Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Privatizing Nature, Outsourcing Governance: The Economics of Extinction

theecologist |  A few weeks ago the World Wide Fund for Nature released their latest Living Planet Report.

Its findings have reverberated around the world, with the bleak news that the 3,706 wildlife populations that are actively monitored by scientists have declined by an average of 58% since 1970.
To blame? Agriculture, fisheries, mining and other human activities. The report's authors predict that this figure will reach 67% by the end of the decade.

How on earth has this happened? The answer that's often put forward is that wildlife protection laws in the 'lawless' regions of the world (meaning large swathes of Africa and Asia) are woefully inadequate.

But the true root of the problem is that nature is being monetized in order to generate profits for investors and corporations in a process that's facilitated by changes in the structure of global governance - and it's about to get much worse.

Unless we get to grips with the real issues at stake, the destruction of nature is all-but guaranteed, except in those few parts of the world that are set aside as reserves for the enjoyment of wealthy visitors.

In 2011, for example, oil, gas and mineral exports from Africa were worth US$382 billion - more than eight times the value of development aid received by African countries in that year.

This money streams through mechanisms for cross-border accounting, tax evasion and the repatriation of profits that are designed and maintained by wealthy countries; facilitated by the institutional secrecy that is built into the global financial system; and controlled by corporate elites.

In a shadow economy that flows alongside the economy we see, commercial tax dodgers and criminals shift vast amounts of money across international borders quickly, easily and largely undetected. Hundreds of billions of dollars pour into western coffers each year, from both streams, leaving little behind for those whose lands and wildlife have been plundered.