Alternatives to the green economy from Bolivian civil society

Alternatives to the green economy from Bolivian civil society

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May 31, 2012

The Bolivian Climate Change Platform has released a position paper on Rio+20 in which they call on “social movements and international civil society to build alliances to resist the mainstream ideas of the green economy.”

Courtesy of Global Transition 2012, here’s a trimmed-down version of the text. The full position paper can be found at this link.

Alternatives to the green economy from Bolivian civil society

Rio+20 will be the most important global summit for decades as the world faces financial, energy, climate, ecological and food crises. Multinational companies and developed countries want to impose the “green economy” at Rio+20 to save the capitalist system, says the Bolivian Climate Change Platform*.

The proposed version of the green economy aims to turn nature´s functions and cycles such as carbon capture and oxygen generation by trees into fictitious products, referred to as “environmental services”, to be bought and sold on markets. Not only does this fail to make sense in the real world (how do you sell air on a stock exchange?) but it is presented as Can proponents of the green economy really expect the same financial instruments that plunged the global economy into recession, will somehow protect nature and at the same time reduce poverty?

Putting a price on nature is not the solution and will only benefit big capital, while deepening the multiple crises we are facing.

It gets worse. The green economy could potentially violate human rights recognised in international treaties. This includes the rights to: life, health, water, a healthy environment, a dignified life, and the rights of indigenous peoples to self-determination and territory. A letter by local communities in the Amazonian region of Acre argues that the selling of “environmental services” from the rainforest directly limits their access to the territories they depend on to survive.

Over the last few decades the word “green” has been associated with environmental policies and renewable energy, but it has been hijacked by multinational companies to improve their image while they continue their control and destruction of the environment.

Just one example is a subsidiary of mining company Goldcorp contaminating local communities water supplies in Honduras while the NGO WWF says

Goldcorp is committed to responsible mining practices and…has the potential to lead significant conservation successes.

The flawed green economy

If we want to protect the environment for future generations we cannot accept the current version of the green economy which is based on UNEP reports. This is because it continues to pursue the false idea of limitless economic growth in a world that has limits.

The green economy is a distraction that does not resolve our dependency on extractive industries and fossil fuels. It is simply a way of maintaing the same capitalist model that is destroying the environment and deepening climate change with token “green” changes and a whole new set of markets to invest in “natural capital”.

Scientists have warned us that even with current country commitments the planet will see a 4°C increase in global average temperature by 2100 (IPCC) leading to hundreds of millions being displaced and made even poorer.

The mainstream vision of the green economy is based on the idea that multinationals or countries can simply offset their emissions by investing in “environmental services” which give them the license to continue polluting at exactly the same levels as they are now. We reject these false solutions such as carbon markets, nuclear energy, artificial carbon capture and storage (CCS) and biofuels that are also proposed to be part of the green economy.

Alternatives to the Green Economy

We do not own nature; we are part of Mother Earth.

It will not be possible to find a solution to the current crisis in an economic vision based on the ownership of nature. We do not own nature; we are part of Mother Earth. There is an urgent need to change the paradigm of capitalist development and to begin a transition to a new global economic model to re-establish the balance with Mother Earth. But, alternative visions already exist.

The vision of Living Well (Vivir Bien) and the Rights of Mother Earth is to live in harmony with nature on the basis of complementarity and solidarity between peoples. There needs to be an equal redistribution of wealth and production models must be directed to meet the needs of women and men, whilst respecting and caring for Mother Earth rather than promoting the accumulation of wealth.

These ideas form the basis of the concrete proposals put forward by global civil society when over 30,000 people met at the World People´s Conference on Climate Change held in Cochabamba, Bolivia, in 2010. Proposals for other forms of development must respect and recognise the cosmovisions (world views) of indigenous peoples such as the right to collective territory, ancestral knowledge and holistic management of their economies.

We need to go beyond the concepts of “environmental services” and “natural capital”. Indigenous peoples have applied alternative models for the holistic management and use of forests, water and land for generations. There are ways to care for the environment without buying and selling it.

The following projects that destroy Mother Earth must be stopped:

The green economy in Bolivia

As Bolivian civil society we know that the green economy is not the solution and will resist it being imposed in our country. The Bolivian Climate Change Platform demands that the Bolivian government is not complicit with this new strategy of capitalism and does not sign the Rio+20 agreement because the green economy will violate rights enshrined in the Bolivian Constitution including among others: the essential right to water, self-determination of indigenous peoples and sovereignty.

As well as a discourse in defence of Mother Earth the Bolivian government should implement specific policies to begin a gradual transition to a new model.

So in the run up to Rio+20 and beyond, we call upon social movements and international civil society to build alliances to resist the the mainstream ideas of the green economy in the next few years. Instead, we should work together to build a new development model to achieve the goal of Living Well (Vivir Bien) in harmony with Mother Earth.

* The complete text of the Bolivian Climate Change Platform position on Rio+20 can be found at this link ( The Platform is a civil society network with representatives from the two main indigenous movements who represent 36 indigenous nations, water movements, small-scale farming associations and key NGOs from across Bolivia. Website:

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