News Release

Is Wall Street Trying to Take Over Nature for $4,000 Trillion, Risking Human Survival?

Whitney Webb of Unlimited Hangout reports in “Wall Street’s Takeover of Nature Advances with Launch of New Asset Class,” that: “Last month, 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. …

“Framed with the lofty talk of ‘sustainability’ and ‘conservation,’ media reports on the move in outlets like Fortune couldn’t avoid noting that NACs open the doors to ‘a new form of sustainable investment’ which ‘has enthralled the likes of BlackRock CEO Larry Fink over the past several years even though there remain big, unanswered questions about it.’ …

“The creation and launch of NACs has been two years in the making and saw the NYSE team up with the Intrinsic Exchange Group (IEG), in which the NYSE itself holds a minority stake. …

“NACs will not only allow ecosystems to become financial assets, but the rights to ‘ecosystem services,’ or the benefits people receive from nature as well. These include food production, tourism, clean water, biodiversity, pollination, carbon sequestration and much more.  …

“Both the NYSE and IEG have marketed this new investment vehicle as being aimed at generating funds that will go back to conservation or sustainability efforts. However, on the IEG’s website, it notes that the goal is really endless profit from natural processes and ecosystems that were previously deemed to be part of ‘the commons,’ i.e. the cultural and natural resources accessible to all members of a society, including natural materials such as air, water, and a habitable earth. …

“While the asset classes of the current economy are valued at approximately $512 trillion, the asset classes unlocked by NACs are significantly larger at $4,000 trillion (i.e. $4 quadrillion) [by IEG]. Thus, NACs open up a new feeding ground for predatory Wall Street banks and financial institutions that will allow them to not just dominate the human economy, but the entire natural world.”

RANDALL WRAY, wray@levy.org
    Wray is senior scholar at the Levy Economics Institute and professor of economics at Bard College. Wray’s books include A Great Leap Forward: Heterodox Economic Policy for the 21st CenturyMacroeconomics, Why Minsky Matters (from Princeton University Press) and Modern Money Theory.

    He said today: “From the get-go, capitalism has been all about exploitation. Marx’s followers will point to exploitation of workers, but that’s the tip of the iceberg. Capitalism originated in the large plantations of the New World, exploiting the slaves, and Africa itself — which bore the burden of producing the humans that would be kidnapped and shipped across the seas to create the Old World’s wealth. It exploited the environment of America’s seemingly infinite natural resources, abandoning the land it exhausted, moving ever westward in its genocidal conquest of the continent. It spewed its waste into the water, the air, and the bodies of creatures great and small. It put a money price on the formerly free communal resources so that it could exploit them to extinction.

    “It financialized bodies — indeed, African slaves were the collateral behind the first mortgages that made Wall Street. In more recent times, it financialized everything — homes, education, food and other commodities, healthcare, education, and even death (through so-called peasant insurance). But that was not enough. It created derivatives to double, triple, quadruple the bets against mortgages, car loans, student loans, credit card debts, national government debts, and currencies. It is unsurprising, inevitable, and even appropriate that Wall Street would now financialize the ‘rights to the ecosystem services produced on a given chunk of land.’ Next up, financialization of access to sunlight, the source of all life.

    “Capitalism has always been celebrated for its presumed efficiency. In fact it is supremely inefficient. It survives only because it is the greatest system ever developed for exploitation of man and nature. It pushes costs off to the environment, ‘other’ people, families, governments, and our ‘future.’ It is ever on the lookout for new frontiers of exploitation. And in that quest, human survival is at risk.”