By Alison McDowell, wrenchinthegears.com
The following is a presentation that I had planned to make as an invited guest at Big Ocean Women’s Many Waves, One Ocean gathering in coordination with the 2020 United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. Due to the pandemic, the conference and all related events were cancelled. A decision was made for those who had been asked to present to create a presentation that could be shared online. The video below was created for that purpose.
Below is the text I read from during the above presentation.
Hello everyone. Welcome to “Many Waves, One Ocean Cross Movement Summit.” I’m Alison McDowell, a mom and independent researcher in Philadelphia who blogs at wrenchinthegears.com. I started my activism around public education, first fighting standardized testing, then ed-tech, and eventually realized the push by global finance to turn everything into data for the purpose of digital surveillance and profit meant I had to expand my work beyond schools and start digging into the global poverty management complex.
I organize with the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, an independent anti-poverty group that is led by the poor and does not take corporate or foundation money. We’ll be marching on the Democratic National Convention on July 13 to take back the 67 cents of every government dollar spent on war and occupation. We are demanding it be used care for the poor here at home. Check us out and consider joining us in the streets of Milwaukee!
My current efforts are focused on raising awareness around pay for success deals, privatized welfare, Blockchain contracts, smart cities, and predictive analytics derived from Internet of Things sensors. These elements are combining to create predatory human capital investment markets within the framework of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. I’m grateful to have been invited to participate today, and excited to talk to you about these goals, particularly target 16.9, digital identity, and how it relates to global finance and the profiling of families.
In 2015, member states of the United Nations adopted seventeen Sustainable Development Goals, an integrated program of 169 targets and 235 indicators ostensibly meant to achieve peace and prosperity by 2030. The question we need to be asking before we head down this road is whose prosperity and at what cost?
People have been led to believe the purpose of these goals is to address poverty and avert climate catastrophe. As a mother who lives in a city of deep poverty and who works at a public garden, I believe those are admirable goals. It is imperative that we address wealth inequality and begin to heal our planet.
But as a mother who has been researching innovative finance, emerging technologies, and racialized power, I also know there is more to the story than is being told in the media. And so today I will outline how powerful interests are using the Sustainable Development Goals to mask their plans to remake the world as a digital panopticon. What follows is a story of social entrepreneurship, greed, and technological authoritarianism. Its foundations are built on our nation’s history of racial capitalism, eugenics, and the rise of technocracy.
The technocracy movement advances the idea of an industrially engineered society. In the 1930s it was based out of Columbia University’s Industrial Engineering department. It sought to overhaul politics and economics such that technical experts would manage these systems placing efficiency above all else, measuring inputs of energy against outputs for “the public good.”
I believe echoes of this have been woven into “smart” government initiatives incubated by think tanks and elite academic institutions including NYU’s Govlab, home to the Research Network on Opening Governance. Supported by Google, this effort hosted ten international convenings between 2015 and 2017 to discuss the “redesign” of government practice for the “complex policy challenges of the twenty-first century.”
Technocracy is a system that subverts local control and self-determination. It’s also a movement with considerable staying power. Zbigniew Brzezinski, who collaborated with David Rockefeller in creating the Trilateral Commission, resurrected the tenets of technocracy in the 1970s. It is important to note that the Rockefeller family has maintained close ties with the United Nations since its inception, even donating the land upon which the New York headquarters was built. The Trilateral Commission was started in 1973 and remains active today, a powerful invitation-only group of around 350 people from Europe, North America, and Japan that advances a globalist agenda. Its members are drawn from the highest levels of government, industry, academia, and the media.
Among the current North American members are Henry Kissinger, Michael Bloomberg, and, not surprisingly, Rajiv Shah, president of the Rockefeller Foundation. The Rockefeller Foundation structured social impact investments markets in the decade following the housing crash. The Foundation coined the term ‘impact investing’ back in 2008. It also provided seed funding for the Global Impact Investment Network and the Global Impact Investing Network Rating System. These were investments to set rules for a new and sinister game. Ten years after they originated the concept, impact investing has grown to become a $250 billion market. In 2019, the Rockefeller and MacArthur Foundations teamed up to form the Catalytic Capital Consortium. Each member commited $30 million to investments that would advance the Sustainable Development Goals.
About five years after the Trilateral Commission was founded, former McKinsey consultant Bill Drayton advanced the idea of emissions trading, carbon credits. He was working for Jimmy Carter’s Environmental Protection Agency at the time. President Carter, himself, was a founding member of the Trilateral Commission, many of those appointed to his administration were also members, and Brzezinski was among his closest advisors. These were the years after Nixon jettisoned the gold standard and debt-finance started to take hold of the economy.
By normalizing measurement and pricing of desired outcomes, in this case carbon emission reductions, Drayton pioneered a form of finance that will play a key role in the global economy for years to come. The public was led to believe that once there was an agreed upon cost that could be applied to externalities, green house gases; markets would resolve the pollution problem. With impact investing this approach has been extended to social issues under the pretense there could be “profit with purpose” IF governments just allowed Ivy League MBAs to structure the deals.
Fast-forward. We now have a world that is burning and flooding. People are resisting neoliberalism and structural adjustment in the streets, asserting their right to live in safety and with dignity. Indigenous peoples are putting their lives on the line to protect their lands not only from government-backed corporate raiders, but from supposedly “green” environmental NGOs advocating faux solutions that perpetuate violence against Black and Brown people. Solutions like the New Deal for Nature that in the name of biodiversity advocates creating protected areas that would remove human settlement from 30% of the planet, an outrageous theft of land from its original inhabitants.
We find ourselves on the doorstep of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, robots and algorithms poised to take over many jobs. The finance and technology sectors have converged. The world economy is dominated by the Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate (FIRE) sectors whose laser focus on short-term profit leaves only devastation in its wake. We’re seeing the rise of ubiquitous computing, surveillance, and crypto economics-virtual capitalism where digital assets are tracked on Blockchain. Philanthropy, credit, and global aid organizations have joined the Better Than Cash Alliance to push adoption of borderless electronic payment systems tied to biometrics. Their toe in the door? Government payments.
It is an era of extreme wealth inequality, austerity, concentrated power, social unrest, militarization, and environmental degradation. Not only have market-based solutions NOT delivered on their promise to fix the environment and eliminate poverty, the financiers’ “solutions” have made the problems worse. But the rich have a way of turning disasters into gold. Case in point, this winter the World Economic Forum unleashed a manifesto in support “stakeholder capitalism.” Benefit corporations to the rescue!
Financiers are going to claim they’re doing positive things with their portfolios by configuring asset allocations to align with ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance), and that’s where the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals come in. It’s also worth noting that many faith communities have large endowments where investments are likely to be ESG aligned. Just because it says ESG doesn’t mean it actually represents the values of your faith.
It is the sustainability goals that will open the door to smart city infrastructure with facial recognition, cashless economies, big data analytics, and artificial intelligence used to implement broad threat assessments; the threat of natural disasters as well as threats posed by individual dissidents and groups. With advances in militarized predictive policing those contesting the status quo, or seeking to intervene on behalf of the people into the operations of global markets, can now be met with swift and possibly deadly countermeasures.
What started out as a cost offset scheme for carbon trading has grown into a globalized cybernetic system through which artificial intelligence operating at the behest of debt finance could eventually farm millions of people as domestic livestock data commodities. Remember all those chipped Swedes? Ericsson is thrilled.
The transnational capitalist class envisions a future where they can control vast swaths of the planet using 5G and Internet of Things sensors. Meanwhile, the Mad Scientist Division of TRADOC is figuring out how to best restructure neighborhoods for a future of mega-city urban warfare; and the Army Research Lab is two years into a ten-year project with six universities to create the Internet of Battlefield Things. So 5G, IoT, and cyber security HAVE TO be understood within this larger military context.
Human capital data markets are arising for reasons of political economy. As the Fourth Industrial Revolution dawns, the elite must have a new mechanism to circulate their concentrated capital. The spending of poor and working class people will not be sufficient. Folks are carrying way too much debt as it is. This will become an even greater problem once automation and mass migrations make it impossible for millions of people to earn a stable living. Simply put, the financers need new plumbing. Real estate served that purpose for a time, but the weight of toxic mortgages ultimately collapsed the housing market. Now they need something even bigger, because over the past decade wealth has become even MORE concentrated.
So what do you think?
Are the United Nations’ 169 sub-goals and 235 indicators up to this task?
Now that social problems have reached epic proportions there is money to be made scaling them back IF they can be tracked as metrics on the data dashboards being pushed by Microsoft and Salesforce. Finance and technology interests make fine partners in that regard. Impact investors demand data, which justifies digital surveillance, and tech and telecom interests make money off the software, hardware, and cloud computing.
Moving forward everything will be assessed in terms of IMPACT, kind of like the technocrats tracking the energy credits. Thanks to Mark Zuckerberg among others, the Trilateral Commission now has Pavlovian tools to tweak and nudge the masses, digital pawns, in real time. It is at the point of “impact” that authoritarianism tightens its grip. So who gets to decide who or what will be impacted? Can a person refuse to be tracked as data for corporate profit? Who gets to decide what metrics are chosen? What if a community desires an outcome that cannot be reduced to a metric? Does it get taken off the table, replaced by a less consequential but more measurable definition of “success?” Kind of like a third grade reading score. How will metrics shape service delivery? I’m guessing more and more interactions will become digitally mediated. Who specifies how the tracking happens? How is it analyzed? By a person? An algorithm? What are the payouts?
Who exactly is going to come out ahead if we allow global investment markets to be built on disaster and misery? If those markets are profitable aren’t we likely to end up with MORE disaster and misery, albeit better managed? Investors seek to increase the source of their profit, not eliminate it. That’s just the sick logic of it.
We are at a tipping point after years of austerity. Governments, unable to keep doing more with less, have shifted responsibilities to non-profit providers to care for their people; and private investors and their foundations are fronting money for services. The linchpin that makes this work is performance-based contracting, which was designed to appease fiscal conservatives and centrist liberals. Minneapolis Federal Reserve economist Arthur Rolnick developed the outcomes-based contract model in the mid 1990s in collaboration with former General Mills executive turned non-profit guru Steve Rothschild. Useful to note that charter schools were invented in the Twin Cities right about that same time.
Rolnick and Rothschild also promoted Human Capital Bonds or HUCAPs, an idea that hasn’t yet gotten off the ground, but I fear the concept is still waiting in the wings. Rolnick spent the latter half of his career with hedge fund manager Robert Dugger and Nobel prize winning economist Jim Heckman working on an “Invest in Kids” agenda that would transform pre-natal care, home visits, early childhood education, and early literacy programs into global investment markets built on child and family data surveillance.
An equation was concocted, the Heckman Equation, that guaranteed a 7-10% annual rate of return on investments. Not bad. The trick was finding an impact metric that worked for the markets. They settled on behavioral data, because they could manipulate it more consistently than they could cognitive data, or IQ. Video games for brainwashing, perfect! So now we have surveillance play tables showing up in Headstart programs at Educare in Tulsa, backed by big oil/big banking George Kaiser and his friends at Blue Meridian. In two corners of these tables are fisheye lens cameras to take video of toddlers so they can be scored on their social behaviors-for the markets.
We also have Pam, wife of Pierre Omidyar, EBay’s founder and advocate for global digital identity, pushing behavior modification apps that purport to solve poverty in low-income mothers using a behaviorist text message app called GoalMama. This was built into the Nurse Family Partnership Medicaid-funded home visit program piloted in South Carolina. IO2 Foundation and IXO Foundation have gone a step farther and are using facial recognition video recordings on home visits to verify smart contracts on Blockchain to unlock social impact payments. Test programs are underway now in China and Brazil. This is what “impact” looks like and it’s not pretty. All so Goldman Sachs’ beneficiaries, among others, can use their vast holdings to suck up more wealth gambling on the lives of those needing public services, which includes public education.
The drumbeat for early childhood investment is getting louder, though bills supporting these programs have been met with resistance. The State of Washington’s Welcome Baby Bill was stopped again last week. Parents and community members rallied to stop the Great Start for Minnesota Children Act last year, too. It’s not easy explaining to elected officials who don’t have any of this background why “evidence-based” early childhood programs pose such a threat, but I am grateful to the activist moms out there who’ve put boots on the ground to get the word out.
The truth is these types of bills are data grabs that will be used to profile low-income families via a two-generation tracking model developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Aspen Institute. The Sustainable Development Goals are being used to justify this profiling. Of the 232 specific indicators, 35 are related to children. Home visits and early childhood education investments are associated with goals three and four.
I’m sharing here an image from the Global Education Futures Forum agenda, an international group of influential academics that has an education timeline touting a future where the super-rich and asset managers maintain portfolios of people. Yes, you heard that right, portfolios of people.
Most likely this will start as income sharing agreements for college and workforce training. Branches of the Federal Reserve System are pumping out white papers on how to turn labor markets, finclusion, and economic mobility into investment opportunities. The Fed maintains close ties with the Lumina Foundation (student debt) and the United Way with its ALICE (Assets Limited Income Constrained Employed) poverty management program.
This push for human capital investing is why we are seeing Swiss Model Apprenticeship programs rolling out in Colorado and Washington State. Career pathways and Blockchain transcripts serve as high school bookends to the Heckman Equation’s pre-k surveillance play tables. Workforce-oriented curriculum is being pitched in pre-k already, and middle schools are using corporate strengths assessments to direct students into specific careers even though the Davos folks know the only thing certain about the “future of work” is that it is uncertain. It’s not about knowledge, it’s about demonstrations of compliance that can be used to fuel the impact markets. If anything knowledge production, through “personalization,” is being stripped of its social components, atomized, and algorithmically engineered. What technocrats fear most is an organized, unified populace that can think for itself.
In this people-portfolio future, one’s worth will be measured in competencies and demonstrated skills represented by collections of badges and stackable credentials. We’re already badging behaviors and mindsets. PBIS, Class Dojo, Red Critter and Google’s Classcraft are normalizing gamified token economies based where student behavior and reputation scoring act as a sort of currency. We are taking corporate leaderboards and adapting them to rank and score children. None of this is ok.
Sir Ronald Cohen, Harvard MBA and father of British venture capital, built on Rolnick and Rothschild’s effort, to further refine the tools necessary for financializing humanity. Cohen tapped the UK’s lottery fund and implemented the world’s first social impact bond, or SIB, at Peterborough Prison in 2010. SIBs and DIBs (Development Impact Bonds) are carbon-trading equivalents for social issues like incarceration, homelessness, chronic illness, and unemployment. These bonds were implemented in several dozen countries, including the United States, over the past decade, but they did not scale.
Now it appears markets are shifting to pay for success deals, which are simpler, more flexible, and may advance more rapidly. Pay for success has the backing of Michael Bloomberg, JB Pritzker, Obama’s Social Innovation Fund, Cohen’s US branch of Social Finance, and George Overholser’s Third Sector Capital Partners. It’s riding the coattails of data-driven, e-government solutionism; waltzing in as “what works” change agents scramble to repackage the remnants of civil society as warmed-over investment products for hedge funds.
