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Saudi Arabia: The Sarajevo of the 21st Century?

Unanswered Questions: Thinking For Ourselves
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Saudi Arabia: The Sarajevo of the 21st Century?

Is Iraq a Diversion from the Real Invasion or Will Bush Try to Occupy Both Countries at Once?
Allah's Last Laugh

by Michael C. Ruppert - From The Wilderness

[© Copyright 2002, From The Wilderness Publications, All Rights Reserved. May be copied or distributed for non-profit purposes only. MAY NOT be posted on any internet web site in its entirety without express written consent. Contact]


Saudi Arabia - The Sarajevo of the 21st Century?
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Aug. 21, 2002, 14:00 PDT (FTW) - The global horrors of the First World War - the war to end all wars - began with the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914. The apocalyptic war of the 21st century may have begun with a $1 trillion lawsuit filed in the United States by 9-11 victim families against Saudi Arabian banks and members of the Saudi royal family. In what may be the opening salvos of a financial and energy apocalypse, the Financial Times reported yesterday that wealthy Saudi investors had begun a run on their U.S. banking deposits that may have taken as much as $200 billion out of U.S. banks.

These massive withdrawals - out of an estimated $750 billion in Saudi U.S. investments - occurred within days of the August 15 filing of the suit. Ironically, the principal attorneys in the suit are all political insiders and, in one case, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. You might think they would have thought of this beforehand.

There are two basic questions to ask about Saudi Arabia. Why was Saudi Arabia not a focus of U.S. action and serious media attention in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11 even though there were so many obvious connections? And why now is Saudi Arabia so prominently a focus of what is apparently government-approved U.S. animosity?

One thing is obvious. On the eve of a U.S. invasion of Iraq the deployment of U.S. military personnel in the region is also a convenient placement of resources for what may be a one-two punch to take over a tottering kingdom that owns 25 percent of all the oil on the planet at the same time that Saddam Hussein is removed from power in a country that controls another 11 percent. Together, the two countries -- which have not yet peaked in production capacity -- and which are the only two nations capable of an immediate increase in output possess 36 percent of the world's known oil.

The Saudi situation is complicated by the fact that much of Saudi Arabia's wealth is invested in U.S. financial markets and its sudden loss could devastate the U.S. economy. But Bush brinksmanship -- an understatement -- is making possible a scenario where Saudis long-loyal to the U.S. markets cut off their own arm in a coyote-like effort to free themselves from a trap that threatens the stability both of their kingdom and the global economy.

Osama Bin Laden is a Saudi. Fifteen of the 9-11 hijackers were Saudi.

There has been an obvious and clear financial trail showing Saudi support for the Al Qaeda. In fact, as has recently been noted by French author and former intelligence officer Jean Charles Brisard in his book, "The Forbidden Truth," the financial support network of Al Qaeda is a virtual cut-and-paste reincarnation of BCCI, a Pakistani bank known for terrorist, drug, and CIA connections in the 1980s.

One of BCCI's former executives, Khaled bin Mafouz, remains the banker for the Saudi royal family today and both he and Saudi Arabia's former intelligence chief, Prince Turki (removed just before the 9-11 attacks after 25 years of liaison with bin Laden), have been discussed repeatedly, if obliquely, in both mainstream and independent press stories since the attacks took place.

After months of strenuous and repeated assertions by the Bush Administration that Saudi Arabia was a key ally in the war on terror, that they were loyal and trusted partners in U.S.-led efforts, someone has suddenly turned on the tap for anti-Saudi propaganda and the mainstream media are eating it up.

On June 20 the Jang group of newspapers in Dubai reported that Al Qaeda networks were active in Saudi Arabia. This followed a June 18 announcement that a group linked to Al Qaeda had been arrested inside the kingdom and charged with planning attacks on Saudi government installations.

On July 18 the BBC reported that Saudi Prince Nayef Bin Sultan Bin Fawwaz Al-Shaalan had been indicted by a Miami court on charges of having smuggled 1,980 kilos of cocaine on his private jet in 1999.

On July 28, Britain's The Observer released a story that quickly spread around the world. It was headlined, "Britons left in jail amid fears that Saudi Arabia could fall to al-Q'aeda." The lead paragraphs read, "Saudi Arabia is teetering on the brink of collapse, fuelling foreign office fears of an extremist takeover of one of the West's key allies in the war on terror.

The House Of Saud’s De Facto Ruler, Prince Abdullah

"Anti-government demonstrations have swept the desert kingdom in the past months in protest at the pro-American stance of the de facto ruler, Prince Abdullah.

