Carbon Colonialism: Just Say No!

Do ordinary people need to commit suicide to gain the attention of the global elites?

You may remember, back in 2003, a Korean farmer named Lee Kyung Hae committed suicide outside the grounds of the World Trade Organization meetings in Cancun, Mexico, as a protest against the impact of first world subsidies of grain production, which effectively pushed small farmers in developing countries out of business.

He set himself on fire right in front of the police barricades keeping him and others like him outside of the WTO talks.

Afterwards, there was a movement by the representatives of developing countries to form a bloc of resistance to the demands of the global elites.  It worked, for a while.

But now, 8 years later, the global elites are at it again, worse than ever.

At this year’s climate talks in Durban, South Africa, representatives of indigenous communities worldwide are protesting at the barricades again, locked out of the talks on complex trade negotiations over carbon offsets, sequestration and deforestation.

It’s not easy to understand the documents produced by the U.N. and government agencies, laying out what’s called the REDD accords: Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation.

It all sounds very nice when you read the summary on the U.N. website.

“Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) is an effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development. “REDD+” goes beyond deforestation and forest degradation, and includes the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.

“It is predicted that financial flows for greenhouse gas emission reductions from REDD+ could reach up to US$30 billion a year. This significant North-South flow of funds could reward a meaningful reduction of carbon emissions and could also support new, pro-poor development, help conserve biodiversity and secure vital ecosystem services.”

Yes, well, it does sound nice.  But in fact, when that much money is at stake, corruption is not far behind.

As detailed in an important new report called the No REDD Papers, what’s been happening in the name of REDD is a gigantic forest grab, with major multinational energy corporations ruthlessly buying up and bullying their way into land rights to forests in the global south, so that they can not only make money by going on their merry way of fostering carbon emissions in the North, but also make money by collecting the rewards for forest conservation in the south.

And there’s more.  Under REDD+, reforestation is also potentially a growth industry.  But there are insufficient regulations on what constitutes reforestation.  A complex rainforest environment could be harvested, destroyed, and “reforested” with a monocultural non-native cash crop, like bamboo or eucalyptus or palm, which will be “sustainably harvested,” yes, but will actually store a fraction of the carbon of the original rainforest, and will support a tiny fraction of the original biodiversity.

It also results in Native people being pushed off their ancestral lands, by swindle or by force.

The indigenous people, from Niger to Alberta to the Amazon, are not stupid.  They’re wise to what they’re calling “carbon colonialism.”

“REDD/ REDD+ is bad for people, bad for politics and bad for the climate,” says Tom B.K. Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network. “It will inevitably give more control over Indigenous Peoples’ forests to state forest departments, loggers, miners, plantation companies, traders, lawyers, speculators, brokers, Washington conservation organisations and Wall Street, resulting in violations of rights, loss of livelihoods—and, ultimately, more forest loss.”

I don’t want to be part of this scheme.  To me, as to the indigenous forest defenders, it’s all quite simple.  We must reduce carbon emissions.  We must not only reduce deforestation, but encourage forest regeneration–and not of plantations, but of natural biodiverse forest habitats.

It’s not about making money any more.  It’s about sustaining life–our lives, our children’s lives, the entire web of life upon which we depend.

This time the neocolonial cowboys are not going to be able to get away with murder.  The glare of the internet is upon them.  We will not stand by passively and let a new era of displacement and exploitation take place under the euphemism of “conservation.”

Not this time.  Never again.

And we shouldn’t have to be committing suicide to get attention, either.  There has been enough death and destruction in our world these first years of the 21st century.  Let’s go forward under the banner of Eros, not Thanatos.

Let’s work together for Life.

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