Much water (and good intentions) have passed under the bridge and gone down the drain since the initial excitement and hope of the original Rio Earth summit. It has become patently clear that no matter how obvious the signs that are screaming at us from the earth, the rivers, the oceans and the skies, the big players are interested only in their continued profiteering, though they have learnt make it look as though they are doing something for the planet. Greenwashing is the term, but that is almost too mildly put. Lies, deception, evading responsibilities and outright rip off are the actual realities.
It is no accident that such 'global' summits are usually held behind closed doors, where so called 'stake holders' bargain over the rights to continue polluting at the lowest possible cost and greatest potential financial return. Meanwhile, the people most affected - both, by climate change and by the bargaining over carbon trading that has been touted as the 'best solution we can hope for', are left outside.
The deals that emerge are predictable. REDD+ is the fasted road into very muddy waters. Projects vary greatly and to some degree their validity depends on the integrity of those who cut them, but essentially they all have the same aim: land grabbing under the guise of CO2 offset or trading. Typically an NGO (or, deceptively, an NGO branch of a corporation) persuades indigenous people who have hitherto been the guardians of their ancestral lands (and mostly done a pretty good job at it) to hand over their rights to decide on how their forest resources should be used in the future. The devil, as always, sits in the small print. In some cases indigenous people have been displaced and been completely disenfranchised, losing their land and livelihoods in a spurious trade, that puts a monetary value on their forests, which is reduced to its function as a carbon sink and, lately 'bio-services'.
The fundamental problem with this line of thinking is that the very elements that have been responsible for the environmental mess we are in are trying to persuade us that MARKET FORCES will be the only way to salvage the situation. Securing land rights under the REDD+ regulations means carbon credits, which are worth money on the market. In other words, a new trade bubble is being created that investors are gambling on at the stock market casino. However, under the current definitions a monoculture plantation of, say eucalyptus or palm oil represents the same value as virgin forest or secondary rainforest. Yet, the actual ecological impact of such plantations are devastating: habitats and biodiversity are destroyed, local and indigenous communities are deprived of their resources (on which they often depend on for their survival) and furthermore, monocultures are vulnerable to pests and diseases, which in turn implies the need to use pesticides and herbicides.
REDD+ assumes the premise that traditional land and forest uses for subsistence have the same impacts as industrial agriculture or using land for profit. This is not the case. In fact, innumerable studies testify to the fact that, indigenous people have been by far the best guardians of forest habitats. Yet, REDD+ agreements set out to 'safe-guard' the forest and 'protect' it against the indigenous people who are in fact part of the forest eco-system. It is yet another imperialistic land grab and what is worse, it is happening under the guise of conservation.
Instead of placing the emphasis on reducing carbon emissions at source the focus is on these spurious solutions that in fact only create more problems.
We can no longer rely on those in power to negotiate with OUR best interest at heart. As we have seen, those most affected are kept from participating and from making any kind of meaningful contribution. Their (and our) concerns are mostly ignored. Where business holds the strings of power, positive political impulses for real change are quickly quenched or diverted.
Although many conservationists push the strategy of REDD+ as the best solution that we can hope for, personally I am not at all comfortable with the commodification of nature and her 'bioservices'. There is a huge difference between value and price - especially market price, which can go up and down on speculation. Nature is too precious to be reduced to gambling chips. We are talking about our Mother - how would you put a price on your mother, on her milk and nurture, let alone the myriad of other 'mother services' she bestowed upon her children? We need to get away from the neo-liberal principles of a free market economy so often hailed as a 'self-regulating' force. It regulates nothing. It is driven by greed until the system collapses, as we have seen in countless examples of vulture economics. Instead, we need entirely new paradigms and ways of handling the global crisis instead of pretending everything can be fixed with a green economy and return to 'normal' - i.e. more profits for greenwashed corporations. We need to stop regarding nature as a separate object entity - we as humans ARE nature too, and whatever harm we do to nature, we do to ourselves. There can be no cheating - it will only backfire, on us (as it already does).
This June will see another congregation of the high and mighty at the Rio+20 Summit. What was started enthusiastically 20 years ago, with hope for real change and transformation has turned into oil business as usual as governments and stake holders drag their feet and only agree on the smallest common denominator, only as long as there is something in it for them.
But does it have to be that way? Do we have to resign ourselves to 'leaving it up to 'them' to come up with solutions? This planet is our home - we do not own it, but we share it, with each other and all other species. Maintaining that balance is not their business, it concerns us all - and it is becoming ever more pressing.
Increasingly, people are beginning to realize this and are starting to get organized to create local solutions for many of our most pressing problems: food security, oil dependency, poverty, and more. The network is known as Global Transitions Network and comprises of innumerable micro-initiatives with the aim of putting theories into practice and solving problems locally. The time is ripe for a radical paradigm shift.
Further resources and information
"you never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete".