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Capitalising on Crisis: Extinction Rebellion and the Green New Deal for Capitalism

Capitalising on Crisis: Extinction Rebellion and the Green New Deal for Capitalism

Architects for Social Housing

October 10, 2019

By Simon Elmer

 

“‘Hey Pal! How do I get to town from here?’ And he said: ‘Well, just take a right where they’re gonna build that new shopping mall, go straight past where they’re gonna put in the freeway, take a left at what’s gonna be the new sports centre, and keep going until you hit the place where they’re thinking of building that drive-in bank. You can’t miss it.’ And I said: ‘This must be the place.’”

 

— Laurie Anderson

 

‘The climate crisis is a life-threatening symptom. But it is only a symptom. The disease is capitalism.’

 

— Maria Kadoglou

 

Extinction rebellion

Solutions to the Climate Emergency

One of ASH’s working principles is that the wrong solution to a problem is not ‘better than nothing’, as we are inevitably told by those proposing it; it is, in practice, worse than nothing. Not only does it consume funding, energy, time, political will and other resources that could and should be put towards the right solution, but the wrong solution deceives the public into believing that the correct solution has been found. How long did it take the public — and not just housing campaigners — to learn that ‘affordable housing’ was a euphemism for demolishing social housing and replacing it with a hodge-podge of shared-ownership scams, rent-to-buy products and higher rents with reduced rights? And even after 20 years of demolition, social cleansing and privatisation, politicians from all political parties are still able to argue that estate ‘regeneration’ is the answer to our crisis of housing affordability. Imagine what could have been achieved with the vast sums of public money thrown at subsidising affordable housing and market-sale properties at the point of both production and consumption. Enough, surely, to have refurbished every estate in England and Wales up to the Decent Homes Standard. Enough, perhaps, to have built however many new homes for social rent for which there is such overwhelming housing need. Instead, the enormous profits made by developers, builders, housing associations and investors have been publicly funded with Right to Buy, Help to Buy, Buy to Let, Affordable Housing subsidies and the privatisation of huge swathes of council- and government-owned land in the UK. So how do they get away with it?

The answer to that question is: the same way the propagandists of Neo-liberalism have got away with ten years of fiscal austerity that has cut public spending and workers’ wages while overseeing the exponential rise in the wealth of the richest. Or the same way we have committed to a never-ending War on Terror that has made the British people the legitimate target of terrorists for generations to come. They did it by declaring a ‘crisis’. Whether it’s the security crisis kicked off by the attack on the World Trade Centre in 2001; or the sub-prime mortgage crisis in which 6 million people lost their houses in the USA alone; or the subsequent financial crisis in which UK banks were bailed out by the British taxpayer to the sum of £850 billion; or the housing crisis that ensued as global capital looked for a secure commodity in which to invest its profits: the discourse of crisis, of declarations of emergency, are always employed to push through increasingly repressive measures against the very people it is claiming to save while increasing the power and profits of the institutions and corporations nominated to impose them. We’re seeing the same thing happening right now with the increased surveillance, stop-and-search powers and punitive measures granted to the police and law courts in response to the ‘crisis’ of knife crime in the capital, while leaving the economic and social causes of that crime untouched.

So why should we expect anything different from the environmental crisis? Over the past year we’ve seen the rise of Extinction Rebellion, whose calls to declare a ‘Climate Emergency’ have been adopted by Parliament if not yet by Government, by the Greater London Authority, by councils across London, and by architects across the UK. However, of the more than 600 architectural practices that have signed up to the recent manifesto, UK Architects Declare Climate and Biodiversity Emergency, many of the largest and most influential companies continue to promote, implement and financially profit from the estate demolition programme, including many of the founding signatories:

  • Adam Khan (Tower Court and Marian Court)

  • Alison Brooks (South Kilburn and South Acton estates)

  • Allies and Morrison (Heygate, Gascoigne, Acton Gardens and West Hendon estates)

  • David Chipperfield (Colville estate)

  • dRMM (Heygate estate)

  • Hawkins\Brown (Agar Grove, Bridge House, Aylesbury and Alton estates)

  • Haworth Tompkins (Robin Hood Gardens estate)

  • HTA Design (Ferrier, South Acton, Waltham Forest, Kender, Aylesbury, Ebury Bridge, Ravensbury, New Avenue and Clapham Park estates)

  • Levitt Bernstein (Aylesbury, Eastfields, Winstanley, York Road and Rayners Lane estates)

  • Maccreanor Lavington (Heygate and Alma estates)

  • Mae (Knight’s Walk, Agar Grove and Aylesbury estates)

  • Metropolitan Workshop (Leopold and Robin Hood Gardens estates)

  • Mikhail Riches (Goldsmith Street)

  • Pollard Thomas Edwards (Lefevre Walk, Packington, Alma, Thames View East and South Lambeth estates)

  • PRP (Crossways, Myatts Field North, Mardyke, Haggerston, Kingsland, Portobello Square and Central Hill estates)

  • Studio Egret West (Ferrier and Love Lane estates)
  • That’s just on the estate redevelopment schemes we’re aware of, and doesn’t include the deposit boxes for money laundering being designed along the Thames by such corporate architects as Foster + Partners, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and Zaha Hadid Architects. The only major estate-demolishing architectural practice notable by its absence from this list is Karakusevic Carson (Claredale, King’s Crescent, Bacton, Colville, Alma, Nightingale, Fenwick, St. Raphael, Joyce Avenue and Snell’s Park estates). Quite apart from the tens of thousands of residents socially cleansed from their homes by these and other schemes, it beggars belief that this catalogue of architectural practices colluding in the estate demolition programme are now trying to pass themselves off as defenders of our environment. Or rather, it would be if it wasn’t so glaringly apparent that this collective call for a ‘paradigm shift’ in the ‘behaviour’ of UK architects is a cynical example of ‘green-washing’.

    It’s no surprise, therefore, that the only mention in this manifesto about the environmental cost of demolition is watered down with the same get-out clause used on the 2017 Architects Code to ‘advise your client how best to conserve and enhance the quality of the environment and its natural resources . . . where appropriate.’ Although now declaring their intent to ‘upgrade existing buildings for extended use as a more carbon efficient alternative to demolition and new build’, this is immediately qualified by the tacked-on caveat: ‘whenever there is a viable choice’. In this context, ‘viable’ means ‘financially viable’, which means after the developer has taken their 20-25 per cent profit according to a viability assessment produced by them that is not available for public scrutiny under the get-out clause of ‘commercial confidentiality’. Once again, therefore, the environment is being subordinated to the profit margins of developers and investors, in which it represents a slice of expenditure in capitalism’s pie.

    All this accords with Extinction Rebellion’s trenchant refusal to identify capitalism as the primary cause of our environmental situation. In the more than 5,000 words its website devotes to explaining ‘The Truth’ about climate change, not a single one of those words, incredibly, is ‘capitalism’. Despite the fact that, by its own admission, half of carbon dioxide emissions since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution around 1750 have been released since 1988, Extinction Rebellion has instead found a new culprit in the fashionable term ‘anthropocene’, which attributes the globe’s recent and rapidly increasing species extinction and climate change to the humanist, anthropological and a-historical abstraction called ‘man’. But then the leadership of Extinction Rebellion is composed of directors of non-governmental organisations and lobbyists for multinational energy companies, whose promotion of a ‘Green New Deal’ for capitalism — carefully erased of any reference to socialism — has been readily adopted by the Labour Party. Indeed, the Green New Deal’s 20,000-word report, published this October, on their proposed Decarbonisation and Economic Strategy Bill mentions ‘capitalism’ only once, and even then qualifies it with the word ‘financialised’, as if the two can be separated. It’s not surprising, therefore, that the architects of ‘green architecture’, employed by the same political party to demolish around 190 council estates in London alone and replace them with supposedly ‘carbon-neutral’ properties for investment by global capital, find common ground with this recourse to that old chimera of liberals that many point to but few have seen: capitalism with a human face.

    One of the more cynical examples of the building industry capitalising on the ‘climate emergency’ is councils and other registered providers of social housing quoting the lower thermal performance of post-war estates when compared to new-build housing in order to justify demolishing the former, while ignoring the carbon cost of demolition. This is exactly what Leeds City council tried to do with the council homes on Wordsworth Drive and Sugar Hill Close, and the Cambridge Housing Society is doing to push through its plans to redevelop the Montreal Square estate; and yet neither local authority nor housing association has produced an impact assessment of the huge environmental costs of demolishing, removing, disposing of and replacing these perfectly serviceable homes.

    In contrast to this manipulative discourse of ‘crisis’ that seeks to retain and strengthen capitalism’s iron grip on the world, ASH proposes principles and practices of a socialist architecture that intervene in, oppose and propose alternatives to the capitalist cycle of production, distribution, exchange and consumption. It is within this economic cycle — which from an environmental perspective is the unsustainable cycle of extraction, construction, demolition and disposal — that the development process is entrenched by current housing legislation, policy and funding. Confronted with the ruinous and catastrophic consequences of this cycle — which began with the industrial revolution but continues to increase exponentially with the hegemony of global capitalism — promotions of a ‘green industrial revolution’ and the implementation of ‘green architecture’ are little more than window dressing to more false solutions in the service of expanded markets, corporate competition and the increasingly militarised struggle for dwindling natural resources.

    Rather than declarations of ‘climate emergency’ that serve to push through new capitalisations on the environmental crisis on a wave of orchestrated public feeling that silences public scrutiny under the newly imposed orthodoxies of climate activism, what we need is to remove all housing provision from the capitalist cycle of production. Within this cycle, the environment is accorded no more than a slice of the financial pie that is spent on the false solutions of so-called ‘green architecture’, in the same way that the social dimension of architecture is discharged by a portion of funding spent on the equally false solution of so-called ‘affordable housing’. But the environmental dimension of architecture, like its social, economic and political dimension, is not a component of a whole that is always, in current practice, subordinated to the profit margins of landlords, developers and investors. Rather, each dimension constitutes that whole — which today is that of an inhabitable planet. However much capitalism tries to separate them into portions of a financial viability assessment, in our social practice, in our economic growth, in our political policies, and in the environmental consequences these will have for us, they are indivisible. The answers to the planet’s climate change and species extinction cannot be separated from the social, economic and political system that is causing them. Any proposed solution that does not clearly identify global capitalism as their cause is the wrong solution.

    Forever in our Minds

    One of the lessons that emerged from the Grenfell Tower fire is that, following the Climate Change Act 2008, the retrofitting of social housing tower blocks with highly flammable, aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding systems like the one that caused the deaths of 72 people was widespread, and included at least 430 public-sector, high-rise residential buildings. Not only that, but over 320 private-sector, high-rise housing blocks had also been retrofitted with cladding. And that’s just the tower blocks, and the ones with ACM cladding systems similar to that on the Grenfell Tower. The total number of buildings in England and Wales that have been retrofitted with some form of cladding system is unknown, or at least not made public, but could run into the thousands, with one estimate that nearly 1,700 high-rise or high-risk buildings have been clad with combustible non-ACM materials.

