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UG#690 - Paying to Cut, Paying Not to Cut (Unbearable Costs of Financialization)

Robin Upton | 05.09.2014 02:43 | Analysis | Ecology | Social Struggles | Sheffield | World

Why is paying people to cut down trees like paying them not to cut down trees? Well, do these two apparent opposites actually result in opposite outcomes...? Or do they both, by equating trees with money, turn them into resources, and so effectively put them under the control of rich foreigners, with predictable consequences. In our first hour, Jeff Conant explores "REDD", the World Bank's forest protection racket for the global south. In our second hour, Max Haiven looks at the extreme and ongoing financialization of the "developed" world, resulting in a damage to society and personal identities that while difficult to quantify is nevertheless all too real. He recommends we "rededicate ourselves to moving beyond individualism and this idea that we are all competitive agents by actively building grassroots concrete effort to reclaim the commons by actively building grassroots efforts in the here and now.

ug690-hour1mix.mp3 - mp3 27M

ug690-hour2mix.mp3 - mp3 27M

This week we look at the experience of financialization - what happens the formerly priceless are turned into commodities that are up for sale? Most "free market" advocates argue theoretically that such a process should lead to what they term more "efficient" outcomes, but we look not at theory but practice. In hour#1, we focus on Mexico's largest intact jungle, in hour #2, we look at the toxic effect of markets in "developed" countries.

The tone of the show is set by a 7 minute reading from episode 361. Lyn Gerry reads John Taylor Gatto's sorry tale from The Underground History of American Education in which he reviews what happened when he decided to use large cash payments to enhance the learning of his kids.

Our main piece in the first hour is an interview of Jeff Conant, who describes the World Bank's policy of REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation), which values forests by their ability to absorb carbon, and allocates carbon credits accordingly, effectively paying the forest owners not to cut down forests.

"[World Bank President] Robert Zoellick received rousing applause when he said that REDD is “the best chance, and perhaps the last chance, to save the world’s forests.” Sitting here and listening to that I'm hearing it not as a forest protection scheme, but as a forest protection racket. This is the World Bank, the leading investor in fossil fuel development and in global environmental destruction, saying "It would be a shame if something happened to the rest of the world's forests, so put them under our control and we will protect them for you"."— Jeff Conant, 2011

This new policy makes economic and environmental sense claim the world bank and its market-oriented environmental organization henchmen. But the practical impact on communities in Mexico's Lacondon Jungle (under which, though the interview does not develop this angle, there are significant oil reserves) seem not be in line with the policy's stated objectives... Conant notes that the European carbon market has failed to decrease (or even to stabilise) Europe's carbon emissions. Carbon certificates instead become licenses to carry out business as usual for large corporations.

To try to broaden the scope of the show from financialization to any top down control mechanisms, we read some highlights from this article on how national governments seek to render their subject populations "legibile". Next we revisit the soundtrack of a short video on the Financialization of Nature from our last episode centered on the financialization of nature.

We conclude with Max Haiven, assistant professor of art history and critical studies at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, speaking on his new book, "Crisis of creativity, Crisis of Power: Capitalism, Creativity and the Commons". Haiven's thoughtful discussion bears relistening and it centers on how the financial metaphor is invading people's understanding of themselves and the world around them. For example, people are encouraged to see a university degree not as a means to understand more of the world or to increase their capacity to act within it, but simply as an asset to be invested in if it will increase their expected earnings sufficiently. This insidious process of financialization seems to know no boundaries, even infecting family ties and romantic relationships. He refers to the financial system as a "new deity" and firmly rejects the process of financialization, arguing that we must reject such abstracted value which, far from being value neutral as some economists claim, is fundamentally individualistic, speculative and capitalist in nature.

This episode rebroadcasts content from episode 361 and episode 619.

Robin Upton
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