With widespread adoption of pay for success, more and more wrong-headed interventions like online preschool, which are certified by authorities as “evidence-based,” are coming out of the woodwork. Mouthpieces for fin-tech, like New America with its Bretton Woods II responsible asset-allocating program, are lining up in support. People needing services are being groomed as data commodities. Need housing? Food? Education? Training? Addiction treatment? Healthcare? Well you better be willing to follow a prescriptive “continuum of care” pathway and be tracked on a dashboard. Service providers are finding themselves increasingly disempowered, their autonomy as professionals undermined by the tyranny of big data, accountable no longer to their clients and communities, but to the global investors that pay their salaries.
So how does the United Nations fit into all of this? Well, we can look to UN-SIF. This is a collaboration of the United Nations and the business schools of nine global universities. They have been tasked with coming up with innovative ways to channel commercial capital flows into Sustainable Development Goal-aligned “solutions.” Like online pre-k.
And where will the capital come from? We have only to look to the Impact Management Project. In 2018, the United Nations Development Programme partnered with the International Finance Corporation, Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, Global Impact Investing Network, World Benchmarking Alliance, Global Steering Group for Impact Investment, and Social Value International to set common metrics to measure, assess, and report “impact.” The IEEE (Institute for Electronics and Electrical Engineers) is in on the game, too. Their job is to facilitate the creation of a people-centered Internet that will turn the masses into harmonized digital citizens of smart cities. It will be THEIR UN SDG-aligned behaviors upon which technocracy’s impact markets will run. The EU is already well on its way piloting Blockchain identity and fair trade data markets.
The Impact Management Project was launched with support from Bridges Fund Management, the firm of (surprise, surprise) Sir Ronald Cohen. Omidyar Network was also in on the ground. In eighteen months they had over 2,000 members onboard, including some of the world’s largest asset holders and philanthropic heavyweights, among them: BlackRock, UBS Bank, Deutsche Bank, Bank of America, Omidyar Network, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, UKAID, The Ford Foundation, and The MacArthur Foundation.
Just so you know, I believe many of UN SDG indicators are not bad ideas. I like riding my bike. I like walk-able communities. I don’t want people to be hit by car. I believe women should have access to healthcare, and all children deserve a humane education. I oppose cash bail and want justice to be served. But policies must be grounded in communities, not governed by some uber-manager in the cloud who serves Ronald Cohen’s interests.
Sustainable Development Goal indicators valued by community members should be advanced and funded with public dollars, not private. The data collection required to unlock “good capital” will always poison impact-funded ventures in the end. As we make these decisions, we must prioritize the interests of Indigenous communities, because they know how to live in right relationship to the land. If anyone thinks we should be turning control of society over to the financial sector and the military, because they’re the proper ones to set the world straight about climate change, maybe you should revisit your history.
Tech and defense interests have had the creation of a global augmented reality overlay in the works for decades. Once that coding hits a tipping point, “green” capitalists can impose rules using digital geo-fencing to advantage their financial positions. In such a world everything will revolve around documenting “impact.” Everything will have a valuation and be subject to predictive analytics and risk profiling. That is what is needed for technocracy to run smoothly. Things that should never be tallied, things like happiness, companionship, and the wonders of nature, will be factored into a giant balance sheet. The trial run for this was the Pokémon Go game. Niantic was bankrolled by In-Q-Tel, the venture capital arm of the CIA. If the deep state was looking for a test case to see if the public would embrace an augmented reality future, it seems they got a big yes, at least for the time being.
And yet…communities across the nation ARE starting to wake up and express concerns about part of this program, namely the installation 5G in their neighborhoods. 5G is the telecommunication infrastructure that will bring the Internet of Things to scale and usher in Fourth Industrial Revolution disruption. The World Economic Forum, Brookings Institution, Nokia, Ericsson, Huawei and the ITU (International Telecommunications Union), the United Nation’s agency for information and communications technology, are among those touting the importance of 5G and ICT (individual communication technology like cell phones and tablets) in accomplishing Sustainable Development Goals, especially education, health, gender equity and smart infrastructure.
