Kehosa FDI, Presentation

Video participation in Kehosa’s https://startupafrica.org/

transcript:

Restoring our ecological biodiversity, Reversing climate change, and Redistributing global wealth are the three biggest issues challenging ecological and economic justice.  Intemerate Accounting is a post-growth initiative that could provide the systemic sea-change necessary to address this crisis in global governance. I will describe how this can be accomplished in some detail later, but I’d like to begin by stepping back and provide some broader context.

It is apparent that we are on the brink of global catastrophe. For some of us, this has been present for generations, and for a few, the global catastrophe is something some people sweep under the rug and save for later.

There are structures and choices expressed in our present system that valorizes rather than punishes ecocide, wealth and health disparities and perpetuates the kind of exclusionary practices that invokes this doomsday outlook.

It is also apparent that the crises that we are faced with is an existential conundrum. Peace achieved through War is a moral hypocrisy. How can we take pledges of good climate policies seriously if our leaders continue to provoke military incursions with the most reckless abandon? Demilitarization, de-occupation and decolonization—We cannot address post-growth if we continue to reproduce these very conditions that enable hegemony. We understand the mechanics of neo-colonialism-Kwame Nkrumah taught the world how the advanced economies continue to siphon Africa’s wealth. Now it is neoliberalism: the mechanics of privatization regimes, mergers and acquisitions, Nato, and debt—these structures perpetuate the conceit of colonialism.

When we consider the inherent wealth in Africa’s land, people, and resources, we all know that this is a region of tremendous potential that should play a much more dominant role in the global economy. And while the causes of Africa’s fragility factors are straight forward enough to identify, why have solutions been so evasive?  

In terms of trade, the concentration of monetary wealth that is held by the global north is a huge factor, one that has limited Africa’s capacity to leverage its own development. As large as Africa is, it is still under a kind of containment and obstruction with goods-in-trade primarily filtering to the North. 

While China’s Belt and Road initiative provides another option for Africa, it is once again the global north that is attempting to disrupt the physical connection with China through destabilizing access points with Syria and Yemen, for example, not to mention the obstruction campaign of Washington’s new Indo-Pacific maritime policy that pretty much seeks to undermine the real freedom of navigation by asserting a militarized maritime presence between Africa and China. When we look at a map, how is it that Africa’s maritime access for trade, both to the east and to the west, is constrained by this hegemony.

Are we ready to challenge the next wave of colonialism? The green economy is beginning to look a lot like eco-neoliberalism. The Pacific, and I believe Africa, the Caribbean, and many of the developing countries continue to face the same obstacles as they have for generations. Even now, as we head into the Glasgow Climate Summit, the proposals for reversing climate change might find tremendous financial opportunities for the Global North, but again, what about the Global South? Have the rich countries simply dragged their heels and waited for desperation so that they can leverage disaster capitalism? How do we move out from under the boot of this ongoing global theft and assert our shared equity on mutual terms?

These have been pressing questions for a long time, yet I remain optimistic because this time around the empire is in decline and multilateralism is renewed. Covid-19 has created a shift in our global consciousness, an awareness that the system has failed to produce the carrying capacity and promise of globalization and also because there are projects like Kehosa, promoting youth, food and water security, and rethinking what development should look like from the bottom up.

So while our ecological biodiversity is in crisis and global debt looms large—as severe as that is for developing countries, it is arguably worse in the advanced economies because the bottom has dropped out, and people are reaching for answers that they cannot understand. To put it bluntly, many people are in denial that their beloved free market system has collapsed. The accumulation of wealth has become so disparate and removed from the reach of working people, yet they cannot understand how these limits of capitalism is an unjust, unfair, inequitable, moral and ethical issue.

So, if this is all part of the geopolitical back story, I don’t want to mischaracterize my presentation by saying that Africa must choose between the neoliberal powers and China, or some of the other large markets like India or the Middle-East. I want to talk about a third option, the one that Kehosa is focusing on, and this third option is Africa.  But what does that mean?

As a regional integration, the ratification of the African Continental Free Trade Area is one of the most substantial events of the 21st century. The opportunities for cross-border trade in goods and services, access to markets and supply chains is vast. But we must remember that this absolutely must include food and water security, access to health, our environmental protections, and greater inclusivity of women and youth.

So what I might ask, is how can a third way realistically transition Africa to participate in the global economy on these terms, and what would that take?  What are the risks and the benefits? In terms of foreign direct investment, sure, but FDI is only as good as LDI: Local Direct Investment.  Besides local manufacturing sectors, or cash crop export markets, when we talk about a local economy, we really are speaking about local practitioners, cultural ambassadors, artists, technological wizards, child care, house work the entire decolonized mindset that understands the true risks and benefits of sustaining local communities as well as managing our ecological biodiversity and revitalizing impacted communities. We cannot just speak about the profit margins of product accounts.

The recent release of Kenya’s Central Bank’s Annual Report seems to have surprised some China-Africa watchers in the west, particularly the focus on the trade deficit between Kenya and China.  China’s exports last year was $3.08 billion and the first half of this year is 1.88 billion suggesting that this years total may be larger than last year’s.  When you compare that to Kenya’s exports to China which was $139 million, those numbers seemed to have raised huge concerns because of this apparent deficit in trade. But I just want to ask why. Those numbers don’t mean so much when you consider that the billion dollar figures for machinery and transport will ultimately contribute to Kenya’s infrastructure.


