Interrupting Nick Clegg and the Great Nature Sale (Part 2)
Although we had some fun with our 'Great Nature Sale' photo stunt and trying to set up auctions online, our message is deadly serious. The UK government and institutions such as the World Bank are pushing an agenda that will increase social and environmental injustice in the world, and lead to human rights abuses such as the displacement of local communities and loss of livelihoods.
When I interrupted Nick Clegg during an event celebrating the 'pricing' of nature, it felt like the event epitomised everything that was wrong with the mainstream 'green economy' narrative. But while the wrong approach was being discussed and applauded at the official conference centre, the People's Summit held 20km away, offered practical solutions which put the rights of people and the environment before profit.
This so-called ‘green economy’ is one of the expressions of the current financial phase of capitalism which also makes use of old and new mechanisims, such as deepening public-private debt, stimulating over-consumption, the ownership and concentration of new technologies , carbon markets and biodiversity, land grabbing and foreign land acquisition, public-private partnerships, among others…
- Extract from the People's Summit's final declaration
Throughout the People's Summit, the financialisation of the global commons has been a constant theme, with individuals and groups from across the world sharing their experiences of governments pushing market solutions as a way of dealing with climate change and the need for ‘development’.
"No to the financialisation of life and of nature!"
Now ended, the People’s Summit has been an incredible space for sharing stories and struggles (not unaided by its beautiful and relaxed location in Rio’s largest park space by the beach). But in addition to workshops and discussions, there has been a strong focus on practical action and an attempt to develop international strategies for targeting the structural causes of social and environmental injustice.
As I write, the closing general assembly is taking place. This comes at the end of a long week of plenary sessions, workshops, talks and external events. When I arrived at the People’s Summit last week, it took me a couple of days to work out how the summit was going to take place. Before coming I had printed off the programme of self-organised workshops: over 54 pages of sessions! Not really knowing what to expect, I came to Rio thinking that these workshops would be the focus of the summit, and I didn’t realise that there was a planned structure which would lead to the production of collective working papers and plans for advancing campaigns and struggles.
The People’s Summit has centred around five plenaries, which have provided running themes for the conference, as well as being the space in which working papers were drawn up and agreed on:
- Rights for social and environmental justice
- Defence of the global commons and against financialisation
- Food sovereignty
- Energy and extractive industries
- Work- for an alternative economy and new paradigms for society
I took part in plenary two: in defence of the global commons and against financialisation.
Each plenary spent two days discussing the structural problems and impacts of different issues, and then came up with possible solutions. A discussion paper was then put together based on the contributions and discussions that had taken place.
A member of the Indigenous Environment Network speaks during the plenary in defence of the global commons
These discussion papers were then presented and discussed in three general assemblies at the end of the week:
1. Structural causes and false solutions
2. Our solutions
3. Agenda for struggles and campaigns.
The five strategy papers were collated and formed a final declaration of the People’s Summit (in Portugese).
The plenaries and working papers were a way of ensuring that problems and struggles were synthesised, and that there was a participatory and collaborative way of producing practical recommendations for dealing with the different issues being discussed. By linking up different movements and groups, it helps add strength to our cause. For example when the UK government defends creating new markets for dealing with climate change, we can give real examples of the impact projects like REDD+ have had on indigenous communities in Brazil.
A discussion of the current working paper takes place in plenary two
Twenty years ago at the Global Forum, also held at the ‘Aterro do Flamengo’, denounced the risks which humanity and nature faced with privatisation and neoliberalism. Today we state that, besides confirming our analysis, there have been significant steps backwards in terms of recognised human rights. Rio +20 has repeated the narrative of false solutions advocated by the same actors who caused the global crisis. As this crisis deepens, more corporations move in against people's rights, democracy and the environment, hijacking humanity’s global commons in order to saved the financial-economic system.
- Extract from the People's Summit's final declaration
Financialisation is quite a new thing in the UK, and a pretty huge issue to try and talk about, let alone tackle. But in Latin America, the financialisation of nature and the sell off of the commons such as forests, is already a reality. I have spent this week hearing first hand accounts about the impact of land grabbing and the appropriation of land as a result of REDD+ projects. I have also heard about how creating water markets is becoming popular rhetoric amongst governments.
In the UK we are not as directly impacted by many of the structural problems and institutions that have been discussed throughout the People’s Summit. But we do have a government which is actively pushing a corporate ‘green’ agenda and the City of London, which is home to some of the most powerful, and destructive, investment banks.
The discussions and plans for tackling the financial industry and governments’ false solutions will not remain at the People’s Summit. There is definitely an appetite for further action and coordination amongst movements and organisations across the world. It will be exciting to think about what role we can play in the UK.
"Women say no to green capitalism and the financialisation of nature"
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Green economy blog
Regular updates from our campaigners on issues around the green economy, financialisation and the Rio+20 conference.
The great nature sale
Discussions about the green economy are being captured by rich country governments and corporate interests. Their proposals include allowing speculators to bet on the price of water, selling off land that indigenous people and small-scale farmers have used for generations and creating new financial instruments linked to the survival of endangered species.
Want to know more?
Our briefing, Rio+20 summit: Whose green economy?, explains what is being proposed at Rio, the corporate plan for the future of our planet, and the sustainable alternatives being proposed by social movements and civil society in the global south.