In order for 5G to function properly, antennae must be installed 100-200 meters apart, which concentrates radiation exposure. Not only are the small cell installations eyesores, there are serious questions about potential negative health consequences related to electromagnetic field exposure. In 2015, scientists petitioned the United Nations to convene an independent working group to examine the pros and cons of the technology and suggest alternatives that would lower exposure to ELF (extremely low magnetic fields) and RF (radiofrequency radiation), but no action was taken. The petition with over 250 signatures from scientists from 43 countries was resubmitted last fall, as 5G transmitting elements began to be installed not only outside on lamp posts, but on buildings, and inside homes. Still no response.
So why has the United Nations remained silent about this public health issue, a threat that puts pregnant women and children at particular risk? Well, the globalists behind the United Nations MUST have 5G. Without it, the financiers will not be able to monitor people and nature. If there is no 5G their big plan to profit from performance data completely falls apart. To function at the scale needed to service global markets, the system HAS to be automated. They need 5G for wearable technology, telemedicine, online education, virtual reality CBT therapy, everything! They’re not going to defer to manual data entry either. It will never be fast enough or expansive enough. The authorities know they will not be able to steer communities to the targets set by the seventeen goals if they permit free discussion and consensus. They know that community empowerment would undermine impact markets, so their answer is to force us to accept radiation, sensors, and digital ledgers. We’re just supposed to shut up and not talk about it.
In order to bring human capital investing to scale, technology must be put in place so that people can be monitored in real time, like as with the emissions of an industrial smokestack. That is why they need self-sovereign digital identity, which is embedded in Goal Number 16, target 16.9. Prototypes are being set up now – to be able to aggregate data on a person’s health, education, training, economic productivity, behavior, housing access, and more. The World Bank, which has its own Human Capital Project and is experimenting with social impact and Blockchain bonds, is pursuing ID4D. The United Nations has partnered with Microsoft and Accenture to develop ID2020, a digital identity system linking refugee benefit access to biometrics. Various states in the US are working with Idemia, which touts its augmented identity product line, to roll out digital driver’s licenses.
The family unit and mothers in particular will be a focus of intense scrutiny. Assigning a digital identity early in life enables more data to be aggregated, creates a more robust baseline, and opens up more impact opportunities. As I mentioned earlier, pregnancy behavior modifying apps and home visits documented with facial recognition video are already underway. These pilots are running with support from the United Nations Development Programme and UNICEF. UNICEF has secured major support from Disney to pursue research in the areas of Blockchain, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, wearable technology, and drones.
While it may be hard to imagine digital benefit systems linked to retinal scans or thumb-prints here in the United States, the state of Illinois, home of commodities futures trading, has a Blockchain task force. A report they issued last year included a number of thought experiments on how Blockchain identity could be used to regulate public benefits.
One of these featured a diagram of a person assigned a digital identity and e-wallet to hold their benefits, in this case money for food. If the person made the “right” choice, the apple, they were awarded an incentive payment. If they made the “wrong” choice, the hamburger, they paid full price. Of course it’s only an incentive until the allocation is recalibrated to the point where a person will only have enough money to last the month if they make ALL THE RIGHT CHOICES. For people who work multiple jobs or live a food desert or have unstable housing, making those “right choices” could be all but impossible.
Now replace the apple and the hamburger in the diagram with a choice of daycare providers, school curriculum, job training programs, or medical treatments. In the case of digital identity and Blockchain there will always be a choice preferred by those in power, a choice that could make their impact investor friends a tidy profit. Then there will be the less-favored choices; those will be dis-incentivized. This is what digital authoritarianism looks like. This is the life for poor people within the “pay for success” panopticon. This is why at the national meeting of the NAACP in Detroit last July, members voted overwhelmingly in support of a resolution opposing any plans for government to link public benefit access to Blockchain identity systems.
