Wall Street Just Invented a New Type of Corporation To Help Elites Buy Nature Itself
The New York Stock Exchange is helping to commodify the commons and exploit it for profit
Backpacking through Central America changed my life.
It exposed me to poverty and made me loathe corporatism.
It exposed me to environmental destruction and made me love nature.
One of my life’s greatest collection of memories comes from my months of volunteering at eco-villages in Costa Rica.
The rich coast.
Swimming in hot rivers, warmed by volcanic heat
Discovering glow-in-the-dark mushrooms
Listening to howler monkeys in the hills
Cooking organic food in an open-air kitchen without insects due to mindful planting
Watching red-hot lava flow down a volcano at night
The land was so verdant that even the fence posts blossomed with flowers.
Costa Rica is one of the most sustainable nations on earth. It’s a place filled with beautiful and warm people. It’s chocked full of stunning views and breathtaking scenery.
And now, thanks to the recent invention of a new type of corporation, it will all be owned by a hedge fund.
Natural Asset Companies
It’s technically a new type of publicly tradeable security.
Like a stock (or NFT), but for nature.
Water Springs Inc.
In September, the New York Stock Exchange (of course) announced the new security, as a “nature-based solution to unlock the value of natural resources.”
That definitely sounds pretty based.
An NAC is basically a real estate agent for Mother Nature. It picks a piece of nature, assigns a price tag, wrangles the rights out of the commons, and sells slices of that lake/ocean/volcano/mountain/etc to institutional shareholders, specifically, the multinational corporations who fund the NAC in the first place.
Did I mention that NACs were invented by a company backed by the Inter-American Development Bank, Aberdare Ventures, the New York Stock Exchange itself, and — wait for it — the oil-funded Rockefeller Foundation?
Take a guess what country’s natural assets they’re going to sell off first:
My beloved Costa Rica.
Everything has its price
“NACs will attempt to assign value to services — such as carbon retention, freshwater generation, pest control, groundwater storage and erosion prevention — intrinsically provided by natural resources.” 1
So once they’ve assigned a price to every atom in the atmosphere, then what?
“Proceeds from an NAC initial public offering (IPO) will be used to manage the specific natural asset and potentially acquire additional natural assets or return value to the owners.” 2
They’ll maximize profits and acquire additional natural resources.
The elites won’t stop until they wring a profit from every living inch of planet earth.
The great battle of our age
“This new nature-based solution provides another tool for governments to work with the private sector to promote sustainability, while providing financial returns.” 3
Just two quick thoughts on this gem:
Whenever you hear “governments” and “private sector” in the same sentence, it’s the same thing as saying “corporations are colluding with corrupt politicians again.”
In the battle of sustainability versus profit, the former has never won against the latter. There’s simply no track record that suggests we can trust corporations to do what’s right for people and our planet.
Call this what it is: robbery
“According to initial calculations, NACs will unlock $4 quadrillion [that’s four million billion dollars] in assets as a new feeding ground for Wall Street investors to buy the rights to clean water and clean air and trout streams and bass-laden lakes and gorgeous picturesque waterfalls and lagoons, an entire forest, or maybe eventually extend into the oceans. Who knows the range of possibilities once nature is transacted on Wall Street.” 4
A democracy would never allow NACs to exist.
Two-thirds of Americans think we should do more on climate change.
90% support planting a trillion trees.
84% support carbon capture tax credits.
73% support taxing corporate emissions.
Saving the environment would be an easy lay-up for a democracy.
But, of course, there isn’t a single democratic nation on planet earth.
We’ve got a handful of dictatorships, and a whole bunch of corporatocracies.
In the same way that African dictators have looted their nations to fill their personal bank accounts in London and Geneva, corporate-captures politicians are now allowing their backers to ransack the nations they’ve sworn to serve.
Let’s cut the crap
If corporations were serious about protecting the environment and promoting sustainability, they wouldn’t take a giant gun and sticker a price tag on every piece of nature.
They’d donate a share of their corporate profits for a not-for-profit whose sole reason for existing was to protect the ecosystem.
But that’s not why corporations exists.
Corporations are anti-human extraction machines whose sole legal purpose for existing is to extract profits from anyone and anything for the private benefit of its shareholders.
The for-profit corporation is the fiduciary enemy of humanity and nature, and perhaps none more so than a Natural Asset Company.
Maybe the best way to protect nature is just to get rid of the institutions that do it the most harm?
How to actually protect nature
Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I still happen to think that some things are priceless. (That includes much of nature, and humans, too.) We don’t need to rely on private capital to “protect” nature.
Call me crazy, but I’m pretty sure something as temporary as a homo sapien doesn’t have the right or ability to “own” something as permanent as a mountain.
The ecosystem will definitely allow us to use and abuse it, but there will come a point where we muck up the chemistry so badly that it destroys us. It’s not personal, it’s just science. At the end of the day, nature is sovereign over mankind.
Maybe we need to delete the word ownership from our vocabulary and certainly from our legal contracts and sales agreements and land deeds. Instead, let’s use the word stewardship — and introduce a raft of legislation that defines stewardship as “leaving something better than you found it.”
Steward it or lose it.
At the very least, it’s time that we give at least some pieces of nature legal self-sovereignty, including:
The polar ice caps
All the rivers and lakes
Every inch of mountain above 14,000 feet
There’s already a river in New Zealand that has the same legal rights as a human being.
India granted human rights to the Ganges and Yahuna rivers.
Please don’t roll your eyes and write this off as a silly idea.
After all, the democracy-destroying Citizens United ruling made corporations people in the eyes of the law. If a fully lifeless corporation can be a “human,” then surely nature itself — that vital, living, breathing being that sustains every moment of our sorry little lives — can be equally so.
Everything’s just a legal fiction anyway.