"At the same time, Whitehall officials are concerned that Abdullah could face a palace coup from elements within the royal family sympathetic to al-Q 'aeda.

"Saudi sources said the Pentagon had recently sponsored a secret conference to look at options if the royal family fell." The story later mentioned, "Anti-Abdullah elements within the Saudi government are also thought to have colluded in a wave of bomb attacks on Western targets by Islamic terrorists."

After finally mentioning the apparently unimportant subject of the headline -- the fact that several Britons had been jailed on bootlegging charges -- the story concluded by stating that feuding between factions in the Saudi court was going to increase with the death of King Fahd who was unstable in a Swiss hospital.

The story ended by quoting Saudi dissident Dr. Saad al-Fagih who declared, "'There is now an undeclared war between the factions in the Saudi royal family.'" On the same day a lengthy essay on Saudi Arabia in The Asia Times by Ehsan Ahrari observed, "It is interesting to note that [Prince] Sultan is believed to be a preferred U.S. candidate for the Saudi throne." Abdullah is the crown prince, not Sultan.

On July 29 Stratfor, a global intelligence reporting and analysis service, reported that a feud was brewing between Saudi Arabia and neighboring Qatar over Qatar's willingness to openly support the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

US Air Base at Al Udeid, Qatar - Major Upgrade

Qatar is nearly sinking under the weight of pre-deployed military equipment and has a brand new state-of-the-art U.S. Air Force Base. On July 30, the suggestions that internecine warfare had erupted in Saudi Arabia were given credence by an Agence France Presse report describing the recent deaths of three Saudi princes in eight days. Prince Fahd bin Turki died of thirst in the desert on July 30. Prince Sultan bin Faisal died in a car crash on July 23, and Prince Ahmed bin Salman died the day before of a heart attack.

On Aug. 1, The World Tribune reported that Saudi Arabia, which has been acquiring long range ballistic missiles had also been, according to reports confirmed by U.S. officials, attempting to acquire nuclear weapons from Pakistan which has been well-documented to have heavy concentrations of Al Qaeda supporters within all parts of its government.

On that same day, Saudi dissident Dr. al-Fagih appeared on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation program "Lateline" and offered some startling revelations: "Prince Abdullah who is supposed to be the next in charge, the next King would not accept to appoint Prince Sultan as Crown Prince and Prince Sultan insists that he should be the next in line for Abdullah to be [king]." Al-Fagih predicted the imminent death of the ailing King Fahd and noted, "That's why probably the foreign office have [sic] expected some major thing happening in the next few weeks.

Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud – Heads Saudi Army

"I mean, Prince Abdullah is in charge of the national guard and Prince Sultan is in charge of the army, and either one will use his own force to fight the other to fight for power. Now they will use all elements of the population, of the society. [including a large portion of the population that supports al-Q'aeda and radical Islamic fundamentalism].

Al-Fagih said that there was a psychological barrier in the country because all information is so thoroughly controlled and the regime maintains the appearance of complete control. Almost all Saudis dislike the corrupt regime for a multitude of differing reasons. But, said the medical doctor who once served with Osama bin Laden in the Afghan war against Soviet occupation, "Once this psychological barrier is broken, either by a dispute of the royal family, or by a financial collapse, you would expect a major act by the people against the regime."

Al-Fagih also noted that in general the dislike of the Saudi people for the U.S. was intense because of its unremitting support of Israel and also because the U.S. had maintained a military presence on Saudi soil long after the end of the Gulf War.

Just five days later on Aug. 6 the Washington Post reported that a month earlier on July 10, a top Pentagon advisory group had received a briefing from Rand Corp. analyst Laurent Murawiec describing Saudi Arabia as en enemy of the U.S. and threatening seizure of its oil fields and financial assets if it did not stop supporting terrorism.

The Pentagon group which received the briefing, the Defense Policy Board, is headed by renowned hawk Richard Perle. Although high-level Bush administration figures like Colin Powell downplayed the briefing's significance, it received heavy-handed media play for several days. Subsequent reports stated that Vice President Dick Cheney' s staff had "embraced" the report.

On Aug. 7 Saudi Arabia made clear and unequivocal public pronouncements that it would not allow its soil to be used for an invasion of Iraq.

On Aug. 14, Reuters reported that King Fahd, who had just been moved to Spain was in failing health and possibly near death.

