lunes, septiembre 22, 2014

Carbon offsett(l)ers … and a Buddhist critique of ecological violence, by Devon Peña

The concept of ecological footprint was first proposed in 1996 by Rees and Wackernagel as a model to estimate the environmental impact of anthropogenic (human) activity at different scales – from individual consumers and specific corporations to the populations of entire cities and towns, states, regions, nations, and even trading blocs within the global trade system.  My dissatisfaction with the concept derives from the fact that, like many initially subversive ecological ideas, it has been largely neutralized and co-opted by so-called “sustainability” advocates and NGOs like the Center for Sustainable Economy, a respectable and no doubt well-meaning organization that operates the most popular version of the footprint estimate service.


I have used the term carbon offsett(l)ers to indicate how the 1 percenters privileged enough to invest in the market for voluntary carbon offsets are really following the logic of the champions of old-fashioned settler colonialism. Like the colonial settler, the carbon offset investor is voluntarily engaging in the establishment of a new economic frontier [sic] and seeks to participate in the external administration of other peoples’ environments – in the most obvious case, the home lands of the indigenous inhabitants of tropical rain forests that are a favored object of a market that seeks to ‘price’ ecological sustainability by taking away here and giving back there.

The problem is many of these indigenous inhabitants are being removed to make room for the protected areas required to set aside the carbon-sinking capacity of the Earth’s forests. The colonialist seeks to redefine the native’s home. The carbon offsett(l)er does the same, all the while preserving the structure of power and privilege they enjoy as part of their status as globetrotting investors and speculators.

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