    Why? Why was this vast programme of retrofitting carried out? The justification was that it would improve the thermal performance of these buildings, reduce the energy use of their occupants and residents, and therefore lower the carbon emissions from the functioning of these buildings, bringing them closer to the thermal performance of new buildings. In fact, from reading the planning application and other documents relating to the cladding of Grenfell Tower, the cladding was primarily cosmetic, on a tower that the council had originally decided to demolish and redevelop. However, after Kensington and Chelsea failed to find a private development partner following the financial crisis, it instead voted to cover Grenfell Tower explicitly in order to ameliorate the negative effect that post-war reinforced concrete council housing has on the latent value uplift in the land, and therefore on the property values of the high-cost market-sale houses the council planned to build in the surrounding area.

    It would be precipitous to generalise from this individual example of the Grenfell Tower refurbishment to every other cladding retrofit in England and Wales, even on the numerous council housing point blocks; but to accept the official reason for this programme at face value would be extraordinarily naive. More than that, it would be to close our eyes to the political dimension of housing in this country, the ongoing process of its demolition and privatisation, and the role of global investment in financing this process.

    But the other answer to this question of why so many buildings were retrofitted with cladding is: because of extensive and ongoing lobbying of government departments and ministers by the peddlers of so-called ‘green’ architecture, ‘green’ finance, ‘green’ industry and ‘green’ technology by multinational corporations, non-governmental organisations, think-tanks, developers, builders, estate agents, sub-contractors and manufacturers — by, in other words, the entire building industry and its associated hangers-on of financiers, investors and profiteers looking to capitalise on the climate crisis.

    The immediate result of this is that we now have around 24,800 homes in high-rise blocks that we know of, and probably far more, that are covered in ACM flammable cladding systems that circumvents the fire-safety of these buildings, that the owners of the buildings are refusing to pick up the bill for removing and replacing, that are putting the lives of over 60,000 residents at risk, that the government that privatised housing provision and deregulated building control, and that the councils that handed out the development contracts to the private development and management companies and stock-transferred the estates to housing associations, has turned its back on.

    This is all a matter of fact, established by the benefit of hindsight following the public attention on the disaster of the Grenfell Tower fire. Without that attention, few of us would be aware of this programme, or of the threat it presents to the safety of the thousands of residents living in buildings clad in flammable materials ostensibly applied to improve their thermal performance. And yet, when — with those responsible for the Grenfell Tower fire still not arrested let alone charged, when the public inquiry is not even addressing government responsibility for this programme of retrofitting, and when the police investigation into its causes is set to take at least another two years — some of us dare to voice our doubts about the same lobbyists, the same NGOs, the same think-tanks, the same companies and the same political parties now calling for a Green New Deal, a Green Industrial Revolution, ‘green’ architecture, ‘green’ finance and ‘green’ growth under a ‘green’ capitalism promoted by a sixteen year-old girl sailing round the world in a ‘green’ yacht, we are denounced and trolled as sexist, misogynist, anti-autistic, ageist, sectarian climate-change deniers — and all the other idiotic insults with which the blindly faithful respond to challenges to their beliefs.

    It does seem, contrary to the judgement of Abraham Lincoln, that you really can fool all the people all the time; but you’ll excuse those of us who would rather not be one of them if we retain our faculty for critical thinking, continue to be suspicious of everything politicians tell us, question what ends the spectacle of street protest is serving, and interrogate every solution proposed by capitalism to solve the latest crisis served up for public consumption. Grenfell should remain forever not just in our hearts, but also in our minds.

    Big Science

    One of the catchphrases repeated by Greta Thunberg is ‘Listen to the science!’ This is directed at politicians, above all, and is intended to oppose the truth of science to the lies of politics. However, science has always been linked to, and for over a century has been indivisible from, political power. The US military, in addition to being one of the greatest producers of carbon emissions in the world, is also one of the greatest funders and controllers of scientific research. Security services implementing ever more intrusive regimes of surveillance and policing both at home and abroad are another source of both funding and technological innovation, including artificial intelligence and robotics. And, of course, the extraction of resources and mechanisation of production by capitalisation is another driver, funder and user of the ‘truth’ of scientific research. Scientific truth, in other words, is profoundly political, and to assert otherwise is itself a political attempt to depoliticise the financial framework of scientific funding and the military, security and industrial uses of scientific research and its technological applications.

    This is most obviously the case when we ask to whose science Greta Thunberg is demanding we listen. The social scientists behind the orthodoxies of non-violent social change being imposed on environmental activists by Extinction Rebellion? The environmental scientists promoting ‘green growth’ based on massive mineral extraction from developing countries in the sights of Western imperialism? The economic scientists arguing for a Green New Deal for capitalism from which global finance has somehow been extracted like a cancerous growth rather than its circulatory system? The political scientists orchestrating the spectacle of street protest to publicise and promote policy demands into which protesters have no input? The popular scientists who manufacture and promote the discourse of ‘crisis’ that silences debate and denounces those who ask questions as ‘climate deniers’?

    Or these scientists? Antarsya UK, the Greek anti-capitalist, revolutionary, communist left and radical ecology front based in the UK, are one of the most interesting organisations I’ve come across this year. On 5 October they held a debate at SOAS titled ‘Are Climate Change and Biodiversity Loss reversible under Capitalism?’ You can listen to the presentations and ensuing debate on the recording above, and I recommend it to anyone interested in hearing the debates around the causes of, and solutions to, climate change. In response to the questions ASH has raised in response to the actions and declarations of Extinction Rebellion, all we’ve received in return from their followers so far is denunciations, insults and trolling alongside imperious demands for our own solutions to this ‘crisis’. In other words, the reaction has been no different from that ASH has received from publicising the Labour Party’s role in the estate demolition programme from the followers of Oh Jeremy Corbyn, who plays a similar role for Labour as Greta Thunberg does for Extinction Rebellion. However, although far from being experts on carbon emissions and climate change, ASH has published several articles on the environmental dimension of architecture, and in particular on the carbon costs of demolishing and redeveloping council estates; and, again, I recommend these to those still interested in listening to arguments and engaging in debate rather than policing the limits of what can and cannot be thought and said.

    As ASH maintains as a principle, and own interventions seek to practice, that the environmental dimension of architecture is indivisible from its social, economic and political dimensions. This is a principle of communist thought that the capitalists behind Extinction Rebellion have explicitly denied by describing their movement as ‘apolitical’, insisting that ‘no-one is to blame’ for the climate crisis, and refusing even to use the word ‘capitalism’ when identifying what its causes might be, let alone mention the word ‘socialism’ when proposing its solutions.

    If you’re interested in hearing about the social, economic and political dimension of climate change and the consequences of the solutions the organisations seeking to capitalise on this crisis are proposing, listen to the scientists in this debate: Elia Apostolopoulou from the University of Cambridge, whose research is on nature-society relationships in capitalism with an emphasis on the political ecology of nature conservation and urban political ecology; Gareth Dale from Brunel University, whose research is on the growth paradigm and the political economy of the environment, particularly climate change; and Maria Kadoglou from ‘Anti-Gold Greece’, whose research is on the impact of the large-scale metal mining required for so much so-called ‘green’ energy and technology. From listening to their presentations I wouldn’t say they share a single position — and with Gareth Dale being a staunch Corbynite I have to wonder whether he’s aware of merely the carbon costs of his party’s estate demolition programme; but they’ll tell you a very different story to the one that’s being written by the social, environmental, economic, political and political scientists imposing the orthodoxies of thinking and action being orchestrated under the umbrella of Extinction Rebellion.

    Greenwashing (some examples)

    Green washing

    The Central Hill Estate

    Built between 1966 and 1974, the Central Hill estate in Crystal Palace contains 476 dwellings that are home to around 1,200 residents. In 2016, against the wishes of 77 per cent of residents, the estate was condemned to demolition by Lambeth Labour council, and is awaiting redevelopment by Homes for Lambeth, a council-owned commercial venture financed by private investment partners. The redevelopment scheme will result in the permanent loss of 340 secure council tenancy homes for social rent in a borough with 28,000 people on the housing waiting list.

    In 2016 ASH commissioned a report from the green engineers, Model Environments, on the Embodied Carbon Estimation for Central Hill Estate. This contains the following findings:

  • ‘The office of the London Mayor has set a target to reduce London’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 60% based on 1990 levels by 2025. Homes are responsible for 36% of London’s CO2.’

  • ‘The concrete industry is one of the world’s two largest producers of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. About half of the emissions come directly from the heating of limestone in its manufacture, and around 40% are emissions associated with burning fuel.’

  • ‘A significant fraction of the carbon emissions a building will make over its lifetime is locked into the fabric by the time the building is constructed. As improvements in efficiency reduce carbon emissions from energy in the operational phase, increasing attention is being given to the issue of embodied carbon, examination of which can provide cost-effective carbon savings.’

  • ‘When a building is demolished, there are carbon emissions from the energy used in the deconstruction, removal and disposal of the waste. There may also be CO2 emissions released by chemical processes as the building fabric is broken up.’

  • ‘The vast majority of the embodied carbon is sequestered within the building fabric itself. The carbon emissions released by any deconstruction of the buildings is 40 times greater than the emissions from the energy needed to carry out the demolition.’

  • ‘Demolishing a housing estate of some 450 homes will exact a high carbon price on the environment and detracts greatly from the London Borough of Lambeth’s contribution to tackling climate change.’

  • ‘A conservative estimate for the embodied carbon of Central Hill estate would be around 7000 tonnes of CO2. Those are similar emissions to those from heating 600 detached homes for a year using electric heating, or the emissions savings made by the London Mayor’s retrofitting scheme in a year and a quarter.’

  • ‘For the demolition phase a conservative estimate of 3 months (480 hours) with 4 excavators using 30 litres of diesel per hour equals 57,600 litres. A conversion factor of 2.68kg of CO2e per litre of diesel suggests a figure of approximately 154 tonnes of CO2.’

  • ‘Annual domestic emissions per capita in Lambeth were 1.8 tonnes in 2012. Therefore, the emissions associated with the demolition of Central Hill estate equate to the annual emissions of over 4,000 Lambeth residents.’