On Aug. 15 amidst massive daylong publicity, a 15-count, $1 trillion lawsuit was filed against various Saudi interests for liability in the 9-11 attacks.

Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd – Will His Death Spark An Oil War?

Included among the defendants were the Saudi Bin Laden Group of companies (previously connected through the Carlyle Group to Bush family finances), three Saudi princes, seven banks, eight Islamic foundations, a number of charities and the government of Sudan.

The three Saudi princes are Turki Faisal al Saud (see above), Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz (same as above), and Prince Mohamed al-Faisal.

This new suit eclipsed three earlier suits, largely ignored by the major media, filed by victim families charging various degrees of liability and/or complicity by the U.S. government. The key lawyers in the case have a history of close affiliation with the Republican Party, the Bush family and/or the Council on Foreign Relations. Media coverage of the suits continued through the weekend ending Aug. 18.

What gives?



The instability in Saudi Arabia may well be just the end result of internal decay and rot. But the consequences and implications of Saudi Arabia's current crisis are far deeper once one examines the financial threat that Saudi chaos might unleash.

Like the United States, the Saudi economy is in tatters. Like the U.S. economy it needs only one thing to keep it afloat -- cash.

The Saudi government rightly fears a quickly successful U.S. invasion of Iraq. A first inevitable consequence would be serious anti-American protests from the Saudi population.

The second inevitable consequence would be an almost immediate increase in Iraqi oil production, which would result in a price reduction that might break the back of OPEC and dramatically reduce oil income.

Seeing that the U.S. economy is on the brink of collapse, the Bush Administration, facing congressional elections in November and a potentially disastrous 2004 presidential election, must do whatever it takes to keep itself in power. For this administration, so hugely populated by oil men (and woman), cheap oil is the obvious first choice.

Saudi Arabia seems to have seen this coming for some time. In April, the Saudi government announced that it was considering privatizing parts of Aramco, the Saudi national oil company, and selling off some of Aramco's operations to Exxon, BP-Amoco, Shell and other major companies. Though little has been disclosed since the early announcements, this move would benefit the Saudis in two big ways.

First, it would give Western companies an equity stake in the stability of the monarchy, making it difficult for the U.S. to consider bombing or embargoing operations owned by western companies. Secondly, it would generate large amounts of cash to offset declining economic growth, rising unemployment and declining per capita income, according to Stratfor on April 29.

The oil-based Mexican standoff is mirrored by what is effectively a much more successful financial deterrent -- the Saudis ability to wreck the U.S. financial markets should they see their situation become utterly desperate.



It is impossible to quantify the exact amount of Saudi holdings in the U.S. economy. But anecdotal evidence is utterly compelling.

The New York Times reported on Aug. 11, "An adviser to the Saudi royal family made a telling point about Saudi elites. He said an estimated $600 billion to $700 billion in Saudi money was invested outside the kingdom, a vast majority of it in the United States or in United States-related investments." The BBC has estimated Saudi U.S. investment at $750 billion.

Adnan Khashoggi, perhaps the best-known Saudi billionaire, controls his investments through Ultimate Holdings Ltd. and in Genesis Intermedia, which was reported to have been connected to suspicious stock trades around the time of the Sept. 11 attacks. (No linkage has been made between these trades and the attacks themselves). The rest of his private U.S. holdings are administered through his daughter's name from offices in Tampa, Fla., not far from where many of the hijackers received flight training at both private and U.S. military installations.

Khashoggi is a longtime financial player, deeply connected to the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s and also to BCCI. But Khashoggi doesn't even make the Forbes list of the richest people in the world. One Saudi who does is Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, who ranks as the 11th richest man on the planet with an estimated net worth of $20 billion.

Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin AbdulAziz Alsaud

Some of Alwaleed's holdings and recent acquisitions include:

- The single largest shareholder in Citigroup, the teetering U.S. financial giant, which is reported to have a derivatives bubble of more than $12 trillion and has reportedly sought recent emergency assistance from the Federal Reserve. On July 18 Alwaleed made an additional $500 million purchase of Citigroup stock, raising his estimated shareholding to $10 billion.

- Alwaleed also owns, according to an August 9 story in The Guardian, three percent of the total shares of Newscorp (Fox), making him the second-largest shareholder behind Rupert Murdoch.

- Alwaleed's other significant holdings include Apple Computer, Priceline, The Four Seasons Hotels, Planet Hollywood, Saks and Euro Disney.

- Alwaleed also sits on the board of directors of the infamous (post-9-11) Carlyle Group.

