most part, such a conference is a means to bring hundreds of participants over to the “correct” way of thinking as designed, outlined and pre-approved by the elite establishment. The process is methodological: create a sense of belonging to an “elite class” of individuals, reward those that “see the light” with accolades, praise and a sense of “belonging,” and finally, weed out those who will not conform to reformist ideas, utilizing methods such as isolation. Acceptable expressions of environmentalism that adhere to “ethical capitalist” or “sustainable capitalist” consumption patterns (and those who present such expressions) may be given further consideration.
Those showing much promise are dispatched to the Rockwood Leadership Institute where they will join ranks with the elite Rockwood Alumnae/i. [Examples of 1Sky/350.org alumni include Betsy Taylor, Van Jones, Gillian Caldwell and Bill Parish.] Rockwood funders and sponsors toast to our collective naïveté – fed, nourished and kept intact by insatiable ego.
The ascent of the green bourgeoisie “compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilisation into their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves,” according to Karl Marx. In this way, he said, “it creates a world after its own image.”
One such appreciative funder of the Rockwood Institute is the NoVo Foundation. NoVo is operated by Jennifer Buffett, who co-chairs the organization with her husband, Peter Buffett.
Tides Foundation has been the key financier of the “Tar Sands Campaign.” At the helm of this strategic discourse is 350.org via the Stop the KXL campaign. At this juncture, it is most critical to note that NoVo is the top donor to the Tides foundation ($26 million from 2003-2011). [Further Reading: Keystone XL: The Art of NGO Discourse | Part I]
Upon inspection it would appear that the NEI is far more ambitious in seeking a legitimate transition from industrialized global capitalism. Perhaps it is for this reason that both Massie and Goodwin no longer appear on the Ceres Board of Directors. With the absolute dire state of climate change surpassing all worse-case scenarios, it certainly is plausible that intelligence is prevailing (albeit too late) with Massie, Goodwin and perhaps others, recognizing well that the ideologies sought by Ceres equate to a 21st century Titanic. However, the NEI ideologies that surpass those sought by Ceres, as placed into the public sphere by NEI, should not be viewed as completely altruistic, as such local, grassroots-like ambitions are still being conceptualized through a Euro-American lens with no emphasis on the necessity to dismantle the current system. The corporations are obviously not going to close up shop on their own. Will the new economy for the few exist alongside the industrialized capitalist economy? How will this new economy NEI speaks of, which will exist within an industrialized system, free the world’s most exploited or those subjected to U.S. occupations? Conceivably this serves as an example of “new age capitalism”: hints of green here and there with themes of relocalization, yet the continued commodification of the land and resources for a chosen few. NEI can perhaps be described best as the “Whole Foods” of the non-profit industrial complex.
New York Times’ Andrew Revkin brings perhaps the most clarity to the key role of NEI in his New York Times column appearing June 22, 2012, titled Searching for a New Economy. He writes:
“As an appetizer, here’s one, from Robert Johnson, the executive director of the Institute for New Economic Thinking, who, among other things, said: ‘Water and air are priced at zero…. On the other hand, if you cut off my air and water I would be willing to pay to get it turned back on. So there’s something amiss in a theory of value that doesn’t value these common resources, the common pool on which we all base our lives.'”
Video: Robert Johnson at the Strategy for a New Economy Conference 2012 (4:10): http://youtu.be/nX27sUxxcEw
Robert Johnson, executive director of the Institute for New Economic and 2012 NEI conference speaker , frames our multiple crises as a lack of “value” for the commons. It seems that for Johnson, “value” can only be recognized by society if there is a monetary value.
In response to Robert Johnson’s commentary, Mitch Jones, Director of the Common Resources Program at Food & Water Watch, responds on June 25, 2012, as follows:
But with government leaders like Barack Obama and David Cameron AWOL at Rio, who was representing the rest of us and the planet?
Hopefully not guys like Robert Johnson, executive director of the Institute for New Economic Thinking. Here’s what he said at a recent event at Bard College, which was also posted on Andrew Revkin’s Dot Earth blog:
‘Water and air are priced at zero…. On the other hand, if you cut off my air and water I would be willing to pay to get it turned back on. So there’s something amiss in a theory of value that doesn’t value these common resources, the common pool on which we all base our lives.’
I have no doubt that Mr. Johnson does not truly believe that only people who can pay for air should have the luxury of breathing it. But arguing to put a price on an environmental service like water is a slippery slope to a human rights nightmare. Just imagine if the atmosphere or our freshwater were privately owned and priced at market value. With a growing population and increasing environmental degradation, the haves – like Mr. Johnson and others living here in America – will flourish while the have-nots – the almost 900 million around the globe that lack access to safe water, or the 2.6 billion who lack access to sanitation – will be priced out of our essential, life-giving resources.