  • ‘Other environmental impacts from the demolition such as air pollution and water pollution should also be considered in further studies.’
  • In January 2019 Lambeth Labour council declared a ‘climate emergency’ and brought forward its ‘target for becoming carbon neutral to 2030’. In July, Green Party councillors introduced a motion that quoted this report by Model Environments as an example of the kind of impact assessment Lambeth council should produce before making the decision to demolish any estate. In response, Lambeth Labour council redacted all reference to the report and its impact for its estate demolition programme from the motion as follows:

    While no fixed plan for their redevelopment of Central Hill estate has as yet been published, in order to recoup the costs of demolition, compensation for leaseholders and the replacement of the demolished homes, at least 50 per cent of the new-build properties will have to be for market sale, with the remainder a mix of affordable housing. As usual, the majority of these will be shared ownership properties, with the rest a mix of rent-to-buy products and so-called affordable rent. One proposal by PRP Architects, Lambeth’s favoured practice for masterplanning estate demolitions, increased the housing capacity to 1,530 properties, over a thousand of which would be for market sale and rent. PRP, which has also colluded in the demolition and redevelopment of the Crossways, Myatts Field North, Mardyke, Haggerston, Kingsland and Portobello Square estates, is one of the signatories to UK Architects Declare Climate and Biodiversity Emergency, which commits them to:

  • ‘Raise awareness of the climate and biodiversity emergencies and the urgent need for action amongst our clients and supply chains.

  • ‘Advocate for faster change in our industry towards regenerative design practices and a higher Governmental funding priority to support this.

  • ‘Evaluate all new projects against the aspiration to contribute positively to mitigating climate breakdown, and encourage our clients to adopt this approach.

  • ‘Upgrade existing buildings for extended use as a more carbon efficient alternative to demolition and new build whenever there is a viable choice.

  • ‘Include life cycle costing, whole life carbon modelling and post occupancy evaluation as part of our basic scope of work, to reduce both embodied and operational resource use.

  • ‘Minimise wasteful use of resources in architecture and urban planning, both in quantum and in detail.’
  • The Aylesbury Estate

    The ‘regeneration’ of the Aylesbury estate in Camberwell was initiated by Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair in 1997. From its completion just 20 years earlier, the Aylesbury has provided 2,758 homes for around 7,500 residents. Since 2004, however, it has gradually been decanted of residents and their homes demolished by Southwark Labour council. It is currently awaiting redevelopment by the newly-merged Notting Hill Genesis Housing Association, whose proposals will result in the loss of 778 homes for social rent in an Inner London borough with 11,000 households on the housing waiting list.

    In 2017 two architects, Mike Kane and Ron Yee, published an article in the Journal of Green Building in which they estimated the carbon cost of demolishing and removing one of the Aylesbury estate’s slab blocks. At fourteen storeys high and over 200m long, Chiltern House is only 1 of 7 super-scale slab blocks on the Aylesbury estate. With 172 flats, it contains 6 per cent of the Aylesbury estate’s residential units, but less than that of its entire structure, with communal facilities, housing offices, schools, playgrounds, sports facilities, car parks, garages and other amenities contributing to the total built environment. This is what they write:

  • ‘The carbon cost of constructing Chiltern House was extremely high. The reinforced concrete structural frame (excluding partition walls and internal elements) is estimated to weigh in excess of 20,000 tonnes, which equates to approximately 1,800 tonnes of emitted CO2 for the concrete alone.

  • ‘This figure is significantly increased with the remainder of the construction process and transport emissions. Demolition of Chiltern House would require in the region of 800-plus HGV truck journeys through London’s congested streets, and the use of heavy demolition machinery will greatly add to the figure again.

  • Clearly, the CO2emission cost of reaching just the cleared site (after only 40 years of housing use) is very high. Moreover, if the replacement building is of conventional construction (with only 30-year warranty), then the overall environmental cost of providing additional homes is enormous.’
  • On the 16 April 2019, Southwark Labour council ‘reinforced its commitment to combatting carbon emissions and rising global temperatures by joining the international Climate Change Campaign and declaring a Climate Change Emergency.’ Architectural practices colluding in the demolition and redevelopment of the Aylesbury estate include HTA Design, Hawkins/Brown, Levitt Bernstein and Mae, all of whom have signed up to the UK Architects Declare Climate and Biodiversity Emergency.

    Tell the Truth

    Robin Hood Gardens estate

    Robin Hood Gardens estate

    Heygate estate

    Heygate estate

    Central Hill estate

    Central Hill estate

    Aylesbury estate

    Aylesbury estate

    Albert Embankment Plaza

    Albert Embankment Plaza

    Central London

    Central London

     

    P.S. The socialism of the 20th Century was taken up in countries that had in mosty cases not undergone, or had only partially undergone, industrialisation. And it was expanded massively after the Second World War, when large swathes of Europe and South-East Asia required rebuilding and rehousing. Under those conditions, the environmental impact of construction was barely considered, and so socialism became equated with massive industrialisation. Socialism is, by definition, an economic and social system serving the needs of all members of society equally; so a socialism of today — as we are seeing in Cuba — must be one that addresses climate change. Socialism is not founded, as liberal environmentalists argue, on perpetual growth. That’s capitalism, which is structurally committed to infinite growth through the consumption of the world’s finite resources. No promises of a capitalism without ‘financialisation’ will change that, which is what the promoters of the Green New Deal are suggesting.

    It should be clear by now that only an economy ordered under socialist principles can even hope to reverse the environmental damage capitalism has done. Unfortunately — and partly thanks to Extinction Rebellion’s promotion of a Green New Deal for capitalism and its refusal to consider socialist solutions — it isn’t. If Extinction Rebellion has a role to play in raising awareness of the seriousness and imminence of the threat to our environment, the first thing it needs to do is identify the causes of its deterioration, and the second is to propose solutions based in a socialist re-ordering of the economy. It’s done neither.

    I can well believe that Extinction Rebellion started with a radical and even revolutionary programme, but exactly as happened with the housing movement of 2015 before it was taken over by the Labour Party under Oh Jeremy Corbyn, it is now being used in the service of an expanded capitalism, the social, environmental and economic costs of which are there for everyone with eyes to see. Protest is not an end in itself. What’s important is what ends it serves. That’s very hard to control, and the entire edifice of Neo-liberal capitalism is working to control what those are in the UK; but denouncing anyone who questions those ends is not the way to go about it.

    Why can’t you just feel good about the fact that XR and Greta Thunberg make you feel good? Why do you have to denounce those whom XR and Greta Thunberg don’t make feel good as ‘part of the problem’? Since ‘feeling good’ appears to be a lot of XR supporter’s motivations, why do you feel this overwhelming need to repeatedly dismiss those of us who apply other criteria to XR, such as reading their policies? I’m glad you’re feeling good, but do your feelings have to be dependent on demonising anyone who doesn’t share that feeling? And if they are, doesn’t that make those feelings religious feelings, responding to all the usual emotional, messianic, apocalyptic slush employed by the Church to deceive its flock? Isn’t it about time you and other followers stopped the hymn-singing, the self-flaggelating, the shaming and donating, and read XR’s Bible to find out exactly who is on their stairway to heaven?

    Commentary: Greenwash! Now in New Improved Formula [Economic Valuation & Payment for Environmental Services]

    The Heinrich Böll Foundation

    December 3, 2015

    by Clive Spash

     

    +++

    Comment on Jutta Kill’s “Economic Valuation and Payment for Environmental Services

    This report is an excellent overview of the pitiful state of environmentalism and its neoliberalisation.  The issues raised are important and should be taken seriously.  However, I would like to suggest a few areas in which the argument could benefit from some further reflection.

    In opening the paper the introduction emphasises the idea of a “paradigmatic change” (p.2) in terms of what is happening with economic valuation of the environment.  There is no further definition of this concept or its relevance, and I think this suggestion of substantive novelty is in fact misleading.  The ongoing push for incorporating aspects of the social and environmental world into an financial and economic one has been ongoing for at least 200 years.  Some seventy years ago, Karl Polanyi (1944), who is mentioned (p.16), identified the creation of the fictitious commodity as being a necessary part of the industrialisation starting in the early 1800s.  He also recognised the extension of this from labour and land to the environment.  The more recent push of the economics profession, for extensive valuation allied to financial regulatory instruments, goes back to the 1960s.  The role of economic valuation in its modern form had already been successful promoted politically under the Reagan administration, which in 1981 institutionalised the use of cost-benefit analysis for evaluating proposed environmental legislation (Presidential Executive Order 12291).  What is new is only the extent to which economic valuation of the environment, and fictitious commodity creation, have since been pushed, and the readiness of various actors to keep pushing ever further.

    costanza_meme_pes_small

    For the financiers, bankers and corporate capitalists the drive is the necessity of finding new means of exploitation to capture surplus value, as the old ones become exhausted and/or regulated (hence the need to also roll back regulation as Jutta Kill rightly notes as part of the valuation/market instrument game).  However, what about the environmentalists?  Why do the big environmental non-governmental organisations, such as the Nature Conservancy, back this?  Why do so many ecologists back Natural capital, ecosystems services valuation and biodiversity offsets?  Some notably examples are the likes of Gretchen Daily, systems ecologist Bob Costanza (who many now think is an economist!), and the Nature Conservancy’s chief scientist Peter Kareiva.  What about ecological economist Herman Daly who advocates Natural Capital and tradable permits markets, another financial instrument of exploitation?  (For a critique of emissions trading see Spash, 2010.)  One answer is that all the aforementioned are from the USA and all apparently support the existing corporate model of market capitalism, including prices as efficient means of resource allocation.  Of course they demand some side constraints on the existing systems, but they do not advocate any systemic change or conduct any analysis of the political economy.  Their politics appears to be classic American liberal and, despite the contradictions, their economics maintains core tenets of orthodox belief (e.g. prices allocate resources and do so efficiently).

    Yet, there is, in addition to this American camp, another group, of what I term new environmental pragmatists (Spash, 2013), that is more broadly based and geographically widespread.  These are the ones Jutta Kill rightly recognises as advocating instrumental valuation of species, such as bees.  They are often also ecologists, but not necessarily in favour of the American way of life or its inherent political liberalism.  Their concern is to be pragmatic because the desire for material wealth and financial affluence now seems to dominate all systems of political economy, and so they believe the expression of value must be as instrumental to those ends.  Their training in an instrumental natural science may be in part to blame, but their political and economic naivety also plays a key role in their belief that they can win the numbers game in a battle with bankers, financiers and big corporations.  Still, once again, I would emphasise that core aspects of this monetary valuation game, for ‘saving’ the environment, are quite old in content.  In the period from 1880 to 1920 over 1000 studies calculated the monetary value of services provided by birds as a means to show their value and aid their conservation, but the new insecticides made the birds’ services (and the valuation exercises) redundant.  The positive “externalities” of birds had evaporated due to technological innovation.

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    In the report, the term “externalities” is used repeatedly and highlighted as a key aspect of the economic approach.  This is a highly problematic concept (as the report notes), but also one that is totally misleading as to the issues involved.  There is nothing about pushing costs on to others that is external to the modern economic system of capital accumulation (whether based in Europe, USA, China, Russia, India, Brazil, Australia or anywhere else).  Indeed this is an essential aspect of how the modern economy operates and maximises the surplus that accrues to the minority.  The powerless, women, poor and the environment are there to be exploited as an internal operation of the political and economic system.  There are no errors or need for systems correction.  This is why Karl W. Kapp (1950) called such activities cost shifting exercises, not externalities.  In our critiques, improving the accuracy and meaningfulness of terminology and conceptualisation would help.  So let’s stop using the neoclassical economists’ term “externalities” for something that is internal to the capital accumulating economic system.