Alwaleed alone is in a position to pull the plug on the U.S. economy.

But, of course, he would cost himself billions to do it and this is not a likely scenario because he has long been a pro-democratic U.S. supporter. The remaining investments of the Saudi family, taken as a whole, would undoubtedly paint an even grimmer risk assessment.

All of this assumes, of course, the stability of the Saudi monarchy -- an apparent prerequisite for the preservation of their continued financial empire, the stability of the U.S. economy making it the most profitable place for Saudi investment, and the absence of a major and protracted regional conflict. But if the U.S. economy fails?...

The Bush Administration's unilateral and illegal commitment to an Iraqi invasion brings all three essentials into question.

The August 20 report from the Financial Times suggests that the Saudis are, at minimum, firing a clear warning shot across the bow of the U.S.S. Bush.



Is There Gold (As Well As Oil) Under All That Sand?

In his appearance on Australian television Dr. al-Fagih discussed the likelihood of a Balkanization of Saudi Arabia by dividing the kingdom into three separate states and separating the eastern oil provinces from the holy sites in the west. Such a shot-term solution might delay what seems to be an inevitable final conflict.

But there is another telling factor that has not been discussed in the major media.

There are signs that major financial power houses are looking into gold hedges, especially mining and actual possession of gold in anticipation of a large gold "bust-out." The head of the California Personnel Employee Retirement System (CALPERS), the largest pension fund in the country, recently announced his resignation to go into the gold sector of the financial markets.

Recent reports starting in 1998 indicate that Saudi Arabia contains enormous quantities of gold. A 1997 Saudi embassy press announcement revealed 800 locations where gold had been discovered. A Nov. 8 report from Ohio State University -- based upon new Global Imaging System technologies, confirmed "2,100 known occurrences of gold, silver, copper, and other metals in the western third of the Saudi peninsula." Saudi Arabia appears to be sitting atop one of the largest gold stores on the planet.

But there is something else in the western third of the country -- the two holiest cities in all of Islam -- Mecca and Medina. And a gold bust-out might well signal the end of the U.S. dollar's reign as the dominant currency in world commerce -- the means by which the U.S. has policed its global financial empire. And Iran has just signalled that it is considering pricing its oil in Euros.

Yet the Bush Administration seems willing to risk everything for a roll of the dice in Iraq and a lawsuit in New York -- moves it may have already committed itself to take and cannot reverse. And still the American people try to ignore the fact that the administration knew about, and could have prevented, the attacks of September 11th.


See also today’s From The Wilderness Exclusive Subscriber Only report…

by Michael C. Ruppert

To read this report go to….

One Foot Off the Cliff
Deployments May Be Too Far Advanced to Stop Iraqi Invasion
250,000 U.S. Troops Either Already There or Ready to Go
Possible Battle Strategy: Easy Military Victory That May Lead to a Global Uprising

To read this report go to….

Aug. 21, 2002, 13:00 PDT (FTW) -- It may be too late for President George W. Bush to change his mind on the invasion of Iraq. An analysis of troop deployments in the region shows that the U.S. already has well over 100,000 military personnel in as many as 11 countries around Iraq. Additional analysis shows that another 100,000 or more crack assault and support personnel have just completed a major training exercise for a hypothetical conflict that bears a strong resemblance to Iraq. These troops can be ready to fight in the region on 96-hour notice. "Stealth" mobilizations of Reserve and National Guard units, begun after Sept. 11, also indicate that as many as another 150,000 military personnel can be deployed within days or weeks of an initial surprise attack.

To read this report go to….


[© Copyright 2002, From The Wilderness Publications, published with permission. All Rights Reserved. May be copied or distributed for non-profit purposes only. MAY NOT be posted on any internet web site in its entirety without express written consent. Contact]

DISCLAIMER FROM UQ.ORG: does not necessarily endorse all of the views expressed in the above article. We present this in the interests of research -for the relevant information we believe it contains. We hope that the reader finds in it inspiration to work with us further, in helping to build bridges between our various investigative communities, towards a greater, common understanding of the unanswered questions which now lie before us.

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    To understand the origins of this “ecosystem emergency” we need to understand the “dominion” worldview of capitalism. A worldview can be seen as a kind of self-replicating societal mind-virus or meme perpetuating and spreading its reality and manner of seeing the world. The scientific theory of memetics helps explain the power of such memes to spread a set of ideas throughout society. As Alnoor Ladha and Martin Kirk explain, memetics is increasingly validated by various branches of science, including evolutionary theory, quantum physics, cognitive linguistics, and epigenetics.

