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The Long March of a Certain Ecology toward Tribalism

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Conference of Stockholm
Conference of Stockholm

After the “demise” of Marxism, or rather of the real socialism that served as its carrier, the international left had to recycle quite a few concepts, including that of class struggle. The confrontation between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie was abandoned; now they talk about a conflict between the South (poor countries) and the North (rich countries). Environmental topics have replaced political, social and economic ones. Some speak of a “global revolution” that would have as its purpose “a fundamental change of mentality, a radical revolution.” Others want the end of industrial civilization. Still others present indigenous tribes as the model for a future “eco-sustainable” society.

The encyclical Laudato Si cites the so-called Earth Summit (Second United Nations Conference on Environment and Development), held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The first such summit took place twenty years earlier, in Stockholm.

Fingerprints of the Club of Rome...

The United Nations Conference on the Human Environment was held in Stockholm, Sweden, in June 1972. The assembly sought to mark the UN’s awareness of the problems of climate, the environment and development, meeting the requirements of the newly born ecological movement. The conference issued a “Declaration on the Human Environment” containing twenty-six principles.

In reality, the Stockholm meeting did nothing more than take on some theses from the Club of Rome, an international association of researchers and activists founded in 1968 by the Italian entrepreneur Aurelio Peccei, who was its first president. The Club of Rome became sadly famous for its catastrophic predictions that turned out to be exaggerated and even false. For example, the Club predicted the end of oil reserves by the end of the twentieth century. Instead, reserves have grown year after year, now standing at 900 billion barrels, not counting production from new extraction technologies such as fracking.

However, the close links of Peccei and other Club of Rome members to communist circles cast a shadow of ideological suspicion over the Club’s endeavors. In fact, from the beginning the Club identified itself with the positions of the globalist left by proposing a “New World Order” based on decreasing the industrial development of the West and redistributing its wealth on a communal basis.

In 1971, the Club drew up a “Report on the Limits to Growth”, also known as the “Meadows Report”. The document predicted that economic growth could not continue indefinitely due to the limited availability of natural resources and the planet’s limited ability to absorb pollutants. It proposed as a solution a drastic reduction in the consumption levels of developed countries by returning to a more primitive lifestyle that would be essentially a denial of modern progress. The Report proposed a “sustainable revolution” to change radically the paradigm of the modern world.

The reduction of economic growth was combined with a policy of birth control: “There are only two ways to restore the resulting imbalance. Either the birth rate must be brought down to equal the new, lower death rate, or the death rate must rise again….Any society wishing to avoid that result must take deliberate action to control the positive feedback loop-to reduce the birth rate.”

In 1991, the Club of Rome published the book-manifesto The First Global Revolution, expounding its intentions: “In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like would fit the bill. All these dangers are caused by human intervention, and it is only through changed attitudes and behavior that they can be overcome. The real enemy then, is humanity itself.

The Club of Rome therefore admits that environmental issues are almost a pretext to implement a “global revolution” that targets man himself and today’s civilization.

Unsurprisingly, the Club of Rome expressed its satisfaction with the encyclical Laudato Si. “The Pope proposes theses identical to those that the Club has presented for many years now,” stated Roberto Peccei, son of Aurelio and current vice-president of the Club. For his part, its manager, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, stood with Cardinal Peter Turkson at the Vatican on June 18, 2015, as the encyclical was presented to the public.

…and of the Socialist International

The panorama presented by the Club of Rome is part of a broader proposal articulated by the Socialist International. Since the 1960s, given the obvious failure of Marxism, researchers in this organization have been exploring new perspectives for revolution in the West. A fruit of this work are some documents that outline what analysts have called “a new class struggle”: the old clash between proletarians and bourgeois is replaced by the planetary clash between the South (poor countries) and the North (rich countries), based not so much on political or social topics but on issues related to climate and the environment.

Specifically, with the high patronage of the United Nations Environment Program, the Socialist International presented two programmatic documents: in 1980, the “Brandt Report” (named after the German Chancellor and president of the Socialist International, Willy Brandt); and in 1987, the “Brundtland Report” (from the name of the Norwegian Prime Minister and vice-president of the Socialist International, Gro Harlem Brundtland).