The question I would pose is who better to have an infrastructure trade deficit with?  The one who would seek to impose privatization of services and demand scheduled repayment on those loans, or those willing to extend the terms of those loans and are not interested in privatizing national capacities?  In a nutshell, this is the situation between neoliberal debt and China debt. Countries need infrastructure, and you acquire infrastructure through loans.

The success of the AfCFTA is completely dependent on access and infrastructure and weighing the costs between neoliberal legal impositions that lead to vulture repayment schemes, and China’s win-win handshake, the west’s manufactured criticisms published through global corporate media chains is dishonest and simply hypocritical.

So let’s address trade sectors. Kenya’s current account in the goods trade is coffee, tea, horticulture, oil products, some manufactured goods, raw materials, chemicals, etc, and as is evident, Kenya has to compete with other African nations, who may have different tariff and tax structures. So, in the context where countries are forced to compete with their neighbors for market access, this situation really leads to a race to the bottom.

So I want to be clear that before the BRI and before the AfCFTA, there was very little opportunity for African countries to access markets on equitable terms. And now that the AfCFTA-BRI agreement is being worked out, there will be greater coherence and harmonization within the regional agreements, potentially setting much better terms that the AfCFTA can leverage. Certainly, this will provide far greater coherence opposed to countries having to compete with each other for access. Additionally, we’re going to find that the European Community and the US will also either have to compete with the BRI or try to undermine confidence in the agreement, which clearly, they have been trying to do.

So, if the benefit of the AfCFTA is to harmonize some of these kinds of costs and revenues and create more equitable conditions for trade that will help to raise the region, then it seems very clear that Africa’s regional motivations are well positioned to explore alternative positions for engagement

But understandably, to accomplish harmonization is not going to be easy as this cuts into the tax base of governments, some of whom may be more dependent on various goods and services than others. So while there’re going to be difficulties from local governments, any kind of deep market analysis is going to have to put people and environments first, creating conditions where local capabilities will have to align with expert capacity, but as long as we remain stuck within the corruption and resource curse of commodities pricing there is going to be very little opportunity for Africa to raise its position on the global stage.

So what I will demonstrate in the outline is that Intemerate Accounting is an achievable post-growth campaign promoting economic and ecological justice, like restoration, revitalization, and redistribution. We do this by leveraging our vast ecological data while ensuring that it is the people and communities that maintain the ownership of their data. The SDGs and Climate Agreements already have cabon-based investment plans on the table for creating value chains around our environmental data, but none that put people and their interactions with the environment first—none that come close to really valuing our ecological biodiversity. 

How this can begin to happen—and I encourage anyone interested to contact me directly– will require the participation of one bank and the creation of one index,

and while I’m not going to explain the mechanics of how this can happen in this presentation, I will at least be able to communicate the kind of coordination that would need to happen that could lead to an African Third Way.

Lets put the Core Values of Kenya’s Central Bank to the test when they write that the Bank will “encourage, nurture and support creativity and the development of new ideas and processes.” Kenya’s central bank could be central in designing what the regulatory framework might look like for Africa and other regional groupings.

The key motivation that I am addressing is how to financially incentivize access and infrastructure to people’s health, to local and regional markets, to traditional and local stewardship, and to provide a fair, just and equitable way for the region to participate in the global economy through the practice of ecological stewardship.

Therefore, we must begin with another kind of accounting methodology that redefines and re-quantifies growth using indicators that developing countries and impacted peoples require.

Intemerate Earth is our campaign to transition our accounting system. This was initially developed in collaboration with the Pacific Conference of Churches which last year, culminated in the publication of a book called Ecological Economic Accounts: Towards Intemerate Values.

While I initially conceived of this as something that could be promoted through the ACP countries, it really was geared towards a program for Pacific Regionalism to address factors that kept the Pacific tethered to the colonial/post-colonial/neoliberal system. Then in 2020, when the Covid pandemic happened it didn’t take long to realize that this was so much more than a Pacific or an ACP construct. The world demanded change.

We began to explore alternative ways of telling this story, and mapping out an educational curriculum that could help to define how an intemerate transition could be accomplished in a way that does not create unwanted shocks to the financial system.

Here are characters that we made to highlight exactly how the equation operates and how peoples interactions contribute to the building of this framework. While it’s too much to go into right now, you can find it on our website, but suffice to say, our little accounting paradigm could really be that explosive, radical seed for global ecological and economic transformation.

We here is an example of how we mapped a curriculum that outlines the micro and macro coordination needed to implement and grow this framework, but what we lack is the kind of on-the-ground institutional support that could explore this more fully.

There are many alternative indicators being discussed right now, and new ways for accounting for GDP, but what makes the intemerate accounting equation unique is that it does not simply adjust national accounts by adding new environmental indicators.  Because if all we are doing is adding new green or blue indicators, we will not be addressing the issue of redistributing wealth or moving away from the privatization or neoliberal framework. In fact, as I have mentioned, many of these new indicators could simply impose another top-down consent process for an eco-neoliberal economy, and is really a back door for perpetuating the same power structures to provide security, technology, monitoring, auditing, etc., thereby perpetuating the current system of exploitation and exclusion that we should be moving away from.

