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Reclaim Conservation: Activists & Communities Vs. Mainstream Conservation Myths

Reclaim Conservation

December 9, 2017

There are myriad definitions of the term “environmental conservation” and hundreds of ideologies and methods being utilised worldwide in an attempt to conserve habitats and biodiversity. At present, what is clear is that conservation efforts as a whole are failing. While there is increasing, large-scale financial investment in conservation efforts worldwide, positive results from this investment remains to be seen. Indeed, the species extinction crisis, destruction of habitat and climate change continue unabated and pose increasingly severe threats to the natural world.

Mainstream conservation institutions are increasingly modelling themselves on, and indeed directly reliant upon, commercial businesses. Being part of the dominant economic establishment positions these NGOs as conflicted in their ability (and desire) to take effective action against the root cause of environmental degradation which unarguably stems from uncontrolled capitalist exploitation, accompanied by corruption, broken nation states and a burgeoning world leadership crisis. These large NGOs cannot challenge these overarching systems of oppression because they have become part of them. By ignoring the “bigger picture” and the real cause of the problems that they claim to be concerned with tackling and offering superficial, insincere solutions, the big NGOs cause severe damage to our world in that they control the vast majority of resources and funding to ostensibly support conservation efforts, but fail to use it where it is most needed and thus fail to create any meaningful change or positive results.

In order to justify their failure, they have developed discourses blaming local people for being either greedy destroyers of nature or ignorant savages who lack the intelligence or motivation to work to preserve their own environment. Nature is being ascribed economic value and local people are being offered financial “compensation” in order to ensure they do not interfere with the work of the powerful NGOs. Grassroots activism and new, radical approaches to conservation are demonised and accused of “getting in the way” of the “real conservationists” (the large NGOs) in order to distract people from seeing activists’ real potential as capable of creating a new reality. Funds are being blocked from reaching either community conservationists or activists, ensuring that the powerful retain control and those uniquely positioned to dismantle the ineffective and damaging status quo are prevented from accessing the resources and opportunities that are required to make real change.

This situation must change, Reclaim Conservation, through activist work with communities, whistle-blowers and law enforcement, through academia, mass and social medias, will prove and inform the public that:

Conservation is activism

Conservation is against corruption

Conservation is against all kinds of discriminations

Conservation is against right wing, capitalist exploitation

Conservation is compassion

If not, conservation will just not work!

 

www.reclaimconservation.org

Montana Logging Collaborative Fails Restoration Goals

The Wildlife News

March 23, 2015

 by George Wuerthner

The Forest Service (FS), the timber industry and some environmental groups formed a collaborative groups several years ago known as the Southwest Crown of the Continent (SWCC). The goal ostensibly is to promote healthy ecosystems, but the real goal is to increase logging in the Seeley-Swan and Lincoln areas. The SWCC “restoration” objectives appear to be in direct conflict with sound science and well established principles.

The Southwestern Crown Collaborative

The collaborative first misinterprets ecological parameters to create a problem that they can solve with logging. Then the logging creates extra problems like spread of weeds on logging roads, which in turn requires more management. It is a self-fulfilling management that damages our forest ecosystems, and wastes tax payer money to subsidize private timber interests.

The Forest Landscape Restoration (CFLR) program supported by the SWCC collaborative has the following goals.

Reduce the risk of uncharacteristic wildfire

Improve fish and wildlife habitat

Maintain or improve water quality and watershed function

Maintain, decommission, and rehabilitate roads and trails

Prevent or control invasions of exotic species, and

Use woody biomass and small-diameter trees produced from restoration projects.

Unfortunately this is not “restoration” rather it is degradation.

The first goal to cut risk of “uncharacteristic wildfire demonstrates a failure to understand wildfire ecology. . There are  no uncharacteristic wildfires occurring in the SWCC. The bulk of this area consists of forests like lodgepole pine, subalpine fir, western larch and so forth that naturally burn as mixed to high severity fires. They burn in large fires whenever there is drought coupled with warm temperatures, low humidity and high winds—assuming an ignition. That is the way these forests replace themselves. There is nothing unusual about any of the fires that have burned and will burn in this area.

Then the second objective is “improve fish and wildlife habitat”. Ironically large severe wildfire fire is one of the major factors that creates dead wood. Dead wood is critical to many wildlife species. Fires also create the patchy age forest stands that is important for many wildlife species. Fires are even important for aquatic ecosystems.  Dead wood in streams is important for bull trout and other fish. Fire promotes the young forests that snowshoe hares like–hence also lynx. Etc. So if the FS reduces the “risk” of wildfire–especially large fires, it is harming wildlife and fish habitat.

Next we come to maintain or improve water quality and watershed function. Again this is a good goal, but when you put in a bunch of roads and disturb the forest floor with logging equipment you are not improving water quality. Even temporary roads can cause significant run-off of sediment. Cutting of the sub-surface water flow by road construction can also cause more surface flow leading to greater erosion and sedimentation in streams. So “treating” the forests here automatically degrades the water.