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    Indeed in other places this accuracy of conceptualisation is exactly what is argued for, e.g. with respect to the need to stop calling Nature “capital” and ecosystems functions “goods and services”.  Jutta Kill correctly identifies the capture of the environmental movement by corporate interests and how this has been matched by the conversion of language and concepts in key areas of the natural sciences informing that movement.  Thus ecology and conservation biology have lost their own scientific terminology (Spash and Aslaksen, 2015).

    Along the way I would like to note the importance of the point about the impossibility of ever “internalising externalities”.  As the Laws of Thermodynamics make clear, the materials and energy that we put into our economic systems will come out the other side as waste in equal amounts (but different form).  In short all our production and consumption of energy and materials creates problems for the model of perfect resource pricing so beloved by economic textbooks and neoliberal politics.  If we take the economists at their word, then they must admit that all the prices in the economy are wrong and need to be changed, i.e., price ‘correction’ to account for “externalities” would result in full scale technocratic economic intervention, or what used to be called a planned economy.

    The links between offsetting pollution and biodiversity loss through markets, or market like mechanisms, also needs to be linked to the model of development that is now prevalent.  That is a model of resource extractivism come hell or high water.  The backing for the extractivist regime, that maintains the resource supply chains for the consumerist society, is the military.  Fear is a key tool of control now widely deployed in our supposed democracies of the West.  Ours is a world of military intervention and domination in which violent destruction of the ‘other’ is totally legitimised daily in the news, media and entertainment.  Nature is no different, if it gets in the way, just wipe it out and explain to those who benefit the necessity of this for maintaining the political and economic system.  As long as the imperial mode of living (Brand and Wissen, 2013) is enjoyed by enough key people, in the right power structure and sections of the segmented society, nothing needs to change.

    After having made these provisos, I would like to note that the report hits many nails squarely on the head.  Not least of these is the fallacious concept of Green Growth and its associated Green Economy.  In the end, selling monetary valuation as saving the planet goes along with the current advocacy of economic growth as the solution to human induced climate change (Spash, 2014).  Both are clearly just, a new improved formulae of that good old favourite corporate product, Greenwash.

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    References Cited
    Brand, U., Wissen, M., 2013. Crisis and continuity of capitalist society-nature relationships: The imperial mode of living and the limits to environmental governance. Review of International Political Economy 20, 687-711.
    Kapp, K.W., 1950. The Social Costs of Private Enterprise. Shocken, New York.
    Polanyi, K., 1944. The Great Transformation, 1st edition ed. Rinehart & Company Inc., New York/Toronto.
    Spash, C.L., 2010. The brave new world of carbon trading. New Political Economy 15, 169-195.
    Spash, C.L., 2013. The shallow or the deep ecological economics movement? Ecological Economics 93, 351-362.
    Spash, C.L., 2014. Better Growth, Helping the Paris COP-out?: Fallacies and Omissions of the New Climate Economy Report. Institute for Environment and Regional Development, Vienna.
    Spash, C.L., Aslaksen, I., 2015. Re-establishing an ecological discourse in the policy debate over how to value ecosystems and biodiversity. Journal of Environmental Management 159, 245-253.

     

    [Professor Clive L. Spash holds the Chair of Public Policy & Governance at WU in Vienna and is Editor-in-Chief of Environmental Values. He has conducted research on climate change economics and policy for over 25 years and his work in the area includes the book Greenhouse economics: Value and ethics as well as numerous articles. His critique of carbon trading was the subject of attempted censorship while he was a senior civil servant at the CSIRO in Australia. More information can be found at www.clivespash.org.]

    Inside the lonely fight against the biggest environmental problem you’ve never heard of

    In 2011, an ecologist released an alarming study showing that tiny clothing fibers could be the biggest source of plastic in our oceans. The bigger problem? No one wanted to hear it

    by Mary Catherine O’Connor

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    Ecologist Mark Browne takes samples from the shoreline. His pioneering work on microfiber waste has received little support from clothing brands. Photo: Mark Browne

    Ecologist Mark Browne knew he’d found something big when, after months of tediously examining sediment along shorelines around the world, he noticed something no one had predicted: fibers. Everywhere. They were tiny and synthetic and he was finding them in the greatest concentration near sewage outflows. In other words, they were coming from us.

    In fact, 85% of the human-made material found on the shoreline were microfibers, and matched the types of material, such as nylon and acrylic, used in clothing.

    It is not news that microplastic – which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration defines as plastic fragments 5mm or smaller – is ubiquitous in all five major ocean gyres. And numerous studies have shown that small organisms readily ingest microplastics, introducing toxic pollutants to the food chain.

    But Browne’s 2011 paper announcing his findings marked a milestone, according to Abigail Barrows, an independent marine research scientist based in Stonington, Maine, who has helped to check for plastic in more than 150 one-liter water samples collected around the world. “He’s fantastic – very well respected” among marine science researchers, says Barrows. “He is a pioneer in microplastics research.”

    By sampling wastewater from domestic washing machines, Browne estimated that around 1,900 individual fibers can be rinsed off a single synthetic garment – ending up in our oceans.

    microfibers
    Tiny plastic fibers taken from a water sample in Blue Hill Bay in the gulf of Maine. Photograph: Marine Environmental Research Institute

    Alarmed by his findings, Browne reached out to prominent clothing brands for help. He sought partnerships to try to determine the flow of synthetic fibers from clothing to the washing machine to the ocean. He also hoped his research might help develop better textile design to prevent the migration of toxic fibers into water systems.

    The reaction wasn’t what he expected.

    nike bicep ceres

    Both Nike and Patagonia are BICEP (Ceres) members. The Ceres Coalition represents: the Ceres Network Companies, Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR) (publicly launched in November 2003 at the first Institutional Investor Summit on Climate Risk held at the United Nations) and Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy (BICEP: a coalition of more than 20 leading consumer brand corporations.) [Further reading: “Climate Wealth” Opportunists]

    He contacted leaders in the outdoor apparel industry – big purveyors of synthetic fabrics – including Patagonia, Nike and Polartec. But none of these companies agreed to lend support.

    “Perhaps it’s my pitch,” Browne joked. “We want to look for new, more durable materials that do not emit so much microplastic.”

    In 2013, Brown presented his vision for a program called Benign by Design, backed by a team of engineers and scientists from academic institutions around the world as well as from the Environmental Protection Agency. The group’s goal is to help the industry tackle the problem of synthetic microfiber migration into waterways and marine ecosystems. He proposed creating a range of working groups where scientists and industry representatives would work together to develop synthetic materials that do not shed synthetic fibers – or do so minimally but are still cost-effective, high-performing and, if possible, rely on recycled materials.

    Only one firm, women’s clothing brand Eileen Fisher, offered to support him. The company’s $10,000 grant has supported a section of Browne’s research over the past year.

    “Any lifecycle issue, especially when it’s about a huge consumer product like clothing, is important,” says Shona Quinn, sustainability leader with Eileen Fisher. “[Browne] is raising an issue no one else has been studying.”

    While Browne sees the grant as a validation of his efforts, 90% of the products Eileen Fisher sells are made of natural fibers. He’s still hoping to find a clothing company that will collaborate on research and development of new synthetic fabrics that will not shed microfibers.

    While pitching his idea at the Launch innovation conference, Browne spoke to Jim Zieba, vice president of Polartec’s advanced concepts and business development group. In a follow-up email, Browne asked if Zeiba could provide him with polymers from Polartec textiles so that Browne could grow the database of materials he maintains to help discern the unidentified fibers in his samples. He did not hear back from Zeiba.

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    Allon Cohne, global marketing director at Polartec, says he’s familiar with Browne and his research, but that Polartec has already done an internal study to analyze the effluent at its Lawrence, Massachusetts, manufacturing plant. Aside from characterizing the amount of microfibers contained in the effluent as “minimal”, Cohne said he could not publicly share the study or any details – such as what minimal means.

    Browne says he’s glad to hear that Polartec conducted a study, but maintains that any truly scientific study would be open to peer review. (As it happens, the words “Committed to Science” are currently presented on Polartec’s website, above a video describing Polatec’s approach to fabric innovation.)

    Patagonia, a company known for its strong environmental ethic and sustainable manufacturing processes, has also declined to work with Browne. The company’s strategic environmental responsibility manager, Todd Copeland, says the company considers Browne’s findings too preliminary to commit resources directly to a project like Benign by Design, until it sees more solid evidence that specific types of products or materials, such as fleece jackets or polyester base layers, are contributing to a major environmental threat. “I don’t know how much effort we want to spend looking for the solution before we know where the problem is,” Copeland says.

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    Founder of Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard

    Browne says that, without industry support, he doesn’t know how he can move ahead with his efforts to address microfiber migration from textiles at their source.

    “I think [clothing companies] have all put a lot of marketing money into environmental programs, but I’ve not seen evidence that they’ve put much money into research,” says Browne.

    In fact, Patagonia maintains a policy to not directly support research, its spokesman Adam Fetcher told me. Instead, it supports non-profit groups doing environmental advocacy work. Over the past five years, Patagonia has awarded close to $70,000 in grants to groups focused on the microplastics pollution issue. These include Algalita Marine Research Foundation (founded by captain Charles Moore, who first raised the issue of microplastics in oceans), 5 Gyres, and Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation (ASC), with whom Abigail Barrows works to collect surface water samples from around the world for her research into microfibers.

    Abigail Barrows
    Microplastic researcher Abigail Barrows draws water samples from a lobster boat. Photograph: Veronica Young

    Perhaps Browne would have more luck if he were an environmental advocate rather than a scientist.

    Still, Gregg Treinish, ASC executive director, says he would need to raise a great deal more money to fund the level of research he feels microfibers deserve. “Determining what type of plastic is in the water is hard and expensive – up to $1000 per sample.”

    Bad chemistry

    Browne’s difficulty in finding companies to cooperate might be compounded by the fact that the industry that is already under scrutiny for different environmental issues. According to the World Bank, textile manufacturing generates up to 20% of industrial wastewater in China, and a number of environmental groups, chiefly Greenpeace, have launched campaigns to pressure clothing makers to rid their supply chains of toxic chemicals, such as perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) used in textile processing. PFCs are linked to environmental toxicity and human health problems, and Kevin Brigden, a chemist and Greenpeace honorary research fellow, says some manufacturers are finally beginning to phase them out.

    But Brigden fears microfibers released from synthetic fibers could just as chemically hazardous. “Some chemicals are very water soluble, so they wash out [into wastewater during textile manufacturing],” Brigden says. “Others are less soluble so they take time to wash off. If fabrics break down then [microfibers] are another pathway for those [chemicals into the environment].”

