McKibben’s Divestment Tour – Brought to You by Wall Street
[Part I of this series, McKibben's Divestment Tour – Brought to You by Wall Street, can be found here. Part II: Part III, Part IV]
“Of all our studies, it is history that is best qualified to reward our research.” — Malcolm X
Prologue:A Coup d’étatof Nature – Led by the Non-Profit Industrial Complex
It is somewhat ironic that anti-REDD climate activists, organizations (legitimate grassroots organizations do exist) and self-proclaimed environmentalists, who consider themselves progressive, while speaking out against the commodification of nature’s natural resources also simultaneously promote the divestment campaign. It’s ironic because the divestment campaign will result (succeed) in a colossal injection of money shifting over to the very portfolios heavily invested in, 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 “internalising 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, which 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.
LAND GRABS, GREEN ILLUSIONS, AND PRIVATIZATION OF FORESTS
As one example (of hundreds) of land grabs under the guise of conservation carried out by NGOs within the non-profit industrial complex, in December of 2011 Kenya’s Samburu people were violently evicted. The eviction occurred following the”purchase” of the land by two American-based charities, the Nature Conservancy and the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF). The two US “conservation” NGOs “gifted” the Samburu’s 17,100 acres of ancestral lands to Kenya’s government (November 2011) in order to create a national park to be run by the Kenya Wildlife Service.
In the above video (1:58) Nakuru Lemiruni sends a message to those responsible for evicting the Samburu tribe from their land. AWF, using funds from The Nature Conservancy (TNC), claimed they purchased the land with the understanding that no one resided on it. When the Samburu protested and took legal action, the land was swiftly “gifted” to the government. Police officers carried out the vicious eviction/attack on a Friday market day, when the men were away, leaving women, elders and children alone in their homes. Fanning out across the 17,000-acre Eland Downs Ranch, the police burned the Samburu families’ homes to the ground, along with all their possessions. Identified in the Kenyan media as “squatters,” the evicted Samburu families then petitioned a regional court to recognize their ancestral claims to the land where they lived and grazed their cattle. The suit has been filed by the Samburu against the AWF and the former President. [Source]
Pension funds began investing in commodities (including food and farmland) only recently.Capital allocated to agriculture investment grew from approximately $6 billion in 2001 to $320 billion in 2011, with hedge funds accounting for a further $100 billion. In 2011, investors expected these numbers to double within a few years. By the end of 2012, this figure rose from $320 to $428 billion. [Source]
“Farmland values across the globe between 2002 and 2010 have risen up to 1,800%, according to the Global Farmland Index compiled by U.K.-based real estate firm Savil. The biggest upswings have been in emerging markets, such as Romania and Hungary.”Global farmland offers potential for asset deals, Sept 26, 2013
The broad gains in commodity markets seen during recent years – dubbed the commodity “super cycle” – have taken a hit in 2013. It was Calpers (California Public Employees’ Retirement System, Ceres Board Member, partner) that helped pioneer pension funds’ foray into indexes that track wheat, energy, metal and other commodities. The money flooded in from big institutions (pension funds and college endowments), turning the market on its head. Economists blamed these new “index speculators,” who had no stake in the underlying commodities, for creating a volatile market. [Source] As of August 2013, the funds decreased from $428 million (2012) to $363 million (Barclays).
Yet not all “commodities” are created equal.
“Timber has attracted $60 billion of institutional money, or almost double that of agriculture, as governments and mills sold “sizable” assets, he said. The lumber market is valued at $425 billion…” Bloomberg, Dec 5, 2012
“Farmland has become the darling of alternative investing, sending hedge funds and wealthy investors into bidding wars for plots of land once deemed ordinary. And it is not just big money getting in on the game. From Stockholm to Chicago to Vancouver, ordinary investor money is pouring into fields around the world.” – BBC Capital, June 6, 2013
“According to numerous surveys within the industry, pension fund managers are seeking to invest in farmland – a new asset class offering annual returns of 10–20% – as never before.” — June 20, 2011, Grain, Pension funds: key players in the global farmland grab
Included in such “green” portfolios will be massive land grabs and the appropriation of natural resources under the guise of conservation. “Sustainable” plantations (biomass/biofuels/agrofuels; feed for industrialized livestock), REDD+, Carbon Development Mechanisms (CDM) and so-called carbon sink projects comprise a green façade to justify the long-term objective of acquiring control of communally owned territory in the global South. In the long term, the goal is unbridled corporate capture of fertile land with access to cheap and plentiful water and labour, for producing export food crops that will deliver guaranteed high profits. Geo-engineering will place a further emphasis on food gentrification and large-scale monoculture industrial plantations – undoubtedly playing a pivotal and leading role in the accelerating obliteration of Earth’s natural biodiversity. Sovereign nations, peasants, farmers, campesinos, Indigenous Peoples and whole cultures will be annihilated in the process – a feat of 21st century corporate colonialism.
