Kerry’s Return to the Mekong

by GRANT MINCY

United States Secretary of State John Kerry has been politicking through Southeast Asia the past few days. Kerry visited the Vietnam Mekong Delta, a place he knows well from his wartime adventures. US military interventionism in the region nominally passe, but there is another aspect of state violence still making headlines in the east: Environmental degradation.

Kerry traveled to discuss the rising urgency of environmental change to the Mekong Delta. Changing climate and enhanced erosion and sedimentation of the Mekong from upstream dam projects are now Kerry’s target of political opportunity. According to the Associated Press, Kerry has pledged $17 million to a program that will help people and the economy adapt to environmental changes in the region.

Keeping to form as a high-ranking state official, Kerry says he’ll work to ensure that none of the six countries that share the Mekong (China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam) will over-exploit the river so other populations suffer. Calling out China (which has plans for numerous dam projects along the Mekong) Kerry stated: ”No one country has a right to deprive another country of a livelihood, an ecosystem and its capacity for life itself that comes from that river. That river is a global asset, a treasure that belongs to the region … The Mekong must benefit people not just in one country, not just in the country where the waters come first, but in every country that touches this great river.”

Crafty rhetoric, but governments will not protect natural resources. Nation-states work as rational actors to advance their own self interests and expand their power, largely through exploitation of natural resources. There is an inherent conflict of interest among states — the state with the most territory has the most resources for consumption. States will not share a territory or resource for too long. This is why war (be it military or economic) is the health of the state — it provides a monopoly over a territory and thus its resources.

Kerry, the US government, the Chinese government, any government will only enhance the complex wicked problems facing the world today. Progress, development, growth and industry are the objectives of states. States and their supported industries are rapidly using up the world’s natural resource base, especially water, to enhance their own power. It is the name of the game. Nation-states are large, bloated structures that require tons of resources — they will never protect the environment.

Free people will develop alternative federations and institutions to protect resources, however. It happens every day. People are becoming more aware of what burdens their societies. Education and awareness of public and environmental health are fostering concern for natural resources. Though markets are still largely controlled by the corporate state, liberation is coming. Contrary to the state, the liberated market, controlled and crafted by free human beings, will build the sustainable communities of tomorrow. Indeed, only in a liberated society, with no political boundaries, will human civilization realize its relationship with the environment.

History has been a dramatic race between state power and social power. Social power is growing. Human beings are connected like never before. Free people are building voluntary institutions that are rendering state monopolies useless. Freedom is back! May the old order soon be nothing but ashes. Our sustainability depends on it.

Grant Mincy is from the temperate forests of East Tennessee.

Grant A. Mincy is a senior fellow at the Center for a Stateless Society (C4SS.org) where he holds the Elinor Ostrom Chair in Environmental Studies and Commons Governance. He also blogs at appalachianson.wordpress.com. In addition, Mincy is an associate editor of the Molinari Review and an Energy & Environment Advisory Council Member for the Our America Initiative. He earned his Masters degree in Earth and Planetary Science from the University of Tennessee in the summer of 2012. He lives in Knoxville, Tennessee where he teaches both Biology and Geology at area colleges.

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
July 28, 2015
Harvey Wasserman
Will Ohio Gov. Kasich’s Anti-Green Resume Kill His Presidential Hopes?
Cesar Chelala
Effect of Greece’s Economic Crisis on Public Health
Mel Gurtov
Netanyahu: An Enemy of Peace
Joseph G. Ramsey
The Limits of Optimism: E.L. Doctorow and the American Left
George Wuerthner
Bark Beetles and Forest Fires: Another Myth Goes Up in Smoke
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, Episode 4, a Bowery Ballroom Blitz
July 27, 2015
Susan Babbitt
Thawing Relations: Cuba’s Deeper (More Challenging) Significance
Howard Lisnoff
Bernie Sanders: Savior or Seducer of the Anti-War Left?
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma’s Profiteers: You Want Us to Pay What for These Meds?
John Halle
On Berniebots and Hillary Hacks, Dean Screams, Swiftboating and Smears
Stephen Lendman
Cleveland Police Attack Black Activists
Patrick Cockburn
Only Iraq’s Clerics Can Defeat ISIS
Ralph Nader
Sending a ‘Citizens Summons’ to Members of Congress
Clancy Sigal
Scratch That Itch: Hillary and The Donald
Colin Todhunter
Working Class War Fodder
Gareth Porter
Obama’s Version of Iran Nuke Deal: a Second False Narrative
Joshua Sperber
What is a President? The CEO of Capitalism
Zoe Konstantopoulou
The Politics of Coercion in Greece
Vacy Vlanza
Without BDS, Palestine is Alone
Laura Finley
Adjunct Professors and Worker’s Rights
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, Episode Three, Where We Thrill Everyone by Playing Like “Utter Bloody Garbage”
Weekend Edition
July 24-26, 2015
Mike Whitney
Picked Out a Coffin Yet? Take Ibuprofen and Die
Henry Giroux
America’s New Brutalism: the Death of Sandra Bland
Rob Urie
Capitalism, Engineered Dependencies and the Eurozone
Michael Lanigan
Lynn’s Story: an Irish Woman in Search of an Abortion
Paul Street
Deleting Crimes at the New York Times: Airbrushing History at the Paper of Record
ISMAEL HOSSEIN-ZADEH
Making Sense of the Iran Nuclear Deal: Geopolitical Implications
Andrew Levine
After the Iran Deal: Israel is Down But Far From Out
Uri Avnery
Sheldon’s Stooges: Netanyahu and the King of Vegas
David Swanson
George Clooney Paid by War Profiteers
ANDRE VLTCHEK
They Say Paraguay is in Africa: Mosaic of Horror
Horace G. Campbell
Obama in Kenya: Will He Cater to the Barons or the People?
Michael Welton
Surviving Together: Canadian Public Tradition Under Threat
Rev. William Alberts
American Imperialism’s Military Chaplains
Yorgos Mitralias
Black Days: August 4th,1914 Germany and July 13th, 2015 Greece
Jeffrey R. Wilson
“It Started Like a Guilty Thing”: the Beginning of Hamlet and the Beginning of Modern Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Star Whores: John McCain, the Apache and the Battle to Save Mt. Graham
Pepe Escobar
The Eurasian Big Bang: How China and Russia Are Running Rings Around Washington
Charles Larson
The USA as a Failed State: Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me”
Robert Fantina
Israel and “Self-Defense”
John W. Whitehead
The American Nightmare: the Tyranny of the Criminal Justice System
Leonidas Vatikiotis
Rupture With the EU: a Return to the Cave Age or a New Golden Age for Greece?
Murray Dobbin
Harper is Finally Right: the Canadian Election is About Security Versus Risk
Brian Cloughley
Meet General Joseph Dunford: a Real Threat to World Peace
Manuel García, Jr.
The Trump Surge and the American Psyche