Intemerate Accounting is completely different, Firstly, we’ve created a more just way of measuring baselines; secondly we include a factor that allows for a relatively seamless transition away from the dominant GDP-based national accounting system towards one where Wellbeing indicators can modify our national accounts; and thirdly, we are inclusive of real-world market strategies that can make this financially viable for developing countries and underserved communities.

Typically, economic baselines are the starting point—or the base—from which to measure growth. From an economic perspective, baselines are set as a measurement of gains and losses. Baselines could be an absolute figure or a relative figure, but regardless all indicators that measure growth are determined by the baselines we set. They are the starting point.

The unique thing that the intemerate baseline does is that it inverts the starting point to be the goal and captures the incremental data towards restoring the baselines. 

In the Pixar movie “Soul” that came out last year—coincidentally, the same month that the Intemerate Accounts book was published– the main character, after he “transitions,” has to wait in that long line to get into heaven, and then realizes that to get there, he has to reunite with his soul to repair his merit.  We are in that kind of time. We need to reunite with our baselines–with our soul–and engage in an economy of reparations.

This inversion is a foundation for the kind of systemic reparations we need to break out of this cyclical terror of history.  This reversal is a much better reflection for measuring environmental and social indicators, as it gives value to people’s interactions with ecological and wellbeing indicators rather than treating everything as a commodity.   

This inversion is represented in our equation, with “n” representing the factor being restored. You can apply this to almost any environmental condition and record quantifiable data to meet the real world conditions for auditors and regulators.

And while I know this sounds like a very bold assertion, I would put it to the test in real world terms.

To make a claim that there is a tangible equation that can be used to restore our ecological biodiversity, reverse climate change, and redistribute global wealth sounds like hyperbole, or snake oil, or some magic fountain of youth, but it is not.

This is simply a mathematical formula that can be tested through input-output tables, measuring our interactions over time, calculating the rate by which restoration and rehabilitation can occur in quantifiable and relatively predictable terms.

Here’s an example that we looked at in the Munda province in the Solomon Islands regarding he restoration of a crab population.

Rather than a top-down commodity driven approach where environmental values are leveraged against carbon offsets for example, the intemerate baseline is a bottom-up approach where environmental values are determined by the interactions of local communities. 

What could be better than local, indigenous, or customary processes developing and benefiting from their own services and technologies to meet their targets and goals on their timeline.

Imagine that by inverting the baseline, there could be a verifiable way to quantify our ecological interactions, and essentially own our data, while protecting the inherent wealth of environmental, health and wellbeing factors.

When we consider the accounting standards checklist for ESG or Environmental and Social Governance, we’re talking about a reporting format focusing on corporate governance around nonfinancial measurements for environmental sustainability and social impacts. 

ESG, has not yet been standardized or quantified, which I would say is one of the objective goals in the current international climate and SDG meetings. And so the question remains, how do we quantify what is inherently unquantifiable?

Methods and standards need to be worked out, and the only solution that seems to be on the table is the worst one of all—the privatization, and valuation of our resources based on commodity scarcity.

Very briefly, I just want to say that Wall Street has recently created a commodity investment sector on water trades based on California water prices. It’s these kinds of utilities that appear to check off the environmental sustainability box in ESG reporting, but it does so at the expense of people and their rights to access. So I cannot help but wonder if much of the military base building near aquifers, or the licenses given to industries that contaminate our ground water, inflates the commodity scarcity pricing of water, and if it does, what does that do to how we access water?

As a bulwark to this kind of degradation and depletion, we could treat the Intemerate Equation as a financial index—like a stock index. But rather than it being managed by Wall Street, an intemerate index can be managed by the very same communities that are doing the work. This is particularly relevant as the IUCN recognizes the central and essential role of indigenous communities in stewardship and conservation of biodiversity. There is a high potential for creating new financial markets based on the measurement of our interactions rather than on the valuation of commodities, shifting the demand for extraction towards one that values service.

This data belongs to indigenous and customary rightsholders and stakeholders, not Wall Street fund managers.

This kind of data access could provide the triple benefits of sustainable livelihoods, decentralized local ownership and democratic participation. We aim to enable these kinds of conditions.

We all have the opportunity to measure, to count, to examine, to protect, to nurture, to analyze, to collect, to describe, to compile, to publish, to monitor and manage our environments. 

This is a service that is certainly much older than capitalist and privatization regimes, and our local economies should benefit from these interactions.

What the intemerate baseline does is serve as a kind of verifiable guideline for regulators and auditors to mark the rate of restoration, to see whether communities are indeed attaining the goals they have set for themselves.

In light of the promise of optimism I mentioned in my introduction, I would like to respond to the Ask and Call-to-Action that is inscribed in the timeline, and end with a request: If Intemerate Accounting complements and catalyzes other initiatives to produce the post growth and post-colonial future that we want and deserve, then can we raise this math over the spectre of our current global governance?

