THE WORLD AS NATURAL CAPITAL

07 Feb 2020 | Hannah Ekin & Jorgen Doyle - Island G, Jakarta

In a time of unprecedented climate catastrophe, Global North governments, multinational companies, neoliberal economists, blockchain nerds and tech-fetishists are advancing the virtualised spectacle of the ‘win-win solution’, promising to extend capital to places it has not reached before, and avert climate disaster in the process. The capitalist protagonists named above see opportunity in redressing ‘the economic invisibility of nature’ by developing a planetary accountancy that can quantify ecosystems and biodiversity into new circuits of accumulation. 

The spectacle of the win-win solution underpins the technologically enabled neo-colonialism of programs for carbon offsetting, touching down violently in Indonesia via Reduced Emissions through Deforestation and Destruction (REDD+) projects, and the World Bank-sponsored One Map Initiative, which promises to make Indonesia’s territory uncomplicatedly legible to capital. 

Island G is a vehicle with which to see these global changes in how land is viewed, quantified and evaluated. 

In what ways do the economists, planetary accountants, and tech escalationists of contemporary informational capitalism all strive to make real landscapes, materials and sociality resemble and conform to their virtual projections? 

What is the relationship between the financial models of carbon trading, biodiversity credits, and the privatisation of other new rights to nature, and the aesthetic models and visualisations of speculative real estate (those being projected on Island G)?

All landscapes are produced. How do we take control over what kind of landscapes and environments are produced away from narrow class interests orchestrated through the market to broad social discussion? 

As a wasteland, how can we think with Island G to “[bridge] the disconnect  between information-related struggles (from the hacker movement to the digital precariat, from Anonymous to media activism in the post–Edward Snowden age) and energy-related struggles (from antinuclear movements to climate justice, from urban ecology to indigenous struggles on land and sovereignty)? 

LATE CAPITALISM’S NEW WAYS OF FRACKING VALUE

Hernando de Soto Knows How To Make the Third World Richer than the First

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dkgc5Jo-Ft8 

Neoliberal darling Hernando de Soto expressing his enthusiasm for ‘bottom billion capitalism’. For me, there are strong equivalences between de Soto’s imaginary of the assets of the world’s poorest people (specifically the land they occupy but do not hold legal papers to) as defective capital waiting to be made legible and liquifiable, and new capitalist imaginaries of non-human nature as ‘natural capital’; both the world’s poorest and ‘nature’ are to be saved by giving them and their ‘assets’ an economic value that has hitherto been denied them. 

Larry Lohmann: The Contradictions of Neoliberal Climate Policy http://www.thecornerhouse.org.uk/sites/thecornerhouse.org.uk/files/Socialist%20Register%20Neoliberal%20Climate%20Policy%20Contradictions.pdf

An article on the centrepiece of neoliberal climate policy - carbon markets. Carbon markets, it is argued, are a new instance of a longstanding trend of the privatisation of public goods (in this instance, the atmosphere), and another example of the increasing global and economic dominance of finance. A compelling example of the continuing relevance of the Marxist critique of the commodity form applied to new commodities - carbon offsets. 

Larry Lohmann: Blockchain Machines, Earth Beings, and the Labour of Trust

https://www.academia.edu/39236631/BLOCKCHAIN_MACHINES_EARTH_BEINGS_AND_THE_LABOUR_OF_TRUST

A very sassy article on recent developments in computer science (Blockchain, Bitcoin, smart 

contracts, the Internet of Things, machine translation, image recognition, the Earth Bank 

of Codes) and various characters who want to harness these developments to ‘save nature’, and also save capitalism from the present ecological/ economic crisis known variously as the Anthropocene/ Capitalocene/ Plantationocene etc. The article places these developments within a longer ecological history of capitalist structuring of labour, mechanisation, commons, and capital accumulation. 