“Farmland investments are particularly attractive as prices are supported by solid long-term fundamentals that have little to do with the performance of traditional assets such as equities. In the long-term, farmland values rise as demand for food weighs against a limited supply of good quality land, with farmland prices having been shown to rise in line with population growth and economic expansion in developing nations. This effectively generates a return on investment in the long term, regardless of the performance of the wider economy.” — DGC Asset Management, 2011
“They see in farmland what they call good ‘fundamentals’: a clear economic pattern of supply and demand, which in this case hinges on a rising world population needing to be fed, and the resources to feed these people being finite.” — Pension funds: key players in the global farmland grab, June 20, 2011
“Of a total $23 trillion of asset under management within the pension fund space, around $100 billion is believed to be invested in commodities, of which between $5 billion and $15 billion is invested directly into farmland investments. A majority of analysts project that institutional investments in farmland and commodities are expected to double by 2015.” —DGC Asset Management, 2011
“The Global AgInvesting Conference hosted at the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan in June attracted some 600 institutional investors representing agriculture investment assets under management of almost $11 billion, and with plans to expand those holdings to almost $20 billion by 2014, a rise of almost 70%. Over 200 attendees were from the pension fund sector, and the majority intend to invest in farmland as the mainstay of their agricultural investment strategy.” — DGC Asset Management, 2011
According to Macquarie Agricultural Funds Management, agricultural land represents an $8.4 trillion market, of which institutional investors currently own approximately $30-$40 billion. This represents a fragment of the (monetary) value of farmland globally, estimated at about $8.4 trillion. Key regions targeted include Brazil and Argentina. Thus far, only 6 percent of institutional investment in primary agriculture has been in Africa due to geopolitical barriers. Yet, it is critical to note that investors perceive Africa as “having the most scope to open new areas of arable farmland.” [Institutions are blazing a trail in CIS farming, December 2, 2013, Source]
An industrialized economic system that voraciously consumes Earth’s natural resources, with zero regard toEarth’s replenishing cycles/laws of nature, ensures that agriculture is one clear and unmistakable source of pay-off for institutional investors. The new surge in money will push up global food prices (as we have already witnessed), hitting hardest those most vulnerable. As an example of investment driving up the market, food costs in 2012 came within 10 percent of the record set in February 2011 (United Nations Food Price Index). According to the World Bank, it is estimated that global food production will need to rise 70 percent to feed an additional 2 billion people on the planet. This will be a most miraculous attainment considering that as global temperatures increase beyond any temperature witnessed during the Holocene, agricultural yields will only further decline. Translation: food will be afforded, more and more, only by the wealthy.
“I see a massive change in agriculture coming … the returns on land over the long term equate to those received over the last 500 years by royal families… as food scarcity issues are likely to arise in the future, such land will rise in value too.” — Laguna Bay Pastoral chief executive Tim McGavin, Nov 18, 2013
Farmer loses farm. Investor or corporation now leases out farm (as well as related farming and irrigation infrastructure). Farmer now rents farm, etc. from investor or corporation while “the returns on land over the long term equate to those received over the last 500 years by royal families”.
Welcome to 21st century agro-colonialism.
And although Friends of the Earth knows full well that divestment does not address the finance of land-grabs (view Friends of the Earth endorsement in the civil society statementon the finance of land grabs, June 2012: Land grabbing by pension funds and other financial institutions must be stopped),they make no mention of it when promoting (one example) the divestment campaign led by 350.org.
“Pension funds are, at present, reported to be the largest institutional ‘investors’ in farmland worldwide. Yet the money used here is workers’ retirement savings. This means that wage earners and citizens may be implicated in massive violations of the human rights of local farming communities, including their rights to food, land, water, an adequate standard of living, their cultural rights and their right to self-determination – in breach of international law.” — Friends of The Earth Press Release, June 2012
More and more tragedies involve land grabbing, which is happening at an unprecedented rate all over the planet under the guise of “conservation” and “green economy.” For example, Hundreds Left Homeless in Olkaria Eviction in Kenya due to a large-scale geothermal project that has attracted both multinational and bilateral donors, with the World Bank being the main financier of the project. (Another video of the July 26, 2013 attack on the Maasai village in Olkaria is here). The short documentary film, Seeds of Discontent, exposes how a Swedish investment firm, Dutch pension fund and Norwegian church endowment actively engaged in land grabbing in Mozambique.