    The dominion worldview of the current global capitalist system is based on an inherently racist and patriarchal meme inherited from the bible. In this meme, God (usually depicted as an old white guy) grants Adam (a younger white guy) “dominion” over the earth and all of nature to “control and shape it.” (God: Genesis 1:26) This meme spread was globally through the enlightenment and places both nature and non-European people (or poor people in general) as inferior beings in a hierarchical construct called the “chain of being.” 

    The logic of the capitalist system sees eternal growth and control of nature and humanity as the primary motives within a game played by rational self-serving players. However, this dominion meme underpinning capitalism is ultimately predicated on the absolute rationality and morality of the cannibalistic consumption of both natural resources and human energy. This worldview ultimately leads to a narrowly materialist and reductionist vision of “human progress” that ignores the inherent importance of human and ecological diversity and interconnection with nature. 

    This mind-virus of the capitalist project has proven so infectious that it has spread its absolute dominion over the entire planet to achieve near-absolute hegemony and catastrophic consequences for the ecosystem and indigenous peoples. As Ladha and Kirk state “in order for Christianity to become dominant, the existing pagan belief-system, with its understanding of humanity’s place within rather than above nature, had to be all but annihilated.”

    Over the latter half of the 20th and early 21st centuries, the global economy has orchestrated an unprecedented acceleration of the destruction of nature in its quest for eternal growth from ever-dwindling resources. This is simply because the rules of its operating system depend on this expansion and consumption of new territories and natural and human resources for its continued existence. However, as Ladha and Kirk outline, the exponential nature of the World Bank’s 3% global GDP growth imperative to avoid recession, means we now need over US2 trillion in growth every year “just so the entire house of cards doesn’t crumble.”

    The ever-higher levels of consumption of the commons needed to provide grist for this mill, has also given rise to an increase in authoritarianism and an associated chilling of the freedom of the press and human rights globally. A fierce suppression of whistleblowers, inconvenient journalists, and activists, all but ignored by the mainstream media has effectively ended the accountability of governments and businesses for this human and ecosystem devastation.

    Meanwhile, the propaganda arm of this capitalist mind-virus has entered a golden age by taking advantage of the unregulated social media frontier and the breakdown of real journalism. In this new environment, the use of memes as warfare to control, manipulate and misinform the populace to perpetuate and spread the dominion mindset has been perfected.

    What is the end game of this dominion worldview? It appears to be incapable of stopping anywhere short of the destruction of all life on Earth. As Nafeez Ahmed defines it: 

    “This is a life-destroying paradigm, a death-machine whose internal logic culminates in its own termination. It is a matrix of interlocking beliefs, values, behaviours and organisational forms which functions as a barrier, not an entry-point, to life, nature and reality.”

    The First Great Extermination

    What is the Rojava Revolution? | Accidental Anarchist

    “The future of the extraordinary feminist and democratic revolution in Rojava is now in danger. The US has announced it will withdraw its military forces from Syria, with whom the Kurdish forces have been fighting against ISIS. This will be a green light for Erdogan’s Turkey to fulfill its threats to attack Rojava and eradicate its nascent democracy. There’s never been a more important time to support Rojava. This clip from Accidental Anarchist shows why it matters.” – Carne Ross

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    “This Is Not the Sixth Extinction. It’s the First Extermination Event. What we are witnessing is not a passive geological event but extermination by capitalism.”  

    Justin McBrien

    This increasingly aggressive search of capitalism for new territories and untapped resources has placed increasing pressure on ecosystems across the globe in what Justin McBrien terms the First Extermination Event. As McBrien says, “the great historical struggle against this extermination has been, and remains, the struggle for land and the rights of the commons.”

    Developing nations and indigenous people are at the forefront of this struggle as the commons in the global south have increasingly come under pressure from privatisation. Indigenous nations account for less than 5 percent of the global population, but are protecting 80 percent of its biodiversity. This ecological wealth is largely in the form of commonly held ecosystems such as forests, oceans, wetlands, and other wildernesses that are crucial reservoirs of biodiversity and buffers against climate change.

    Indigenous peoples and developing nations are also suffering disproportionate losses due to an increased reliance on and interconnection with the natural world. Many have already faced, or now face Cultural Extinction due to the fact that their languages, stories, religions, and customs are inextricably interconnected with the ecosystems being destroyed. Nowhere is this process more evident than in the Amazon, where Guardians such as Paulino Paulo Guajajara (above) are being killed for defending their ancestral lands from deforestation.