Thank you

Post Growth Presentation

Living Sufficiently and Sustainably: NIFEA (New International Financial and Economic Architecture) E-Conference on De-growth.

Organizers:

  • World Council of Churches
  • World Communion of Reformed Churches
  • The Lutheran World Federation
  • World Methodist Council
  • Council for World Mission

From Lutheran World website: “How do we address the contradictions between modern society’s obsession with limitless economic growth and the ecological limits of our unique planetary home? Are there models of good life that meet the needs of all people, sharing wealth and power, whilst nurturing the environment? What resources do we have and what strategies can we employ as faith communities to empower a just and sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as a transition from a growth-oriented, extractivist economic paradigm to a life-affirming economy where all of God’s creation can flourish?”

The NIFEA E-conference takes the 6th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as a vital backdrop for reflection and discussions. It seeks to develop a short ecumenical message directed to the G20 Leaders’ Summit taking place in Rome from 30-31 October 2021 on the theme of “People, Planet and Prosperity”.

TRANSCRIPT

Restoring our ecological biodiversity, Reversing climate change, and Redistributing global wealth are the three biggest issues challenging ecological and economic justice.  Intemerate Accounting is a post-growth initiative that could provide the systemic sea-change necessary to address this crisis in global governance.

I believe it is apparent that we are on the brink of global catastrophe and that the structures and choices expressed in our present economic system valorizes rather than punishes ecocide, wealth and health disparities and perpetuates the kind of exclusionary practices that invokes this doomsday outlook.

It is also apparent that the crises that we are faced with is an existential conundrum. Peace achieved through War is a moral hypocrisy. How can we take pledges of good climate policies seriously if our leaders continue to provoke military incursions with the most reckless abandon? Demilitarization, de-occupation and decolonization—We cannot address post-growth if we continue to reproduce these very conditions that enable hegemony.

So having gotten that out of the way, I will demonstrate in the outline that Intemerate Accounting is an achievable post-growth campaign addressing the issues of environmental sustainability, well-being, and global governance.  If our objective is to reduce fragility factors, we must focus on growing factors that promote economic and ecological justice, like restoration, revitalization, and redistribution.

Therefore, we must begin with another kind of accounting methodology that redefines and re-quantifies growth using indicators that developing countries and impacted peoples require.

Intemerate Earth is our campaign to transition our national/regional/and global accounting system. This was initially developed in collaboration with the Pacific Conference of Churches which last year, culminated in the publication of a book called Ecological Economic Accounts: Towards Intemerate Values.

While I initially conceived of this as something that could be promoted through the ACP countries, it really was geared towards a program for Pacific Regionalism to address factors that kept the Pacific tethered to the colonial/post-colonial/neoliberal system. Then in 2020, when the Covid pandemic happened it didn’t take long to realize that this was so much more than a Pacific or an ACP construct. The world demanded change. Our little accounting paradigm really is that explosive, radical seed for global ecological and economic transformation.

While there are many alternative indicators being discussed right now, and new ways for accounting for GDP, what makes the intemerate accounting equation unique is that it does not simply adjust national accounts by adding new environmental indicators.  If all we are doing is adding new green or blue indicators, we will not be addressing the issue of redistributing wealth, or moving away from the privatization or neoliberal framework. In fact I would argue that new indicators could simply impose another top-down consent for an eco-neoliberal economy, where the same power structures will be providing security, technology, monitoring, auditing, etc, thereby perpetuating the current system of exploitation and exclusion that we should be moving away from.

Intemerate Accounting is completely different, Firstly, we’ve created a more just way of measuring baselines; secondly we include a factor that allows for a relatively seamless transition away from the dominant GDP-based national accounting system towards one where Wellbeing indicators can modify our national accounts; and thirdly, we are inclusive of real-world market strategies that can make this financially viable for developing countries and underserved communities.

Typically, economic baselines are the starting point—or the base—from which to measure growth. From an economic perspective, baselines are set as a measurement of gains and losses. Baselines could be an absolute figure or a relative figure, but regardless all indicators that measure growth are determined by the baselines we set. They are the starting point.

The unique thing that the intemerate baseline does is that it inverts the starting point to be the goal and captures the incremental data towards restoring the baselines. 

In the Pixar movie “Soul” that came out last year—coincidentally, the same month that the Intemerate Accounts book was published– the main character, after he “transitions,” he has to wait in that long line to get into heaven, and then realizes that to get there, he has to reunite with his soul to repair his merit.  We are in that kind of time. We need to reunite with our baselines and engage in an economy of reparations.

This inversion is a foundation for the kind of systemic reparations we need to break out of this cyclical terror of history.  This reversal is a much better reflection for measuring environmental and social indicators, as it gives value to people’s interactions with ecological and wellbeing indicators rather than treating everything as a commodity.   

This inversion is represented in our equation, with “n” representing the factor that is being restored. You can apply this to almost any environmental condition and record this with quantifiable data to meet the real world conditions for auditors and regulators. And while I know this sounds like a very bold assertion, I would put it to the test in real world terms. To make a claim that there is a tangible equation that can be used to restore our ecological biodiversity, reverse climate change, and redistribute global wealth sounds like hyperbole, or snake oil, or some magic fountain of youth, but it is not.  This is simply a mathematical formula that can be tested through an input-output table, one that would indubitably find that over time our interactions will determine the rate by which restoration and rehabilitation can occur in quantifiable and relatively predictable terms.

