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EDITORIAL | The Nature of Campaigns

tcktcktck350

Above image from the 2009 TckTckTck campaign featuring partner 350.org. 

Jim Hogan, co-founder of desmogblog.com, as well as founder of the corporate communications agency ‘Hogan’, writes about the multi-million dollar worldwide campaign here. In 2013, as ecological collapse continues to accelerate, the world’s people have little to no understanding of the extensive damage this campaign actually did as the non-profit industrial complex grossly undermined the strongest positions put forward to the United Nations by the world’s smallest states. One could compare it to hammering nails in a coffin. [” The objective was to make it become a movement that consumers, advertisers and the media would use and exploit.” | Source ]You can read about it here: The Most Important COP Briefing That No One Ever Heard | Truth, Lies, Racism & Omnicide.

 

Intercontinental Cry

By Jay Taber

Mar 19, 2013

There is nothing wrong per se with campaigns, as they are part of how we manage multiple aspects of a movement over time. If we are intelligent in our analysis, campaigns are holistic and sequential, prioritizing those aspects essential to those that follow. Sometimes an unexpected window of opportunity enables us to advance on one campaign while others are backburnered.

Interactive | NGOs: Global Change Agents or Trojan Horses for Western Hegemony?

 by Glen Wright

First published Dec 8, 2012

[prezi id=’opoqxdo1ra6y’]

Walking the Talk

Editorial

Intercontinental Cry

By

Jul 9, 2012

Walking the talk of liberation news begins by not selling out our brothers and sisters. If we bankroll our media publications by running ads supporting the apartheid State of Israel, the Central Intelligence Agency, the U.S. Army, or the trafficking of women and children for prostitution, we are not promoting freedom.

We may be covering some important struggles or addressing some vital issues, but if we cannot do that without exploiting humanity, then we are merely flattering ourselves at the expense of others. Assimilationists and pious poseurs are not our brothers; they are capitalist activists furthering the mission of domination.

Competing for philanthropic political payoffs from the Ford Foundation or the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation — both of which undermine Indigenous liberation worldwide — or catering to crass commercial interests by stabbing others in the back, not only undermines solidarity, but also consolidates the criminalization of human relationships. Authentic liberation news doesn’t glorify greed, war or human exploitation to keep the doors open.

 

 

[Jay Taber is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, an author, a correspondent to Fourth World Eye, and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as the administrative director of Public Good Project.]

NGOs Spend More Than 80 Percent of Donations to Haiti

Prensa Latina

Port-au-Prince, Jun 18 (Prensa Latina)

More than 80 percents of the reconstruction donations sent to overcome the aftermath of the January 2010 massive earthquake in Haiti are drained to meet the needs of NGOs from the USA, Canada and Europe, denounces the Conference “Post-Quake Work of NGOs in Haiti”, held in Canada.

Haitian Nancy Roc refuted allegations that Haiti squanders the international relief and wondered why none such officials were invited to the event while Prof. Stephane Pallag,of Canada, urged to reformulate the aid to Haiti for it remains ineffective near three years later.

In message to the colloquy, Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe warned their presence can now be called damaging since their operations never fund state projects, hence his call to the world to review their destination.

He also warned that his government plans to urge for more transparency from the NGOs -today some 595 but the exact numbers remain shady- and to channel every relief efforts and aid reaching Haiti to state-run institutions for it is the foreign companies who are managing the donations if they ever reach Haiti.

“The government is the best suited to channel this aid as long as it meets the rigour and act as transparent as the donors demand.”

President Michel Martelly denounced last January that his government has not seen one single cent from the international reconstruction donations and just one percent the four billion USD sent for the purpose were invested in social programs, obviously frustrating reconstruction.

The independent magazine Dissident Voices also blames NGOs, private contractors and some governments for the contradictory management mechanism and corruption that turned the US Administration into the largest recipient of the relief funds for Haiti.

Just after the quake, they assigned $379 million as preliminary relief budget but sent in troops, so 33 cents in every dollar returned to the mainland to refund their salaries or pay checks.

The magazine also quotes a report from the US Congress Investigations Office on more funds sent later ($655 million) which returned to the Deparment of Defense and $220 million refund to the Health and Human Services Deparment and the United Nations confirmed that Haiti just got half the aid request in 2011 and this year just 8.5 percent of the promised aid.