You can’t put a price on nature. But if you did, only a handful of people on the planet would be able to afford it.
Rebecca Henderson, another conference speaker, echoes essentially the same sentiments as both Revkin and Johnson in “re-imagining capitalism.” Henderson is acknowledged in the Ceres 21st Century Corporation: The Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability.
Video Interview: Rebecca Henderson of Harvard Business School at the New Economics Institute Strategy (4:47): http://youtu.be/YxNmnwUl6Ss
One must admit that even the successful branding of Whole Foods pales in comparison to the branding/marketing for the unfolding “green economy,” which is a delicate, ever so gentle persuasion campaign for the commodification of the commons, espoused and quietly pushed forward by NEI et al.
Perhaps a critical question for today’s paralysis must be this: Is it even possible for an average person of privilege to consciously give up the material aspects that reinforce this privilege, and monetary wealth, by choice – or is this something that can and will only happen by force – at which point it will be far too late.
Perhaps the greatest fantasy/delusion is the idea that we can use divestment as a key building block in a necessary transition to a new economy. The simple fact is, capital, under the capitalist economic system, has one purpose – and that is to grow, ad infinitum. Pensions – whether invested directly in fossil fuels or re-directed to a “green” portfolio on Wall Street – are investments that are dependent upon perpetual growth, year after year, forever and always. And for every day we grow, we remove a day of life from the generations that follow after us.
The hard truth that we have yet to acknowledge is this: As long as money (ironically most of it backed by absolutely nothing, which makes it, for the most part, very much illusory) is used for anything beyond trading goods, we are doomed, locked into a suicidal system whereby every day our monetary wealth grows, our ecological wealth health decline both steadily and rapidly. This does not mean we should shift from Exxon to Wall Street’s “ethical” or “green” funds – it means we need to invest in our communities wholly and divest from all stocks completely. It means no interest (like in Libya prior to its annihilation by NATO states), no stocks, no dividends, no RSPs, no RESPs, no 401(k) plans, no easy money on the backs of others. No easy money in exchange for our acquiescence to the raping and pillaging of our Earth mother. This means the nationalization and sharing of our nations’ resources based on need, not want. This means families taking care of our aging parents instead of sticking them in cardboard houses to die. This means intense conservation and growing food. This means the ideology behind Latin America’s Buen Vivir (Living Well) philosophy must be taught, valued and embraced. Is this something we are ready to face – and if not, why not?
The truth is that very likely no one, including McKibben, actually believes the fantasy/delusion that we can use divestment as a key building block in a necessary transition to a new economy. As we move into a climate not conducive to life, yet another campaign that draws our attention away from the very root causes of climate change. The divestment campaign serves as nothing more than a reckless and irresponsible distraction. Even if ten thousand universities divest from fossil fuels and switch their investments into wind farms tomorrow, without addressing the root causes of our crisis, they will not make a dent in the acceleration of climate change.
[Cory Morningstar is an independent investigative journalist, writer and environmental activist, focusing on global ecological collapse and political analysis of the non-profit industrial complex. She resides in Canada. Her recent writings can be found on Wrong Kind of Green, The Art of Annihilation, Political Context, Counterpunch, Canadians for Action on Climate Change and Countercurrents. Her writing has also been published by Bolivia Rising and Cambio, the official newspaper of the Plurinational State of Bolivia.]
 Joe Uehlein is a cofounder of Voices for a Sustainable Future. A musician, he is a member of the American Federation of Musicians and serves on the advisory board of the Future of Music Coalition. He is also former secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO’s Industrial Union Department, founding board member of Ceres, a member of the National Advisory Board of the Union of Concerned Scientists, and a senior strategic advisor to the Blue Green Alliance. [Source]
 Robert Johnson is an economist, who, in addition to serving as the executive director of the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET) in New York, is a senior fellow and director of the Global Finance Project at the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute, also in New York. He serves on the United Nations Commission of Experts on Finance and International Monetary Reform. Previously, Dr. Johnson was a managing director at Soros Fund Management, where he managed a global currency, bond and equity portfolio specializing in emerging markets. He was also a managing director at the Bankers Trust Company. Dr. Johnson has served as chief economist of the U.S. Senate Banking Committee under the leadership of Chairman William Proxmire and was senior economist of the U.S. Senate Budget Committee under the leadership of Chairman Pete Domenici. He also sits on the Board of Directors of the Institute for America’s Future.