In an interview she granted me in June 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, Gro Harlem Brundtland confirmed that both these documents and the environmental summits sponsored by the UN came from the forge of the Socialist International:

“Question: Members of the Socialist International, of which you are now the vice president, have participated in all the commissions that have led up to this Summit. Is there a project of the Socialist International in terms of ecology?

“Gro Harlem Brundtland: There were three different commissions, which built their analyses and proposals on top of each other. The Brandt Commission was there first. In addition to dealing with the problem of the North-South dialogue, the Commission studied the situation of the world economy in its relations with the climate and the environment. In the subsequent years there was a second commission, presided over by me, that presented the report titled “Our Common Future”. Today, the proposals we made in various fields have been accepted by the international community. There was also the Commission on the environment and development, managed by the United Nations. This is very positive as it shows that our reports and proposals have been officially assumed by the United Nations, which has led us to this Summit in Rio de Janeiro. It is true that all the main members of these Commissions, starting with its presidents, belonged to the Socialist International, of which I am now the Vice-President. It is true that we, socialists, have been studying these issues for some time. It is true that all these international meetings and their conclusions are inspired and coordinated by the Socialist International.”

The Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro

            Twenty years later in Stockholm, in June 1992, always under the aegis of the UN, the so-called Earth Summit was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. There were actually two parallel events:

– The II UNCED (United Nations Conference on Environment and Development);

– The Global Forum or world gathering of NGOs (Non Governmental Organizations).

It was the largest assembly in history: 178 governmental delegations, 118 of which were led by their respective head of state; 3,800 ministers; 48 international delegations (IMF, ILO, UNESCO, etc.), totaling almost ten thousand participants. The event was covered by almost seven thousand journalists, including me. For its part, the Global Forum brought together eight hundred NGOs, with more than one hundred thousand participants.

In the inaugural session, Gro Harlem Brundtland explained the goal of the meeting: “The history of humanity has reached a critical point that requires fundamental changes in the governance of the world. The earth cries out for a revolution!”

The UNCED II was presided over by the Canadian Maurice Strong, a well-known left-wing ecologist. Here is how he summarized its purpose: “This session will have to trigger a new eco-industrial revolution, which profoundly changes not only the social, economic and cultural structures of the world, but the very mentality of modern man. What we want is a fundamental change of mentality, a radical revolution in the way we do things.”

The II UNCED produced two international treaties – The Rio Declaration and Agenda 21 – and three conventions: Convention on Biological Diversity, Convention on Climate Change, and Convention on Forest Principles. It is impossible to analyze these documents in detail. Agenda 21 alone has more than 900 pages. However, we can note some emerging trends that have inspired the environmental movement in the subsequent decades. For example, it was in Rio that they spread the concepts of “sustainable development” and “biodiversity”.

            The encyclical Laudato si’ calls the Rio Summit “truly prophetic” (N° 167). What would this “prophecy” consist of?

First trend: a brake on development

A first guiding idea is that the development model adopted by the West so far is “unsustainable”. Agenda 21 reads: “One of the most serious problems affecting the planet is unsustainable consumption and production patterns that lead to environmental degradation, worsening poverty, and an imbalance in the development of countries.” The same says Maurice Strong: “The model that produced the well-off lifestyle we enjoy today is unsustainable.”

These models should be eliminated. Says Gro Harlem Brundtland: “We have to change trends and patterns of consumption and production. We must realize that we, in the industrialized world, have increased our standard of living through the excessive use of natural resources.”

In a first phase, industrial plants should be subjected to environmental rules so stringent as to force them to close down. Linda Starke, of the Center for Our Common Future, an international organization established following the Brundtland Report, admits: “Industries in developed countries will need to be modified, or perhaps scrapped.”

This would entail the end of the West as we know it. Edward Goldsmith, Nobel Prize winner, director of the British magazine The Ecologist, and participant in the Rio meeting, stated, “Those who have destroyed more will have to pay more. The rich have to pay. All nuclear power plants must be closed. The industrial world cannot survive for long. Just as the Soviet Union collapsed, the West must now collapse. This is what we, ecologists, wish for.”