Of course, one of the justifications I hear all the time for logging is that after cutting the trees the FS will close roads. Yet one doesn’t have to create logging roads, so you can close them, nor do you need to cut trees to close roads. If existing roads are causing problems for water quality or wildlife than the FS legally should close them, and they don’t need to log to do this.

Another goal is to prevent and control invasions of exotic species. A very laudable goal. But the biggest factor in the spread of weeds is disturbance from logging roads and equipment. So in treating the forest, you create the problem you need to solve. This is great for creating an endless job for the FS but it’s not in the public interest.

Finally the last objective is to use woody biomass from “restoration” projects. This last aim acts as if biomass is somehow unnecessary for forest ecosystem function. Nothing could be further from the truth. The removal of biomass harms forest ecosystems, nutrient cycling, wildlife habitat, etc. There is a deficiency of dead wood in many of our forested landscapes, particularly the heavily logged Seeley Swan Valley.

In short, the SWCC is clearly not using good science, and ignoring the multiple ways that logging harms the environment. Furthermore, since nearly all timber sales are money losers, this policy just foster greater dependency by communities and industry on government largess or welfare. It’s time to wean the Montana timber industry off of the government teat.

FLASHBACK: Um espiao indiscreto contra Chavez

Publica

March 18, 2013

 Higo Chavez_1

Cable_Fernandez_4
Pública segue o rastro de um espião machista e temperamental enviado pela USAID para distribuir dinheiro à oposição venezuelana e dividir o chavismo

Eduardo Fernandez é um nome comum. Tão comum que é impossível encontrar informações sobre um determinado Eduardo dentre milhares deles em dezenas de países da América Latina. Mas o argentino-americano Eduardo Fernandez não é um homem nada comum. Entre 2004 e 2009, era ele quem dirigia o Development Alternatives (DAI) em Caracas, que recebia milhões de dólares da Usaid para seguir o plano estabelecido pelo Departamento de Estado dos EUA para a Venezuela: fortalecer grupos de oposição, dividir o chavismo e isolar Hugo Chávez internacionalmente. (Leia mais sobre a estratégia da USAID)

O papel de Fernandez talvez passasse despercebido como o nome comum, não fosse o seu temperamento explosivo, desbragadamente machista e indiscreto – o que o levou a ser investigado por comportamento impróprio na empresa em que trabalhava – e seu sumiço da noite para o dia da Venezuela.

Como relataram seus ex-funcionários, ele era do tipo que se referia às mulheres colocando as mãos sobre os próprios peitos, para sugerir seios fartos, e chegou a dizer que o escritório da DAI em El Rosal, Caracas, era “ineficiente como um bordel”. Diante do caso de uma funcionária grávida, reagiu: “Se vocês conseguissem segurar uma pílula entre os joelhos, eu não teria que gastar dinheiro pagando por licença-maternidade”. Outra funcionária ficou tão desconcertada com os olhares sedentos do chefe à sua saia, que resolveu fechar a fenda com um clipes de papel. Dias depois Fernandez perguntou quando ela iria usar “aquela saia com o clipes” de novo.

Mas Fernandez é assim mesmo e não pretende mudar, como afirmou durante a investigação interna da DAI. De tão indiscreto, foi ele quem deixou o rastro das atividades da DAI na Venezuela, três anos depois de sua equipe ter se retirado às pressas do país, em 2009. Graças e ele uma longa lista de documentos que revelam em detalhes o trabalho da DAI pode ser consultada na internet, no processo de US$ 600 mil que a ex-diretora Heather Rome move contra a empresa por não ter tomado nenhuma atitude contra Fernandez apesar de suas repetidas reclamações. Os documentos da justiça de Maryland, nos EUA, foram vazados pelo jornalista americano Tracey Eaton, do blog Along the Malecon.

São mais de 300 páginas de documentos sobre o diretor da empresa que atuou num dos principais QGs anti-Chávez plantados pelos EUA em Caracas. “As reclamações que eu recebia das funcionárias venezuelanas iam ao ponto de elas virem chorar em meu escritório, o que reduzia a produtividade”, conta Heather no seu depoimento. “Várias pessoas falavam que seu sentimento era: ‘temos orgulho de estar trabalhando neste projeto, nós preenchemos os cheques e sabemos quanto dinheiro está sendo gasto. O governo dos EUA está trabalhando muito duro, e a DAI está nos ajudando a mudar a situação do nosso país para torná-lo mais democrático do que Chávez quer. Mas não entendemos como eles podem fortalecer a sociedade civil quando temos nosso próprio mini-Chávez aqui no escritório, e eles não ligam’”.

Alan Gross: sua prisão em Cuba revelou a existência da DAI

Entre 2002 e 2009 a Usaid distribuiu cerca US$ 95,7 milhões de dólares a organizações de oposição venezuelana através do seu Escritório de Iniciativas de Transição (OTI, em inglês), aberto no país dois meses após o fracassado golpe de estado contra Hugo Chavéz.

