The Defence of Nature: Resisting the Financialisation of the Earth

John Bellamy Foster

n 2016, more than fifty multinationals came together to design a framework for monetizing the global ecology, using fabricated shadow pricing systems based on the capitalist market system. The report highlighted the enormous opportunities for debt "leverage" represented by "emerging natural capital markets, such as water quality trading, wetland and endangered species banking, and natural carbon sequestration." Consequently, it was imperative to "put a price on the value of nature" or, put another way, "a monetary value on what nature does" The future of the capitalist economy lies in ensuring that the market pays "for ecosystem services that were previously free," which could generate new economic value for companies capable of converting natural capital securities into financial assets.

Water as a [natural] asset class will eventually become the most important physical commodity-based asset class, eclipsing oil, copper, agricultural commodities, and precious metals." In this perspective, the world's freshwater sources, which represent one of the planetary boundaries designated by natural science, will be monopolized as natural capital by relatively few companies that will be able to charge market rents for ecosystem services.

Plans for expropriation and accumulation of natural capital by global finance are today directed primarily at the Global South... Indigenous territories cover about 24% of the earth's surface and "contain 80% of the earth's remaining healthy ecosystems and global biodiversity priority areas," making them prime targets for expropriation and conversion into marketable natural capital.

The final result, however, is to impose a system geared to economic growth and debt expansion on natural systems, which are physically limited, and where the crucial conditions are those of reproduction and sustainability. In reality, what is meant is the leveraging of the credit/debt system worldwide through the financialization of land, with the expropriation of indigenous lands as the basis.

In the face of increasing resource scarcity and the relentless drive for natural capital, indigenous and smallholders struggle to defend their lives, their communities and their lands. In all these struggles and many others, the goal is ultimately sustainable human development, necessarily coupled with resistance to capitalism, racism, colonialism, imperialism and ecological devastation...Underlying this is the recognition that an exploitative system that places its faith in "the fetish character of capital" at the expense of all human existence and life on the planet can only lead, if unchecked, to ultimate catastrophe.

"The coming global ecological revolution" means "returning to our humanity and to our origins as good relatives" of the earth. It means rationally regulating the metabolism of human society with the universal nature of which we are an inseparable part.


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