Unborn children have been put on Blockchain in Tanzania to track prenatal healthcare service delivery. Illinois piloted Blockchain birth certificates contracting with Salt Lake City-based Evernym. Today data about people is like currency. It has value, because it feeds into risk-profiling. We shouldn’t be surprised that the goal of those in power is to assign unique identifiers to children in utero. Now technology is available to make predictions about a child based on the zip code where it is born, its parent’s income, their educational attainment, and even trauma scores. I suspect genomics will come into the picture soon enough.
There is a prototype interoperable data system already, Datazone in San Jose. It feeds into the Silicon Valley Regional Data Trust, funded by Chan Zuckerberg, which in turn feeds into the National Interoperability Collaborative, which is partnered with National Fusion Centers and the Council on Juvenile Crime and Delinquency.
We are perilously close to a pre-crime, social engineering, Gattaca scenario. Will a baby become a burden on society? Will they be a good worker? Will they be disruptive? Will prioritizing the demands of impact markets require teachers, doctors, and social workers to justify benefits provided against an expectation of future economic returns? Given historic power imbalances and our nation’s callous treatment of the poor, it is hard to imagine a positive outcome. Maybe that is why the Sustainable Development Goals have such cheery, colorful, rainbow branding. It’s meant to be distraction, the sugar coating on a poison pill.
In the fin-tech world, it those who already have the power who come out ahead: McKinsey, Bain, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Citi, and Bank of America. Social entrepreneurship serves their interests. It legitimizes perpetual growth. It continues to enrich the Global North at the expense of the Global South. It separates Indigenous communities from their lands and non-human kin. It embraces data-driven solutionism. That data harvest requires server farms that consume vast quantities of water and energy. The tools of that harvest demand rare minerals to make the devices, sensors and batteries. Like it or not, the “profit with purpose” asset managers pushing UN SDG-aligned investments are bound to Bolivia’s lithium and Congo’s cobalt-the child miners, too. Without those materials they cannot tally the impact. Political upheaval, violence against Indigenous peoples, and human rights violations must be calculated into the cost of the brutal business of “green capitalism.”
Reducing social problems to data results in lands being desecrated by LNG pipelines, because markets deem natural gas “better for the environment.” Forests destroyed to install solar panels and mono-crop plantation carbon-sinks masquerading as proper substitutes for complex ecosystems. Under the banner of sustainability vulnerable populations are subjected to invasive levels of surveillance: Internet of Things cook stoves and pill caps, fit bits, online pre-school, brainwave headbands, housing accessed via retinal scan. And at the end of the day we must ask ourselves if these solutions are actually meant to solve the problem? Or are they about allowing dashboard managers to juke the stats and keep their bosses and investors happy?
What is being set up through the UN SDGs is not a program to save the planet or solve poverty, but rather a massive game of legalized gambling that uses “sustainability” to suppress dissent. If you question the motivations of the elite or the way the issues are portrayed in mass media you risk being painted a climate denier or hard-hearted person who doesn’t care for the poor. Evidently we’re supposed set facts aside and unquestioningly join in calls for imposed states of emergency, believing the big banks finally have a conscience, when they’ve actually just come up with a new way to profit from the problems they created.
Black and Indigenous communities are on the front lines of struggle, because this machine runs on trauma, and they are the ones who carry the most-a consequence of ongoing racism, erasure, and colonization. Make no mistake, though, the machine will come after everyone in the end. It is the moral thing to face up to the brutal past of the Doctrine of Discovery and the trafficking of Africans as slaves. It is time to stand in solidarity with oppressed communities at home and abroad. In a cloud-computing world, digital harms inflicted on families in poor neighborhoods or halfway around the globe could show up in the backyards of privileged families within a week.
In the end the question we have to ask ourselves is are we going to look away as global financiers put children on Blockchain? Unhoused people? People needing treatment for addiction or a chronic illness? Refugees? Students?
Or are we going say it stops now and organize across race and class to do what it takes to make that happen?