Simultaneamente, instalou-se no país a empresa Development Alternatives, uma das maiores contratistas da Usaid para gerenciar fundos de assistência no exterior, o que desde o governo Bush vem sendo feito pela iniciativa privada. A empresa, que costuma atuar nos bastidores, passou a ser conhecida no cenário latinoamericano em dezembro de 2009, quando Alan Gross, um de seus funcionários, foi preso em Cuba ao distribuir celulares e equipamentos de comunicação via satélite à dissidência cubana. Gross foi condenado a 15 anos de prisão por atos “contra a segurança nacional” de Cuba.

Na Venezuela, a DAI, cujo slogan é “moldando um mundo mais habitável”, foi a principal responsável pela distribuição de pequenos financiamentos da Usaid a diversas organizações da sociedade civil, seguindo a estratégia traçada pelo Departamento de Estado e pela missão diplomática no país de dividir o chavismo, infiltrar-se na sua base política e isolar Chávez internacionalmente.

No escritório em Caracas, situado entre a rua Guaicaipuro e a Mohedano, trabalhavam 18 venezuelanos de tendência anti-chavista e dois diretores americanos – Eduardo Fernandez era um deles e passou a dirigir o escritório em 2004. O currículo de Heather Rome, anexado ao processo, explica que a diretora assistente, também americana, chegou ao país em julho de 2005 para supervisionar a administração das doações a ONGs em um programa de US$ 18 milhões de dólares. Segundo seu currículo, Heather, que era subalterna a Fernandezn trabalhava “em colaboração com o embaixador americano William Brownfield”. Brownfield ocupou o cargo entre 2004 e 2007 e elaborou uma sucinta estratégia de 5 pontos para acabar com o governo Chávez em médio prazo.

Os programas mantidos pelas doações destinavam-se principalmente a “facilitar o diálogo entre segmentos da sociedade que dificilmente se sentariam juntos para discutir temas de interesse mútuo”, segundo um documento diplomático enviado ao Departamento de Estado em 13 de julho de 2004. Ou seja, unir a oposição. Um dos principais projetos era o “Venezuela Convive” que, segundo o documento diplomático, buscava “encorajar o conceito de convivência pacífica entre indivíduos e organizações com fortes opiniões contrastantes – um valor que a maioria dos venezuelanos respeita e que é considerado sob ataque no atual clima de intolerância política” – promovida pelo governo Chávez, segundo a embaixada.

Em 24 de fevereiro de 2006, em outro despacho diplomático, o ex-embaixador Brownfield explica que os financiamentos da DAI “apoiam instituições democráticas, incentivam o debate público, e demonstram o engajamento dos EUA na luta contra a pobreza na Venezuela”. Para William Brownfield, fortalecer a sociedade civil era essencial para isolar Chávez internacionalmente, levando para a arena internacional “os sérios problemas de direitos humanos no país”. Dois exemplos neste sentido, que receberam financiamento através da DAI, são o Centro de Direitos Humanos da Universidade Central da Venezuela e os projetos do  IPYS, Instituto Prensa y Sociedad de jornalismo investigativo e de uma Lei de Acesso à Informação venezuelana.

Grosso e machista, o chefão da DAI tinha apoio da Usaid

O temperamental Eduardo Fernandez era uma peça fundamental nessa engrenagem, e contava com o apoio incondicional da Usaid. Tanto é que, mesmo depois de uma investigação interna da DAI em 2008 ter comprovado que Fernandez, no mínimo, assediava moralmente seus funcionários, gritando com eles, e que “destrataria um homem tão rapidamente quando uma mulher”, a DAI resolveu mantê-lo no cargo. E demitir Heather Rome. “A última coisa que eu preciso é ter de novo caos e desobediência no escritório”, escreveu Fernandez em um email à gerência da empresa.

No final de abril de 2008, o supervisor da Usaid para o programa da Venezuela, Russel Porter, ligou pessoalmente para o diretor da DAI, Mike Godfrey, para congratulá-lo pelo trabalho na Venezuela. Godfrey descreve, em um email constante no processo, que Porter voltara de uma visita ao país bastante satisfeito. “Russel queria especificamente relatar sua satisfação com o time sênior em Caracas – Erin Upton-Cosulich e Eduardo Fernandez. Fez questão de destacar que eles trabalham bem juntos, que o ambiente está mais harmonioso e que os dois conseguiram engajar toda a equipe de modo mais eficiente. Ele tem esperanças que isso continue”.

Eduardo Fernandez, portanto, seguiu sendo o chefe.

Um ano depois, porém, as coisas não estavam tão “harmoniosas” no escritório. O governo venezuelano acabava da abrir uma investigação contra empresa e contra seu diretor. No dia 27 de agosto de 2009, um consternado Eduardo Fernandez se reuniu com o pessoal da embaixada americana para pedir socorro.