Green Monopolists: Starbucks and Conservation International in Chiapas

Starbucks “Carbon-Neutral” Coffee

by Dawn Paley | Watershed Sentinel

The afternoon scene at the Jaime Sabinas sports complex in Jaltenango, a town in southern Mexico, is about the farthest thing imaginable from a bustling Seattle coffee shop. I’ve come to this mountainous region, hours by gravel road off the tourist track, to get a first hand look at what life is like for the people who grow the coffee we’re told is fair trade. After a drive through Jaltenango, a medium-sized, coffee growing town with prominent coffee warehouses decorated with Starbucks logos, I arrived at the stadium to meet a group of people displaced from their homes and plantations in September.

Over 100 people have been living in these close, cramped quarters since December. Most of the community left their lands after heavy rains caused mudslides in September, and now they sleep side by side on mats on the floor in a concrete auditorium. They’ve lived through an epidemic of lice, an outbreak of skin disease, and a series of respiratory infections.

The parking lot is the makeshift central park in this temporary village, which resembles a refugee camp. White, plastic roofed tents with blankets for walls serve as school and the kitchen. “It’s a disaster,” said one woman, one of the few who agreed to talk on the condition of anonymity. “In that damn stadium we have to sleep all squished together.”

The people living in the sports stadium seemed afraid of speaking to foreign journalists, as if the entire future of this community, known as Nuevo Colombia, depended on the kindness of the state government. They were promised permanent houses in a model village style housing block known as the Sustainable Rural City of Jaltenango. This new village, one of five of its kind in Chiapas, was supposed to be ready in February, but by July, not a single house had been constructed.

Most mornings, the men return to their small plots of land to care for their coffee plants. They sell their beans to a variety of organizations, including Mexico’s largest coffee buyer and exporter, United Agroindustrialists of Mexico (AMSA). Day to day life is precarious. Before long, I was escorted off the gated premises of the sports complex by police and private security. My first taste of what life is like for coffee growers displaced by an extreme climate event was about as pleasant as a day old cuppa joe. And it was just the beginning.

An All Time Environmental Low? Objectifying Women | Nature Conservancy Partners with Sports Illustrated

“The corporate greenie Nature Conservancy takes greenwash to an all-time low. Quite unprecedented even for an “enviro” outfit that partnered with Dow Chemical.” – Tin Alvarez, Ecological Activist, EcoJustice Pilipinas

Beaches, Babes, and Conservation: What’s Wrong With That?

2/9/2012

 by Keith Goetzman

 The Nature Conservancy is taking a new stripped-down approach to environmental protection: The green group is teaming up with the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue and online luxury retailer Gilt to raise money for beach preservation in an unholy mashup of sex, commerce, marketing, publishing, and environmentalism.

Why the green tie-in? “Because everyone benefits from pristine tropical beaches. Especially when they’re occupied by gorgeous women in bathing suits.” That’s according to promotional prose about the partnership on the Gilt website, in an announcement that is no longer posted. (Though you can still buy a $1,000 ticket to a New York launch party where you can hang out with the swimsuit supermodels.)

NGOs Receive Funds from Canadian Government & Mining Companies

 

“In the first phase of this new program, the World University Service of Canada (WUSC) has partnered Rio Tinto Alcan; Plan Canada is paired up with IAMGOLD; and World Vision Canada has joined forces with Barrick Gold. This new funding approach raises some serious ethical and political questions about the role of NGOs, and constitutes a veritable PR coup for a mining industry that has racked up quite the rap sheet of environmental and human rights abuses. “

Rights Action – January 5, 2012

NGOs receive funds from Canadian government and mining companies to legitimize and promote mining as a good form of “development”

  • World University Service of Canada (WUSC) is partnered with Rio Tinto Alcan
  • Plan Canada = IAMGOLD
  • World Vision Canada = Barrick Gold

BELOW: “FOREIGN AID TO MINING FIRMS: CIDA teams up with NGOs to do development work at mine sites”, by Gwendolyn Schulman, Roberto Nieto

RIGHTS ACTION COMMENTARY: In this way, these NGOs (non-government organizations) legitimize and promote large-scale mining as a fair and equitable “development” model – both for the multi-millionaire company directors, shareholders and other investors, and for the impoverished villagers where Canadian mining companies often operate. Moreover, the Canadian government channels public funds indirectly to Canadian mining companies, all the while legitimizing and promoting large-scale mining as a fair and equitable “development” model.