Rather than a top-down commodity driven approach where environmental values are leveraged against carbon offsets for example, the intemerate baseline is a bottom-up approach where environmental values are determined by the interactions of local communities.  What could be better than local, indigenous, or customary processes developing and benefiting from their own services and technologies to meet their targets and goals on their timeline.  

Imagine that by inverting the baseline, there could be a verifiable way to quantify our ecological interactions, and essentially own our data, protecting the inherent wealth of environmental, health and wellbeing factors.

We have mapped a curriculum that outlines the micro and macro coordination needed to implement and grow this framework, but what we lack is the kind of on-the-ground institutional support that our interfaith councils offer, and the ability to communicate this story to their communities. Organizationally, we have developed some tools like the intemerate characters, the manifesto and the curriculum, but we simply need more engagement with institutional governance.

When we consider the accounting standards checklist for ESG or Environmental and Social Governance, we’re talking about a reporting format focusing on corporate governance around nonfinancial measurements for environmental sustainability and social impacts.  ESG, has not yet been standardized or quantified, which I would say is one of the objective goals in the current international climate and SDG meetings. The question remains, how do we quantify what is inherently unquantifiable? These methods and standards need to be worked out, and the only solution that seems to be on the table is the worst one of all—the privatization, and valuation of our resources based on commodity scarcity.

Very briefly, I just want to say that Wall Street has recently created a commodity investment sector on water trades based on California water prices. It’s these kinds of utilities that appear to check off the environmental sustainability box in ESG reporting, but it does so at the expense of people and their rights to access. So I cannot help but wonder if much of the military base building near aquifers, or the licenses given to industries that contaminate our ground water, inflates the commodity scarcity pricing of water, and if it does, what that does to peoples access to water in developing countries and our own communities.

As a bulwark against degradation and depletion, we could treat the Intemerate Equation as a financial index—like a stock index. But rather than it being managed by Wall Street, an intemerate index can be managed by the very same communities that are doing the work. This is particularly relevant as the IUCN recognizes the central and essential role of indigenous communities in stewardship and conservation of biodiversity. There is a high potential for creating new financial markets based on the measurement of our interactions rather than on the valuation of commodities, shifting the demand for extraction towards one that values service. This data belongs to indigneous and customary rightsholders and stakeholders, not Wall Street fund managers.

Intemerate Data could provide the triple benefits of sustainable livelihoods, decentralized local ownership and democratic participation through financial access. Intemerate Accounting aims to enable this kind of access and infrastructure.

We all have the opportunity to measure, to count, to examine, to protect, to nurture, to analyze, to collect, to describe, to compile, to publish, to monitor and manage our environments.  This is a service that is certainly much older than capitalist and privatization regimes, and our local economies should benefit from these interactions. What the intemerate baseline does is serve as a kind of verifiable guideline for regulators and auditors to mark the rate of restoration, to see whether communities are indeed attaining the goals they have set for themselves.

In light of the promise of optimism I mentioned in my introduction, I would like to respond to the Ask and Call-to-Action that is inscribed in the timeline, and end with a request: If Intemerate Accounting complements and catalyses other initiatives to produce the post growth and post-colonial future that we want and deserve, then can we raise this math over the spectre of our current global governance?

–END

Session 1, 10:00 – 12:00

Moderator:

  • Dr Rogate Mshana, moderator (Tanzania, Oikotree)

Speakers:

  • Lemaima Jennifer Vai’i (Fiji, Pacific Conference of Churches)
  • Dr George Zachariah (India and New Zealand, Trinity College)
  • Dr Martin Kopp (France, Federation of Protestant Churches in France)
  • Prof. Lalrindiki Ralte (India, Aizawl Theological College)
  • Rosario Guzman (Philippines, Ibon Foundation)

Summary of the discussion:

  • Rev. Dr Peter Cruchley (CWM), Rev Dr Sivin Kit (LWF), Rev Philip Peacock (WCRC), Athena Peralta (WCC), and Bishop Rosemarie Wenner (WMC)

Session 2, 14:00 – 16:00

Moderator:

  • Rev. Dr Gordon Cowans, moderator (Jamaica, Ecumenical Panel on a NIFEA)

Speakers:

  • Rev. Chebon Kernell (USA, Native American Comprehensive Plan, United Methodist Church
  • Dr Arnie Saiki (USA-Hawaii, Imipono Projects)
  • Dr Fundiswa Kobo (South Africa, University of South Africa)
  • Dr Priya Lukka (UK, Goldsmith University)
  • Rev. Rozemarijn van’t Einde (Netherlands, De Klimaatwakers)

Summary of the discussion:

  • Rev Dr Peter Cruchley (CWM), Rev Dr Sivin Kit (LWF), Rev Philip Peacock (WCRC), Athena Peralta (WCC), and Bishop Rosemarie Wenner (WMC)

Interpretation into Spanish will be available for this session.