    Those fighting the use of microbeads in beauty products are finding more traction, Barrows says, because phasing them out is straightforward. Getting rid of synthetic fibers, on the other hand, would be extremely difficult. Not only are synthetic fabrics durable and versatile, but they can have smaller water and energy footprint than natural fabrics. “Synthetic fabrics have many great applications,” Barrows concedes, and determining how to measure their environmental impacts is an overwhelming challenge.

    Other sources, other solutions

    Polartec’s Cohne argues that too much emphasis is being placed on the clothing industry and that carpet and upholstery manufactures ought to be considered as equally important sources of synthetic microfiber runoff in the industrial sector. Professional carpet cleaners might be another vector.

    Cohne also believes more onus should be put on washing machine manufacturers to find ways to capture the clothing fibers so that they do not ultimately enter wastewater treatment systems.

    Browne has reached out to appliance manufacturers Siemens, Dyson (which sells washing machines in Europe), and LG, hoping to engage their design or research teams in a discussion about how they might be able to develop microfiber filters to prevent them from entering the water.

    None has responded.

    However, a Canadian tinkerer turned entrepreneur named Blair Jollimore is working on a solution. After his septic tank backed up and flooded his home, he discovered the main culprit was lint from his washing machine. So the former airplane engine mechanic, based in Nova Scotia, created a filter for his home laundry machine. “I’m a mechanical engineer, so I modified a water filter and added stainless steel screen,” says Jollimore. “I’ve been using it for 14 years.”

    In 2003, some of his neighbors who were also having septic tank problems asked if he could make filters for their machines, too, and a home business was born. Jollimore has sold more than 1,000 of his filters to homeowners from England to Hawaii and now, with Browne’s encouragement, is preparing to pitch his filter to appliance makers as a way to rid wastewater of microfibers.

    While he has found a screen that would capture strands down to 1 micron – necessary to stop all microfibers – he is still experimenting with what forcing water through such a fine filter could do to laundry machine function. “Every bit of dirt in your laundry would be captured, so it would back up the process,” he says.

    As for capturing the fibers at their next stop, wastewater treatment plants, Browne is not optimistic. He says he has conferred with many engineers who work in sewage treatment and none of them thinks removing fibers – or microbeads, which enter wastewater through residential plumbing – is viable. Besides, he says, even if those microplastics were removed from the liquid waste, they would end up in sludge, which in some places ends up being turned into fertilizers. In those cases, the plastics would still enter the ecosystem, and conceivably the food chain.

    Browne concedes that more research is required to better understand the sources and impacts of synthetic microfibers in the environment, and he wishes he could get the clothing companies on his side. “The [textile] people I’ve talked to have not been trained environmental scientists, they’re more often marketing people.”

    “Industry is saying, ‘you just have to do more work on it’. But that will require someone to support it,” he says. “It seems to be a way of avoiding dealing with the problem.”

     

    [Mary Catherine O’Connor is an independent reporter and co-founder of Climate Confidential.]

     


    The Inside Story Of How Greenpeace Built A Corporate Spanking Machine To Turn The Fortune 500 Into Climate Heroes

    WKOG editor: In the article Corporate Social Responsibility As a Political Resource published February 22, 2010, author Michael Barker writes:

    “In June 2003 Gretchen Crosby Sims completed a vitally important Ph.D. at Stanford University titled Rethinking the Political Power of American Business: The Role of Corporate Social Responsibility. Hardly counting herself as a political radical — Sims’s doctorate thesis was supervised by Morris Fiorina, who is presently a senior fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution — the findings of her unpublicized study provide a critical resource for progressive activists seeking to challenge the mythology of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). As the British non-profit organization Corporate Watch states, CSR “is not a step towards a more fundamental reform of the corporate structure but a distraction from it.” Indeed, Corporate Watch advise that: “Exposing and rejecting CSR is a step towards addressing corporate power….

     

    As [Weinstein] demonstrated long ago, corporate elites adopted the principles of “cooperation and social responsibility” to sustain capitalism’s inequalities, not to remedy them. To campaign for Corporate Social Responsibility in this present day is akin to demanding the institutionalization of elite social engineering. Capitalist corporations will never be socially responsible, this fact is plain to see; thus the sooner progressive activists identify their enemy as capitalism, not corporate greed or a lack of good-will, then the sooner they will be able to create an equitable world whose political and economic system is premised on social responsibility, not to corporate elites, but instead to all people.” [Emphasis added]

    +++

    Business Insider

    July 4, 2014

    by Mike Nudelman

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    “NGOs have become very businesslike,” says a sustainability officer for a major media company, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “They’re thinking through the strategy and creating an integrated campaign just like a company would when marketing a product, going through the R&D phase, the development phase, production, and then the retail channels. It’s a corporate approach.”

     

    “Indeed, the unlikely romance between Kimberly-Clark and Greenpeace seems to have deepened with time. “The relationship blossomed to the point where we began sharing our five-year plans with them,” Apte says. “We want to know in advance if there are any showstoppers in there from their perspective.”

    One day in early March at about 1:00 p.m., a woman wearing conservative business attire and toting a wheeled bag strolled through the front entrance of Procter & Gamble’s 17-story headquarters in downtown Cincinnati. She told security she had an appointment, possibly with one of the businesses that rent space in the building, and was waved inside.

    But she never arrived at the office. There was no appointment.

    Instead, the woman made her way to an emergency exit door and pushed it open. Eight associates, all pulling bags of their own, swept in and disappeared into a crowd of arriving employees.

    Though they too wore business suits and what looked like P&G employee badges, they didn’t work for the consumer-goods giant. They were from Greenpeace, and they’d come to save tigers.

    Wordlessly, the nine activists made their way past the security desk and headed for two rendezvous points — one, in a 12th-floor office suite in the iconic building’s north tower, the second, in an office just opposite, in the east tower. There, the two groups jimmied open several windows, attached rappelling gear to the window-washing stanchions, and climbed out into the chilly air.

    After a zip line was strung between the two towers and secured, the smallest member of the team, 20-year-old Denise Rodriguez, of Queens, New York, edged out onto the wire, shimmied to center point, then dangled there in the gentle breeze, 70 feet in the air. She was wearing a tiger costume.

    Her colleagues unfurled a pair of 60-foot-tall banners on the front of each tower. The banners denounced Head & Shoulders, the antidandruff shampoo, for “putting tiger survival on the line” and “wip[ing] out dandruff & rainforests.”

    A rented helicopter hovered overhead as a videographer and photographer captured the unfolding drama.

    Arriving on the scene, Capt. Paul Broxterman of the Cincinnati police found the windows had been braced shut from the outside. He knocked on the glass and got one of the activists to call him on his cellphone.

    “How long are you guys going to be out there?” he asked.

    “We’ll be wrapping up shortly,” came the reply.

     

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    Greenpeace’s action at P&G’s Cincinnati headquarters in April.

     

    The incursion, which left P&G’s vaunted corporate security force looking uncharacteristically flat-footed, was the latest foray in Greenpeace’s seven-year campaign against the use of improperly sourced palm oil. A highly saturated vegetable fat derived from the fruit, or sometimes the kernel, of the oil palm, it is, in and of itself, a relatively innocuous substance, a common ingredient in everything from laundry detergent and cosmetics to candy bars and ice cream. In recent years, demand has spiked because of its popularity as a replacement for hydrogenated oils and as a source of biodiesel fuel, which, paradoxically, is often promoted as an environmentally sound alternative to fossil fuels.

    The problem — what elevated this viscous wonder elixir to the top of Greenpeace’s global agenda — is the aggressive manner in which the world’s biggest palm-oil producers, based in Indonesia, have gone about meeting demand: burning and clear-cutting the nation’s priceless tropical peat forests to the ground, then draining the underlying wetlands to make way for massive oil-palm plantations.

    As Greenpeace’s banners made clear, that deforestation is destroying the habitat of the Sumatran tiger, of which there are said to be fewer than 400 left. Also threatened are orangutans, rhinos, elephants, and about 114 bird species.

    But truth be told, the animals are really beside the point.

    Greenpeace’s tigers are a kind of decoy, a sleek feline metaphor pressed into service on behalf of the broader existential threat that we all face because of the warming of the atmosphere.

    It turns out that the results of Indonesian deforestation go far beyond decimating tiger habitats. The critical issue is not even the jungle itself exactly, but the swampy peatlands from which it rises — massive watery bogs up to 50 feet deep containing layer upon layer of fallen vegetal debris.

    This peat acts as an immense living storage locker for carbon dioxide, and as the peatlands are drained, the plant matter decomposes, releasing greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere at a truly frightening rate. By one estimate, the amount of carbon given off because of deforestation in Indonesia accounts for a whopping 4% of global carbon emissions — from just .1% of the earth’s land surface.

    Of course that’s a lot of information to fit on one banner. The tiger is convenient shorthand.

    “It’s easy to say, ‘If you’re destroying forests, you’re destroying tiger habitats,’” says Phil Radford, the outgoing executive director of Greenpeace USA (his replacement, Annie Leonard, was announced in April). “It’s harder to say, ‘Do you know that forests store carbon and if we save the peat bogs we will trap all this carbon and methane in the soil?’ We say both, but we start with the place that people are, the thing they care about the most first.”

    Says his colleague Nicky Davies, the organization’s campaigns director: “We’re not going to win by telling people what they should care about. And winning is the objective.”

    Greenpeace’s strategy, which it calls “market-based campaigning,” has proved devastatingly effective. It goes like this: Pick an area of concern. Identify on-the-ground producers whose actions are contributing to the problem. Follow the supply chain to a multinational corporation that peddles a widely known consumer product. Send an email or two, kindly pointing out the company’s “exposure” and suggesting an alternative. Ask again, firmly but pleasantly. Issue a sober, meticulously researched public report. If the desired response is not forthcoming. roll out a clear, multipronged media campaign, ideally starring a beloved animal species and featuring a hashtag. Climb a building or two.

    What seems to happen, inevitably, is the multinational company, eager to remove the stigma from its signature brand, promises to ensure that its products are sustainable and begins cancelling contracts with any third-party suppliers who fail to guarantee compliance. In order to retain the multinational’s lucrative business, the largest suppliers fall into line. Before long, as the cascade effect grows, they begin eyeing their wayward rivals, companies that are still operating in flagrant violation of the new rules and undercutting them with other customers. Eventually, broad new industry protocols are adopted to level the playing field.

    Rinse, repeat.

    Sailing to Amchitka

    They thought of themselves as Hobbits, embarking on a journey to Mordor. Or some did, anyway. The founders of Greenpeace didn’t agree on much. As cofounder Bob Hunter wrote, “We spent most of our time at each other’s throats, egos clashing.”

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    Bob Hunter on the original Greenpeace voyage in 1971.

     

     

    Emerging from the acid-laced Vancouver hippie scene, the cadre of activists who gave birth to the group were a loose confederacy of draft-dodgers, radicals, mind-expansion mystics, tree-huggers, former beatniks, and Quakers, in addition to a few Hobbit heads like Hunter.