************************

DECEMBER 19, 2011

FOREIGN AID TO MINING FIRMS

CIDA teams up with NGOs to do development work at mine sites

by Gwendolyn Schulman, Roberto Nieto

http://www.dominionpaper.ca/articles/4300

In the swirl of controversy around a recent corporate shift in government aid policy, one thing is clear: the Canadian mining sector has emerged the big winner.

MONTREAL – As excavators, heavy haulers and chemical treatment plants dig made-in-Canada mines around the world, Ottawa has taken new steps to ease growing criticism of Canada’s extractive sector.

The Harper government recently announced a publicly funded agreement between three of Canada’s mining giants and three of Canada’s leading non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The agreement, which marks a significant shift in how mining and politics mix, elicited little more than a yawn from the media. But a closer look reveals this partnership is transforming Canada’s aid landscape – with disturbing implications.

“The Canadian government is using aid to support the expansion of Canadian mining…[and] to determine development paths inside countries according to the logic of mining companies,” Yao Graham of Third World Network Africa, a research and advocacy organization based in Ghana, told The Dominion. Graham has seen many communities in Africa ravaged by the exploitative labour practices and lax environmental practices that often accompany mining megaprojects.

In the first phase of this new program, the World University Service of Canada (WUSC) has partnered Rio Tinto Alcan; Plan Canada is paired up with IAMGOLD; and World Vision Canada has joined forces with Barrick Gold.

This new funding approach raises some serious ethical and political questions about the role of NGOs, and constitutes a veritable PR coup for a mining industry that has racked up quite the rap sheet of environmental and human rights abuses.

In the swirl of controversy around a recent corporate shift in government aid policy, one thing is clear: the Canadian mining sector has emerged the big winner. illustration by Ben Clarkson

Critics argue that under this new dispensation, industry can counter resistance to its activities by claiming that its presence has brought development to impoverished communities. Cash-strapped NGOs, in an era of shrinking government funding for international development, have found a funding niche. Last but not least, the Canadian government is able to deflect demands for more stringent – and potentially profit-damaging – controls over one of its most lucrative industries.

In the past, while NGOs were bound by financial ties to the state, they still had some nominal autonomy to bear witness to that abuse. Now, they are increasingly tied to government funds earmarked to further Canada’s mining interests, topped up by money from the mining industry itself.

“When a mine goes in, there is a development deficit created immediately because there are impacts that can last literally thousands of years on water, on land, on the air,” said Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada. “And these impacts can be devastating. It can mean that people literally have to leave that area and live somewhere else because they can’t live there anymore.”

Coumans, who has kept a watchful eye on this evolving relationship, argues that whatever project an NGO gets up and running in one of these mining communities cannot even begin to redress the damage caused by the mining company’s presence there. She calls the NGO presence at mining sites “a Band-Aid on a gaping wound.”

Chris Eaton, the Executive Director of WUSC, sees things differently. He argues that this closer working relationship between NGOs and the mining sector will be an opportunity for organizations like WUSC to “nudge along good practice.” He is confident that WUSC’s role in building the capacity of local government to engage with mining companies will reap greater benefits for local people.

Plan Canada, another beneficiary under the new government initiative, did not return our calls. Plan Canada will receive $5.7 million from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) to fund activities relating to IAMGOLD’s mining activities in 13 communities in Burkina Faso.

Plan Canada could be in for a rough ride. Last May, IAMGOLD had to close down operations at its Essakane mine in Burkina Faso due to labour unrest. The company’s CEO, Steve Letwin, warned that he would not tolerate an “illegal” strike “and as they will find out, will not tolerate anything that has a negative impact on our stakeholders.”

Given Plan Canada’s stated commitment to “work in the best interests of children and the communities in which we work” will they be prepared to risk their multi-million dollar funding to speak out in protection of their “stakeholders” – namely the communities in which they work – should labour unrest become an issue there?