In Canada, the Algonquin people are fighting threats to land and water from an open-pit mining project for hybrid car batteries. Toyotsu Rare Earth Canada (TRECan), a Canadian subsidiary of Japan-based Toyota Tsusho Corporation, plans to build an open-pit Heavy Rare Earth Elements (HREE) mine directly next to Kipawa Lake, the geographical, ecological, and cultural centre of the Kipawa First Nation. Rare earths are a group of 17 elements found in the Earth’s crust. They are used to produce electronics for cell phones, wind turbines, and car batteries. Rare earths are notorious for their environmentally costly extraction process, with over 90 per cent of the mined raw materials classified as waste. [Source: Toyota Prius Not So Green After All]
Welcome to the “green economy”: classist, racist and utterly disgusting.
Yet another example in Canada, the Alberta Conservation Association is just one of thousands of NGOs working with corporations (in this case Shell, Suncor, the Canadian Government – see partners below) to commodify Earth’s last remaining resources under the guise/greenwash of conservation. The newly acquired and named “Shell Forests” are just a few examples.
As with the Keystone XL oil pipeline campaign, one is wise to watch the stock market in order to gain a sense of where the economic growth is expected to boom. In addition to both Warren Buffett’s and Bill Gates’s fairly recent stock acquisitions (in addition to their newly acquired/built rail empire) of John Deere and GMO crops, amidst the global rush to control the planet’s water, Buffett has been “loading up on the agricultural giant” Archer Daniels Midland (a focus on soybeans and ethanol – February 20, 2013) while eyeing farmland in Africa with plans to expandMonsanto’s biotechnology for “drought-tolerant corn” onto the Saharan landscapes.
“Brazil’s agricultural sector remains one of the most exciting markets around. Don’t take our word for it. George Soros, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, all major investors and farmers in the Bahia region of Brazil, believe Brazil to be the best location for theiralternative investments…. The buzz around Brazilian farmland has sparked interest from a wide range of different institutions, from hedge funds to private investors, pension funds and even foreign government entities from China, India, Europe and Africa have been making agricultural land enquiries within Brazil.” — Brazil’s Farmland is Still Ripe for Investment, March 18, 2013
In stark contrast, what lies beyond “modern” industrialized agriculture mirrors what we left behind in our collective past – a simple, nourishing work and respect of the soil, the land, the plant, the crop. In fact, millions of farmers are already advancing agriculture for themselves utilizing the same methods that have worked to feed humans for the past 10,000 years. [Source]
There has been a steady, building backlash against pension funds investing in massive land grabs (that have increased and continue to increase food prices, displace peasant farmers, and increase poverty and hunger). Because of this backlash, pension funds have been “afraid to go into the field alone, and they want to spread their bet or their risk by having partners join them.” In some societies not yet absorbed into the (pathological and insane) industrialized western mindset, land is sacred and the sale of land in some societies is not acceptable. [March 6, 2013, Pension funds join forces to invest in farmland. Source]
A FUTURE OF UNPRECEDENTED COUPS
Ukraine, the most recent state to fall to a US-backed coup, was/is not only coveted for strategic geographic/geopolitical position (aka control of oil/gas), but also for its rich black soil. Soil is the new oil of the 21st century. “Ukraine, formerly the breadbasket of the Soviet Union, is now a major crop producer for the world market. The country has over 32 million hectares (ha) of arable land, which is equivalent to roughly one third of the arable land in the entire European Union (EU). Its location on the Black Sea and its fertile black soil – it possesses 25 percent of the world’s so-called Chernozem – make Ukraine attractive to agricultural producers and investors. Moreover, agriculture is now considered as a main business opportunity in the Black Earth (Invest Ukraine, 2011).”Oligarchs and transnational capital have taken over the land with their share in the GDP at 42.3 percent, against 5 percent for farmers (Ministry of Agriculture, 2012). [Source]
ENVIRONMENTAL COLONIALISM | SO-CALLED “CONSERVATION”
“It is no secret that millions of native people around the world have been forced off their homelands to make way for oil, mines, timber, and agriculture. But few people realize that the same thing has happened for a cause which is considered by many as much nobler: land and wildlife conservation. Indigenous peoples evicted from their ancestral homelands, for conservation initiatives, have never been counted; they are not even officially recognised as refugees. The number of people displaced from their traditional homelands is estimated to be close to 20 million – 14 million in Africa alone. These expelled native peoples have been living sustainably for generations on what can only be reasonably regarded as their ancestral land.” [Watch: Conservation Refugees – Expelled from Paradise (24:18)
One NGO at the helm of stealth land grab ventures is Conservation International. Since its inception in 1987, Conservation International has continued to use “its considerable financial resources, political influence and environmental sweet talk to quietly access, administer and buy biodiverse areas throughout the world and put them at the disposal of transnational corporations.” [Conservation International: privatizing nature, plundering biodiversity, October 2003] Not to be lost is the fact that Conservation International has utilized the same soft power strategies in their ecotourism ventures (also dependent on Indigenous knowledge/peoples) as they have in their land/big pharma exploits in partnership with Monsanto and Novartis. [Further reading: Fundacion Pachamama is Dead – Long Live ALBA [Part I of an Investigative Report]
“REDD+ is driven by profit interests and is structured to allow polluters to continue polluting while increasing profits and enclosing lands.” — A colonial mechanism to enclose lands: A critical review of two REDD+-focused special issues, Joanna Cabello and Tamra Gilbertson, June 12, 2012
21st century market-based climate mitigation strategies are merely business opportunities to further corporate power. By normalizing such opportunistic exploitation, rather than exposing/rejecting it, one is complicit in promoting, thus prolonging, the dominant development model that is unjust, unethical, genocidal and ultimately, suicidal. The WWF certification schemes are but one set of such false solutions and green illusions. At present, WWF et al are waiting for the windfall that is slowly beginning to come into fruition under the much sought-after market mechanism REDD (which stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation).