Repairing the Terror of History

Dante’s Inferno…

In Mircea Eliade’s “Myth of the Eternal Return,” he describes a “terror of history” that at face value, exposes the difficulties of historicism as a cyclical series of repeated events that overflows with “evil,” with warfare, injustice, sufferings and annihilations.  How do we contain the endless examples of violence and campaigns of terror, genocide, slavery, theft, fraud, exclusion and the ongoing dispossession of people from their land and resources? We would have had to be left out from the Enlightenment or the Age of Reason if we are to believe that the cycle of dispossession and abuse is part of a sacred natural cycle. How then are we to believe that laws and regulations that seek to compensate or criminalize abuses we discern as evil or unjust are controversial, unless there is embodied within the system a perverse notion of justice that privileges the accumulation of wealth and power.

While Eliade is often associated with his support for fascist or nationalist campaigns, his analysis over the sacred and the profane draws into question the very contradictions of whether we approach history as a system predetermined by cyclical cultural narratives or as a linear series of events. In his study, what Eliade does in his conclusion is tricky.  As the rational solution for transcending the cycles of history, he introduces the Hegelian dialectic, the linear progression of thought and action promoting an ever forward advancing discourse of history. He then follows that up by expressing the spirit of the dialectic with the practical application of Marx’s program of historical materialism, anchoring the dialectic down to the practical conditions of labor, wages and the social sciences. Then, strangely, commensurate with his support of fascism, Eliade undermines the practicality of this logic by aligning Marx’s application as “militant,” as if the promotion of faith were an innocently benign program in the history of colonization and systemic inequality.

What Eliade refers to as the terror of history, is an existential trap that seeks to locate our will within the confines of the archetypes and repetition of primitive humanity. How we emancipate from that history, he concludes, “is through faith,” and that through faith, “everything is possible for man.”  What is challenging about this program, is that we are already seeing the terror of history impose itself onto a world that is currently confronting its extinction.  This existential trap can, on the one hand be viewed as a Thucydides Trap between China and the United States, where many in the west are pursuing campaigns for war as if it were already an inevitable conclusion for challenging the post-Cold War hegemony.

Simultaneously, reversing climate change is something that cannot be postponed and the primary reason that we remain stuck in this terror of history, in this multi-fisted assault against peace, is that there are forces that are invested in economic power that reject peace and reconciliation and seek to pursue the ongoing hegemony, despite all the evidence that squarely locates the cause of our global disenfranchisement on unfair economic practice.

If the context of reparations is to provide for justice, to equalize the impacts of our so-called evil, we should approach our relationship with time and history towards the practical matters that govern family, property, political, moral, judicial, economic and environmental organization.

Emancipating us from this terror of history requires us to understand what is most critical of history, and that is the perpetuation of systems that enforces conditions of racism, colonialism and slavery, and justifies genocides and ecological degradation. If the context of reparations is to provide for justice, to equalize the impacts of our so-called evil, we should approach our relationship with time and history towards the practical matters that govern family, property, political, moral, judicial, economic and environmental organization.

An accounting of restoration, much like an economics of history is only as tangible as how we value justice. This value is necessary if we are to stop the cycles of systemic violence that spiral with repetition through history as if it were an inevitable occurrence of anthropomorphic will. Restoration, as with reparation, restitution, or repatriation is not simply an acknowledgement of claimant’s rights for return or compensation, it is a recognition that if we are to heal our planet, relationships and interactions and move forward with peace, justice and reconciliation, we must acknowledge that the terror of history is a dark shroud that perpetuates systemic cycles of violence.

It is not enough to say, for example, that monetary compensation for seizures guided by the applications of misguided law is enough to reconcile generations of abuse, exclusion or land and resource theft. After all, the issue around systemic transgressions may not simply be resolved by individual arbitration claims, but rather by a restoring of rights and claims. One of the problems, however, is legal jurisdiction and simply deciding what law to interpret, what court, and what compensation may be insufficient for ending systemic bad behavior.

For a country like the United States, for example, whose evolution cannot be separated from genocide, slavery and dispossession, acknowledging this history does little for ending policies that perpetuate systemic racism, class struggle or gender inequality.  Some of President Biden’s recent Executive Orders addresses this very issue by promoting diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility in the federal workplace and has already addressed the advancement of racial equity by supporting underserved communities in the Federal Workforce.

While the Federal Workforce only accounts for about 2 million people—or about 1.25% of the total workforce, the Executive Orders are at least an acknowledgement of the systemic failure of present-day Capitalism, and the abuses of liberalization in our trade, tax, and investment policies.

The admission of wrongdoing is simply a first step in restoring a pathway to dignity and justice. But even with an admission of guilt, there are far too many who continue to believe in the agency of power as being the justifiable motivation for perpetuating bad behavior. We must, as a matter of practical concern, regulate the bad behavior of ideologies that perpetuate the fiction of the Social Darwinist’s “survival of the fittest” trope, when its opposite—”mutual aid”—is the verisimilitude of our natural interactions, and the greater natural law.