For the Canadian government, this new troika is simply the latest step in a long process of prying open the door on the planet’s mineral wealth to the benefit of the extractive industry. The last decade saw the Canadian government provide technical and financial support to create industry-friendly mining codes around the world. The Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability documented how government initiatives in Colombia and Tanzania have translated into weaker environmental and social safeguards, reduced royalties for the host countries and new tax holidays.

Canadian cash, technocrats and know-how have also been involved in rewriting mining codes in Malawi, Ghana, Mali and the Democratic Republic of Congo (with, in this last case, civil war as a backdrop). All this has led to rising profits for Canadian companies and dwindling revenues for host countries.

Now that many official hurdles to access to overseas mineral wealth have come down, the government has turned its attention to partnering NGOs with mining firms. At the local level, this kind of agreement is cause for suspicion.

The Canadian government is turning its back on a deeper examination of the structural problems in the relationship between First World mining firms and Third World resources, says Third World Network’s Graham, instead opting for what he calls a “palliative” approach. “It’s a way of sidestepping the need for companies to pay more revenue because they can say, ‘We are doing so much for the community. Why do we have to put more into the central treasury?'”

The mining industry’s dismal reputation is its Achilles heel. Concern about its poor track record overseas is growing – even the mainstream is starting to take note.

Despite the clarion call from Canadians to put guidelines and mechanisms in place to keep the industry in check, the government has opted for optics instead. “The Canadian government is very anxious about the reputation of mining companies and instead of accountability, it is putting money into projects that show that mining leads to development,” said Coumans. In her view, it is now taxpayers that are footing the bill to polish a tarnished corporate image.

“CIDA has always worked government-to-government,” said Coumans. “Now what CIDA is doing is channelling Canadian taxpayer money directly to the mine site and basically paying for corporate social responsibility projects, and that is very bizarre.”

MONEY IN MINING

WUSC = Rio Tinto Alcan project

  • Total budget: $928,000 over 3 years
  • CIDA: $500,000
  • WUSC/Rio Tinto Alcan: $428,000
  • Rio Tinto net profit in 2010: $726,000,000

Plan Canada = IAMGOLD project

  • Total budget: $7.6 million over 5.5 years
  • CIDA: $5.7 million
  • Plan Canada: $0.9 million
  • IAMGOLD: $1 million
  • IAMGOLD gross profit in 2010: $597,000,000

World Vision = Barrick Gold project

  • Total budget: $1 million over 3.5 years
  • CIDA: $500,000
  • World Vision/Barrick Gold: $500,000
  • Barrick Gold net profit in 2010: $3,279,000,000

Source: Canadian International Development Agency, Sedar.com

***

Eaton insists that WUSC’s work is about community empowerment, not corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects. “I don’t think the government should be funding NGOs to do the CSR of mining firms, and I don’t see ourselves doing that in the context of this initiative,” he said.

In the swirl of controversy around this corporate shift in government aid policy, one thing is clear: the Canadian mining sector has emerged the big winner.

Last year the Canadian mining sector led a successful lobby effort to defeat Bill C-300, the Bill that would have seen the introduction of minor controls on the unregulated overseas activities of Canada’s mining industry.

Now, this same powerful sector has access to even more government funds as well as NGO know-how to help revamp its public image. Little wonder the Mining Association of Canada recently issued a press release encouraging the federal government to continue its support for Canada’s CSR Strategy. It knows a good thing when it sees it.

Roberto Nieto is a Montreal-based independent journalist and activist who has worked for unions, and as an organizer in support of migrant workers. He is a regular contributor to Amandla!, Canada’s longest running African current affairs radio show. Gwendolyn Schulman is co-founder and co-host of Amandla!

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Kenya’s Samburu People ‘Violently Evicted’ after US Charities (Nature Conservancy & African Wildlife Foundation) Buy Land

Around 2,000 Samburu families have stayed squatting on edge of disputed territory, says NGO Survival International

“Members of the Samburu people in Kenya have been abused, beaten and raped by police after the land they lived on for two decades was sold to two US-based wildlife charities, a rights group and community leader have alleged. … The London-based NGO Survival International said the Samburu were evicted following the purchase of the land by two American-based charities, the Nature Conservancy and the African Wildlife Foundation. The groups subsequently gifted the land to Kenya for a national park, to be called Laikipia National Park.”