A polícia bate à porta da empresa de Fernandez

No dia anterior, uma quarta-feira, policiais venezuelanos bateram à porta da DAI com intimações para que Eduardo Fernandez e Heather Rome prestassem depoimento na semana seguinte perante a divisão de Crimes Contra a Riqueza Nacional do Corpo de Investigações Científicas, Penais e Criminalísticas (CICPC).

Os policiais – que foram “profissionais” e “educados” segundo Fernandez – disseram que a investigação fora iniciada pela Superintêndencia de Bancos após a detecção de “transferências incomumente grandes” de dinheiro em 2007 e 2008, conforme o despacho diplomático do embaixador dos EUA na Venezuela durante o governo Bush, Patrick Duddy, que já havia sido embaixador antes de Brownfield, mas fora expulso do país por Hugo Chávez antes de voltar como enviado de Obama.

“Isso [as grandes transferências de dinheiro] coincidiu com o referendo constitucional de 2007 e com as eleições nacionais, estaduais e locais em 2008”, escreveu Duddy.

O foco da investigação venezuelana era a origem dos fundos, os objetivos da DAI no país, seu status fiscal e o destino do dinheiro. Segundo os policiais, a investigação seria “longa e profunda” e envolveria também as autoridades fiscal e imigratória do governo venezuelano.

Fernandez estava em Caracas com um visto oficial cedido a pedido da diplomacia americana, porém vencido desde março de 2009. A embaixada pedira sua renovação, mas o passaporte foi retido sem explicações pelo Ministério de Relações Exteriores até o final de agosto. “Fernandez não tem outra forma de identidade venezuelana. Ele continua com seus passaportes americano e argentino”, escreveu o embaixador, pedindo orientações sobre o caso ao Departamento de Estado americano, então comandado por Hillary Clinton.

E explicava: “Como parte dos seus acordos de financiamento, a DAI se compromete a proteger a identidade de todos os beneficiários. Os arquivos da DAI são estruturados de maneira que a informação financeira pode ser liberada sem comprometer as identidades”, detalhava Duddy. “Dito isso, a DAI tem 50 caixas de arquivos no seu escritório que contêm informações sensíveis e que podem ser apreendidas”, alertava.

“As ruas estão quentes”, dizia Fernandez sobre protestos de financiados da DAI

Fernandez acreditava que o objetivo da investigação era coletar informações sobre as organizações financiadas pela DAI e, ao mesmo tempo, interromper o fluxo de recursos para elas.  “As ruas estão quentes”, disse ele ao pessoal da embaixada, sobre crescentes protestos anti-Chávez. “Todas essas pessoas (organizando os protestos) são nossos financiados”. E afirmava que não queria abandonar o time, deixando o país, avisando que iriam pedir uma extensão de prazo para se apresentar à polícia.

No seu despacho, o embaixador pede orientações bem específicas a Washington, perguntando se Fernandez tinha “alguma imunidade baseada em seu passaporte oficial e em seu visto, ou se ele deveria comparecer ao CICP ou diante de outras autoridades venezuelanas”; e “se o Sr. Fernandez deveria revelar alguma informação, e se sim, qual”.

Duddy também queria saber “o que a DAI deveria fazer com suas 50 caixas de documentos, alguns dos quais contém nomes das pessoas que dirigem as organizações financiadas pela DAI”. E, por fim, pergunta se a embaixada deveria ajudar Fernandez a fugir: “Se o Sr. Fernandez é considerado alguém que trabalha em nome dos EUA, ele deve permanecer no país ou tentar sair da Venezuela antes da entrevista com a polícia em 1 de setembro?”.

Aonde anda Eduardo?

Não há registro da resposta de Hillary Clinton nos documentos do WikiLeaks nem no site da DAI. Mas, no processo movido por Rome, a advogada da empresa não poderia ter sido mais clara a respeito da final da missão de Fernandez na Venezuela. No final de agosto do ano passado, em uma audiência em Maryland, nos Estados Unidos, onde o caso se desenrola,  Kathleen M. Williams alegou que por se tratar “de um cliente novo” seria muito difícil levantar documentos relativos a seu período de trabalho na Venezuela: “A DAI abandonou o local muito apressadamente em 2009. Muitos arquivos não estão mais lá.” E volta a insistir no assunto, na conversa com o advogado de acusação: “Não sei se esses documentos existem. Não sei se eles foram abandonados da Venezuela. Eu sei que eles abandonaram um montão de informação na Venezuela”.

No mesmo diálogo, transcrito no processo, o advogado da acusação diz que o maior problema é que “Fernandez desapareceu”. Kathleen interrompe: “Não é verdade. Ele está neste país. Ele vive em Maryland”. A advogada, no entanto, nega estar em contato com ele e recusa uma intimação em seu nome.

