Tag Archives: commodification of life

Radical Anthropology 2012 on Commodification of Life, Occupy and more

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Cover photo: March for climate justice in Durban, South Africa December 2011 by Anne Petermann, Global Justice Ecology Project

To download the PDF of the current edition of Radical Anthropology, click here

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Africa, Biodiversity, Corporate Globalization, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, REDD, Rights, Resilience, and Restoration

Rio+20 and the Green Economy: The invisible resistance of women against the commodification of life

From our allies at World Rainforest Movement:

The “green economy” is a concept that has gained huge momentum largely thanks to its placement at the top of the agenda for the upcoming United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, better known as Rio+20.

While the concept is dressed up in “eco friendly” clothing, it does not promote any of the structural changes needed to combat the environmental and social problems facing the planet. On the contrary, it opens up new market niches for the flow of big financial capital. Essentially, it is simply another face of the same profit-driven market economy that has created the current crisis.

A great many social movements and organizations around the world are on the alert and fighting back against the advance of the so-called green economy. The March edition corresponding to the month in which we celebrate the International Women’s Day, highlights the role played by women in this resistance.


All around the world there are women struggling every day of the year. Since the 20th century, however, International Women’s Day has become a date on which their struggle is commemorated and highlighted. Women on every continent, urban, rural, indigenous, black, lesbian, among so many others, mark this date on the streets, raising their banners, which are countless, against gender inequalities that are manifested at the local and global levels.

Among the milestones in the international women’s struggle, we should not forget the World Conference on Human Rights held in Vienna in 1993, where it was recognized that the rights of women are human rights. Another key moment was the adoption of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women, also known as the Convention of Belem do Para, in 1994. Violence against women, particularly so-called domestic violence, which takes place in the home, is one of the global phenomena that most seriously affects the lives and dignity of women.

Nevertheless, women’s lives are impacted by other forms of violence: the “double shift” entailed by paid work combined with domestic responsibilities, the overexploitation of their labour, the feminization of poverty and HIV/AIDS, the loss of their territories to large-scale projects, the pollution and degradation of the rivers and soil on which they depend for their subsistence. There is no doubt that women face a great many enemies, and perhaps the most ferocious of all, after patriarchy, is capitalism. The capacity of this mode of production to commodify life as a whole is felt most acutely by women. Women see the commodification of their bodies, transformed into merchandise, in the media and advertising, and are victims of the trafficking that feeds international prostitution rings. In addition, women must also struggle against the strategies aimed at the commodification of nature, such as the false solutions created for the alleged purpose of confronting the climate crisis.

So-called “environmental” non-governmental organizations and funds take control of collective forest areas and seek to restrict or even prohibit access to them by local communities in order to “preserve” these areas for the trade of “environmental services”, such as carbon storage in the case of REDD+ projects. In these situations, it is women who suffer most from the constant humiliation and repression that occurs in places where these types of projects are implemented.

When a community suffers the loss of its collectively used territory to projects aimed at the trade in environmental services, one of the invariable consequences is the surveillance and persecution of the community by forest rangers and, above all, public and/or private armed militias. Women, who stay at home to tend to domestic chores, raise crops and care for their children, become the most vulnerable to this persecution.

In addition, in areas affected by carbon or environmental services projects, shifting cultivation or swidden farming tends to be prohibited. This is a common practice among forest communities, in which women play a key role. It ensures a basic supply of healthy food for families and, at the same time, allows them to earn an income by selling surplus crops nearby.

In view of this, it can be concluded that the changes caused by the creation of market mechanisms for the use of nature violate a basic right: the right to food, and in particular, the right to healthy food. It is also important to remember that changes in dietary habits, through the introduction of industrially processed foods and crops grown with toxic agrochemicals, have led to the emergence of new diseases that were formerly unknown in these communities.