It must be understood that REDD will not mitigate further ecological degradation and collapse (under the guise of so-called conservation). Rather, REDD will only serve to further strengthen corporate power as well as gained access and control of the Earth’s last remaining forests.
“This is an effort to address the varying assumptions from the academic journals – that REDD+ can be fixed with more governance, finance and/or community engagement – through a critique of the wider neoliberal climate regime, issues of ‘governance’ as an unproblematised category, and by exploring, from de-colonialist and environmental justice perspectives, the issues of real participation and sustainability. We conclude that REDD+ is framed within an epistemological understanding of forests and lands which supports the domination of nature by humans for economic profit, regardless of financial input, governance and/or participation from communities, and therefore will not be a successful means of climate mitigation or forest protection.” — A colonial mechanism to enclose lands: A critical review of two REDD+-focused special issues, Joanna Cabello and Tamra Gilbertson, June 12, 2012 [Emphasis added]
[Further reading on REDD: Fundación Pachamama is Dead – Long Live ALBA | Part II]
Millions of hectares of forest in Indonesia and Malaysia have been grossly and violently exploited. Cleared for palm oil (to manufacture processed foods for the wealthy states plagued with obesity), the palm oil plantations have destroyed whole communities, cultures, and thriving living ecosystems along with the flourishing wildlife within them. The degradation and pillage that have resulted are so severe that palm oil investors are now turning to the west coast of Africa as the industry’s next frontier. A recent forest burning in Sumatra resulted in one of Southeast Asia’s worst air-pollution crises in history, blanketing neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia with record levels of smog. As a result, in May 2013 Indonesia extended a moratorium on the issuance of new plantation and timber concessions in primary forests and peatland. Desperate to ensure growth of the vile industry, Norway has agreed to provide the country with up to $1 billion in financing to “help reduce deforestation.” [Source]
EVERYTHING CHANGES. EVERYTHING STAYS THE SAME | GREEN COLONIALISM AND FOREST POLICIES IN SOUTH INDIA, 1800-1900
“Going green” has become a popular slogan in the discourse of environmental conservation, and one that has been gaining wider popularity as global warming begins to threaten the very existence of the biotic world. The global environmental crisis has created a context in which the protection of forests has become a top priority in environmental conservation strategies. The preservationist and restorationist discourses advocate forest conservation as a means to save the Earth from environmental disaster. However, in spite of this strong emphasis on the preservation of forests, their destruction continues. In most of the present-day developing countries of Asia and Africa, this contradiction between advocated preservation and effective destruction of forests is a legacy of British colonial rule.
In a bid to expand the knowledge frontier on forest conservation, the British government appointed a committee under the chairmanship of Dr. H. Cleghorn in 1851, which produced a report on the condition of Indian forests. It’s the main point was that the process of deforestation was due to the irrational exploitive methods of the natives, most notably the shifting cultivation practised by the tribes. The committee strongly advocated state intervention to restore the forest cover, as the very welfare of the country depended upon its existence. The preservation and expansion of green cover, they argued, was necessary to save India’s climate and irrigation systems.
