Archive for the ‘Capitalism’ Category

If we want to meaningfully do something about the environment it is clear that we must heed Naomi Klein’s message that we have to – first of all – drastically – curtain oil/gas/coal consumption (and hence the companies that extract fossil fuels and promote their use!). See this scary interactive from the Guardian:


The Guardian's fossil fuel ticker

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If we want to start addressing climate change and other major (socio!) environmental problems seriously, we need to take the critical social sciences and humanities MUCH more seriously as well. This is the core message of a paper recently published in Nature Climate Change, authored by a great team of scholars led by Prof Noel Castree of which I was fortunate to be part.

The abstract of the paper is as follows:

Calls for more broad-based, integrated, useful knowledge now abound in the world of global environmental change science. They evidence many scientists’ desire to help humanity confront the momentous biophysical implications of its own actions. But they also reveal a limited conception of social science and virtually ignore the humanities. They thereby endorse a stunted conception of ‘human dimensions’ at a time when the challenges posed by global environmental change are increasing in magnitude, scale and scope. Here, we make the case for a richer conception predicated on broader intellectual engagement and identify some preconditions for its practical fulfilment. Interdisciplinary dialogue, we suggest, should engender plural representations of Earth’s present and future that are reflective of divergent human values and aspirations. In turn, this might insure publics and decision-makers against overly narrow conceptions of what is possible and desirable as they consider the profound questions raised by global environmental change.

To read the paper, please go to the journal’s webpage: http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v4/n9/full/nclimate2339.html

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I recently did an interview with Freek Kallenberg, editor of Down to Earth Magazine, about the prospects of the current Green Economy. The interview (in Dutch!) can be found here:



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Development and Change Forum 2012 (with a Debate section on Nature™ Inc.) is out!

See: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/dech.2012.43.issue-1/issuetoc  or go to the publications page to download the introduction to the debate section.


Edited by Murat Arsel and Bram Büscher



Post-neoliberalism in Latin America: Rebuilding and Reclaiming the State after Crisis (pages 1–21)

Jean Grugel and Pía Riggirozzi

Fight or Acquiesce? Religion and Political Process in Turkey’s and Egypt’s Neoliberalizations (pages 23–51)

Cihan Tuğal

Debate: Nature™ Inc.

Nature™ Inc.: Changes and Continuities in Neoliberal Conservation and Market-based Environmental Policy (pages 53–78)

Murat Arsel and Bram Büscher

What’s Nature Got To Do With It? A Situated Historical Perspective on Socio-natural Commodities (pages 79–104)

Nancy Lee Peluso

The Contradictory Logic of Global Ecosystem Services Markets (pages 105–131)

Kathleen McAfee

Market Masquerades: Uncovering the Politics of Community-level Payments for Environmental Services in Cambodia (pages 133–158)

Sarah Milne and Bill Adams

‘TEEB Begins Now’: A Virtual Moment in the Production of Natural Capital (pages 159–184)

Kenneth Iain MacDonald and Catherine Corson

Biodiversity for Billionaires: Capitalism, Conservation and the Role of Philanthropy in Saving/Selling Nature (pages 185–203)

George Holmes

Consuming the Forest in an Environment of Crisis: Nature Tourism, Forest Conservation and Neoliberal Agriculture in South India (pages 205–227)

Daniel Münster and Ursula Münster

The Tragedy of the Commodity and the Farce of AquAdvantage Salmon® (pages 229–251)

Rebecca Clausen and Stefano B. Longo

Geoengineering: Re-making Climate for Profit or Humanitarian Intervention? (pages 253–270)

Holly Jean Buck

How do Investors Value Environmental Harm/Care? Private Equity Funds, Development Finance Institutions and the Partial Financialization of Nature-based Industries (pages 271–293)

Sarah Bracking

Using the Master’s Tools? Neoliberal Conservation and the Evasion of Inequality (pages 295–317)

Robert Fletcher


Fred Halliday: Engagements, Languages, Myths and Solidarities (pages 319–339)

David Styan


Joan Martinez-Alier (pages 341–359)

Lorenzo Pellegrini

Çağlar Keyder (pages 361–373)

Tuna Kuyucu


Preempting Possibility: Critical Assessment of the IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2010 (pages 375–393)

Mazen Labban

Power Inequalities in Explaining the Link between Natural Hazards and Unnatural Disasters (pages 395–407)

Fikret Adaman

A Radically Conservative Vision? The Challenge of UNEP’s Towards a Green Economy (pages 409–422)

Dan Brockington

World Development Report 2012: Gender Equality and Development— A Commentary (pages 423–437)

Shahra Razavi

Poverty Alleviation and Smallholder Agriculture: The Rural Poverty Report 2011 (pages 439–448)