É a ultima menção oficial da DAI a Eduardo Fernandez, o homem incomum de nome comum que tinha papel tão relevante nas tentativas dos EUA de desestabilizar o governo venezuelano. Outro Eduardo Fernandez foi contratado pela DAI, em março de 2012, para seu escritório no México. O homônimo, ex-ministro de finanças da Colômbia, herdou o email oficial do argentino-americano Fernandez que atuou na Venezuela até o escritório fechar: deste não há nenhuma notícia no site da DAI que, contatada pela Pública, não se pronunciou até a publicação desta reportagem.

Também não há menção a ele nos sites da USAID ou da OTI. O mesmo nome, Eduardo Fernandez, porém, figurou no site de outra empresa que faz trabalho semelhante à DAI – a Casals & Associates -, principal contratista da Usaid no Paraguai, encarregada deadministrar mais de US$ 30 milhões em doações antes da destituição de Fernando Lugo. Fundada por uma dissidente cubana, a Casals já havia distribuído mais de US$ 13 milhões para projetos que fortaleciam a oposição a Evo Morales na Bolívia.

No site da Casals o nome Eduardo Fernandez aparece em janeiro de 2012 e some em junho de 2012 – mês em que foi decretado o impeachment de Lugo no Paraguai. Um mês depois foi a vez da própria Casals desaparecer do bonito casarão que ocupava na rua Bernardino Caballero 168, em Assunção, aparentemente com a mesma pressa que a DAI desocupou suas instalações na Venezuela.

Leia mais: Passo a passo, o plano da USAID para acabar com o governo Chávez

Leia mais: Paraguai: Os EUA e o impeachment

 

 

 

When Environmentalists Collaborate

The Wages of Compromise

by MICHAEL DONNELLY
March 01, 2012

Spring is in the air in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.  Crocus and daffodil add a splash of late winter color. Trees are budding. Days grow longer, the sun makes a cameo appearance…and, like swallows to Capistrano, the usual suspects cadre of eco-wonks/lawyers return to Eugene and the University of Oregon for the 30th Annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conference   (E-LAW) March 1 – 4, 2012.

“Compromise is often necessary, but it ought not to originate with environmental leaders. Our role is to hold fast to what we believe is right, to fight for it, to find allies, and to adduce all possible arguments for our cause. If we cannot find enough vigor in us or our friends to win, then let someone else propose the compromise, which we must then work hard to coax our way. We thus become a nucleus around which activists can build and function.” — David Brower, first Executive Director of the Sierra Club. This year PIELC officially celebrates the 100thAnniversary of Brower’s birth.

E-LAW is part employment bazaar for newly-minted attorneys seeking jobs in the ever-expanding (much thanks to E-LAW) field of Environmental Law. It is also part gathering of actual non-paid, in the trenches eco-activists who are the ones who generate the resistance that leads to all those legal jobs. What matters to the job seekers and the already employed panelists who draw a paycheck derived from a cornucopia of foundation-funded groups and what motivates the volunteer or underpaid activists sometimes coincide and sometimes the activists are featured panelists; but, most of the time the disconnect is palpable. Invariably, PIELC becomes living proof of the Upton Sinclair dictum.

“It’s difficult to get a man to understand something  when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” —Upton Sinclair

Many environmental topics – local, national and international are featured among the many panels and plenary sessions.  Excellent panels on Civil Liberties and Activism always are on the agenda, as are ones addressing threatened Species. Many prominent issues are left unaddressed. And, as Earth First! co-founder Mike Roselle (now in Appalachia fighting the good fight against the abomination of Mountaintop Removal coal extraction) always notes, “The real work at any of these gatherings is done in the hallways and bars.”

So, here’s a summary of the local and national ones that I see are the hot points issues right now; the ones getting the mountain lion’s share of the funding and attention:

The Climate Movement: Australia’s Patrons of Climate Change Activism

"Then there’s the revolving door. Some who opposed the CPRS when they worked for environmental groups now work in parliament for the Greens, where cheering for the CEF is expected. Meanwhile, like the carbon lobby, big-brand environmental groups recruit former political staffers and senior bureaucrats. Radicals have been replaced by ‘realists’ who know that if they collaborate with the powers that be – often former colleagues – they can secure incremental wins without threatening the system." …

The Nation Reviewed

By Guy Pearse

September 2011

With Tony Abbott up in the polls, both sides saying they’ll stand or fall on climate policy, and some believing effective ‘climate action’ and the fate of ‘progressive politics’ this decade are at stake, much of the environmental movement has decided it must cheer for Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s Clean Energy Future (CEF) carbon-pricing package. As Abbott and an emboldened carbon lobby paint Gillard’s plan as economic Armageddon, environmentalists are cheering as if the clean energy revolution has begun.