Dr. Cleghorn, first conservator of forests in the Madras Presidency, brought out his classic book, Forests and Gardens of South India, in 1861. It hardly discussed desiccationist ideas (the notion that cutting down a tree reduced the amount of rainfall on the spot where the tree had stood), but rather concentrated on silviculture and plantations. Nevertheless, again Cleghorn identified the shifting agricultural practices of tribes as mainly responsible for deforestation and the consequent ecological changes. It is important to note that this desiccationist discourse was informed by a presumption of racial superiority, where the colonizers branded the native farmers as destroyers of forests. Thus, desiccationist discourse was used not only as a justification for colonial forest policies, but also as a means to control the access of natives to forests.
The history of desiccationist discourse in South India shows how the British imposed scientific and moral hegemony over forests by blaming deforestation on the forest utilization pattern of the Indians although it was actually the colonial state that was responsible for the severe deforestation of South India. The desiccationist discourses of colonial scientists emanated from a context of anxiety over the wood requirements of the colonial state. Existing studies on desiccationist discourse in India project it as a moral reflection of the colonial scientific community. The history of colonial forest policies, however, indicates that it was rather a means to spread alarm and thereby facilitate the expansion of state control over forests. Desiccationist ideas were articulated not by scientists alone, but also by different sections of the colonial bureaucracy and policy makers. The narrative of the climatic influence of forests was a contested issue within the colonial bureaucracy at one level, and by the local people at another. The desiccationists advocated the protection of forests mainly on mountain slopes, where rivers originate. Their ideas, however, were used as a justification for the expansion of state control over most of the forest landscape in South India. The alarmist narratives were used as a catalyst for the imposition of the state’s administrative and legislative control over forests, but the main guiding force of colonial forest policies was the seeking of revenue and resources.
This legacy has had an explicit influence on the forest policies of independent India. Most policy interventions since independence – including social forestry, joint forest management and community forest management – have been justified with desiccationist discourse.  [Source: Green Colonialism and Forest Policies in South India, 1800-1900]
In 2013, the song remains the same.
Just as South India demonstrates how the British imposed scientific and moral hegemony over forests by blaming deforestation on the forest utilization pattern of the Indians (rather than those responsible: corporations and capitalism), today’s industrialized nations impose scientific and moral hegemony over Earth’s forests with the ultimate goals being 1) the implementation of REDD 2) the commodification and corporate capture of the Earth’s last remaining forests, and 3) the continuance of an ongoing genocide of Indigenous Peoples. And just as the British empire was responsible for the degradation they blamed on the Indians, today this transfer of responsibility is undertaken by NGOs. NGOs as key instruments of empire are utilized to manipulate the Indigenous Tribal peoples by convincing them that their ancient methods of burning are the primary drivers of climate change and destroying the planet, thereby guilting (and bribing) Indigenous Peoples into signing away their rights for their ancestral land, thus imposing REDD, thus imposing moral hegemony. In South India, the history of colonial forest policies indicates that it was rather a means to spread alarm and thereby facilitate the expansion of state control over forests. Today, climate change (very real) is grotesquely exploited by the elites as the ultimate catalyst for the commodification of Earth’s remaining resources.
The colonial scientific community’s discourse on the climatic importance of forests continues to this day, as does the underlying racism that attempts to pardon the colonizers’ greed, self-centeredness and voracious pillage.
It is critical to recognize that the push towards the illusory green economy is not driven by the vital necessity for the privileged to live within their means, rather it is serving as a driver for the infinite expansion of industrial production. This must be achieved by producing more raw materials to supply more sweatshops/factories, hence requiring more energy supplied by so-called “green” biofuels/biomass. The key words being “more”: more, more, more and more. The call of scientist Kevin Anderson (Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research) for a required and planned recession by developed states goes ignored.
“…major investment banks think the number of people served globally by investor-owned water companies is expected to rise 500% over the next 10 years.” — Energy & Capital, A Background and Primer for Water Investments, Source
“Water as an asset class will, in my view, become eventually the single most important physical-commodity based asset class, dwarfing oil, copper, agricultural commodities and precious metals.” — Willem Buiter, Citigroup’s top economist, 2011
“A major international conference in Edinburgh aimed at conserving wildlife is coming under fierce attack from campaign groups for trying to sell off nature to multinational corporations. The first ‘World Forum on Natural Capital’ later this month is due to attract business and conservation leaders from across the globe to debate how to give natural resources a monetary value in order to try and protect them. ‘The presence of big business, such as RBS, Coca Cola, Rio Tinto and KPMG, at the World Forum on Natural Capital exposes the event’s real purpose – putting a price on nature so that a small minority can profit…. [B]illions of people around the world depend on free access to forests, rivers and fertile soils for their survival. Putting a price on these common resources leaves all of us more exposed to the forces of the global economy.’” — Nick Dearden, Bid to ‘sell off nature’ to companies under fire, Nov 13, 2013 [Emphasis added]
Water investments represent yet another “sustainable”/green fund responsible investment that would be considered a “green” alternative to fossil fuel investment. Such investment funds are also marketed as “clean technologies.”