The pastoralist Samburu have reported constant harassment from police with women allegedly raped and animals seized. Photograph: Zhao Yingquan/Xinhua

Members of the Samburu people in Kenya have been abused, beaten and raped by police after the land they lived on for two decades was sold to two US-based wildlife charities, a rights group and community leader have alleged.

The dispute centres on Eland Downs in Laikipia, a lush area near Mount Kenya. At least three people are said to have died during the row, including a child who was eaten by a lion after the Samburu were violently evicted in November last year.

The London-based NGO Survival International said the Samburu were evicted following the purchase of the land by two American-based charities, the Nature Conservancy and the African Wildlife Foundation.

The groups subsequently gifted the land to Kenya for a national park, to be called Laikipia National Park.

Survival International said the land was officially owned by former president Daniel arap Moi, although AWF simply said it bought it from a private landowner.

With nowhere to go, around 2,000 Samburu families stayed on the edge of the disputed territory, living in makeshift squats, while 1,000 others were forced to relocate, Survival said.

Jo Woodman, a campaigner for Survival, said the pastoralist Samburu had reported constant harassment from police with women allegedly raped, animals seized and an elder shot as recently as last month.

“There has been an ongoing, constant level of fear, intimidation and violence towards the community, which has been devastating,” Woodman said.

A community leader, who did not wish to be named, described police harassment as enormous. He said police beat people, burned manyattas or traditional homesteads and carried out arbitrary arrests during the period leading up to and including the eviction last year. He said they also confiscated many animals and the intimidation has continued.

“The situation has been really bad for a long time,” he said. “[The Samburu] have nothing. Things like bedding and utensils were burned.”

Kenyan police were not available on Wednesday to comment on the allegations.

Survival has written to the UN appealing for urgent action to put an end to the violence and provide assistance to the Samburu, who have gone to court to establish their right to the land.

“In one incident, a Samburu elder was shot dead by paramilitaries,” the group said in its letter to the UN committee on the elimination of racial discrimination, dated 7 December.

“The displaced community has nothing but their livestock, thousands of which were impounded – with no reason given – on 25 November 2011. This is an urgent and serious violation of the rights of this community, which has been left squatting beside its land with no amenities,” Survival’s letter said.

The two conservation groups gifted the 17,100 acres to Kenya’s government in November to create a national park to be run by the Kenya Wildlife Service.

However, since then a court has banned the KWS from proceeding with the conservation project until a ruling on the Samburus’ legal case.

Both US-based charities indicated they were watching the situation with concern but were unable to comment for legal reasons.

John Butler, director of marketing for the AWF, said: “The African Wildlife Foundation does not condone violence. AWF has a longstanding history of working closely with local communities to ensure that conservation solutions benefit both people and wildlife. Unfortunately, we cannot comment at length on this issue due to a pending court case in Kenya.”

Blythe Thomas, a spokeswoman for the Nature Conservancy, said: “The conflict over natural resources across Africa is a serious issue. Everywhere we work in Africa, we’re working with local communities to address natural resource issues. We’re closely monitoring this situation; unfortunately we can’t comment at length due to a pending court case in Kenya.”

Kenya has a history of land-grabbing by senior government officials, particularly during Daniel arap Moi’s time in power. Land disputes are common as legal documents of ownership are often missing or have been forged.

A request for comment from Kenya’s Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife went unanswered. However the minister, Dr Noah Wekesa, was quoted as telling parliament last month that KWS had ceased all activity on the land, which would not be gazetted as a national park until the other legal case was resolved.

The Samburu’s legal case was heard in the town of Nyeri on Wednesday and lawyer Korir Sing’Oei said the court confirmed that the KWS had secured registration of the land.

“The court has turned a blind eye to the pleas of the Samburu community and allowed these illegalities to subsist,” he said. “The transfer [of the land to the KWS] is totally unlawful and it’s in flagrant violation of the interests of the Samburu community.”

The court had agreed to give further direction on the matter in January.

Korir Sing’Oei said he intended to address the violations of rights in a separate case.

“Last year, when the community was forcefully evicted from the land … their homes were burnt down and livestock confiscated in their hundreds and lots of their women were violated,” he said.

“Given the powerful actors who have vested interests in the land, this issue has been really hushed up in the local media,” he added.