NEW CAPITALIST IMAGINARIES OF NATURE/ THE SPECTACLE OF THE WIN-WIN SOLUTION

Erik Swyngedouw and Henrik Ernstson: O Tempora! O Mores! Interrupting the Anthropo-Obscene

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1WCugv2MXweRtgst8-Wphl70_3xvBIRQi 

A prescient article on how various new materialist perspectives on nature that emphasise the agency and ‘aliveness’ of more-than-human matter are being recuperated by capitalists striving to orchestrate a reconciliation with nature via a new imaginary of nature as ‘natural capital’, the commodification of which benefits both nature and capitalists. 

Connor Cavanagh and Tor A. Benjaminsen: Virtual nature, Violent Accumulation: The 'spectacular failure' of carbon offsetting at a Ugandan National Park

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1rPWXXboX0p1HhdxRjcYq5_zkG2zbDFh- 

This article hones in on a frontier of global capital accumulation; for-profit carbon sequestration and biodiversity protection, and the heavily mediatised ‘spectacle’ that obscures the local violence these projects often inflict. The article argues that the spectacle of the ‘triple-win solution’ (carbon sequestration, biodiversity protection, local community development) is integral to the management of these new accumulative projects; specifically, the management of what financial donors and concerned publics in the north see, and what unfolds ‘on the ground’ in places in the global south subjected to globalised and marketised conservation projects. 

Kenneth Iain MacDonald and Catherine Corson: ‘TEEB Begins Now’: A Virtual Moment in the Production of Natural Capital

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1j8rmBD7W0I306b3sKaJffuNah6K_WV3k 

This article examines the production of economic, epistemic, and conservation practices that aim to make real landscapes conform to an idealised capitalist imaginary of ‘natural capital’.  

Timothy W. Luke: Reconstructing Nature: How the New Informatics are Rewriting the Environment and Society as Bitspace

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1XSBbfj4EPalPN91tUAmBdzb1GfK7k-TH 

Examines the larger motives of tech-fetishists for reconstructing Nature into cybernetic/informatic/semiotic ontologies.

Jenny E. Goldstein: The Afterlives of Degraded Tropical Forests

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1iSSMjMzwg7QUsVdKmDpuPtL9Vd-cMfxN 

This article analyses how Indonesian tropical forests classified as ‘degraded’ and thus appropriate for rehabilitation via carbon sequestration projects are coming to be considered economically and/or ecologically valuable, talking to recent scholarship on the reincorporation of waste and wastelands into capitalist circuits of production. 

IMAGINARIES FOR TIPPING CAPITALIST CRISIS OVER THE EDGE; OF RUPTURE AND BLOCKAGE

Ananya Roy: The Agonism of Utopia: Dialectics at a Standstill

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1CnnGqUHKA9YPxpSUcuEX2_54Fjw0iUUB 

An article that notes recent global trends in the acceleration and intensification of the capitalist project (most notably ‘poverty capital’, ‘the fortune at the bottom of the pyramid’, ‘bottom billion capitalism’), and strives to ‘renew the possibility of politics’ by enriching anti-capitalist imaginaries of future and past possibilities for organizing social life. 

Max Haiven: Finance as Capital’s Imagination

https://drive.google.com/open?id=17VlNggcfdU8IA4meuQA69_T0XHuvhwoS 

An analysis of the politics of the imagination under financialised capitalism. The imagination, Haiven argues, is that unique quality that makes human cooperation political—not merely an isolated toil but a cooperative “labor process” - the “living” in “living labour”. Thus imaginative labour is a critical, largely unpaid and unrecognised aspect of the reproduction of capitalism. It must be theorised in order for those of us living under late capitalism to reclaim the right to decide to what ends human cooperation might be put. 

Max Haiven: The Financial Crisis as a Crisis of the Imagination

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1m95SelG-AfCv9rRCrqwCla8iqktcTgpy 

An analysis of the effects of the financialisation of everyday life under neoliberal restructuring. Finance is here theorised as a means by which capital develops an imagination of the future. Thus financial crises as crises of the capital’s imagination; crises of credibility, when claims to value are no longer taken “at face value” but instead fail to achieve liquid transferability. How can we use such crises, increasingly likely as the effects of climate change kick in, to redefine and reclaim social value?

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