    In 1971, after reports surfaced of a planned underground nuclear test on the island of Amchitka, on the far western point of Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, a dozen of them chartered a fishing boat, a halibut trawler called the Phyllis Cormack, temporarily rechristened it the Greenpeace, and set sail from Vancouver hell-bent on thwarting the U.S. military.

    A few days after they left Victoria Harbor, cowboy icon John Wayne arrived in Vancouver on his private yacht, a retrofitted World War II minesweeper. The star was asked what he thought of the protesters.

    “They’re a bunch of commies,” he said. “Canadians should mind their own business.”

    A few days later, the group was turned back by the U.S. Coast Guard, and the nuclear test was carried out as planned. But the audacious voyage received worldwide media attention and ignited a firestorm of opposition, leading the U.S. government to abandon its plans for future tests on the island, which eventually became a bird sanctuary.

    If the incident proved anything, it was the power of mythmaking and what we now call optics. (It’s worth noting that several Greenpeace founders were fans of media-theory rock star Marshall McLuhan.) The framing of the story — scruffy, daredevil ecowarriors risk their lives in a brave if hopeless stand against the most powerful military in the world — resonated deeply, and the David and Goliath dynamic became the cornerstone of Greenpeace’s identity. Nearly 45 years on, it still works.

    In the years that followed, the group expanded its goals, taking on commercial whaling, the dumping of toxic and nuclear waste, seal hunting, arctic drilling, drift-net fishing, PVCs, GMOs, HFCs, and a number of other afflictions, all reasonable objectives, which in retrospect look like dress rehearsals for the big show: the increasingly urgent effort to slow the effects of climate change, a threat that was scarcely understood when the group first set off for western Alaska.

    Greenpeace’s confrontational and swashbuckling approach has helped make it one the world’s most powerful environmental NGOs, with branches in 41 countries, 2.9 million donors and more than $350 million in annual contributions.

    But increasingly, the organization has begun to temper its intensity with a cool-eyed and disciplined pragmatism, resulting in a string of extraordinary victories. On deforestation, a variety of companies, including big suppliers such as Asia Pulp & Paper and manufacturers like Kimberly-Clark, have been joined by Mattel, Nike, McDonald’s, Yum Brands, Unilever, Ferraro, Coca-Cola, Mondelez, and Nestlé in pledging to end the clear-cutting of precious rain forests. Tech giants like Apple, Google, Facebook, and Salesforce have promised to power their data centers with renewable energy, a pledge that led Duke Energy, the nation’s largest power utility and one of the most flagrant emitters of CO2, to begin providing clean energy to win their business. And grocers like Wal-Mart, Safeway, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s have begun selling sustainable seafood.

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    Footage of beloved animals provokes a response in a way that an abstraction like global warming rarely does.

     

    Greenpeace’s achievements have not been accomplished without help. Many have been undertaken in partnership with other environmental NGOs, from the World Wildlife Fund to the Rainforest Alliance, which are also doing important work. And organizations like the Sierra Club and NRDC are doubling down on political activism on the global-warming front.

    FLASHBACK | When Capitalism Goes Green

    NaoAoCapitalismoVerde

     

    A former member of the Encyclopedie des Nuisances discusses the current reformist environmentalism of capitalism, the fashionable support for “curtailing economic growth”, and the growing role of the State and NGOs in enforcing a new framework for the continued survival of capitalist social relations, and concludes that “a libertarian society can only be created by way of a libertarian revolution”.

    When Capitalism Goes Green – Miguel Amorós

    Presentation delivered at La Mistelera (Dènia) and Casa els Flares (Alcoy) on December 28 and 29, 2007.

    Ever since capitalism made its appearance on this planet it has done nothing but destroy the natural environment in order to forge its own environment where it has evolved and forced individuals to adapt to it. Science and technology acquired a decisive impulse and were fully developed thanks to the resistance offered to this adaptation, so that capitalism not only has been able to overcome all obstacles but these obstacles have been systematically transformed into opportunities for its own expansion. Growth, deeply ingrained in its nature, will not cease as long as exploitable humanity exists, and that is precisely the new challenge that capitalism is facing. As the productive system expands it becomes more and more destructive. The colonization by the commodity of land and life, of space and time, cannot be stopped without a questioning of its fundamental principles, nor can it continue without endangering the existence of the human species itself. As a result, the ecological crisis leads to the social crisis. Capitalism must continue to grow to prevent this from happening, but must do so without allowing the degradation that accompanies this growth from penetrating the consciousness of those affected by it. To accomplish this it must improvise economic, technological and political measures that simultaneously dissimulate its outrages and allow people to live with and make the best of them. Production and consumption, as the experts would say, face a “paradigm shift”. Consumption habits, along with business and political activity, must be carried out in a different way, not, obviously, to save nature, or even to preserve the species, but to save capitalism itself. This is why the politicians’ hearts have turned green. This is why capitalism is going environmental.

    Honduras Will Host the 4th Palm Oil Conference (Celebrating the Murder of Peasants)

    quotha.net

    July 31, 2013

    by Adrienne Pine

    Shame—once again—on WWF for greenwashing the murderous palm oil industry. It is no wonder that DICTA waited until a week before the conference to announce it in the Honduran media. Click title for original article in La Tribuna – Adrienne Pine

    ( translation by Adrienne Pine)

    The authorities of the Office of Agriculture and Livestock Science and Technology (DICTA) announced this Wednesday that Honduras will be the site of the 4th conference of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)


    The RSPO conference has previously been held in Colombia, Brazil and Ecuador and this year it will be in Honduras.

    They indicated that the RSPO conference has previously been held in Colombia, Brazil and Ecuador and this year Honduras will host the fourth conference on Sustainable Palm Oil.

    This event has the goal of providing information about the production of oil in a way that is responsible toward nature, the environment and society and it will take place from August 6th to 8th of this year in the convention center of the Club Hondureño Árabe, in San Pedro Sula, department of Cortés.

    “25 x 25” is a Big Fat Bio-Massacre

    Vote Yes on Proposal 3!

     

    For a list of the key groups behind this bill view the 25x25_organization_endorsements. Environmental groups, corporations and regional partners include those such as Environmental Defence Fund, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Monsanto, National Wildlife Federation, World Watch Institute and Chrysler.

     

    November 4, 2012

    By Jeff Gibbs

    Open Mike

    “Some of my friends in the professional environmental movement have reacted as expected yesterday when I called them out for having allowed biomass burning to be a huge part of what Michigan is going to get under Proposal 3 or “25 x 25.”  Accusations and anger. It went down the same way when we stopped a local biomass plant from being built in Traverse City a few years ago: we got yelled at, several PR firms were hired to fight us, and most of the paid environmentalists sat on their hands.”

    Let me tell you whose funding IS affiliated with fossil fuel money: “25 x 25.” Follow the money. Something called the “Green Tech Action Fund” in San Francisco has put up $1.3 million for the Michigan “25 x 25” campaign.  Who funds the Green Tech Action Fund? That would be “The Energy Foundation.” Who funds the “Energy Foundation?” That would be Pew Charitable Trust in part, which is Sun Oil or Sunoco. Who else helped fund “The Energy Foundation?” The Rockefeller Foundation. Who is the Rockefeller Foundation? That would be Exxon.

     

    In Michigan right now ballot Proposal 3 known as “25 x 25” would require our state to get 25% of its electricity from “renewable” sources by the year 2025. “25 x 25” is being sold as all about solar panels and wind mills. It’s not. Far more than anyone suspects, it’s going to ramp up the dirtiest form of energy of all: biomass burning. Incinerating trees in the name of “green energy.” And it must be stopped if we care about climate change, clean air and thriving forests.

    Yes that’s right, in the name of saving the planet and renewable energy we are about to make things worse. For those unfamiliar with biomass burning, it releases more carbon dioxide and more harmful particulates than even coal. Logging for biomass can drastically reduce biodiversity and set back a forest’s ability to sequester carbon dioxide for centuries. Most environmentalists oppose it. Or used to.

    Michigan environmental groups promoting “25 x 25,” whose goals such as stopping climate change I otherwise support, have insisted there will not be much biomass burning. Their campaign shows images of wind and solar exclusively.

    2012-11-05-green1.jpg
    Clean Water Action

    2012-11-05-green2.jpg
    Michigan Energy, Michigan Jobs

    2012-11-05-green3.jpg
    Green Energy Future

    But this is what we are actually going to get. I call it a bio-massacre:

     

    2012-11-05-bio1.jpg
    Massachusetts logging for biomass

    2012-11-05-bio2.jpg
    Michigan trees chipped for biomass

    2012-11-05-bio3.jpg
    New Hampshire biomass plant

    Don’t believe it? It was hard for me grasp as well. Still, there was that little word “biomass” in the definition of renewable energy. So I decided to check for myself.

    Here was my first stunner: the national “25 x 25” Steering Committee seems to be 100% agribusiness and logging interests. Ethanol and biomass. On their bios are found the words cattle, corn, biomass and forestry, not solar or wind.

    The national “25 x 25” mission statement reflects this commitment to biofuels and biomass:

    25x’25 Vision: By 2025, America’s farms, forests and ranches will provide 25 percent of the total energy consumed in the United States, while continuing to produce safe, abundant, and affordable food, feed and fiber.

    When questioned about national “25 x 25” being primarily big ag and big timber, Michigan “25 x 25” supporters responded saying they have little to do with the national organization. Really? That’s odd. Because the national “25 x 25” organization brags on their website that they have influenced state laws and they include Michigan as a place where good things are happening.

    And then the Michigan 25 x 25 Jobs and Energy Report was released. It was produced at Michigan State University, our state’s agricultural college. It was written not by the solar and wind department, but by faculty from the Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics Department with a huge vested interest in biomass and biofuels.

    The report projects a nearly 300% increase in biomass. The red line on the chart below indicates the projected increase in biomass plant staffing.

    2012-11-04-biomassjobyears.jpg The authors of the report also aren’t shy about describing the new opportunities for their friends:

    … the impact to the agricultural and forestry sector is anticipated to be… significant. Accounting for direct and indirect impacts due to feed stock procurement, transportation, logistics, storage etc., it is expected that biomass generation under a 25% RPS will result in nearly 12,000 job years.

    (Please note: boosters of “25 x 25” routinely turn “job years” into “jobs” – e.g. one job for 25 years is 25 “job years.” This means 75,000 “job years” gets turned into 75,000 “jobs” when it should be more like 3,000.)

    And just what is the aforementioned “feedstock procurement?” In large part, logging. Ah, the wonderful green jobs! Logging, trucking, installing air quality control equipment, using bulldozers to move around giant piles of wood chips lest they spontaneously combust like this fire at Biomass One in Oregon, or this entire biomass plant that exploded in flames.

    So widely known (except to the public) is this new opportunity for “green energy” that “Biomass Magazine” has already alerted its readers. The magazine cautions though, that making “25 x 25” a constitutional amendment might be a mistake because it could draw “scrutiny and introduce more controversy than legislative action…” Yes that’s right, it’s easier to sell a bio-massacre beyond closed doors.