“They transform water from a resource openly available to all into a private good whose access must be negotiated and is often based on the ability to pay. Water grabbing thus appears in many different forms, ranging from the extraction of water for large-scale food and fuel crop monocultures, to the damming of rivers for hydroelectricity, to the corporate takeover of public water resources. It also inheres in a model of development which is underwritten by a trade in virtual water.” [Source]
The December 21, 2012 article titled The New “Water Barons”: Wall Street Mega-Banks and the Tycoons are Buying Up Water at Unprecedented Pace, published by The Market Oracle, must be considered essential reading. Author Jo-Shing Yang observes:
“A disturbing trend in the water sector is accelerating worldwide. The new ‘water barons’ – the Wall Street banks and elitist multibillionaires – are buying up water all over the world at unprecedented pace. Familiar mega-banks and investing powerhouses such as Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, UBS, Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse, Macquarie Bank, Barclays Bank, the Blackstone Group, Allianz, and HSBC Bank, among others, are consolidating their control over water. Wealthy tycoons such as T. Boone Pickens, former President George H.W. Bush and his family, Hong Kong’s Li Ka-shing, Philippines’ Manuel V. Pangilinan and other Filipino billionaires, and others are also buying thousands of acres of land with aquifers, lakes, water rights, water utilities, and shares in water engineering and technology companies all over the world…
“Now, in 2012, we are seeing this trend of global consolidation of water by elite banks and tycoons accelerating. In a JP Morgan equity research document, it states clearly that ‘Wall Street appears well aware of the investment opportunities in water supply infrastructure, wastewater treatment, and demand management technologies.’ Indeed, Wall Street is preparing to cash in on the global water grab in the coming decades. For example, Goldman Sachs has amassed more than $10 billion since 2006 for infrastructure investments, which include water. A 2008 New York Times article mentioned Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, and the Carlyle Group, to have ‘amassed an estimated $250 billion war chest – must of it raised in the last two years – to finance a tidal wave of infrastructure projects in the United States and overseas…
“In 2008, Goldman Sachs called water ‘the petroleum for the next century’ and those investors who know how to play the infrastructure boom will reap huge rewards, during its annual ‘Top Five Risks’ conference. Water is a U.S. $425 billion industry, and a calamitous water shortage could be a more serious threat to humanity in the 21st century than food and energy shortages, according to Goldman Sachs’s conference panel. Goldman Sachs has convened numerous conferences and also published lengthy, insightful analyses of water and other critical sectors (food, energy).
“Goldman Sachs is positioning itself to gobble up water utilities, water engineering companies, and water resources worldwide. Since 2006, Goldman Sachs has become one of the largest infrastructure investment fund managers and has amassed a $10 billion capital for infrastructure, including water.”
Many pension funds have forayed into the water investment sector. As an example, Canadian pension funds CDPQ (Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, which manages public pension funds in the province of Québec) and CPPIB (Canada Pension Plan Investment Board) have acquired England’s South East Water and Anglian Water, respectively. [Source] There are also several water indexes, index funds and hedge funds. Credit Suisse partnered with Ceres partner General Electric (GE Infrastructure) in May 2006 to establish a U.S.$1 billion joint venture to profit from privatization and investments in global infrastructure assets. [Source]
The 2011 Ceres report Aqua Gauge is telling. All definitions within the paper are sourced from “Water for Business: Initiatives Guiding Sustainable Water Management in the Private Sector” (WBCSD, IUCN, 2010). The paper also notes thatBloomberg has announced plans to launch a water-focused data service that would provide supply-and-demand models, water data, and news and briefings on water scarcity. [“Our research notes, analyst reactions and market outlooks enable investors to identify upcoming changes and validate opportunities for growth.” [Bloomberg's once-launched water-focused data service has since been removed: http://about.bnef.com/markets/water/]
The list of corporations that Ceres is strategically aligned with is far more telling. Goldman Sachs (Ceres Financial Services Companies), JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, UBS (Bruno Bertocci of UBS serves on the Ceres 21CI Advisory Committee, acronym for The 21st Century Investor), Deutsche Bank (Ceres INCR member), Credit Suisse, Macquarie Bank, Barclays(Ceres financial backer), Allianz, HSBC, Bank of America (Ceres Company), Morgan Stanley, the very water barons highlighted by Yang in the above article, are all associated with Ceres funders / associates / partners / members / prominent conference speakers.