The loss of areas in which food crops can be grown also results in other impacts: many women are forced to go out and sell their labour ever farther away from their homes. But even though they have taken on new tasks in the world of paid work, women continue to be primarily responsible for domestic tasks. The work overload suffered by women has contributed to making them more prone to illness. Diseases like breast and cervical cancer are striking women at increasingly younger ages. High blood pressure, which used to be one of the main health problems faced by men, now affects more women than men.

The greatest irony of all, perhaps, is that although women are the ones most severely impacted, it is their images that are used in publicity to promote carbon trade and other environmental services projects.

We believe that our role, not only on March 8, but every day of the year, is to contribute to raising the visibility of women’s struggles and realities, as well as to support the struggles of women’s organizations against all forms of oppression, including the new wave of the commodification of life in these times of the green economy.

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Filed under Biodiversity, Climate Change, Green Economy, Rio+20, Women


For Our Rights and the Rights of Nature, Against the Commodification of Life and the Greenwashing of Capitalism

Social Movements in the People’s Summit for social and environmental justice, against the commodification of life and nature and in defense of the commons

We, organizations, networks and social movements, involved in the building of the Peoples’ Summit for social and environmental justice, against the commodification of life and nature in defense of the commons to be held in Río de Janeiro, Brazil, June 18 to 23, 2012, simultaneous to and in the same city as the United Nations’ Conference on Sustainable Development (Río+20), call for the mobilization and coordination of struggles across the planet. To ensure fulfillment of the rights of all peoples, especially those most vulnerable, to have access to water, food, energy, land, seeds, territories, and decent livelihoods, and to demand the rights of Mother Earth. As part of this process of articulation, we are building together an activity to be held in Río, the Permanent Peoples’ Assembly .

This Assembly will have the challenge to give voice to the women and men, young and old, who are resisting daily the advance of a development model that is by definition unsustainable: a model whose predatory inhumanity is trying to subject every aspect of life to the dictates of the market, always putting the profits of a few ahead of everyone’s buen vivir or wellbeing, while simultaneously trying to hide behind a green-washed face.

It was during the Río Conference in 1992 – the so-called Earth Summit, or Río’92 – that an almost unprecedented social mobilization in the face of an official conference gave way, among other things, to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity and to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

It is the founding principles of that Convention on Climate Change- the historical responsibility of the industrialized countries for climate change, ecological and climate debt, and thus common but differentiated responsibilities for its treatment – which are now suffering as never before the onslaught of the most concentrated forms of capital in their attempt to turn all of life into a commodity at the service of their profits. Following on the setbacks marked in the climate negotiations in Copenhagen (2009) and Cancun (2010), there is no reason to expect less disappointing results from the COP17 in Durban (from November 28 to December 9, 2011). Also after the COP10 of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya (2010), the mercantilization of Nature also got a central role with the proposal of the so called innovative financial mechanisms that replicate the logic of the failed carbon markets.

But it was also in Río’92 when the corporate world began to raise the banner of “sustainable development,” seeing the possibility of turning it into a good business. That same concept, complemented during Rio+10 by that of “corporate social responsibility” and subverted to the core by the simultaneous neoliberal opening and deregulation and global financialization of the hegemonic capitalist economy, is now wreaking havoc in the lives of people and the planet and threatens even worse impacts. It is this agenda that is being deepened through the mechanisms and structural adjustment policies of the so-called “green economy.” Just like the neoliberal agenda of essential service privatizations in the ‘90s, the “green economy” is all about liberalizing market access to Nature, dividing it up into components such as carbon, biodiversity, and environmental services, while at the same time generating new instruments of financial speculation, corporate control, and the emptying of territories.

Given this reality, we need to turn Río+20 into a strong process of global mobilization that confronts the reality of a system of death that will stop at nothing to perpetuate itself, and strengthens our resistance and struggles for survival through the building of non-capitalist alternatives, such as food sovereignty. The continuity and depth of current crises, its’ systemic and increasingly militarized and violent nature, the lack of adequate response by most governments, and the taking hostage of multilateral negotiations by geopolitical and big corporate interests, all lend urgency to the need to build this process as our own pluralistic, democratic, and autonomous space, with a strong message and concrete achievements. It must be able to give echo to our denunciations and demands as well as to reproduce our creativity and strengths, our solidarity and hope.

