The People's Dialogue Declaration on the Green Economy and in defense of mother earth and the commons,
Johannesburg 7 May 2012
The People's Dialogue, a network representing millions of African and Latin Americans organised in movements of rural women, small scale farmers, peasants, workers, feminist and research formations, is mindful that the discussion on the green economy takes place at the very time that capitalism, a system based on private property and the drive to accumulate more and more – i.e. infinite growth – faces its deepest crisis since the Great Depression of the 1920s and 1930s..
The intersecting and reinforcing economic and ecological crises are toxic for the health and livelihoods of poor and working people in Africa, Latin America and across the world. This is what is clear as we evaluate 20 years of the failure of the so-called sustainable development paradigm ushered in by the Rio Earth Summit. Almost every ecological, social and economic indicator is worse today than at the time of the adoption of Agenda 21.
We are not surprised.
Since the 1992 Earth Summit we have witnessed the ascent of the free market – capitalism freed from all externalities – no longer having to consider social, health, labour and environmental "boundaries". It is the dynamics of the global economy enabled by local ruling elites that has set humanity up against the limits of the planet and which is undermining attempts at arresting the global crisis. As fish need water and humans need air to survive the market economy needs increasing profit rates and unlimited growth. It is the more or less average compound economic growth of 3% that is breaching planetary boundaries. The process of neoliberal globalisation accelerates this process while expanding inequalities and increasing polarisation between and within countries.
The past 20 years is the proof that a capitalism in crisis cannot be green. It is a contradiction in terms. Leading scientists have proposed nine planetary boundaries, which mark the safe operating space for the planet. Three of these boundaries (climate change, biodiversity, and the nitrogen cycle) have already been breached, while others, such as fresh water use and ocean acidification, are emerging planetary breaches. In ecological terms, the market economy has now grown to such a scale and intrusiveness that it is both overshooting planetary boundaries and tearing apart the biogeochemical cycles of the planet.
Over the last 20 years the very global institutions, principally the United Nations that have been tasked to develop solutions to the social, economic and environmental challenges resulting from the rapacious drive for profits by giant transnational corporations have increasingly come under their influence. The United Nations now under the influence of not just the Western industrialised powers but their corporations proposes processes and sets of solutions that entail the further commercialisation, commodification, privatisation, and financialisation of every aspect of life. We are made to believe that the very processes that have brought us to the crisis – extreme marketisation – can somehow overcome the crisis.
As the People's Dialogue, we believe that humanity at Rio + 20, is through the "Green
Economy", being confronted by the transformation of nature, her environmental services, life itself into a product to be marketed and sold as if it were any other commodity.
This is the context in which we the People's Dialogue met to discuss the Rio + 20 Summit and the Green Economy in Johannesburg from 5 – 7 May 2012. Part of our discussions involved a field visit to the mines of the Witwatersrand that brought capitalism and the market economy to Southern Africa. Having seen the destruction to Johannesburg's land, water resources and people's through mining, industrialisation and the suffering it is created for the millions of poor people that were dispossessed and left with only their labour power to sell we were able to see the urgency for an alternative to the current destructive model of economy. It is in this context we wish to convey the following concerns, formulate the following analysis and make the following calls and demands:
We believe the Green Economy is about making money from nature. This is its essential characteristic and its dynamic as it relates to energy and the climate, biodiversity, food, land and agriculture, water and the oceans. Through the promises of being environmentally friendly and providing jobs, the green economy is as seductive as the concept sustainable development and as potentially divisive while being just as illusory and elusive. We caution our sisters and brothers in civil society to not be fooled.
It is clear that the Green Economy in its current expression as contained in the Zero Draft and documents of the UNEP will advance capitalist dynamics that require an escape from the global crisis and undermine the rights of mother earth and her people.
The Green Economy ignores the critical issues facing us as people living in Africa and Latin
America (in particular rural women) such as food, water and seed sovereignty, security of tenure and control over our native lands and the protection of biodiversity. The Green
Economy refuses to confront the real causes of unemployment and rise of militarisation in a context of resource scarcity and unequal power relations. These are issues neglected on the Rio+20 agenda and are sites of major struggle towards the development of alternative paradigms.
We the People's Dialogue and comrades in solidarity stand against the commodification of nature and the green (capitalist) economy.
We strongly believe that
• Our common starting point in defence of humanity is the recognition of the integrity of the planetary ecosystems that underpin life;
• the people are the guardians of land, life and love and have a primary responsibility to undo the damage done by our actions to mother earth and her life services;
• the rights of people and those of mother earth which are inseparable must be recognised and realised
• in the struggle to preserve nature the basic needs of those living in nature must be respected
• humanity must live within environmental limits.
• thousands of years of local knowledge must be preserved as a common good against the threat from corporate bio-piracy
• the ecological crisis as a direct outcome of accumulation for accumulation sake cannot be solved within the same logic and parameters
• those who are responsible for the crisis should be held to account and made liable for ecological rehabilitation and pay reparations to affected communities and peoples;
• Our struggles and campaign are the foundations upon which alternative paradigms are already being constructed
• the recognition of the rights of mother earth in legally binding national and multilateral legal instruments
• democratic control of what we produce and how we produce and what we consume;
• An end to the export model of development which is a major cause of both the ecological and economic crises as it opens up a dynamic of a race to the bottom
• a movement towards a planet free of extractivism and that the use of our natural resources through mining or any other method is done in accordance with the principles of democracy, renewability and sustainability;
• policies that protect our indigenous seeds, open pollinated varieties and are against genetically modified organisms;
• policies that promote agro-ecological methods that guarantee food and seed sovereignty and indigenous knowledge;
• a state driven shift away from fossil fuels to a low carbon economy through the creation of millions of climate jobs
• the dismantling of transnational corporations through stringent regulations and the scaling back of their operations from the commons and to areas of the economy that do not impact on nature and her environmental services.
We call upon
• Popular movements and organisations, poor and working people in Africa, Latin America and the rest of the world to reject the corporate-driven concept of the Green Economy and its agenda of profiting from the commodification of nature and her environmental services;
• All our people to mobilise in defence of the commons, especially the protection of our land, forests, atmosphere, rivers, oceans, our culture and knowledge resources under democratic public ownership and control
• Popular forces and movements to occupy the UN and its multilateral processes such that we push back against corporate interests and control;
• Our people to mobilise, attend and speak out against corporate interests that profits from the destruction of the planet;
The people of Africa and Latin America to mobilise in mass action and stand in solidarity on the 5th and 20th June – global days of mass action in defence of mother earth – and raise their fists and voices against the leaders of the global elites on our vision of social, economic and environmental justice.