It is of interest to note that Ceres highlights many of these same banks, Bank of America, Barclays, BNP Paribas, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Fortis, Merrill Lynch, Mitsubishi UFJ, and Morgan Stanley as the “carbon trading leaders.” [Source: Ceres 2008 Banking Sector Report.] At this point you may wish to remind yourself that many trusted NGOs are partners with Ceres and many have served on the advisory board since its inception.
Note that in 2013, “Morgan Stanley created the Institute for Sustainable Investing with the goal of mobilizing capital to address sustainability challenges at scale, building on the firm’s existing efforts. The Institute focuses on developing sustainable investing products and solutions, thought leadership and cross-sector partnerships. As part of the Institute’s launch, Morgan Stanley announced a five-year goal of $10 billion in total client assets in investments that seek to deliver market-rate returns and positive environmental and social impact. Ceres President Mindy Lubber serves on the Institute’s Advisory Board, which is chaired by Morgan Stanley’s Chairman and CEO James Gorman.” [Emphasis added] [Source]
The Ceres president serving on Morgan Stanley’s Institute for Sustainable Investing advisory board is yet another fine example of the interlocking directorate – a contagion that thrives in the non-profit industrial complex. (The Rebecca Adamson example will follow.)
While water investments continue to skyrocket, Calvert Asset Management Company, Inc., a Ceres coalition member, and Allianz (Ceres associate)represent two of the “best” recognized water-focused mutual funds: The Calvert Global Water Fund [Class A (CFWAX)] has returned a whopping 27.65 percent over the past year; 15.98 percent over the past three years; and 16.06 percent over the past five years. [Source] The same fund (CFWAX), having held $42 million in assets in 2010, now holds assets of $564.86 million as of July 4, 2014. [Source] The Allianz Global Water Fund [Class A (AWTAX)] has had a staggering return of 25.12 percent over the past year; 11.10 percent over the past three years; and 14.34 percent over the past five years. [Source] The same fund (AWTAX) having held assets of $54 million in 2010, now holds assets of $348.3 million as of June 30, 2014. [Source] These two Ceres associates hold positions number two (AllianzGI ) and number five (Calvert) for “Best Mutual Funds” under the fund category of “Natural Resources” by U.S. News.
“Gorte serves as Chief Social Investment Strategist and Vice President at Calvert Variable Series, Inc. – Calvert VP Small Cap Growth Portfolio, Calvert Variable Series, Inc.- Calvert Social Small-Cap Growth Portfolio, Calvert Variable Series, Inc. – Ameritas Growth Portfolio, Calvert Variable Series Inc – Calvert VP SRI Equity Portfolio, and Calvert Variable Series, Inc. – Calvert VP SRI Balanced Portfolio. She served as Vice President and Chief Social Investment Strategist at Calvert Group, Ltd., Calvert Variable Series, Inc – Ameritas Small Company Equity Portfolio and Calvert Variable Series, Inc. – Calvert VP Mid Cap Value Portfolio. She served as a Vice President and Chief Social Investment Strategist at Calvert Investment Management, Inc. and Calvert Asset Management Company, Inc. Prior to that, Dr. Gorte served as Director of Calvert Asset Management’s social research department, where she managed its team of social and environmental analysts as well as shareholder advocacy.” [Source] [*Several requests to Ceres for annuals reports prior to 2001 have been unsuccessful.]
Today Gorte serves as the Senior Vice President of Sustainable Investing at Pax World Management Corporation. Under Pax, Gorte has continued her board member status on Ceres from 2006 to present. “Gorte oversees environmental, social, and governance-related research on prospective and current investments as well as the Pax’s shareholder advocacy and work on public policy advocacy. She serves as Portfolio Manager of Pax World Funds Series Trust III – Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Index Fund.” [Source]
“As I wrote in Too Good to be True, Rebecca Adamson’s value to energy extraction corporations is that of broker, helping multi-national corporations to corrupt tribal leadership through corporate buy-ins. By making grants to tribes through investments in Adamson’s international NGO First Peoples Worldwide, Shell Oil and other notorious corporations pave the way for industrial development in the Fourth World.”
At this juncture it must be noted that Calvert has given financial support to Ceres since, at minimum, 2001, and possibly from inception.