Thomas Piketty’s Capital and Ideology reminds us exactly why, for example, the assault by conservatives in the United States wants to ban Critical Race Theory from the public school curriculum. Confronted by the extreme inequality of our present economic system, Piketty has provided us with the most inconvenient truth, which is that the dominant economic system is the inheritor of “slave societies”, of “colonial societies”, of “ownership societies.” If we are ever to move beyond the crisis of gross inequality, we need to rethink global economic strategies, beyond 20th century monikers that reinforce Cold War thinking. Such strategies are not only possible but should be the foundation for all decision making criteria. Additionally, the rubric against the promotion of implementing systemic change, is not a lack of Public Will, they are enforced. barriers like law, international treaties and a taxation system that does not allow for just and equitable redistributive wealth.

In practical terms, an economy of history and an accounting of reparations are intangible targets that may seem impossible to quantify in the context and otherwise disparate history of justice issues, particularly since except for some paltry examples for systemic compensation, history is bereft of systemic reparation schemes.

Addressing this lack of reparations– whether human or ecological– is there an approach by which quantitative indicators could be used to end the terror of history, the repetition of failed systems?

Lie stacked upon greed, buried beneath deceit, motivated by guile, hurled upon coercion, is neither commensurate with science nor philosophy. It is still a fictive conceit.

The very first principle to look at is economic. What kind of economic practice can we devise if the very foundation of our economic principles are predicated upon lies? When lie stacked upon greed, buried beneath deceit, motivated by guile, hurled upon coercion, is neither commensurate with the discipline and rigor of science and philosophy, it is still a fictive conceit.

That the discipline of economics should rest so heavily on Malthus and Darwin and the faulty principles behind natural selection should give pause to anyone continuing to vouch the virtues of Free Market Capitalism. However, global societies have become so entrenched in this system that resolving this could itself be an extinction scenario. What is evident is that we need a transitional scheme that will minimize global disruption, and the way to achieve that is by adopting a new ecological accounting framework that is focused on mutual aid and development. When the United Nations adopted ecosystem accounts into the National Accounting System, they took the first leap. Now the question is what should this equation look like.

The intemerate equation is that nugget. It may not be the only tangible nugget that may be adopted, but it is a starting point by which we can use ecological accounts to repair the terror of history.

End

One Bank One Index

The Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank hit the ground running in 2015 with a bold agenda to create a “lean, clean and green” multilateral development bank for the 21st century.

China does not have a One Bank One Index economic-ecological accounting scheme to complement its One Belt One Road infrastructure and development plan, but it should since it is well-poised to be the leader in infrastructure and debt financing for the Global South.

However, to say that a One Bank One Index (OBOI) accounting scheme does not exist is simply another way to unveil strategies for an ecological post-pandemic economy that could potentially fill a vacuum caused by a series of economic downturns that began with the Wall Street collapse in 2008 and culminated into the miasma of our global pandemic economy. 

China’s leadership in the implementation of the Paris Agreement, SDGs (esp. poverty reduction) would be confirmed and enhanced by supporting an economic-ecological index. 

We need to explore more equitable accounting schemes to address the problem of global leadership, national/regional development, and sustainable local and rural livelihoods

The recent G7 summit and Biden’s Build Back Better World (B3W) suggests that the Western economies will seek to push forward an aggressive model for ecological accounting and this is not likely to bode well for the Global South.  We need to explore more equitable accounting schemes to address the problem of global leadership, national/regional development, and sustainable local and rural livelihoods.  China, who retains its position of solidarity with the Global South, is well-positioned to be the normative source of economic value and infrastructure financing that should be considered dominant.

When the UN Statistical Division announced their revision to the GDP System of National Accounts last March, the framework may have lacked specificity as to how accounts would be treated, but the language is clear: national accounting systems will no longer “be heedlessly allowing environmental destruction and degradation to be considered economic progress.”

Taken at face value, there is a lot to celebrate with that expression. But considering that most of the proposals for natural accounting systems were devised by institutions in the advanced economies with little participation from the South, indigenous or other impacted peoples, it is difficult to see environmental accounting as a truly global initiative.

Those in ecosystem financing are mostly aware of controversies with Cap and Trade, or the exclusionary policies of Big Conservation where large swaths of blue/green spaces of oceans and forests would be managed and accounted for by the large economies using technologies from Dept of Defense sub-contractors. Yet, apart from a few critical minds, there remains little in the way of addressing these flaws.

Much of the logic behind the adoption of these conservation enclosures is simply the urgency of something needing to be done, and since Western interests continue to paint China as a bogeyman across all sectors, it would appear that if there is nothing better on the horizon, then the global initiative is to pursue the hegemonic enclosure with all its flaws intact.

The China-led One Belt One Road is operationally an infrastructure and development initiative, delivering the Global South new access and opportunity in trade of goods and services. While it does bring advantages to China, it does not accomplish this through privatization regimes, enclosures, destabilization of democratic governments, or economic rights abuses that it is often accused of.

What is factual, is that without interference, the Belt and Road Initiative has the technological and institutional structure that would support countries and regions to participate in a much more viable market without being compromised by the neoliberal financialization and militarization of containment, obstruction and destabilization.  

When we trace the evolution of the UN SEEA for example, beginning in the 1990s, textual language marks the evidence of how institutions shifted from “degradation and depletion” to corporatization and private investment. This arrangement was not simply that of a practical matter, it was a structured and deliberate agenda motivated by the very groups that would seek to benefit from our ecological crisis.

