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Earth Grab: Geopiracy, The New Biomassters and Capturing Climate Genes 0

‘Where men seeking to grab power once looked to acquire territories and slaves, now the entire globe and its productive capacity’ is up for grabs, writes Vandana Shiva, in the foreword to Pambazuka Press’ latest title, ‘Earth Grab’.

The book’s ‘three groundbreaking reports pull back the curtain on disturbing technological and corporate trends that are already reshaping our world and that will become crucial battlegrounds for civil society in the years ahead.’

It has now been 50 years since a human being first glimpsed the whole of Planet Earth, shimmering alone in the blackness of space. “The earth is blue. How wonderful. It is amazing,” reported Yuri Gagarin as the planet appeared in his porthole for the first time on 12 April 1961. Environmentalists subsequently argued that seeing the Earth as small and fragile, rather than large and unfathomable, would transform humanity’s relationship with our common home and give renewed impetus to the movement to save nature – and for some it did.

Paradoxically, though, for others the image of the whole Earth, now small enough to fit in an astronaut’s hand, suggested other possibilities for a new human relationship to a planet that some felt we were now able to grasp and alter. “We are as Gods and we might as well get good at it,” quipped Stewart Brand, editor of The Whole Earth catalogue, who first lobbied for NASA to release the photo of Earth from space and today advocates a package of nuclear power, GM crops, geoengineering and synthetic chemicals to steward that blue–green pearl.

The year after Gagarin’s historic flight into orbit, the head of US meteorological research, Harry Wexler, reported on proposals that might allow a single nation to transform the climate of that “whole earth” at one stroke, heating or cooling the atmosphere by deploying dust or ice into the sky. It was an early call for geoengineering – the idea of taking direct control of planetary systems.

In Wexler’s imagination, at least, the Earth was now a small and tractable enough object to credibly consider altering it. In the years that followed more and more proposals to “manage,” “colonize” and “re-engineer” the planet came thick and fast. Where men seeking to grab power once looked to acquire territories and slaves, now the entire globe and its productive capacity was up for grabs if only we could imagine and invent the tools.

Those of us who have resisted corporate power while trying to protect the natural world are all too familiar with the arsenal of economic and technological tools that have since been developed to carry out ever-more fundamental grabs on this global commons: grabs on land, water, seeds and our cultural stories; patent grabs on the genetic parts of life; and, through nanotechnology, even grabs on the basic elements and atomic structures. There is a proper name for this process: piracy.

The term “biopiracy” describes how applying monopoly claims and high technologies to the stuff of life is a profoundly unjust seizure of common goods. In these pages writers from the ETC Group have given us a new term, “geopiracy”, to describe the attempt by a few technocrats to hijack the functioning of our entire planet – whether by polluting the skies, changing the chemistry of the oceans or appropriating the fields, forests and algal blooms that regulate the biosphere.

These three groundbreaking reports pull back the curtain on disturbing technological and corporate trends that are already reshaping our world and that will become crucial battlegrounds for civil society in the years ahead.

Part 1, “Geopiracy,” raises the alarm that geoengineering proposals – once the preserve of mad scientists and sci-fi authors – are moving to the centre of political struggles to address the deepening climate crisis. Geopiracy describes how the world’s richest governments and industrialists are cynically using the siren call of a quick fix to sideline an equitable multilateral response – strengthening their geopolitical power in an already unequal world. Geoengineering is not only dangerous in the future because it might not work as expected, wreaking havoc on ecosystems and peoples lives, it is dangerous right now as an icon for a techno-fix approach, diverting political will and resources away from the real solutions at hand: peasant-based, soil-based agriculture and re- localised economies.

Continue reading on PAmbazuka.org

By Vandana Shiva

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