One of the world’s largest banks, JPMorgan Chase, has been at the helm of those aggressively pursuing water and infrastructure investment worldwide. JPMorgan’s own analysts estimate that the emerging markets infrastructure is approximately U.S.$21.7 trillion over the next decade. [Source] Ceres works closely with JPMorgan Chase and many other powerful banks and financial institutions in achieving their goals:
“Stakeholder engagement: Ceres, working with our coalition of investors and advocacy groups, engages with a number of financial services firms including Bank of America, State Street, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan [sic] Chase and Citi to help them assess their performance on environmental and social impacts and risks, and identify opportunities for improvement.” [Source]
In the June 16, 2014 article titled Wasted Energy: Fossil Fuel Divestment, author Jay Taber notes that “divestment won’t change a thing environmentally. It will only change ownership of some shares from public institutions to private ones – like the banks we bailed out with our tax dollars. Given the money to be made on the booming fossil fuel industry, I’m sure the banks will be delighted to acquire these shares, and in turn leave the public with no voice at future shareholder meetings.” It is more than likely that Yang (author of the aforementioned Water Barons article) would agree. In the 2008 article, Why Big Banks May Be Buying up Your Public Water System, Yang astutely notes:
“I detailed how both mainstream and alternative media coverage on water has tended to focus on individual corporations and super-investors seeking to control water by buying up water rights and water utilities. But paradoxically the hidden story is a far more complicated one. I argued that the real story of the global water sector is a convoluted one involving ‘interlocking globalized capital’: Wall Street and global investment firms, banks, and other elite private-equity firms – often transcending national boundaries to partner with each other, with banks and hedge funds, with technology corporations and insurance giants, with regional public-sector pension funds, and with sovereign wealth funds – are moving rapidly into the water sector to buy up not only water rights and water-treatment technologies, but also to privatize public water utilities and infrastructure.”
Yang’s words will serve to be prophetic as the divestment campaign unfolds.
Ceres has done a formidable job in serving the corporate interests that fund their work. With skillful precision, Ceres strategically and effectively exploited and continues to exploit the greatest crisis humanity has ever faced in order to secure and further all “climate wealth” opportunities for the oligarchs. In the wave of urgent reports published in November of 2012 [Oligarchy Sends Signal for Green Economy], Ceres promptly seized the moment. On November 20, 2012 the Guardian published the articleInfluential Investors (CERES) Call for Action on ‘Serious Climate Danger’:
“A coalition of the world’s largest investors called on governments on Tuesday to ramp up action on climate change and boost clean-energy investment or risk trillions of dollars in investments and disruption to economies. In an open letter, the alliance of institutional investors, responsible for managing $22.5 trillion in assets, said rapidly growing greenhouse gas emissions and more extreme weather were increasing investment risks globally. The group called for dialogue between investors and governments to overhaul climate and energy policies.”
Author Yang perhaps summarizes Cere’s work best:
“The elite multinational and Wall Street banks and investment banks have been preparing and waiting for this golden moment for years. Over the past few years, they have amassed war chests of infrastructure funds to privatize water, municipal services, and utilities all over the world. It will be extremely difficult to reverse this privatization trend in water.”
THE THINKING PERSON’S NIGHTMARE
During the last four years, Americans have been coerced into focusing on a single, symbolic campaign to Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline. This campaign was funded in large part by the Tides Foundation, which distributes the funds (from other foundations) to qualifying NGOs and groups. The number one funder of the Tides Foundation leading up to and during this time period was none other than the NoVo Foundation, founded on monies provided by Warren Buffett. ["NoVo was created in 2006 after Warren Buffett pledged to donate 350,000 shares of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. stock to the foundation."] It is maintained by Warren Buffett’s son, Peter Buffett (co-chair) and partner Jennifer Buffett (president and co-chair).
As it has been clearly and unequivocally demonstrated that the Euro-American Left, collectively, far prefers fiction overreality, perhaps it is futile to explain that the Tides Foundation also channels hundreds of thousands of dollars into Ceres. In 2010, TIDES granted $100,000 to Ceres, specifically earmarking the funds for a “tar sands campaign.” [TIDES 990, 2010] In2008, Ceres received $50,000 from Wallace Global, also designated for a tar sands campaign. [***Further information on the relationship between the Tides Foundation, the NoVo Foundation, Ceres and NoVo's stocks in Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway is disclosed in an upcoming segment of this investigative report.]
And all while, Warren Buffett built an entire 21st century American Rail Empire with absolutely no dissent. “Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation is the parent company of the BNSF Railway (formerly the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway). The railroad is now wholly owned by Berkshire Hathaway, which is controlled by investor Warren Buffett.” [Source] As the crude-via-rail industry (ignored by the NGOs) continued to skyrocket, the non-profit industrial complex continued to declare glorious victories while key segments of the KXL pipeline (much of the pipeline having already been built before the campaign even began) quietly went into operation. And while a theatre performance worthy of the Palau de la Música Catalana was playing to a sold-out audience (quite literally), Ceres was expanding its tentacles throughout the globe.
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. You can follow her on twitter: @elleprovocateur