    But there’s more. The burning of woody biomass isn’t all we’re going to get. The chart below reveals a big helping of biogas as well as biomass.

    2012-11-04-biomassmarketcapacity.jpg

    What are the other biogas and biomass sources besides trees and forests? Confined animal feed operations, landfill gases, burning garbage including old homes and tires, human and agricultural “waste.” All have serious issues and depend on enormous fossil fuel intensive systems. But those are not my main concerns – it’s the burning of the source of our clean air and clean water as “green energy” that is my nightmare. Only two great planetary systems are capable of soaking up the CO2, our forests and our oceans. It makes no sense to destroy either one of them.

    But alas the bio-massacre isn’t just in our future. It’s the reality of “renewable energy” right now:

     

    2012-11-05-burlington.jpg
    Burlington, Vermont biomass plant. Note whole trees looking like matchsticks in this photo prior to chipping.

    –In Vermont, the biggest single contributor to climate change and air pollution is their “green energy” facility. An enormous biomass burner that only produces a fraction of the energy of a fossil fuel plant.

    –There is at least 15 times more biomass burning RIGHT NOW in Michigan than solar and wind combined. Given this, is it ethical for “Michigan Energy, Michigan Jobs” to ONLY show solar and wind on its photo “tour” of Michigan renewable energy? Here is what they won’t show you:

    2012-11-05-Cadillac.jpg
    Cadillac, Michigan biomass plant
    2012-11-05-biomassbenzie.png

    Enjoying Michigan’s sustainable state forests
    –Michigan State University, the source of the “25 x 25” report, has no wind and almost no solar yet has already obtained a permit to toss 24,000 tons of trees annually into their coal plant to meet their “renewable energy” goals, a feat which will actually increase the CO2 coming from the smokestack.

    –In Holland, Michigan the Sierra Club has been fighting to stop a coal plant expansion. But Holland’s “clean energy” plan is in large part biomass burning disguised as “combined heat and power.” (The word “biomass” isn’t mentioned until page 31 in the proposal. That’s not an accident.)

    So why are we getting so much burning in the name of green if wind and solar are such miracles? That’s a story for another day. Suffice to say there are issues with solar and wind that cannot be wished away. One major problem is that right now wind supplies only about 0.3 percent of Michigan’s electrical energy. To ramp that up to provide a significant share of our electricity would take tens of billions of dollars and 50 times more wind turbines than currently exist. Anyone think that’s going to happen?

    And so it all comes back to cutting and burning our forests for energy. They say we would never denude the land of trees, yet that is the most common way civilizations end. It doesn’t happen in a day or a year, but blow by blow, cut by cut. We went though this once before. The trees are now smaller, stressed, and far less in extent. We won’t survive doing it again.

     

    2012-11-05-old1.jpg
    2012-11-05-old2.jpg2012-11-05-old3.jpg
    Michigan logging scenes from 120 years ago

    It makes no sense to stop the tar sands, fight fracking, or end the horror of mountaintop removal to protect the living planet, if we then incinerate the living planet for energy. Let’s get back to our “roots.” Save the trees. Stand with them against any “renewable energy” scheme like “25 x 25” that calls incinerating trees and forests “green energy.”

    For more information about biomass burning go www.biofuelwatch.org.uk or to Partnership for Policy Integrity or this article I wrote.

    UPDATE NOVEMBER 6TH, 2012, ELECTION DAY:

    Some of my friends in the professional environmental movement have reacted as expected yesterday when I called them out for having allowed biomass burning to be a huge part of what Michigan is going to get under Proposal 3 or “25 x 25.”  Accusations and anger.

    It went down the same way when we stopped a local biomass plant from being built in Traverse City a few years ago: we got yelled at, several PR firms were hired to fight us, and most of the paid environmentalists sat on their hands. Two people from the Sierra Club did show up a few times out of hundreds of meetings for which we were thankful but by NO means were the drivers of this movement.

    The movement was initiated, advanced and completed by citizens. For the Sierra Club to claim otherwise is insulting and wrong. In the end, despite the attacks of biomass supporters, 99% of our community was against biomass burning and the plan was withdrawn.

    Now the accusations by biomass supporters are wild and desperate once again. They imply that I, a producer for Michael Moore, producer of a film about the radical environmentalist Paul Watson, might be in bed with or somehow aiding the Koch brothers. It’s a common tactic for those unable to deal with facts to resort to innuendos and slurs.

    Perhaps people who live in glass houses should hesitate to pick up stones.

    Let me tell you whose funding IS affiliated with fossil fuel money: “25 x 25.” Follow the money. Something called the “Green Tech Action Fund” in San Francisco has put up $1.3 million for the Michigan “25 x 25” campaign.  Who funds the Green Tech Action Fund? That would be “The Energy Foundation.” Who funds the “Energy Foundation?” That would be Pew Charitable Trust in part, which is Sun Oil or Sunoco. Who else helped fund “The Energy Foundation?” The Rockefeller Foundation. Who is the Rockefeller Foundation? That would be Exxon.

    Yes BOTH sides of the energy debate are funded by the same people: giant corporations, the 1%, fossil fuel and otherwise.

    Now I am not saying that everyone who has accepted money that in part originated with big oil money is automatically up to no good. I AM saying that that the world’s most powerful corporations, their corporate foundations, fossil fuel interests, investment bankers, and the uber wealthy, are NOT going fund the revolution that ends the growth machine that is killing the planet.

    But they will fund “renewable energy” that includes biomass, ethanol, biofuels, etc. despite the insanity of burning trees or food or garbage as energy.

    To be clear I have zero funding from anyone. I am a citizen doing what a citizen should do: not trusting what I am told by those in systems who think they know better than everyone, but checking for myself. And speaking out.

    It was no accident I used facts from “25 x 25’s” own reports because I knew they would try to deny the biomass burning reality of green energy in our state; inquiries about biomass burning have been met with denials every step of the way. But supporters of “25 x 25” cannot refute my core contentions—not without calling their own experts and data wrong.

    THEIR forecast for three times more biomass burning comes from THEIR jobs and energy report. One of them is wrong; their experts or those in charge of rhetoric.

    THEIR report indicates for at least ten times more biomass burning than solar panels and as much as wind. One of them is wrong; their experts or those in charge of rhetoric.

    “25 x 25” also has not answered to why they mislead the public about what’s included in the definition of renewable energy. It’s indisputable that biomass burning is on the ballot proposal.

    And if this gets in the Michigan constitution do you REALLY think green groups can control timber and agriculture interests who make billions from biomass and biofuels? Look how hard it is to stop fossil fuel plants, and now we want to add more biomass, biogas and biofuel plants?

    “25 x 25” has also not answered why they wildly exaggerated the jobs report by turning “job years” into jobs thus misleading the public.

    And I have to tell you that the more I look into the reality of biomass burning in Michigan the uglier it seems. When I heard rumors that toxic creosote laden railroad ties and old houses were being burned as green biomass I thought that be hidden from the public. But no, it’s being bragged about on their website. Apparently railroad ties are being brought in from as far away as Canada, since Canada does not want this toxic stuff being burned in their own backyard.

    This should come as no surprise because for a long time the largest green energy facility in Michigan was the giant waste incinerator in Detroit. Instead of “clean coal” we have “clean trash burning.”

    There might be a few cases where burning off landfill gases is better than letting it escape but calling this green and subsidizing it as renewable energy is wrong because it subsidizes a giant environmental mistake.

    Claims have been made it’s going to be “farm waste” as biomass. Well, in Michigan the reality of biomass burning is indeed 99% burning trees supplemented with “waste” on occasion. But let’s talk about burning to stop climate change for a minute. Burning farm “waste” does indeed like burning anything release CO2. That’s just physics. The concept of turning “waste” to energy is highly flawed and dependent on waste streams from fossil fuel intensive farms and CAFO’s.

    Michigan voters should turn down Proposal 3 which will put in BIOMASSS BURNING in our state constitution.  THAT is a green nightmare. And environmental groups paid to promote “25 x 25” ought to learn that attacking citizens who speak out, is the wrong way to go.

    United Nation’s Sustainable Energy for All (SEFA) – or Sustained Profits for a Few?

    Source: Biofuelwatch

    Biofuelwatch factsheet about the Sustainable Energy for All (SEFA) Initiative (June 2012)

    Timed with this year’s Rio climate talks, 51 civil society organizations called on governments to reject the United Nations SEFA initiative on June 13th. Read the Open Letter: SEFA-Open-Letter

    En Espanol: 

    Energía sostenible para todos – ¿O sostenidos beneficios para unos pocos?

    (Junio 2012)

    Green Veneer | WWF Helps Industry More than Environment

    05/29/2012

    By Jens Glüsing and Nils Klawitter

    Spiegel

    “Some people consider it outrageous that Spanish King Juan Carlos, who enjoys hunting big game, is the honorary president of WWF Spain. Here, a 2006 photo of Juan Carlos (right) during a hunting trip in Botswana.”

    AFP

    The WWF is the most powerful environmental organization in the world and campaigns internationally on issues such as saving tigers and rain forests. But a closer look at its work leads to a sobering conclusion: Many of its activities benefit industry more than the environment or endangered species.

    Want to protect the rainforest? All it takes is €5 ($6.30) to get started. Save the gorillas? Three euros and you’re in. You can even do your part for nature with only 50 cents — as long as you entrust it to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), which is still known by its original name of the World Wildlife Fund in the United States and Canada.

    Last year, the WWF, together with German retail group Rewe, sold almost 2 million collectors’ albums. In only six weeks, the program raised €875,088 ($1.1 million), which Rewe turned over to the WWF.

    The WWF has promised to do a lot of good things with the money, like spending it on forests, gorillas, water, the climate — and, of course, the animal the environmental protection group uses as its emblem, the giant panda.

    Governments also entrust a lot of money to the organization. Over the years, the WWF has received a total of $120 million from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). For a long time, German government ministries were so generous to the organization that the WWF even decided, in the 1990s, to limit the amount of government funding it could receive. The organization was anxious not to be seen as merely an extension of government environmental protection agencies.

    Illusion of Aid

    But can the WWF truly protect nature against human beings? Or do the organization’s attractive posters merely offer the illusion of help? Fifty years after the organization was founded, there are growing doubts as to the independence of the WWF and its business model, which involves partnering with industry to protect nature.

    The WWF, whose international headquarters are located in Gland, Switzerland, is seen as the world’s most powerful conservation organization. It is active in more than 100 countries, where it enjoys close connections to the rich and the powerful. Its trademark panda emblem appears on Danone yoghurt cups and the clothing of jetsetters like Princess Charlene of Monaco. Companies pay seven-figure fees for the privilege of using the logo. The WWF counts 430,000 members in Germany alone, and millions of people give their savings to the organization. The question is how sustainably this money is actually being invested.