Second trend: towards “negative growth”

            Yet this brake on development is not enough. Agenda 21 puts it bluntly: “Changing consumption patterns will require a reduction in demand.” That is what they euphemistically call “negative growth”. Agenda 21 continues: “We must review the current concepts of economic growth, creating a new concept of wealth and prosperity.”

A document distributed in Rio quotes the French socialist thinker André Gorz: “The only way to resolve the current situation is to proceed towards negative growth. This is the true goal of modern ecology.”

Third trend: the emergence of an eco-dictatorship

             What would happen if a country is unwilling to comply with the strict environmental regulations issued by the UN?

In a paper presented in Rio, Hillary French, of the Worldwatch Institute in Washington, admitted: “It will be necessary to impose sanctions to punish countries that violate agreements.” In his Rio speech, the former French Prime Minister Michel Rocard was no less explicit: “We must not delude ourselves. The international community must be able to exert strong pressure on any country that maintains industrial facilities that threaten the environment. … It is necessary that the international instruments we are developing, some of which will be adopted in Rio, have the power to impose sanctions and also to expropriate any plant that is considered polluting.”

Forth trend: Toward a world government

In the logic of this global eco-socialism, the United Nations environmental control bodies would have de facto jurisdiction throughout the world regardless of national borders. The II UNCED clearly established that since pollution does not have national borders, one cannot even speak of national sovereignty. “In many sectors, including the environmental one,” explained Maurice Strong, “it is no longer possible to speak of sovereignty exercised by nation-states.” The late French president François Mitterrand, a protagonist in Rio, was equally clear: “We have to reduce the countries’ control over their territories if they are accused of damaging the environment.”

In fact, one of the proposals discussed in Rio was the creation of a rapid-deployment military force, the “Green Helmets”, to solve “environmental situations” all over the world.

Fifth trend: a new class struggle

            A fifth trend that emerged from Rio is a change in the concept of class struggle. We will explain it in detail in our next article.

In his speech at the Global Forum, Brazilian Green Party leader Fernando Gabeira said: “Rio will give rise to a war between the planet’s North and South. The weapons of this war will be pollution, deforestation, overpopulation and the ozone layer.”

Equally clear was Roberto Pereira Guimarães, representative of the Brazilian government at UNCED: “The great challenge of sustainable development is not to solve the environmental issue but the social one. We must resolve the contradiction of the current models, which generate division between rich and poor.” A document released to journalists during the Rio Summit stated in no uncertain terms: “The environmental question, in our days, is fundamentally a problem of confrontation between poor countries and rich countries.”

Sixth trend: acceptance of indigenous religions and the tribal model

Rio’s II UNCED gave prominence to NGOs to the detriment of official bodies. Nearly seven hundred NGO representatives sat at the General Assembly. These included representatives of “traditional religions” and “aboriginal peoples”, presented by the UN as fundamental elements to solve environmental problems: “Agenda 21 promotes the traditional methods and knowledge of indigenous peoples and their communities.”

At the II UNCED, the aboriginal tribal system was presented as a model of “eco-sustainability” and “style of consumption”. The document reads, “The indigenous peoples are the only ones who have successfully managed a sustainable environment over thousands of years.”

It is not surprising, therefore, that while the official UN meeting was taking place, on a nearby hill hundreds of “spiritual guides” – Buddhist monks, witches, shamans, New Age devotees and so on – held a sort of esoteric happening around a bonfire to the rhythm of African drums. Leading the spells was none other than Hanne Strong, the wife of UNCED’s Secretary General. “The circle of fire represents the realm of truth,” Mrs. Strong explained, “the bonfire is the link with the creator. … Our aim is to send energies of wisdom on the UN Assembly in order to generate a spiritual revolution.”

Far from scorning this contribution, the UN leaders welcomed it as a “new form of environmental consciousness,” which should serve as foundation for the “eco-industrial revolution” they were trying to launch. A UNCED document states: “The Earth is a living entity, everything that it contains has a soul.” And Maurice Strong, in his opening speech, quoted for a long time the “Declaration of the Holy Land,” issued a few days earlier by the “Mystic Conference of Spiritual Leaders.”

This official recognition of esoteric and tribal religious beliefs and practices raises serious questions about the existence of the UN as a lay organization. Besides, why is the Socialist International, also a strictly lay organization, fomenting “traditional religions” and the “aboriginal model”?

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