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The people of the world confront the advance of capitalism: Rio +20 and beyond

posted Jun 12, 2012, 5:41 PM by Dianne James
Position paper of La Via Campesina

Governments from all over the world will meet in Río de Janeiro, Brasil from June 20-22 2012, to supposedly commemorate 20 years since the “Earth Summit”, the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development, that established for the first time a global agenda for “sustainable development”. During this summit, in 1992, three international conventions were adopted: the Convention on Biological Diversity, the United Nations Convention on Climate Change, and the Convention to Fight Desertification. Each of these promised to initiate a series of actions destined to protect the planet and all of the life on it, and to allow all human beings to enjoy a life of dignity.

At that time , many social organizations congratulated and supported these new conventions with hope. Twenty years later, we see the real causes of environmental, economic, and social deterioration continuing without being attacked. Worse still, we are profoundly alarmed that the next meeting in June will serve to deepen neoliberal policies and processes of capitalist expansion, concentration, and exclusion that today have enveloped us in an environmental, economic, and social crisis of grave proportions. Beneath the deceptive and badly intentionedterm “green economy”, new forms of environmental contamination and destruction are now rolled out along with new waves of privatization, monopolization, and expulsion from our lands and territories.

La Via Campesina will mobilize for this event, representing the voice of the peasant inthe global debate and defending a different path to development that is based on thewellbeing of all, that guarantees food for all, that protects and guarantees that thecommons and natural resources are put to use to provide a good life for everyone andnot to meet the needs for accumulation of a few.

20 years later: the planet and humanity in crisis

20 years after the Earth Summit, life on the planet has become dramatically difficult.The number of hungry people has increased to almost a billion, which means that oneout of every six people is going hungry, mostly children and women in the countryside.Expulsion from our lands and territories is accelerating, no longer only due toconditions of disadvantage imposed upon us by trade agreements and the industrialsector, but by new forms of monopoly control over land and water, by the globalimposition of intellectual property regimes that steal our seeds, by the invasion oftransgenic seeds, and by the advance of monoculture plantations, mega-projects, andmines.

The grand promises of Río ’92 have resulted a farce. The Convention on Biodiversityhas not stopped the destruction of biodiversity and has strengthened and generatednew mechanisms destined to privatize it and turn it into merchandise. Desertificationcontinues to accelerate due to the industrial agriculture and the expansion ofagribusiness and monoculture plantations. Global warming —with all of the disastersand dramatic suffering it is already causing—has not slowed, but has accelerated andbecome more severe.

The great deceit of 1992 was “sustainable development”, which social organizations initially saw as a possibility to confront the root of the problems. However, it was nothing more than a cover-up for the search for new forms of accumulation. Today they look to legitimize a new façade under the name “green economy”.

The “green economy” and other false solutions: a new assault on the people andtheir territories.

Capitalist profit-seeking has generated the biggest systemic crisis since 1929. Since2008, the hegemonic system has looked for ways out of its structural crisis, searchingfor new possibilities for accumulation that support its logic. It is in this context that thecorporate takeover of agreements on biodiversity and climate change have occurred,and consequently, the development of this new financial engineering called GreenCapitalism.

Governments, business people, and the organizations of the United Nations have spent these last years constructing the myth of the “green economy” and of the “greening of technology”. They present it as a new possibility to bring together environmental stewardship and business, but it is in fact the vehicle to obtain new advances of capitalism, putting the entire planet under the control of big capital. . There are various mechanisms that will be advanced by the green economy and all of them will increase the destruction. More specifically,

  1. The green economy does not seek to reduce climate change or environmental deterioration, but to generalize the principle that those who have money can continue polluting. Up to now, they have used the farce of purchasing carbon bonds to continue emitting greenhouse gases. They are now inventing biodiversity bonds. This is to say, businesses can continue destroying forests and ecosystems, as long as they pay someone to supposedly conserve biodiversity somewhere else. Tomorrow they may invent bonds for water, natural “views”, or clean air.