    Due to indebtedness and years of extractive imperialism and capitalism, these nations have minimal ability alone to resist the destruction of these commons or to fund mitigation or adaptation measures. However, they also hold the key to our survival. Unless we are prepared to aggressively challenge this destruction of the remaining commons in the developed world, our chances of preserving biodiversity and a habitable climate on this planet are slim.

    Ah… About That “Hope”?

    Tree at dawn. Image by Johannes Plenio from Pixabay

    “Hopelessness isn’t natural. It needs to be produced.” – David Graeber

    Hope and belief in a better future is an important and subversive act of defiance against the possibility-limiting paradigm of this dominant worldview. In such concerning times, it is all too easy to fall into the trap of “learned hopelessness.” However, as anthropologist David Graeber states in a recent “Tactical Briefing,” to make sense of the seeming impasse of our current situation we must realise that this feeling is the product of:

    “a vast bureaucratic apparatus for the creation and maintenance of hopelessness, a kind of giant machine that is designed, first and foremost, to destroy any sense of possible alternative futures.”

    So where is one to find hope in the face of this death machine? 

    There are plenty of indications the people have finally had enough of this worldview driving life on the planet towards extinction. Worldwide uprisings of Extinction Rebellion, the Youth Climate Marches, or other little-publicised uprisings in Ecuador, Iraq, Algeria or Lebanon are all evidence of a desire for a more equal and sustainable world. Perhaps most significant are the protests raging in Chile – the birthplace, most extreme testing ground, and now death ground? of the neoliberal project. 

    However, past uprisings teach us that in order to ensure this distributed energy succeeds in bringing about lasting change, we require a clear shared vision of the future world we seek to create. The emergent cooperatism worldview gaining traction worldwide provides such a potential framework for the more “life-affirming” future these many groups are seeking to create.

    Hope In Common 

    Protesters react as they gather during the evacuation operation by French gendarmes in the ZAD at Notre-Dame-des-Landes, near Nantes, France, April 11, 2018. Stephane Mahe

    “Every time a civilization is in crisis, there is a return of the commons”

    Michel Bauwens

    The current crisis can be seen as stemming from the failure of the dominion worldview and the increasingly strained institutions of the capitalist system to protect our environmental and social commons. One result has been a global resurgence of interest in the commons. This resurgence is underpinned by the cooperatism worldview which stands in direct contradiction to the assumptions of the dominion paradigm of global capitalism.

    As Michel Bauwens of the P2P Foundation summarises, “The commons are three things at the same time: a resource (shared), a community (which maintains them) and precise principles of autonomous governance (to regulate them).” This complex and inherently cooperatist nature makes the commons a powerful and popular organising system for managing natural resources and ecosystems amongst people across the world.

    This broad-based nature of the commons increases human agency by redistributing power and control over land-use decisions and favouring direct, participatory decision-making by the greatest number of people affected. The bottom-up and decentralised nature of the cooperatism worldview enables solutions and responses to environmental challenges to emerge from those most intricately familiar with particular ecosystems.

    This upsurge in the ground-up approach to land-use is evident in the many distributed, local-level collaborative initiatives taking on the guardianship and sustainable use of common lands and resources. In NZ examples include the landscape-scale community conservation literally in my own backyard in Miramar, the self-governance of Te Urewera or the granting of legal rights to the Whanganui river. Ellen Rykers’ recent article on The Dig explores the potential of the Community-centred to biodiversity action in Aotearoa.

    More ambitious commons-based approaches abroad include commons fisheries management in Kenya or Nepal’s Community-owned native forests or a plethora of tea, coffee and cacao cooperatives across the developing world. Then there is the astounding (ZAD) “Zone a Defender” – an occupied autonomous zone near Nantes, France (pictured above). Here occupiers have been conserving the forests and wetlands, collectively farming the commons and with community support, resisting forcible eviction by the police for decades. 

    Zapatista Women work on community-owned and operated farms. Tim Russo

    There are many other examples of the cooperatism approach emerging to create a parallel economy of self-governing alternatives alongside the global capitalist system. These range from small neighbourhood cooperatives and Community Land Trusts to large-scale anti-capitalist experiments like the autonomous indigenous communities of Chiapas, Mexico’s indigenous Zapatista movement.