The lawyer said the evicted Samburu had no intention of leaving Laikipia, a popular destination for wildlife-loving tourists and the area where Prince William proposed to Kate Middleton in a rustic lodge.

“Where would they go to? They have absolutely nowhere else to go,” he said.

The community elder said running away was not an option.

“That’s the place you call your home … it’s where you were brought up and where your children call home. It’s an ancestral land.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/dec/14/kenya-samburu-people-evicted-land

WWF Denies Palm Oil is the Problem, then Counts the Cash

November 23rd, 2011

The Unsuitablog

It seems there is no depth to which the corporate world’s own favourite NGO, WWF, will not sink. An article in this week’s Guardian was happy to give WWF some free publicity, implying that the group actually give a stuff about the wildlife they were apparently set up to protect (or simply to ensure there is enough to shoot, as some sources suggest). The Palm Oil industry is growing month on month as new swathes of rainforest and other critical habitat are razed to the ground. According to Rainforest Action Network:

Approximately 85 percent of palm oil is grown in the tropical countries of Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea (PNG) on industrial plantations[3] that have severe impacts on the environment, forest peoples and the climate.

The Indonesian government has announced plans to convert approximately 18 million more hectares of rainforests, an area the size of Missouri, into palm oil plantations by 2020

This is just on current growth in demand, but just you wait what happens when conventional oil supplies start drying up and biofuel demand starts shooting through the roof. No more rainforests.

So, what do WWF think of the palm oil situation?

Palm oil itself is not the issue,” [Adam] Harrison [of WWF] noted. “The problem is how and where palm oil is produced.

Oh, I see. What he is saying is that we can have as much palm oil as we like so long as it’s produced in the right way. Let’s put that into context by quoting from the article some more:

The WWF’s Palm Oil Buyers’ Scorecard, published on Tuesday, rates 132 mainly European companies, 29 of which received full marks, including 15 from UK such as Cadbury, Boots and Waitrose. No company achieved that level in the last scorecard report in 2009. At the bottom of the 2011 list are big retailers like Aldi, Lidl and Edeka from Germany, who refused to answer any questions about their palm oil policies.

“In the UK in particular we see progress,” said Adam Harrison, palm oil expert at WWF UK. “Due to several campaigns highlighting the damage caused by the rapid spread of palm plantations, companies see they are under pressure and respond.”

But he added: “Although there has been some progress on sustainable palm oil, new commitments are simply not translating fast enough into increased use of certified sustainable palm oil.” The report gives Unilever, the world’s biggest buyer of palm oil, 8 out of a possible 9.

Some companies bad, some companies good, apparently. Unilever are the world’s largest processors of palm oil, so that should instantly put them near the front of the queue for criticism, after all if the companies didn’t put palm oil into their products then it wouldn’t be used, as was the case as little as 10 years ago when “vegetable oil” meant all sorts of different oils that invariably didn’t contribute to the removal of vast areas of rainforest. So how do WWF justify giving a company like Unilever such a brilliant score?

The Palm Oil Buyers’ Scorecard 2011 measures the performance of more than 130 major retailers and consumer goods manufacturers against four areas which WWF
believes show whether or not these companies are acting responsibly in terms of palm oil use and sourcing:

• Being an active member of the RSPO;
• Making a public commitment to RSPO-certified sustainable palm oil;
• Disclosing how much palm oil they use;
• Showing how much of the palm oil they use is CSPO or is supporting sustainable production.

Let’s break that down a bit:

Being an active member of the RSPO;

The RSPO were founded by a band of palm oil growers, processing giants and WWF. According to WWF’s definition of “sustainable palm oil” the RSPO is the only organisation that has any credence; just like with “sustainable” timber WWF ignores, and positively campaigns against, any certifier other than FSC. WWF’s investment arm is raking in billions of dollars (I have been told this could be in the range of $60 billion for just one standards-based scheme in the Amazon) from the various schemes it oversees and then takes a cut from. The RSPO is just another such scheme: if WWF can convince everyone that this burgeoning market can be made “sustainable” then the potential from their founder member status for making money is enormous.

Making a public commitment to RSPO-certified sustainable palm oil;

The public commitment, along with the branding on products as strongly suggested by WWF, provides further credibility for this pork barrel scheme. No other certification counts, even if the palm oil was produced in an area that always contained oil palm.