Jan Douwe van der Ploeg

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I have been in the Southern African region almost three weeks now and just returned to Lusaka from a very interesting trip across Eastern Zambia, Malawi and the Tete province in Mozambique. I traveled with my local research partner from the University of Zambia, Mr. Edwin Luwaya. Edwin is currently pursuing a PhD in engineering on charcoal burning, but is also interested in the broader socio-political dynamics around charcoal and therefore joined me on the trip. The purpose, especially in Zambia and Malawi, was to follow several charcoal chains away from or into major cities and do interviews with local charcoal consumers, transporters and producers, as well as with policy and NGO officers dealing with these issues. Charcoal is a huge issue in this part of the world (like in many other parts), as the far majority of people depend on it for cooking and other energy needs. It also has strong social and environmental implications, particularly in relation to tree-cutting and burning for production, with associated effects on soil, water and thus agricultural dynamics. While many studies and interventions have tried to understand and mediate these impacts and dynamics, they seem to have had remarkably little effect, and the same debates continue as they have done for a long time (though the environmental aspects has definitely become more important over the last years). My purpose is not to do an exhaustive study of charcoal chains, but rather to understand how this mode of energy is connected to broader regional energy dynamics, or what I call the ‘political economy of energy’ in Southern Africa. This is what the interviews focused on, and I think I’ve been able to get some interesting data. One of the fascinating things is how charcoal is transported, particularly by biker guys who sometimes carry up to 7 or 8 heavy bags of charcoal for miles and miles across sometimes steep hills. But you also see trucks, like the one in the picture that had broken down four days earlier and so the driver was waiting for spare parts to arrive.

From Southern Malawi, we moved into Mozambique’s Tete province, in order to get to Tete-city. Here, completely different energy dynamics dominate the discussions, although charcoal is ever-present on the roadside and town markets. Tete is a booming frontier town in regional energy dynamics, as many investors have come in from all over the world to exploit the abundant coal supplies in the province. We were very fortunate to have some people helping us in getting interviews with some of the key players. Fortunate also was that our hotel hosted a meeting to discuss the Environmental Impact Assessment of a large new dam project called Mphanda Nkuwa. This dam is supposed to boost energy generation capacity in Mozambique and is quite controversial due to its environmental and social implications, so it was very interesting to sit in the meeting and talk to some of the key players. After the meeting, we met up with one of the participants who had planned to visit a (coal-induced) resettled community called Cateme, some 50 kms from Tete-city. We tagged along, and experienced a surreal place. Built approximately two years ago, Cateme was a strange mix of neat little houses in straight rows with electricity and street lights, and a strange ‘unsettled-ness’ and alien feel that you don’t normally experience in other rural villages. The inhabitants – some 500 families that first lived in Moatize, the centre of the mining boom – soon told us why this was so: most of them didn’t want to be here, and saw little future in the place. It was too far from the markets they used to depend on in Moatize, so they could only sell their ware locally, and many things weren’t what they seemed. While the houses looked solid, they were not built on any foundation, while many started showing cracks. Moreover, many people could not afford the expensive electricity, so were still stuck without (and hence cooking on wood – see picture). What topped it all was the sign at the entrance of the village that said ‘take care of the environment’. The irony is acute: an international mining company that displaces people in order to bring enormous quantities of CO2 producing coal to the international market telling those same displaced people to take care of the environment! That is a raw deal indeed, and ‘raw’ is how best Tete can be described in general. Edwin used to work in the mines in the Zambian Copperbelt, and several times mentioned that Tete reminded him strongly of the boom periods there.

The trip made a big impression on both of us, and I don’t know yet what to make of it all. One thing is clear: if you are on the ‘wrong’ side of the socio-economic spectrum, then energy dynamics in the region present you with a raw deal indeed.

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For those interested in what is happening at Nature™ Inc in the Hague, I am blogging about the conference on the Broker website. Follow it all here:

Nature INC on the Broker

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Wednesday 9 February I gave a speech at a briefing session for EU parliamentarians, policy makers and civil society representatives about the link between the EUs energy security and its development policy. It was an interesting meeting, with a keynote from the Commissioner for Development Pierbalgs, and interesting speeches by Jacqueline Hale, Senior Policy Analyst, EU External Relations at Open Society Foundation and Ruchita Beri, Senior Research Associate, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses in India. The meeting was organised in the context of the EDC2020 project, which sought to inform EU policies and vision on development untill 2020.

My central argument was that there are several major contradictions in the EU policies on energy and development and their joint nexus and that the vital question for the future of this nexus should be whether the EU will start to openly accept and deal with these contradictions – and the capitalist political economy from which they emanate – or neglect these with the real possibility that they will become more intense and lead to increasingly negative outcomes for people and environments in Europe, developing countries and beyond.

The speech can be downloaded here

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The Dark Mills..

Just back from China, and it was a most interesting trip. We worked hard on our research proposal on China’s global rise and the impact this will have / is having on natural resource extraction in South Africa and Brazil. As part of the programme we visited a petro-chemical company, which looks something like this:

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While I had seen images of these Dark Mills before, being in the middle of it is quite something else and made a big impression. In this particular area they foremostly focus on making all kinds of plastics that we use in our daily lives…

N0w back from the trip we need to further work out the project proposal and make it into something that cannot possibly be rejected!

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