Revising our national accounts to include ecosystem services does not preclude that this was merely an exercise in corporate conspiracy, but rather an existential necessity if we are to ever restore our environment. And while the potential crisis that awaits is the competition for global climate leadership, ecological economic accounting schemes like our Intemerate Equation provides an equitable approach to the distribution of global wealth by providing a comprehensive accounting scheme whereby ecological-economic benefits are equitably received.

Foreboding initiatives already suggest that remote peoples may soon be desperate enough to be manipulated into abandoning their homes without a fight. Australia, for example, has proposed that Tuvalu swap national territory for citizenship. Each extreme weather event brings impacted peoples that much closer to embracing the faux-generosity of exploitative interests.

But what of a One Bank One Index?

The combination of several factors that include our present global pandemic: the rise of the Belt and Road Initiative and the benefits it provides for the Global South, new multilateral institutions like the AIIB, the BRICS-led Contingency Reserve Arrangement, the Cross-Border Interbank Payment System, advanced communication technologies including the release of Huawei’s Harmony OS, open-source AI technology like the ARIES for SEEA, and a new data economy all cohesively line up for a relatively seamless transition into a new ecological-economic global economy.

This global transition should be a boon for the Global South. New infrastructure and alternative financing alignments provide regions with an opportunity to choose ecological restoration over degradation and depletion. It is a roadmap to reverse decades of exploitation and embraces new service sectors for labor, development of specialized technologies and intellectual properties, and open the door for new financial sectors where entire communities can own, package, market, and invest in restoration schemes with or without already established financial institutions.

A People’s Prospectus could circumvent Wall Street, bypass hedge fund managers, ignore transnational privatization regimes, and engage in financial markets where they would hold the equity and benefit from their own services in what we might call trans-local, inter-global trade. 

What a People’s Prospectus could deliver is a missing piece of the puzzle for the global economy, which is how we foster sustainable livelihoods in rural and isolated communities that complement highly risky involvement in agricultural or extractive  production.  

What happens if the people manage their data commons? What happens if our ecological data were stewarded by those who are customarily engaged with local biodiversity? Who profits when ecological restoration packages are created by those very communities who would benefit from local restoration services?

The “ownership” or management of that data would not fall under the manipulations of insurance companies or Wall Street investment funds, but rather the communities that would seek to ensure their own wellbeing and profit from investing in their own labor and intellectual property.

To reduce socio-ecological and economic risk and uncertainty requires local control of “private property” in the form of local intellectual property. This type of control would strengthen ties to rural communities, allow poor families to plan families around sustainable income and reduce the risk involved with urban-rural migration. In other words, ecological data promotes social cohesion and a sense of belonging, while providing a sustainable alternative source of income or credit to local authorities, even as data is aggregated and channeled through national and global infrastructure, in alignment with our vision for a One Bank One Index program within the BRI.

A People’s Prospectus: one bank and one index, community data flows, international transactions, indigenous auditing, trans-local market capitalization. A People’s Prospectus could circumvent Wall Street, bypass hedge fund managers, ignore transnational privatization regimes, and engage in financial markets where they would hold the equity and benefit from their own services in what we might call trans-local, inter-global trade. 

While there is no promise that a People’s Prospectus will provide large payouts for communities, it will provide access for a wider distribution of funds and build new opportunities for local services, invariably stimulating local communities.

The Intemerate Equation provides one option for an ecological accounting roadmap for the African, Caribbean, and Pacific Island Countries (ACP). How we facilitate that is open for discussion, and while international financial institutions are caught in the middle of a system struggling to define new rules for global trade and development, unable to predict or contain the risks, an intemerate accounting side table could fill the economic gap resulting from decades of economic and ecological malfeasance.

Faced with lack of infrastructure, access to labor, and environmental sustainability, we have designed a regulatory and auditing infrastructure to prove proof-of-concept.  

The combination of a global economic downturn, a global pandemic, and our looming environmental crisis should not be seen as an opportunity for exploitation just as Wall Street did by creating a Water Futures market behind everyone’s back.  A post-pandemic economy should be seen as an opportunity to reset the global economy to one that is more just and equitable.  If that cost can begin with One Bank and One Index, that might just be enough to derail the neoliberal impetus that seeks to manage and privatize our ecological biodiversity.

An intemerate accounting scheme leveraged against debt may be a crude quid pro quo, but with the amount of funding necessary to fulfill proof of concept, a One Bank One Index proposal seems like a very small risk to define a more just and equitable global economy.

They Count Bombs

The foundation for economic and ecological justice begins with our accounting system.

Intemerate Accounting is a just, fair and equitable ecological accounting scheme assessing the value of our ecological-economic interactions, and applying the resulting data toward reversing climate change’s impacts through restoration. Accordingly, this accounting scheme values our data offsets, rather than measuring the commodity or resource itself.

We can all provide customary services of conducting inventories, collecting statistics, publishing data, determining conditions and trends, examining and analyzing changes, summarizing data, collecting and describing, compiling, measuring, researching, monitoring, managing our ecological biodiversity, that interaction is economic and traditional, and when we manage our commons, we restore the planet and our humanity.