Disclosing how much palm oil they use;

This serves to show the extent to which RSPO is cornering the palm oil market. Not just that, the relationship between RSPO members and WWF is a circular one; according to RSPO:

By joining the RSPO, organizations publicly communicate their commitment to sustainable palm oil production and use as well as to raise their reputation as a pro-active, solution-oriented and socially responsible organization. Ordinary Members have the right to vote at the General Assembly and can be elected to represent the relevant sector in the Executive Board by the category in question. They can have access to all materials produced by RSPO for its members, through the RSPO website and newsletter. Ordinary Members have a say in the development of criteria for sustainable palm oil production. They also have the opportunity to network with other companies in the palm oil value chain that share their values. By demonstrating their efforts towards sustainable palm oil, they can thereby improve their access to markets and investment sources.

Become a member, especially a large-scale member, and you can even change the meaning of the word “sustainable”. More importantly, you have access to all that filthy lucre. WWF, of course, get a cut of that filthy lucre.

Showing how much of the palm oil they use is CSPO or is supporting sustainable production.

CSPO means Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (a.k.a. RSPO Certified Palm Oil). Simply put, the more RSPO palm oil you use, the better your score. No matter that the members of the RSPO can manipulate the certification to suit the industry and it is in WWF’s interest to keep the biggest members on the table to ensure the RSPO monopoly is retained. As reported by Rebecca Zhou:

WWF’s Global Forest and Trade Manager Lydia Gaskell says that companies wanting to be certified are given action plans and targets according to ‘the size of the company and how sustainable they are.’

“To take a company off certification for failing to meet standards and criteria is at the very least, impractical,” said Gaskell. “There would be no need for the RSPO if everyone was meeting those principles and standards from day one.”

What really shouts out, though, is the text from WWF’s own report, which demonstrates in black and white how much value they really give to a sustainable future as compared to one in which industry holds sway over everything. They do not recommend stopping the industrial use of palm oil; instead they look forward to a thriving palm oil future. I recommend a strong stomach if you are to read the following slice of corporate-friendly PR (the emphasis of doublespeak and greenwash is mine) – after which I feel only 5 more words are necessary:

Oil palm yields more oil per hectare of land than any other crop in the world. That is one of the reasons why palm oil makes up more or less a third of the 151 million tonnes of vegetable oil produced worldwide. Its wide availability and low price combined with certain unique characteristics means that it is used in many packaged food and personal care products that line supermarket shelves. Ice cream, margarine, biscuits, cakes, breakfast cereals, soup stock cubes, snacks, ready meals, instant noodles, shampoos, soaps, lipsticks, candles and washing-up liquids—all of these items often contain palm oil that was produced in tropical countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia.

And palm oil is here to stay. Demand is expected to reach 77 million tonnes in 2050 to help feed the world’s growing population and the increased affluence of emerging economies like China and India. And its use may possibly grow even more if demand increases for palm oil as a biofuel.

The thriving palm oil industry also contributes significantly to the well-being of producer countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea, and increasingly in the palm oil frontiers of Africa and Latin America. In these countries and regions, the palm oil sector can create employment that helps to lift rural people out of poverty.

Established brands such as ASDA , Carrefour, IKEA, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco, that are relatively large users of palm oil (using tens of thousands of tonnes each year) have progressed very well. Medium-sized users such as Co-op Switzerland, Co-operative Group UK, ICA, Marks & Spencer, Migros, Royal Ahold and Waitrose, have also performed well in their size class. Among the small palm oil volume retailers, Axfood, The Body Shop and the Boots Group are ahead of the curve.

There is a second group of retailers that are at the start of their journey and that WWF expects to do better in future Scorecards. These include Casino, Coles Supermarkets, Delhaize Group, E.Leclerc, Kesko Food, Metcash Trading, REWE Group, the SOK Group and Woolworths.

Unfortunately there is still a large number of companies that are not yet performing as well as they should, and certainly not as well as the Scorecard’s leading companies show is possible.

Disappointingly, 12 out of the 44 retailers scored have still not joined the RSPO, a very basic first step in taking responsibility for the palm oil they use.