    SPIEGEL traveled around South America and the Indonesian island of Sumatra to address this question. In Brazil, an agricultural industry executive talked about the first shipload of sustainable soybeans, certified in accordance with WWF standards, to reach Rotterdam last year, amid a flurry of PR hype. The executive had to admit, however, that he wasn’t entirely sure where the shipment had come from. In Sumatra, members of a tribal group reported how troops hired by WWF partner Wilmar had destroyed their houses, because they had stood in the way of unfettered palm oil production.

    How Environmental Groups Gone Bad Greenwash Logging Earth’s Last Primary Old Forests

    The Great Rainforest Heist

    April 16, 2012

    by Dr. Glen Barry | Rainforest Portal

    The world’s pre-eminent environmental organizations, widely perceived as the leading advocates for rainforests and old growth, have for decades been actively promoting primary forest logging [search]. Groups like Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network (RAN), The Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, World Wide Fund for Nature/World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Environmental Defense Fund actively promote industrially logging Earth’s last old forests. Through their support of the existing “Forest Stewardship Council” (FSC), and/or planned compromised “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation” (REDD), they are at the forefront of destroying ancient forests for disposable consumer items – claiming it is “sustainable forest management” and “carbon forestry”.

    Rainforest movement corruption is rampant as these big bureaucratic, corporatist NGOs conspire to log Earth’s last primary rainforests and other old growth forests. Collectively the “NGO Old Forest Sell-Outs” are greenwashing FSC’s destruction of over 300,000,000 acres of old forests, destroying an area of primary rainforests and other old forests the size of South Africa (two times the size of Texas)! FSC and its members have built a massive market for continued business as usual industrially harvested primary forest timbers – with minor, cosmetic changes – certifying as acceptable murdering old forests and their life for consumption of products ranging from toilet paper to lawn furniture. Some 70% of FSC products contain primary forest timbers, and as little as 10% of any product must be from certified sources.

    FSC has become a major driver of primary forest destruction and forest ecological diminishment. Despite certifying less than 10% of the world’s forest lands, their rhetoric and marketing legitimizes the entire tropical and old growth timber trade, and a host of even worse certifiers of old forest logging. It is expecting far too much for consumers to differentiate between the variety of competing and false claims that old growth timbers are green and environmentally sustainable – when in fact none are. While other certification schemes may be even worse, this is not the issue, as industrial first-time primary forest logging cannot be done ecologically sustainably and should not be happening at all. FSC’s claims to being the best destroyer of primary forests is like murdering someone most humanely, treating your slaves the best while rejecting emancipation, or being half pregnant.

    To varying degrees, most of the NGO Old Forest Sell-Outs also support the United Nations’ new “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation” program (UNREDD, REDD, or REDD+), originally intended to protect Earth’s remaining and rapidly diminishing primary rainforests and other old forests, by making “avoided deforestation” payments to local forest peoples as an international climate and deforestation solution. Large areas of primary and old-growth forests were to be fully protected from industrial development, local communities were to both receive cash payments while continuing to benefit from standing old forests, and existing and new carbon was to be sequestered.

    After years of industry, government and NGO forest sell-out pressure, REDD+ will now fund first time industrial primary rainforest logging and destruction under the veil of “sustainable forest management” and “carbon forestry”. REDD+ is trying to be all things to everybody – forest logging, protection, plantations, carbon, growth – when all we need is local funding to preserve standing forests for local advancement, and local and global ecology; and assurances provided REDD+ would not steal indigenous lands, or be funded by carbon markets, allowing the rich to shirk their own emissions reductions.

    Sustainable forest management in old forests is a myth and meaningless catchphrase to allow continued western market access to primary rainforest logs. Both FSC and now REDD+ enable destruction of ancient naturally evolved ecosystems – that are priceless and sacred – for throw away consumption. Increasingly both FSC and REDD+ are moving towards certifying and funding the conversion of natural primary forests to be cleared and replanted as plantations. They call it carbon forestry and claim it is a climate good. Even selective logging destroys primary forests, and what remains is so greatly ecologically reduced from first time industrial logging, that they are on their way to being plantations.

    Naturally evolved ancient forests are sacred and primeval life giving shrines, and standing and intact, large and contiguous primary rainforest and other old forests are a requirement for sustaining global ecology and achieving local advancement. Old forests are a vital part of the biosphere’s ecological infrastructure – and have a prominent, central role in making the Earth habitable through their cycling of carbon, energy, water, and nutrients. Planetary boundaries have been exceeded, we have already lost too many intact terrestrial ecosystems, and what remains is in adequate to sustain global ecology.

    Primary rainforests cannot be logged in an ecologically sustainable manner; once logged – selectively, certified, legally or not – for throw-away consumer crap, their primary nature is destroyed, and ecological composition and dynamics are lost forever. What remains is permanently ecologically diminished in terms of composition, structure, function, dynamics, and evolutionary potential. Logged primary forests’ carbon stores, biodiversity and ecosystems will never be the same in any reasonable time-span. Selective, industrially logged primary rainforests become fragmented, burn more and are prone to outright deforestation.

    Primary forest logging is a crime against Earth, the human family and all life – and those doing the logging, profiting and greenwashing the ecocide are dangerous criminals – who must be stopped and brought to justice. There is a zero chance of protecting and ending first time industrial logging of primary rainforests when the NGO Old Forest Sell-Outs say it is sustainable, even desirable, and continue to greenwash FSC old growth timber markets – now to be expanded with potential REDD funding – providing crucial political cover and PR for forest ecocide through their presence in the organizations.

    Each of the named organizations’ forest campaigns are a corrupt shell of their former selves – acting unethically and corruptly – destroying global ecology and local options for advancement, for their own benefit. The rainforest logging apologists have chosen power, prestige and money coming from sitting at the old forest logging mafia’s table, gathering the crumbs fallen from the table to enrich their empires, rather than the difficult yet necessary job of working to fully protect rainforests and other primary forests from industrial development.

    WWF, Greenpeace, and RAN are particularly culpable. With rainforests threatened as never before, RAN targets the Girl Scouts, Greenpeace supports Kleenex’s clearcut of Canadian old growth boreal forests for toilet paper, and WWF runs a bad-boy logger club who pay $50,000 to use the panda logo while continuing to destroy primary forests.

    The only way this NGO old forest greenwash logging machine will be stopped is to make doing so too expensive to their corporate bureaucracies in terms of lost donations, grants, and other support – whose sources are usually unaware of the great rainforest heist. Ecological Internet – the rainforest campaign organization I head – and others feel strongly, based upon the urgency of emerging ecological science, and our closeness to global ecological collapse, that it is better to fight like hell in any way we can to fully protect and restore standing old forests as the most desirable forest protection outcome. Greenwash of first time industrial primary forest logging must be called out wherever it is occurring, and resisted by those in the global ecology movement committed to sustaining local advancement and ecosystems from standing old forests. There is no value in unity around such dangerous, ecocidal policy.

    Despite tens of thousands of people from around the world asking these pro-logging NGOs to stop their old forest logging greenwash, none of the organizations (who routinely campaign against other forest destroyers, making similar demands for transparency and accountability) feel obligated to explain in detail – including based upon ecological-science – how logging primary forests protects them. Nor can they provide any detailed justification – or otherwise defend – the ecology, strategy and tactics of continued prominent involvement in FSC and REDD primary forest logging. They clearly have not been following ecological science over the past few years, which has made it clear there is no such thing as ecologically sustainable primary forest logging, and that large, old, contiguous, un-fragmented and fully ecologically intact natural forests are critical to biodiversity, ecosystems, and environmental sustainability.

    We must end primary and other old forest logging for full community protection and restoration. The human family must protect and restore old forests – starting by ending industrial-scale primary forest logging – as a keystone response to biodiversity, ecosystem, climate, food, water, poverty and rights crises that are pounding humanity, ecosystems, plants and animals. There is no such thing as well-managed, sustainable primary forest logging – first time industrial harvest always destroys naturally evolved and intact ecosystems.

    Humanity can, must and will – if it wishes to survive – meet wood product demand from certified regenerating and aging secondary growth and non-toxic, native species plantations. Humanity must meet market demand for well-managed forest timbers by certifying only 1) small-scale community eco-forestry practiced by local peoples in their primary forests (at very low volumes for special purposes and mostly local consumption), 2) regenerating and aging secondary forests regaining old-growth characteristics, and 3) non-toxic and mixed species plantations under local control. Further, reducing demand for all timber and paper products is key to living ecologically sustainably with old forests.

    Local community development based upon standing old forests including small scale eco-forestry is fine. Small scale community eco-forestry has intact primary forests as its context for seed and animal sources, and management that mimics natural disturbance and gap species establishment. It is the industrial first time logging – selective logging, defined as selecting all merchantable, mature trees and logging them– turning primary forests into plantations, that is problematic. The goal must remain to maximize the extent, size, and connectivity of core primary forest ecosystems, to maximize global and local ecosystem processes, and local advancement and maintained well-being from standing old forests.

    By dragging out the forest protection fight on a forest by forest basis, until ecological collapse becomes publicly acknowledged and society mobilizes, we can hold onto more ecosystems, biodiversity, and carbon than logging them a tiny bit better now. Soon – as abrupt climate change and global ecosystem collapse become even more self-evident – the human family will catch up with the ecological science and realize old forest destruction and diminishment must end as we ramp up natural regeneration and ecological restoration of large, connected natural forests adequate to power the global ecosystem. As society awakens to the need to sustain the biosphere, having as many intact ecosystems for models and seed sources for restoration as possible will be key to any sort of ecology and human recovery.

    Rainforest protection groups engaged in greenwashing primary forest logging (an oxymoron misnomer if ever there was one), particularly while offering no defense of doing so, while raising enormous sums for rainforest “protection”, must be stopped. We must continue to call upon all big NGOs to resign from FSC and REDD, and join us in consistently working to end primary forest logging, and protect and restore old forests. Until they do, they must be boycotted and their funding cut off – even if this impacts other good works they may do, as old forests are such a fundamental ecological issue – until they stop greenwashing the final destruction of primary forests. And it is past time for their supporters to end their memberships as ultimately these big NGO businesses are more concerned with their image and money than achieving global forest policy that is ecologically sufficient, truthful, and successful.

    As a rainforest movement, we must return to the goal of a ban on industrially harvested primary forest timbers. This means continuing to resist and obstruct old forest harvest, businesses (including NGO corporate sell-outs) involved, timber marketing, transportation, storage, milling, product construction, product marketing, and consumption. The entire supply chain for ecocidal primary forest timbers must be destroyed. More of us must return to the forests to work with local communities to build on-the-ground desire and capacity for ecologically inspired advancement from standing old forests, and physically obstructing old forest logging. We must make stolen, ill-gotten old wood from life-giving ecosystems an unacceptable taboo, like gorilla hand ash-trays, only worse. Together we must make old forest revolution.

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    Join and follow the End Old Forest Logging campaign at http://facebook.com/ecointernet