Image Caption: Aided by Purves Environmental Fund, sculptor Mark Coreth rides his life-sized ice polar bear in Sydney, 3 June 2011. © Reuters/Daniel Munoz

Image Caption: Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

It’s a far cry from 2009 when the environmental movement split over the so-called Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS). The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Climate Institute went one way – backing the CPRS in exchange for Labor adopting a highly conditional 25% emission-reduction target for 2020. The Greens, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Wilderness Society, Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC) and GetUp!, among others, went another way, knowing the conditions attached to the 25% target meant it wouldn’t happen. Now environmentalists are cheering almost as one, not just for ‘climate action’ but for Gillard’s plan.

The Greens, as co-authors, declare “the old, polluting ways will have to change and a new, exciting era is set to begin”; the ACF calls the plan an “important step to start Australia’s transition to a low carbon economy”; the Climate Institute calls it a “vital step towards lower pollution and clean energy in Australia”; the WWF says it “will finally create a financial incentive to change old habits and old technologies”. Even Greenpeace calls it “the fundamental first step in our journey towards a clean energy future”.

Everyone is emphasising that ‘first step’ bit, as if using the same talking points. Under the “Say Yes” banner, the message that ticking the carbon price box equals a clean energy future is being amplified. At one “Say Yes” rally, GetUp! boss Simon Sheikh declared: “Now is a moment of celebration” and “We’re ready to power our economy with 100% renewable energy. We say yes!” The banners proclaim: “Say yes to cutting carbon pollution” and “Unlock clean energy”. One GetUp! video affirms: “get rid of our reliance on fossil fuel”. It’s implied that the government’s plan will achieve these things.

But will it? The Greens say the CEF package is superior to the CPRS: the official 2050 emissions reduction target was 60% – now it’s 80%; the CPRS allowed unlimited use of imported carbon credits, allowing Australia to outsource almost all its obligations – now imported credits aren’t allowed until 2015 and then only for 50% of polluter liabilities; there’s a new Clean Energy Finance Corporation with $10 billion to spend and a Carbon Farming Initiative to encourage farmers to store more carbon in vegetation and soils. The Greens have sought to make backsliding harder by institutionalising what they can. So, for instance, governments will have to publicly explain if they choose not to accept emission cap recommendations from the proposed Climate Change Authority.

It’s better than the CPRS, but here’s the curious thing – most of the flaws of the CPRS remain in the CEF. Big polluters are again excused from paying for 66–94.5% of their emissions, notwithstanding Gillard’s claim that “big polluters will pay for every tonne of carbon pollution they put into our atmosphere”. There’s the same inadequate 5% unconditional emissions reduction target for 2020; same hypothetical 25% target; still no carbon price at the bowser; billions of dollars going to emission-intensive power generators; $1.3 billion to coal producers whose exports are Australia’s largest contribution to climate change; and handouts to householders still mean most Australians won’t notice a carbon price. It’s another huge money-go-round that intercepts the price signal a carbon tax is intended to send industry and consumers to drive a shift to lower-emission behaviour. The pledge to pay owners of 2 gigawatts of the most emission-intensive coal-fired generation to exit the industry is an admission pricing carbon this way won’t achieve even that.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the emission projections are familiar. Treasurer Wayne Swan and Climate Change Minister Greg Combet say the agreed package would “closely match” Treasury projections released earlier this year. They envisage Australia’s domestic emissions (excluding carbon credit imports) to “increase around 10% from 2010 to the late 2020s”. With the 50% limit on credit imports ending in 2020, we’d rely mainly on outsourcing emission cuts to meet our targets well into the 2030s. Even by 2050, domestic emissions are barely below 2000 levels! Meanwhile, even with the carbon price, and well before 2050, coal-industry output doubles.

For all Gillard’s hype that a carbon price will “turbo-charge” clean energy, projections show almost no increase in renewable energy deployment prior to 2020 beyond what’s required to achieve the existing 20% renewable electricity target. With coal exports doubling and coal seam gas exports growing faster, renewables would by 2020 still account for less than 2% of energy produced in Australia.

In truth, there’s much less difference between the two major parties than either side makes out: both have a 5% target; both price carbon – Labor through a carbon tax and emissions trading, the Coalition by effectively running a national tender process for emission reduction; both cosset fossil-fuel addiction – the Coalition mainly by paying farmers to increase carbon storage in soils, Labor by importing carbon credits.

Ask people in the movement why everyone’s cheering for a plan you’d expect them to stomach under sufferance and the responses all begin the same way: “This is strictly off the record.” Most cite partisan bias, driven more by Pavlovian habit than ideology. While relations with the Coalition have usually been acrimonious, Labor has delivered various groups their biggest wins and political influence. A former insider of the Climate Institute tells me its unofficial mission when established was to “get rid of John Howard”. Post-Howard the CEO is said to have defined its new role as being Labor’s “mine-sweeper”. A “Say Yes” campaign insider recently told me: “People are so desperate to get something rather than nothing that we’re all running cover for Labor; so, rather than getting a better scheme from them or the other side, it’s all about helping Gillard sell the scheme.”

