Traces the history of the World Bank, examines projects it has funded, and argues that many have had a destructive political and environmental impact
The World Bank is the single biggest source of finance for international development, and its policies have a critical impact on the future of more than 110 borrowing countries. In this dramatic and lively new critique, Bruce Rich, internationally known expert on the environment and the World Bank, analyzes how the Bank has become a seemingly unstoppable and often destructive environmental and political force.The author chronicles the life-and-death impact of Bank-funded projects around the world: huge dams that have forced the resettlement of millions of the poorest people on earth, road building and jungle colonization schemes in Brazil, Indonesia, and Africa that have left vast deforestation and social conflict in their wake, and much more. Rich also recounts the bold grassroots campaigns of nongovernmental groups seeking alternatives to Bank-style development.Confidential internal Bank documents expose chronic misrepresentations by Bank management to its donor nations and to the public. Rich reveals how senior officials continue to push money into projects with disastrous ecological and human rights consequences, despite early and persistent protests of Bank staff. He shows how repeatedly and without political accountability the Bank has increased its support for regimes that torture and murder their subjects, from Ceaucescu's Romania to Suharto's Indonesia.Mortgaging the Earth explains the so-called pressure to lend that emerges as a leitmotif in the Bank's fifty-year history and shows how this institutional dynamic has taken on a damaging life of its own. Rich traces the history of the Bank, from its inception at Bretton Woods, where it was conceived as a way to funnel reconstruction loans for war-torn Europe, through the surreally top-down tenure of Robert McNamara to the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit. At Rio, governments poured billions of dollars more into the Bank to save our global environment - while the Bank financed new ecological disasters.The World Bank, Rich demonstrates in a provocative history of development from Descartes to Max Weber to Chico Mendes, is a crucible of the goals of the modern age, goals that in the very moment of their worldwide triumph have become problematic. He shows how the Bank's dilemmas mirror our global civilization's crisis of values and gives expert prescription for reform.Mortgaging the Earth makes disturbingly clear why every American should be concerned about the World Bank, as a critical arena where the global politics of technology, development, and the environment are played out on a small planet, one where the stakes are increasingly for keeps.