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Financialization of nature: The biggest land grab in humankind’s history begins

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – In September, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) announced it had developed a new asset class and accompanying listing vehicle meant “to preserve and restore the natural assets that ultimately underpin the ability for there to be life on Earth.”

Called a natural asset company, or NAC, the vehicle will allow for the formation of specialized corporations “that hold the rights to the ecosystem services produced on a given chunk of land, services like carbon sequestration or clean water.”

These NACs will then maintain, manage and grow the natural assets they commodify, with the end of goal of maximizing the aspects of that natural asset that are deemed by the company to be profitable.”

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“The ultimate goal of NACs is not sustainability or conservation – it is the financialization of nature, i.e., turning nature into a commodity that can be used to keep the current Wall Street economy booming under the guise of protecting the environment and preventing its further degradation.

Indeed, critics make this clear when they note that “the opportunity” of NACs lies not in their potential to improve environmental well-being or sustainability, but in the size of this new asset class, which they term “Nature’s Economy.”

“Indeed, while the asset classes of the current economy are valued at approximately US$512 trillion, the asset classes unlocked by NACs are significantly larger at US$4,000 trillion (i.e., US$4 quadrillion).

Thus, NACs open up a new feeding ground for Wall Street banks and financial institutions that will allow them to dominate not just the human economy but the entire natural world.

In the world currently being constructed by these and related entities, where even freedom is being re-framed not as a right but “a service,” the natural processes on which life depends are similarly being re-framed as assets, which will have owners.

Those “owners” will ultimately have the right, in this system, to dictate who gets access to clean water, to clean air, to nature itself and at what cost.”

The public launch of NACs strategically preceded the fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, the biggest biodiversity conference in a decade. The largest global land grab in history might be well underway under the pretext of turning 30% of the globe into “protected areas”.

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