Another reason cited for the cheering is the increasing tendency of environmental groups to focus on incremental wins. Rather than asking ‘What needs to be done?’, they’re asking ‘What’s possible soon, given the lie of the land?’ Rapid transitions to renewables and away from fossil-fuel exports are considered unthinkable, given the grip that coal companies and unions have on both major parties. Settling for much less ambitious goals and overstating their significance is easier.

Then there’s the revolving door. Some who opposed the CPRS when they worked for environmental groups now work in parliament for the Greens, where cheering for the CEF is expected. Meanwhile, like the carbon lobby, big-brand environmental groups recruit former political staffers and senior bureaucrats. Radicals have been replaced by ‘realists’ who know that if they collaborate with the powers that be – often former colleagues – they can secure incremental wins without threatening the system.

Most ‘suit-wearing’ greenies also sport a neo-liberal faith in markets, with many building careers promoting the idea that emissions trading is the solution to climate change. Thus, campaigners at groups such as the WWF, the ACF and the Climate Institute turn ‘think global, act local’ on its head, believing a global carbon trade is paramount, not local action. To a worldview that cares not where emissions are cut but that cuts are made globally, at least cost, importing carbon credits en masse and ignoring coal exports fits perfectly. Never mind that a lower carbon price makes renewables deployment here less viable. Ross Garnaut’s starring role on the national stage as a carbon-price Pied Piper from the neo-liberal establishment encapsulates the dominant mindset.

Lastly, there’s the widespread desire to fill the tent. Many said ‘never again’ after the suspension of the CPRS in 2009. The Mittagong Forum, which was founded a decade earlier in the Southern Highlands, NSW, and intended to keep the environment movement singing from a similar song sheet, was torn apart. The acrimony within the ACF was intense – irate members resigned. I’m told that the Climate Institute’s board ordered an internal review of strategy. Since then, the groups that did a backroom deal with then Prime Minister Rudd have been on a charm offensive – encouraging a much broader group to come on board. Frustrated campaigners explain that the more groups involved, the faster the race to the bottom. One tells me: “If you’ve got ACF, WWF and the Climate Institute in the tent, you can’t talk about export coal; can’t talk down ‘clean coal’ or importing carbon credits or carbon farming.” As the carbon price becomes the issue upon which Labor stands or falls and the Greens’ forward momentum depends, the tent is filling up with unions, celebrities and GetUp!, among others.

This partly explains the cheering, but it’s hard not to wonder if something else is also going on here. Money explains the behaviour of many campaigning against Gillard, as those in her corner are quick to highlight; the proudly sceptical and coal-friendly Institute of Public Affairs, for example, has admitted they rarely take a position different from the “dozen energy firms” who contribute funds to them, because “otherwise they’d stop funding us”. Should we expect different from those funding big-brand green groups? It might seem like a diverse range of groups are all concluding independently that Gillard’s carbon price equals clean energy future, but they’re largely funded through two wealthy farmers: Robert Purves and Mark Wootton.

Robert Purves is the former chair and major shareholder of health group DCA; Mark Wootton is married to Eve Kantor, Rupert Murdoch’s niece. Through the Purves Environmental Fund (PEF) and the Poola Foundation respectively, they bankroll most of Australia’s best known environment groups, including many of those behind the “Say Yes” show.

The Poola Foundation, established in 1995, has for years been the ACF’s principal donor. The ACF’s building was gifted by a Poola-linked company in 2009, providing a permanent rental income stream. A donation of $10 million from the estate of Eve Kantor’s late brother (administered by Wootton and Eve Kantor) established the Climate Institute in 2005, with another $4 million invested since. Climate change “couldn’t be left to the environment movement”, says Wootton. Through the Climate Institute, the Poola Foundation provides office space to support the AYCC, and it is the largest contributor to the Australia Institute think tank. It originally funded the Mittagong Forum and provided resources and personnel to establish the Australian Environmental Grantmakers Network to co-ordinate environmental philanthropy.

Robert Purves is more prolific, particularly since establishing the PEF in 2004. He has given millions of dollars to the WWF, is the primary sponsor of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists and supports the core global team running Earth Hour. A polar bear made of ice that paraded through Sydney streets in June was also Purves-funded. Few people realise that Purves substantially funded the writing and extensive promotion of Tim Flannery’s book The Weather Makers. The AYCC credits core funding provided by Purves, their only ‘gold supporter’, for their exponential growth in 2010. Purves has also funded Sustainable Business Australia, The Climate Group, the Climate Action Network Australia, the Copenhagen Climate Council and Clean Up Australia. He funds the Total Environment Centre and its Green Capital program, which hosted one of Julia Gillard’s first speeches after the release of the CEF package. Purves funds Terrestrial Carbon Group and the Bio-CCS Group, which push all manner of cheap carbon-credit generating alternatives to switching away from fossil fuels to help Australia meet emissions targets: carbon farming, forest protection abroad, growing algae with CO2 from coal-fired power stations. Through Sustainable Business Australia (SBA) he also co-hosts Carbon Expos for those keen to profit from trading such credits.

