This discussion paper sets out some lessons for political strategy suggested by the experience of climate change campaigning over the past 15 years. It outlines the dangers faced by advocacy NGOs of becoming "patzers" (blunderers) and clients of more sophisticated political actors. Comments on this work in progress, a shorter version of which was published in Development Dialogue No. 61 (September 2012), are welcome.

The "rights of nature" debate is becoming increasingly important both in the Andean context and in the wider global political debate. This set of brief notes suggests ways of approaching the issue that may help connect it to the ongoing debate between commoners and neoclassical economists, as well as help avoid the exoticisation of the Andean concept of pachamama.

"What news on the Rialto?" one of Shakespeare's businessman characters asks another in "The Merchant of Venice", referring to the bridge where Venice's merchants met to trade. If such a scene were played out today on Wall Street, the topic of conversation might well be how to make money out of saving the Rialto itself. But those who have always lost out as a result of the goings-on on the Rialto may want to talk about something other than how to "fix" a system that has always disadvantaged them.

All processes of commodification are different, depending on what is being commodified, how it is commodified, the degree to which it is commodified, the resistances of the material and of the people affected and so on. For this reason, attempts to commodify some things may make headway, while attempts to commodify others fall down immediately. This draft chapter for the forthcoming book Nature™ Inc: The New Frontiers of Environmental Conservation (edited by Robert Fletcher, Wolfram Dressler and Bram Büscher) proposes an analytical tool that can help explain why neoliberal efforts to commodify climate benefit are failing so disastrously. A drastically abridged version has been published by the online magazine Mute at

In June 2010, the London Mining Network and The Corner House organized a "Hedge Fund Tour" through London's tony Mayfair district, home of many of the private financial institutions at the heart of the wave of dispossessions that followed in the wake of the 2008 crisis. 

 Some 154 million people were reportedly driven further into poverty in Southern countries as a result of speculation-induced food price hikes in 2007-08. What are the best strategies for bringing about the structural change needed that progressive activists can lend their support to?

This workshop presentation, while endorsing regulatory measures including banning certain investment vehicles such as exchange-traded funds and vetting of derivative-based financial instruments, cautions against becoming focussed on regulation alone as an answer. Also crucial is the promotion of non-derivative, socially-based mechanisms to protect farmers and consumers from volatile food prices, as well as price interventions that do not pit Northern farmers against their Southern counterparts.

A UK Treasury-financed, off-balance-sheet vehicle may be hiding the extent of the financial liabilities of UK Export Finance (formerly the Export Credit Guarantee Department) and may also be concealing its use of taxpayer funds to cover operational expenses.

In addition, UK Export Finance has failed to put in place procedures that would enable it to comply with its legally-binding obligations (notably with respect to human rights) under Article 21 of the Lisbon Treaty.

These are among the conclusions of a recent Corner House submission to a UK Parliamentary group, one part of a broader questioning by civil society groups of the human rights and sustainability practices of Britain's official export subsidy apparatus.

"Let's internalize the externalities" has become an important slogan of the new "green economy". Its logic is evident in the Kyoto Protocol, the UK's plans for an "ecosystem services economy", countless regulatory projects advised by environmental economists, and even in financial markets' efforts to commodify radical uncertainty. But is this a solution for the environmental and social problems thrown up by capital accumulation, or a perpetual motion machine that functions merely to create more problems and business opportunities?

Proposals for greening the economy necessarily involve the greening of finance as well. But how is a greener finance to be achieved? Activist strategies that fail to take stock of where finance is today in the wake of the 2007-08 breakdown -- and the struggles that are continuing to develop between neoliberalism and the commons -- are unlikely to succeed, and may actually do harm.

The United Nations Environment Programme pretends to believe that the deepening global financial and economic crisis can be ignored in its plans for the "Green Economy". This presentation for a meeting held last June by the Heinrich Boll Foundation on the occasion of Rio + 20 lists some reasons why NGOs would be ill-advised to share this insouciant attitude, and proposes more realistic lines of strategy in the face of the current crisis.