Faced with the huge festival of false solutions that the large corporations, banks and international financial institutions, and accomplice governments are preparing for Río+20, in order to consolidate a green-washed capitalism as the only response to the multiple crises they themselves are responsible for unleashing – economic, ecological food, energy, democratic, climate, rights, gender, in short, a civilizational crisis – the Peoples’ Summit will have the challenge to articulate and draw attention to the real solutions that peoples everywhere are building, in the fields and forests, factories, communities, neighborhoods, schools, and other places of work and livelihood.

We, therefore make a call to engage in this process and to mobilize everywhere towards Río+20: promoting campaigns, initiatives of debates and capacity-building, broadening platforms for joint strategy and action, coordination and solidarity support among struggles and specific demands that bring us together.

We call on the peoples and movements struggling against all forms of exploitation, depredation and domination, to join with us in building the P ermanent Peoples’ Assembly , in order to affirm our rights and those of nature against the commodification of life and the greenwashing of capitalism, under the rhetoric of the “green economy”.

Through testimony and analysis, exchange and solidarity, mobilization and concrete actions, the Assembly will also be challenged to strengthen participating struggles and call for new actions and initiatives, generating new platforms of unity. In this regard, in the Permanent Peoples’ Assembly , those who are affected and who are the true creditors of the social and financial, ecological and climatic, democratic and gender debts that throughout the development of capitalism, patriarchy, imperialism, racism, and anthropocentrism have been accumulating, will be challenged to contribute significantly to the coordination of our diverse efforts to develop non-capitalist economies and societies that are fair and equitable, in harmony with nature and all beings, overcoming hunger, impoverishment, exploitation and oppression, building on the basis of the many ongoing struggles and helping to prepare to confront the strategic challenges of the near future.

Self-organized activities will also be held on critical aspects of the processes of systemic and civilizational transformation, and the Summit will include opportunities to get to know and support directly the struggles of the inhabitants of Río de Janeiro and elsewhere in their efforts to survive the onslaught of capitalism and its greenwashing, including mega-events, land grabbing, mega-projects, the so-called clean development mechanisms, and many other acronyms and misleading names such as REDD, REDD+, biofuels, etc. We will denounce the perpetrators, organize direct actions, and, as befits, celebrate the life and hope that are born and nurtured in our struggles and victories.

Let´s mobilize together to build the P eoples’ Summit for social and environmental justice against the commodification of life and nature in defense of the commons , and the Permanent Peoples’ Assembly , on the basis of the many ongoing struggles in defense of life, sovereignty -food, energy, financial, territorial, and political- self-determination, equality, and human and nature rights, analyzing the origins of the present crisis and new forms of capitalist accumulation, colonization, and slavery. As social movements, organizations, and networks, let us unite to ensure that Río+20 becomes a massive, global popular mobilization that strengthens our capacity to act locally, regionally, and globally in order to address capitalism`s green advance. Rio +20 must be a starting point for a more just society with more solidarity. December 4, 2011

Let us build together!

Life is not for sale, it must be defended!

We, the peoples, are the creditors!

Let’s globalize the struggle, let’s globalize hope!

We will continue until all are free!

Continental Cry of the Excluded, Convergence of Movements of the Peoples of the Americas, Coordinator of Andean Indigenous Organizations, Friends of the Earth Latin America and the Caribbean, Grassroots Global Justice, Jubilee South/Americas, Oilwatch, Southern People’s Ecological Debt Creditors Alliance, Vía Campesina, World March of Women, World Rainforest Movement

To add your support , contact us through: movilizacion.rio20@gmail.com


Filed under Actions / Protest, Climate Change, Corporate Globalization, False Solutions to Climate Change, Green Economy, Greenwashing, Rio+20