Wootton and Purves are hardly the only philanthropists assisting green causes. Wotif.com founder Graeme Wood’s record-breaking $1.6 million contribution to the Greens prior to the 2010 federal election drew plenty of attention. What sets Wootton and Purves apart is their ubiquity – especially on the issue of climate change – and their hands-on approach: Purves is a former president and current board member of WWF (Australia), a former board member of WWF (International), the chair of SBA, a governor of AYCC and the only non-scientist member of the Wentworth Group. Similarly, Mark Wootton chairs the Climate Institute board and, until recently, sat on the boards of both the ACF and the Australia Institute.

Moreover, both men appear to advocate the ‘carbon price as panacea’ approach championed by Rudd and now Gillard. “It’s all about putting a price on carbon,” says Purves; it’s a “conservative, market-based solution”, says Wootton. As far as I can tell, neither has publicly opposed continued coal export expansion, cast doubt over ‘clean coal’ or opposed the large-scale use of imported carbon credits. While both back renewable energy, they’re also strong advocates of bio-sequestration options that help avoid a switch away from fossil fuels. The organisations they fund take similar views; a coterie of corporations deeply enmeshed in vast new coal- and gas-mining projects, or simply poised to gain from the carbon credit opportunities promoted by Wootton and Purves, now co-fund the same organisations.

This is not to parallel the friendly takeover of environmentalism in the past decade with the self-interested clout exerted by those funding Australia’s carbon lobby. Wootton and Purves might gain from generating carbon credits on their farms, but by all reports their philanthropy is driven by genuine altruism rather than vested interest. However, they embody much of what movement insiders cite as problematic – neo-liberal minded corporate greenies chasing incremental results based on ‘what’s possible’. So perhaps it’s inevitable that, as more groups come to rely heavily on the same patronage, the environment movement’s centre of gravity has shifted.

If more people knew to what they were saying ‘yes’, and to whom, it’s hard not to wonder whether there’d be a lot less cheering. Now, as in 2009, the Poola Foundation and Purves-backed entities are teaming up with Labor to establish a minimalist carbon price deal that allows Australia’s contribution to climate change to keep increasing during the most crucial of decades and beyond. Naturally, Labor and its unions are geeing up the “Say Yes” crowd. The ACTU is again in the thick of the action and, having received a

$1.12 million donation from Australia’s largest coal union in 2010, GetUp! is cheering too. There’s been a cumulative cost of up to $5 million for the omnipresent ‘independent’ commentary produced by the Garnaut Climate Change Review from 2007–11. A $12 million advertising campaign is up and running and soon the government will distribute grants of “up to $250,000 for organisations to engage with the public on the opportunities of a clean energy future”. It’s a new strategy, but the same people and money taming environmentalists into backing yet another ineffective policy.

After a decade of false starts, Gillard’s plan shows beyond doubt that the only carbon price Australia will adopt is one that largely defeats the purpose of a carbon price. The Turnbull-backed CPRS was probably the best deal negotiable between the two major parties, just as the Gillard plan is probably the best the Greens could expect from a partnership with Labor. Pricing carbon this way does not equal a clean energy future, but that will take years to dawn on many in the cheer squad. Meanwhile, perhaps the best that can be said of the Gillard package is that passing it makes room for issues that the current debate has kept off the table. With the carbon price box finally ticked, the massive expansion in Australia’s fossil-fuel emission exports will become harder to ignore. When we finally confront that issue we’ll be getting serious as a nation about a Clean Energy Future.

http://www.themonthly.com.au/australia-s-patrons-climate-change-activism-climate-movement-guy-pearse-3786

Wilderness Society greenwashes Frontier Airlines

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Wilderness Society greenwashes Frontier Airlines

Posted by Anirvan Chatterjee ? May 26, 2011 ? Leave a Comment

 

How much does greenwash cost? $350,000, max. That’s how much Frontier Airlines is contributing to the Wilderness Society. In return, the low-cost airline received widespread media coverage of its environmental commitment. The Wilderness Society followed up by emailing members on May 17, describing how “thrilled” they are to be working with “Frontier Airlines – an airline aiming to become one of America’s greenest.”

What’s wrong with this story? The Wilderness Society claims to care about climate issues, but they seem to have forgotten that aviation causes 5% of human climate impacts.

A “green” airline is like a “green” coal company; small donations don’t erase the fact that Frontier Airlines’ success comes directly at the expense of our shared global climate—and low-cost carriers like Frontier are particularly problematic.

Unhappy about the Wilderness Society’s greenwashing of dirty aviation? Let them know.

(Image credit: fotdmike at Flickr)

http://aviationjustice.org/2011/05/26/wilderness-society-greenwashes-frontier-airlines/