…and benefiting WWF’s financial performance.

http://thesietch.org/mysietch/keith/2011/11/23/wwf-denies-palm-oil-is-the-problem-then-counts-the-cash/

The Commodification of Tim DeChristopher

The Commodification of Tim DeChristopher

The Commodification of Tim DeChristopher

by Gregory Vickrey

Tim DeChristopher, otherwise known as “Bidder 70” and any number of other marketable terms, was recently sentenced to two years in prison and required to pay a large sum in fines as retribution for his actions at an auction for 130,000 or so acres of land in Utah slated as near give-aways to oil and gas conglomerates.

Tim DeChristopher, in his own words, acknowledges quite specifically the reasons for his actions, and what he would like climate activists to do to support him and his effort that day in the auction house. It is essentially a two-word suggestion: join him.

Tim stood up that day to disrupt the system. Not to rant at it. Not to wave signs at it. Not to sing songs in front of a static building waiting for the police to politely escort him away.

Tim stood up that day to disrupt the system.

And prior to, during, and after the sentencing of Tim DeChristopher, what pitifully stands for a climate movement today did one thing in response. It commodified Tim DeChristopher, morphing him into nothing more than a cheerleader for various parades in front of the White House in DC; a fundraising campaign for those that seek to exploit the passion of those that care about the state of the world; a symbol for the cautious and weak approach to civil disobedience that always allows for a pat on the back, but never makes a dent in the system.

This is not new.

The commodification of real and actual heroes occurs on a regular basis in the environmental and civil justice movements. One can look to The Nature Conservancy, Alaska Wilderness League, Trout Unlimited, and The Wilderness Society and watch as they sketch plans to exploit Native Alaska communities (heroes) in order to produce nominal results in DC, all the while raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars from corporate foundations and unknowing supporters and members.

Al Gore did it and continues to do it through the various incarnations of Re-Power America (has or had at least three other names, to date) by lifting up the home-grown hero who managed to put up a windmill in one rural backyard or another – all the while ignoring just how dirty his hands are from the sweatshops throughout Southeast Asia that have an Apple stamped on their product.

One can also look at all the fundraising and email pleas and letter writing campaigns for Bradley Manning, and how much traction those efforts have maintained. They raised money, sure. They generated letters, yes. And then what?

They moved on.

To the next protest.

The next big thing.

The coolest fad in print.

The next commodifiable hero.

Tim DeChristopher has not moved. He is still in jail.

Native Alaskans have not moved. Their way of life is still being raped and pillaged.

Bradley Manning has not moved. He is still in solitary.

Martin. Malcolm. Che.

Tim.

One can not really call him DeChristopher anymore. He is McChristopher ™ – commodified for the whorish efforts – fundraising and otherwise — of the greenwashing cabal, led by 350.org, Greenpeace, Global Exchange, Progressive Democrats of America, Rainforest Action Network (RAN)…

Tim.

Did they avail him a contract before placing the Ronald suit on him?

Tim.

Organizations, environmental or otherwise, should have focused on the action of disruption Tim employed, and called upon their minions to repeat it in substance and form. For example, activist Keith Farnish raised this with 350.org, suggesting they simply utilize their massive resources to post and share information on upcoming lease and land auctions, encouraging their thousands of supporters to jump in. Creativity, of course, can take the activists elsewhere, and into other disruptive realms. But this simple mechanism employs what Tim bravely did, en masse.

Of course, 350.org ignores this sort of potential. As does RAN. As does Greenpeace. As does any organization mentioned above (implicitly or explicitly), and then some. They prefer sanitized ‘action’ and fundraising campaigns – emotional appeals and sign-holding over disruption of the actual system. As they operate colloquially within the system, and directly benefit from it with foundational riches galore, one should not really expect them to powerfully respond to Tim’s call.

It is simply a matter of perpetuating the self for these entities.

September and October of 2011 include plans to prop up various heroes through the mechanism of commodification for several causes, marches, protests, and vigils. Old tactics to raise money and attention will be employed on the backs of these individual acts of strength with only the occasional symbolic gesture to disrupt the system in coordinated fashion. An insignificant number of arrests will be arranged. “Success” will be re-defined and diluted again, and again, and again.

And no one will have the guts to stand up and say, “Sorry, Tim. We are too afraid, too comfortable, and too embedded to join you.”

Sorry, Tim.

Gregory Vickrey is a consultant in the nonprofit and political arenas and may be reached at gregory.