The People’s Dialogue Declaration on the Green Economy and in defense of mother earth and the commons, Johannesburg 7 May 2012

by May 16, 2012All Articles

the-green-economy-pictureThe 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 dispossesed 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 illusiary 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 sovereignity, 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
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
• 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
We demand
• 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 crisises as it opens up a dymanic 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, renewablity 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 idegenous 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.

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