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
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Andrew Levine
Viva Trump?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Behind the Congressional Disagreements Over the Iran Nuclear Deal
Lawrence Ware – Marcus T. McCullough
I Won’t Say Amen: Three Black Christian Clichés That Must Go
Evan Jones
Zionism in Britain: a Neglected Chronicle
John Wight
Learning About the Migration Crisis From Ancient Rome
Andre Vltchek
Lebanon – What if it Fell?
Robert Fantina
Hillary Clinton, Palestine and the Long View
Ben Burgis
Gore Vidal Was Right: What Best of Enemies Leaves Out
Robert Sandels - Nelson P. Valdés
The Cuban Adjustment Act: the Other Immigration Mess
John Stanton
Israel’s JINSA Earns Return on Investment: 190 Americans Admirals and Generals Oppose Iran Deal
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Bill Yousman
The Fire This Time: Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me”
Michael Welton
The Conversable World: Finding a Compass in Post-9/11 Times
Brian Cloughley
Don’t be Black in America
Charles Pierson
How the US and the WTO Crushed India’s Subsidies for Solar Energy
Kent Paterson
In Search of the Great New Mexico Chile Pepper in a Post-NAFTA Era
Gui Rochat
The Guise of American Democracy
Emma Scully
Vultures Over Puerto Rico: the Financial Implications of Dependency
Chuck Churchill
Is “White Skin Privilege” the Key to Understanding Racism?
Kathleen Wallace
The Id(iots) Emerge
Andrew Stewart
Zionist Hip-Hop: a Critical Look at Matisyahu
Gregg Shotwell
The Fate of the UAW: Study, Aim, Fire
Halyna Mokrushyna
Decentralization Reform in Ukraine
Scott Parkin
Katrina Plus Ten: Climate Justice in Action
Norman Pollack
World Capitalism, a Basket Case: A Layman’s View
Sarah Lazare
Listening to Iraq
John Laforge
NSP/Xcel Energy Falsified Welding Test Documents on Rad Waste Casks
Wendell G Bradley
Drilling for Wattenberg Oil is Not Profitable
Joy First
Wisconsin Walk for Peace and Justice: Nine Arrested at Volk Field
Mel Gurtov
China’s Insecurity
Mateo Pimentel
An Operator’s Guide to Trump’s Racism
Yves Engler
Harper Conservatives and Abuse of Power
Michael Dickinson
Guns of Brixton: Another Unarmed Black Shot by Police
Ron Jacobs
Daydream Sunset: a Playlist
Charles R. Larson
The Beginning of the Poppy Wars: Amitav Ghosh’s “Flood of Fire”
August 27, 2015
Sam Husseini
Foreign Policy, Sanders-Style: Backing Saudi Intervention
Brad Evans – Henry A. Giroux
Self-Plagiarism and the Politics of Character Assassination: the Case of Zygmunt Bauman
Peter Lee
Making Sense of China’s Stock Market Meltdown
Paul Craig Roberts
Wall Street and the Matrix: Where is Neo When We Need Him?
Kerry Emanuel
The Real Lesson of Katrina: the Worst is Yet to Come
Dave Lindorff
Why Wall Street Reporting is a Joke
Pepe Escobar
Brave (Miserable) New Normal World
Ramzy Baroud
‘Islamic State’ Pretence and the Upcoming Wars in Libya