    Such alternatives also include the occupied factories in Paraguay, Argentina or the USA, and autonomous institutes in Korea or the cooperatives, self-governed city areas, and free medical care centres formed in Greece after the recent political and economic crisis. As David Graeber says, such forms of mutual aid associations “spring up pretty much anywhere that state power and global capital seem to be temporarily looking the other way.” 

    Perhaps most inspiring of all is the success of Rojava, a self-governing, non-denominational and non-patriarchal, autonomous Kurdish region amidst the chaos of Syria. Sadly, this revolutionary “democratic confederalist” project is currently being crushed by surrounding authoritarian powers clearly threatened by the precedent it sets.

    Bringing Out The Best In Humans

    A commons-based or cooperatist approach to organising society, offers a more rational and scientifically sound way to relate to natural resources than the top-down and growth-based imperatives of the dominion worldview.

    The standard argument for the application of a dominion approach to land and resources is Garrett Hardin’s theory of “The Tragedy of the Commons.” However, Elinor Ostrom’s worldwide Nobel Economics prize-winningstudy of “common-pool resource” (CPR) groups in the ‘90s, debunked this idea entirely. Ostrom concluded that groups are capable of avoiding the tragedy of the commons without requiring top-down regulation, as long as certain “core-design conditions” are met. 

    Even that champion of neoliberal economic theory, The Economist is now on board. The September 2019 issue featured the article:“The alternatives to privatization and nationalization: More public resources could be managed as commons without much loss of efficiency.” The author cites Ostrom’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech, in which she called on policymakers to “facilitate the development of institutions that bring out the best in humans.” 

    However, the fact is, a thermodynamics perspective actually demonstrates the commons approach is MORE energy efficient than standard methods. A research project led by the P2P Foundation on the thermodynamic efficiencies of peer production found that a transition to open and shared models can result in an 80% saving in the amount of matter and energy used in running our society.

    Hope From The Edge of the World

    April 2019 protest in Brasilia (Sergio Lima)

    “The kin networks that bind people with other living systems resonate with the science
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    Dame Anne Salmond, Gary Brierly and Dan Hikuroa.
    Let the Rivers Speak: thinking about waterways in Aotearoa New Zealand

    We can also take much inspiration from those indigenous people acting as guardians of the natural world against extermination where states and institutions have failed to do so. Examples such as the Guardians of the Amazon, Mauna Kea or Ihumātao represent a refusal to accept the arrogant and materialist dismissal by the dominion paradigm of ancient indigenous knowledge and locally-derived wisdom, democracy and sustainability. 

    Understanding the worldviews of indigenous societies offers important shifts in perspective, consciousness, and behaviour that global society needs to make urgently in order to have any chance of surviving the coming wave of ecological and social disruption. These worldviews are imbued with a deep understanding of cooperatism and shaped by long histories of using the commons as an approach to land-use and social organisation.

    Growing understanding in anthropology and archeology and the science of complex networks confirms the validity of the fundamental tenets of indigenous worldviews: 1. that cooperation is what defines us evolutionarily as a species (Graeber), and 2. that humanity and nature are inextricably interconnected (Salmond et al). Veronika Meduna previously discussed these concepts in relation to Mātauranga Māori in her article on The Dig: Kaitiakitanga: Seeing Nature as your Elder.

    We are not, as the dominion worldview of capitalism holds, hierarchical and self-serving beings governed by a “selfish gene.” For most of our history, humans have existed in a mode of cooperation and relational interconnectedness with each other and the natural world. We must all urgently remember and recreate this way of being.

    Changing Our Minds

    Roy Scott Getty Images

    “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

    George Bernard Shaw 

    Widespread adoption of a worldview grounded in Cooperatism is the fastest way to get public support for an overhaul of our approach to land-use and rapidly regenerate ecosystems. However, this is easier said than done. The theory of ‘cognitive dissonance’, holds that when reality falsifies our deepest beliefs, we’d rather tinker with the nature of our reality than update our worldview. This accounts for the growing tribalism of populist politics and the susceptibility to disinformation and narrative control that holds the status quo in place.

    Cognitive dissonance means that changing minds regarding the environment and our insane economic paradigm will not be done by using facts, statistics or rational debate to convince people of the merits of such an approach. Rather, as Maarten Van Doorn outlines, “Ideas change the world by upgrading people’s ‘normal’… by showing people what is possible, and changing their views about what is socially acceptable.”

    In short – the most effective way to change minds is to actually build the world (and worldview) of the commons all around us, making it the new normal as ordinary people rub up against it in their everyday life. Ensuring as many people as possible are able to participate in or benefit from commons-based and ground-up initiatives is one of the most powerful solutions there is to have an impact on the current crisis. 

    A Global New Deal For The Commons 

    Launch your meme boldly and see if it will replicate—just like genes replicate, and infect, and move into the organism of society… I believe these memes are the key to societal evolution. But unless the memes are released to play the game, there is no progress.

    ~ Terrence McKenna

    To have any chance of being adopted en masse, proposals for environmental action must directly benefit everyone, but especially disadvantaged communities in most need – migrants, working-class communities and developing nations. As Naomi Klein argues on The Intercept (and in her new book), if we do not link the intersecting climate, migration and social justice crises together into a holistic response, we will face a popular backlash. Klein’s astute hypothesis is that “only a Green New Deal can douse the fires of eco-fascism.”

    However, proposals for a Green New Deal and other green-growth based approaches such as New Zealand’s Zero Carbon Act, simply do not go far enough. They fail to effectively challenge the core extractivist and dominion assumptions of the paradigm that has created the biodiversity crisis. Such approaches miss the point entirely unless they ensure that the basic needs of people and planet are met. The neglect of these core needs for so long by the establishment is the breeding ground for both the increased susceptibility to fascist and authoritarian memes and environmental catastrophe.

    There is an existing proposal and petition for a Global Deal for Nature, which I fully support and recommend. However, due to the importance of language and memes to changing worldviews, I still wish to launch this slightly different framing.

    So allow me to launch my meme: A Global New Deal For The Commons:

    I propose that what humanity and the planet desperately needs is a Global New Deal For The Commons. Such a deal would require a global mobilisation to ensure that the natural and cultural commons are protected and sustainable biodiversity-friendly and cooperatist land-use is adopted. If structured right, such a deal would have a massive impact towards restoring the planetary ecosystem and biodiversity, as well as healing deprived and hopeless communities everywhere in the process.

    To truly turn the biodiversity and climate crises around, this new deal needs to happen at least on a scale of wartime efforts such as the Marshall Plan of WWII or the New Deal of the Depression-era. As Rutger Bregman argues, centralised state action will be essential to any realistic efforts to drive an environmental effort on the scale required. However, I am less cynical than Bregman about the power of bottom-up efforts, and believe a properly balanced combination of the two is essential.

    A biodiversity-focused investment on this scale could combine central investment with an approach focused on catalysing, fostering, and scaling bottom-up land-use initiatives and ideas. It could prioritise local communities as workforces and support the emergence of ground-up, decentralised solutions and initiatives over centrally imposed or market-based solutions wherever possible.

    Such a new deal for the commons would require associated work on reforming land tenure and local democratic and economic institutions on a scale not attempted since the communist project. However, rather than the top-down command and control approach of communism, it would provide a framework, resources and tools for communities to re-learn how to live harmoniously with each other and with nature’s abundance. This approach could spread knowledge, technology and best practice for environmental restoration globally through open sourcing IP and implementing solidarity networks or networks of mutual aid across society.

    This new deal would also require real action on the national and global level to reform global governance and regulation and build a more just international order and institutions. This would require new agreements such as an international law of “ecocide,” and strengthened international environmental laws and enforcement mechanisms to ensure the compliance of corporations and rogue imperialist nations. This new order would also need to address debt-enslavement, eternal growth imperatives, and rebalance global wealth disparity to stop wealthy nations from shifting the impacts of growth onto vulnerable populations and ecosystems.

    However, crucially, to bring about this new order, we must find ways to continue challenging the narrow confines of permitted thought and debate keeping us locked in the destructive dominion paradigm. It would need to restore the rule of law and ensure the protection of whistleblowers, journalists, activists and politicians challenging this narrative. If not, who will hold power accountable for their inaction or blocking of real progress? Who will continue to tell the stories and defend the rights of those on the margins building the alternative futures discussed above?

    The debate around Te Koiroa o Te Koiora, and the to-be-finalised national biodiversity strategy and policy provide an excellent opportunity for New Zealand to lead the way in protecting and restoring the commons with such a new deal. There are good indications that a more community-focused approach is being considered and that more radical proposals resonated well with the public in our recent HiveMind engagement. However, we must ensure that translating this into real progress to fund and support ground-up and cooperatist environmental initiatives is seen as a priority for the Government.

    Please indicate if you agree with this statement of hope and declaration of intent here. You can also add your own statements for others to vote on if you wish: