Archives

Tagged ‘Oceans‘

WATCH: Salmonopoly [Marine Harvest & WWF, Chile]

marine-harvest-john-fredriksen-wwf

A film by Wilfried Huismann and Arno Schumann.

“Long-term investment in sustainability and the environment is the only way forward. With this commitment Marine Harvest is showing how environmental sustainability is a precondition for economic sustainability, and that they take global leadership to minimise their impact on the environment.” — Nina Jensen, CEO of WWF Norway

The risks and catastrophic results of aquaculture. The dirty tricks of powerful billionaires like John Fredriksen, who controls one third of the global salmon production. The WWF who greenwashes the ecological devastation and horrific plunder.

Marine Harvest is the largest salmon company in the world. It is headed by John Fredriksen (Marine Harvest’s biggest shareholder), a billionaire who has developed salmon farms in Norway and Chile. But in Chile, with weaker environmental legislation, a fatal disease for salmon has developed. Working conditions are also catastrophic for employees and sometimes fatal for local divers. To improve its image, Marine Harvest negotiated a contract with WWF for $ 100,000 a year. [Le Festival international de films “Pêcheurs du monde”]

 

 
Further Reading:

WATCH: Salmon Confidential [Marine Harvest & WWF, British Columbia]

Blue-washing the Colonization and Militarization of Our Ocean

How U.S. Marine National Monuments protect environmentally harmful U.S. military bases throughout the Pacific and the world.

The Hawaii Independent

June 26, 2014

by Craig Santos Perez

b-1_bombers_on_diego_garcia__large

B-1 bombers on Diego Garcia

President Obama recently announced plans to expand the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument from 87,000 square miles to nearly 782,000 square miles. Despite the media framing this move as a victory for ocean conservation, the truth is that these monuments will further colonize, militarize and privatize the Pacific.

Many mistakenly refer to marine “monuments” as “sanctuaries” because they are both “marine protected areas.” However, an official sanctuary is designated by the Secretary of Commerce under the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, which requires “extensive public process, local community engagement, stakeholder involvement, and citizen participation, both prior to and following designation.”  On the other hand, the President unilaterally designates marine monuments through the Antiquities Act of 1906. No public process is required.

The first and largest Marine National Monument was established in 2006: The Papah?naumoku?kea Marine National Monument (140,000 square miles). Three more marine monuments were established in 2009: The Marianas Trench Marine National Monument (95,000 square miles); The Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument (87,000 square miles); and The Rose Atoll Marine National Monument (13,000 square miles). The total “protected” area, with Obama’s expansion, would be more than a million square miles of “small islands, atolls, coral reefs, submerged lands, and deep blue waters.”

Why has this antiquited, unilateral process suddenly become so popular? Why are U.S. presidents from both sides of the political divide side-stepping Congressional approval and—more importantly—public participation and scrutiny?

It’s important to understand that establishing a marine national monument, reserve, or refuge places our coastal and open ocean waters under federal control. The marine monuments are administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (under the Department of Commerce) or by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (under the Department of the Interior). This ocean and submerged land grab by the federal government severely limits public access and trust. Additionally, these monuments violate the rights of indigenous peoples by separating us from our sacred spaces. Traditional fishing grounds or ritual spaces may no longer be accessible. If there are exceptions for indigenous rites, we will need to apply for a permit and receive federal approval.

How Do Marine Reserves Militarize the Ocean?

As I wrote about in a previous editorial, the U.S. military removed the original landowners of Litekyan (Ritidian), an area in northern Guam, under eminent domain in 1963, and the Navy used the area as a communications station during the Cold War. Thirty years later, 1,000 acres of the land was deemed “excess.” Instead of that land being returned to the families, it was transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and designated a “National Wildlife Refuge.” Today, four thousand acres of Litekyan is now being considered for a live firing range complex.

You see, designating land and water as a monument, refuge, reserve, or even sanctuary keeps the land under federal control as opposed to public (and indigenous) trust. So if the military ever wants to use the land in the future, it can simply be converted (or re-converted in the case of Litekyan) from the Department of the Interior or Commerce to the Department of Defense. This is the “logic of military conservation.”

Many marine monuments house strategic military bases. For example, the marine monuments of the Pacific are home to U.S. bases on Guam, Tinian, Saipan, Rota, Farallon de Medinilla, Wake Island and Johnston Island, to name a few. The reason why military bases can be within marine monuments is because “nothing in the proclamations impairs or otherwise affects the activities of the Department of Defense. Among other things, the DoD is ensured full freedom of navigation in accordance with the law of the sea, and the U.S. Navy can continue effective training to maintain its antisubmarine warfare and other capabilities.” In other words, the military is exempt from most environmental regulations and prohibitions.

Ironically, the public may no longer be allowed to fish in these “protected” areas because it might affect the fragile ocean ecosystem, yet the military can conduct weapons training and testing. Remember, marine monuments are not designed to protect the ocean from the U.S. military, one of the worst polluters in the world. In fact the opposite is true: they are designed to allow easier military access. As activists in Hawai’i know, these national monuments could become “watery graves” for endangered species when military training occurs.

Besides providing more federally controlled space for the U.S. military to train, marine monuments give military bases another layer of secrecy from the public. This buffer strategy is spreading to other nations. During the meeting of the U.S. State Department sponsored Our Ocean conference last week in Washington DC, other countries announced similar plans to federalize massive ocean areas, including Palau, Kiribati, the Cook Islands and the Bahamas. These new marine reserves will become military sanctuaries, buffer zones and watery bases for the U.S. military as it forcefully positions itself in the Asia-Pacific region (and uses “illegal fishing” as justification to militarize these marine reserves).

We need to be critical of these efforts. Read about what happened to the Cayos Cochinos, an island group in the Carribean off Honduras, during the twenty years after they were declared a “protected area.” The Afro-Indigenous Garifuna peoples have been displaced from their lands and fishing grounds. Tourism developers and other private industries have invested in and exploited the islands. And, you guessed it, the U.S. military is using the area for basing and training, providing millions of dollars of aid to the Honduras government. This is what will happen to countries that ally with the U.S. in this colonial conservation scheme.

In 2009, Britian designated a marine protected area around the Chagos islands. However, the waters around the island of Diego Garcia, which is the site of one of the most secretive overseas U.S. military bases, was exempted. How bizarre: a secretive U.S. military base in the Indian Ocean surrounded by a 200-mile marine preserve controlled by the British government. Peter Sand, in “The Chagos Archipelago: Footprint of Empire, or World Heritage?”, pointedly asks whether these new marine reserves are “an anachronistic example of ‘environmental imperialism’, or evidence of an equally outdated variant of ‘fortress conservation’ that disregards human rights under the noble guise of nature protection.” Either way, the Chagossians who were removed from their islands may never be able to return.

How do Private Corporations Benefit from Marine Monuments?

As I mentioned before, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is under the Department of Commerce (DOC). Does that seem strange to you? It certainly seems strange to Obama, when he joked during his 2011 State of the Union address: “The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they’re in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them when they’re in saltwater.” Obama wants to move NOAA to the Department of the Interior.

Joking aside, it actually makes perfect (or perverse) sense that NOAA remains in DOC, which promotes trade and economic development. A few years ago, then Secretary-of-State Hillary Clinton dubbed the 21st century: “America’s Pacific Century.” This strategic turn aims to expand trade, investment, and militarization throughout the Asia-Pacific region. The cornerstone of America’s Pacific Century is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a free trade agreement that has been described as “NAFTA on steroids.” As Clinton stated, the continued economic growth of the region depends on the “security and stability that has long been guaranteed by the U.S. military.” It is not surprising that TPP negotiations, as well as militarization proposals in the Pacific, intensified around the same time that President Bush designated the first marine monument in 2006.

So what are these economic opportunities, and what does the TPP have to do with the surge of marine national monuments and reserves designated by the U.S. federal government and its allies?

First, the more military sanctuaries the U.S. has around the world, the more federal tax money will be spent to secure these areas for investment, which means more profit for the military industrial complex and private defense firms.

Second, does something smell fishy? The justification for many of these marine reserves is to prevent illegal fishing and fish fraud, especially from China. With a massive fleet of 2,000 distant-water, state-subsidized fishing vessels, China catches nearly five tons of fish a year, worth more than $10 billion—some legally and some illegally. In contrast, nearly 90 percent of seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported. By establishing marine monuments, and encouraging its allies in the Pacific to do the same, the U.S. could effectively shut out China from Pacific tuna waters. In turn, private U.S. tuna corporations could negotiate contracts with Pacific allied nations to develop Pacific fisheries or to obtain exclusive fishing rights within the marine reserves (as well as access to cheap labor and canneries). This comes at a time when foreign-owned and American-owned canned-tuna companies are battling for control over our kids’ school lunches. Billions of dollars of tuna are on the plate.

Third, wherever you find a national monument, you will find a tourism industry. The Cayos Cochinos is a prime example. The government that controls the marine monument can permit private companies to operate tourism centers, hotels, eco-adventures—all in the name of development and jobs. The concessions throughout the U.S. National Park Service are owned and operated by private companies, which gross over $1 billion annually. There are more than 500 companies, from food to lodging to adventure sports to retail, that have contracts with the National Parks. Of course, the entire National Park system was one way of displacing Native American presence on these lands.

Fourth, the Pacific has long been a “laboratory” for Western science and technology. Since another justification for marine reserves is scientific research, then we will see many more unprecedented grants for oceanography research. This research can be transformed into profit by private industries, such as deep-sea mining, geo-thermal energy, open-ocean (genetically modified) aquaculture, and pharmaceutical drugs derived from ocean microbial bacteria.

New Zealand established a Marine Mammal Sanctuary in 2008 to protect engangered dolphins, yet it is now considering opening the area up for oil drilling. This is not a contradiction; this is exactly what these conservation schemes are designed for.

Lastly, do you want to see Avatar 2 with me when it comes out? In 2012, James Cameron dived in a submarine to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the deepest point on earth, which is protected by the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument. He lit up the trench with an eight-foot tower of LED lighting to film 3D footage. In another celebrity sighting, Leonardo DiCaprio made a cameo at the State Department’s Our Ocean conference, donating $7 milllion towards marine reserves. Apparently, he’s a diving enthusiast.

What is Blue-Washing?

In the 21st century, national marine momunents, marine parks, marine preserves, marine refuges, marine sanctuaries and their other iterations are instruments that empower the federal government to take land and water away from indigenous and public access, scrutiny, and trust. The “marine monuments” are especially dangerous because they do not require—nor are they accountable to—legislative or public comment, engagement, or approval.

As David Vine, in “Environmental Protection of Bases,” notes: “For all the benefits that marine protection areas might bring, governments are using environmentalism as a cover to protect the long-term life of environmentally harmful bases. The designation also helps governments hold onto strategic territories.” Furthermore, these designations give the governments of the U.S. and its neoliberal allies the power to create contracts with private corporations to exploit the resources of our ocean for profit and not for the public good. Let’s call this a form of “Blue-washing.”

The word “monument” comes from the Latin, monumentum, meaning “grave” or “memorial.” If our oceans continue to become national marine monuments, our blue ocean will indeed become a watery grave, a memorial to the beauty, richness, and biodiversity that once was.

 

Further reading:

Mauritian socialists’ open letter to Greenpeace — `Don’t help cover up colonialism’s crimes on Diego Garcia’

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

5345d2af-5f6f-4489-840a-9df9fdcb796f-2060x1236

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.

Polartec-SS15_400x341px

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.

patagonia picture-323

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 (Illusory) Green Economy – A Critical Analysis by Dr.Joanna Boehnert

The work of environmental scientists supporting the UN’s GEP will give scientific authority the project, but the important decisions will have already been made. The project is a deepening commitment to neoliberal free markets. On a macroeconomic level “the subordination of social and environmental considerations to macroeconomic policy imperatives” is the fundamental basis of neoliberalism (Nadal, 2012, p.15). Once “macroeconomic objectives are determined, every other policy target is chiseled in accordance” (Ibid., p. 15). The lessons of the recent economic crisis in regards to the fallibility of the financial sector are entirely ignored.

 

The architects of the project have failed to acknowledge the most expansive systemic dynamics of capitalism and ignored the political and historic context. Despite claims by the UNEP, the UN’s GEP is not policy neutral (Ibid., p. 23).

 

The UN’s GEP is supported by the financial and corporate sectors because they recognize the programme as a continuation of the neoliberal model, an expansion of the scope of market and also an exceptional opportunity to create entirely new financial instruments. Similarly to the financial deregulation that set up conditions for the dramatic plunder of public wealth during the current economic crisis, the UN’s GEP establishes new markets that will lead to new avenues for financial speculation. The speculative bubble during the 2008-2009 period has been estimated to cost governments globally at least $12 trillion (Conway quoting IMF, 2009) leaving several bankrupt national governments and severe economic austerity in its wake. This is the context in which the UN’s GEP is operating. The designers of the project have closely aligned themselves to the same financial institutions that played leading roles in the economic crisis.

 

Meanwhile, scientific institutions, environmental NGOs and government agencies are working to build institutional infrastructure to give scientific authority to the UN’s GEP. …The historical critique of capitalism presented by John Bellamy Foster (2002) and others describes that the appropriation of the commons is an integral aspect of capitalism. Capitalism is always looking for new means of producing profit from activities that were otherwise not managed through commodity relationships.

 

The Indigenous People’s Kari-Oca 2 Declaration describes the UN’s GEP as ‘a continuation of colonialism… a perverse attempt by corporations, extractive industries and governments to cash in on Creation by privatizing, commodifying and selling off the Sacred and all forms of life and the sky’ (2012, p.1-2). The programme of re-visioning of the commons as sets of commodities ripe for exploitation is diametrically contrary to the environmental rhetoric used to sell the project.

Corporate NGOs Work Hand in Hand With Walmart to Privatize Earth’s Oceans & Fisheries

illustration: zeeninginlaos

Walton Family Foundation Sunk $71.4 Million into Greenwashing Schemes

 

Over $36 million alone was handed over to “Marine Conservation” grantees including the Ocean Conservancy, Conservation International Foundation, Marine Stewardship Council, World Wildlife Fund and EDF. All of these organizations are notorious for their role in corporate greenwashing efforts across the globe.

 

“The Walton Family Foundation is funding the Environmental Defense Fund, which wants to commodify water through water marketing and privatize our fish through catch shares program,” said Grader. “These are tools used by corporations to further the growing disparity between 1 percent and rest of us.”

 

California Progress Report

November 19th, 2012

By Dan Bacher

 

Much recent media attention has focused on Walmart’s announcement that it is canceling Thanksgiving plans for many of its employees. These workers will now have to work on the holiday as the retail giant kicks off its holiday sale at 8 PM on Thanksgiving Day, rather than waiting until midnight on “Black Friday.”

“The result is troubling for advocates for workers’ rights, as Walmart has encroached repeatedly on a holiday that traditionally involves plenty of time spent with family and away from work,” according to a statement from the Corporate Action Network. “The decision to move up the start of Black Friday sales to Thursday could be an attempt to thwart the workers’ organization efforts scheduled for Black Friday.

Labor, social justice and human rights groups are supporting a nationwide boycott of Walmart on Black Friday to back the strike of Walmart workers that day.

However, less well known to the public is Walmart’s ambitious campaign of corporate greenwashing in recent years.

The Walton Family Foundation proudly reported “investments” totaling more than $71.4 million in “environmental initiatives” in 2011, including contributions to corporate “environmental” NGOs pushing ocean privatization through the “catch shares” programs and so-called “marine protected areas” like those created under Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative.

According to a press release from the Walmart Headquarters in Bentonville Arkansas, the foundation made grants to more than 160 organizations in the U.S. and other countries “that work to protect natural resources while strengthening the local economies that depend on them.”

The foundation directed an overwhelming majority of the grants toward its two core environmental initiatives – “Freshwater Conservation and Marine Conservation.”

“Our work is rooted in our belief that the conservation solutions that last are the ones that make economic sense,” claimed Scott Burns, director of the foundation’s Environment Focus Area. “The foundation and our grantees embrace ‘conservationomics’ – the idea that conservation efforts can and should bring economic prosperity to local communities.”

The foundation donated $30.5 million to Marine Conservation, $26,842,289 to Freshwater Conservation and $14,022,907 for “Other Environment Grants.”

The Top Five Grantees were Conservation International, $16,208,278; Environmental Defense Fund, $13,683,709; the Marine Stewardship Council $3,122,500; Nature Conservancy $3,024,539, and the National Audubon Society, $2,739,859.

Conservation International, the top recipient with $16,208,278, is an organization noted for its top-down approach to conservation and involvement with corporate greenwashing.

The Walton Foundation press release claimed that, “Conservation International continued to implement a three-year program to empower local communities to manage and conserve fishing resources on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast.”

However, the group’s board features controversial corporate leaders such as Rob Walton and Stewart Resnick.

Rob Walton, Walmart Chairman, serves as the Chairman of the Executive Committee of Conservation International. Serving with him on Conservation International’s Board of Directors is Stewart Resnick, the owner of Paramount Farms.

Resnick has been instrumental in campaigns to build the peripheral canal to increase water exports to agribusiness and Southern California, to eviscerate Endangered Species Act protections for Central Valley Chinook salmon and Delta smelt and to eradicate striped bass in California. The Center for Investigative Reporting describes Resnick as a “Corporate Farming Billionaire and One-Man Environmental Wrecking Crew.”

Resnick is notorious for buying subsidized Delta water and then selling it back to the public for a big profit, as revealed in an article by Mike Taugher in the Contra Costa Times on May 23, 2009.

“As the West Coast’s largest estuary plunged to the brink of collapse from 2000 to 2007, state water officials pumped unprecedented amounts of water out of the Delta only to effectively buy some of it back at taxpayer expense for a failed environmental protection plan, a MediaNews investigation has found,” said Taugher.

Taugher said the “environmental water account” set up in 2000 to “improve” the Delta ecosystem spent nearly $200 million mostly to benefit water users while also creating a “cash stream for private landowners and water agencies in the Bakersfield area.”

“No one appears to have benefitted more than companies owned or controlled by Stewart Resnick, a Beverly Hills billionaire, philanthropist and major political donor whose companies, including Paramount Farms, own more than 115,000 acres in Kern County,” Taugher stated. “Resnick’s water and farm companies collected about 20 cents of every dollar spent by the program.”

Likewise, the Nature Conservancy, a group that received $3,024,539 from the Walton Family Foundation, in 2011, is also known for its strong support of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels that Resnick and other corporate agribusiness interests so avidly support. A broad coalition of fishermen, Indian Tribes, environmentalists, family farmers and elected officials opposes the construction of the tunnels because they would hasten the extinction of Central Valley salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt and other species.

Drive to Privatize Fisheries

illustration: zeeninginlaos

Environmental Defense Fund, with the second highest donation at $13,683,709, is known for its market-based approach to conservation and its push for “catch shares” that essentially privatize the oceans. The relationship between the group and the retail giant is so close that it operates an office in Bentonville, Arkansas, where Walmart is headquartered.

“Environmental Defense Fund released its ‘Catch Shares Design Manual: A Guide for Fishermen and Managers’ to provide a roadmap to catch share design, which is a focus of our Marine Conservation initiative,” according to the Walton Family Foundation.

A catch share, also known as an individual fishing quota, is a transferable voucher that gives individuals or businesses the ability to access a fixed percentage of the total authorized catch of a particular species.

“Fishery management systems based on catch shares turn a public resource into private property and have lead to socioeconomic and environmental problems. Contrary to arguments by catch share proponents – namely large commercial fishing interests – this management system has exacerbated unsustainable fishing practices,” according to the consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch.

True to form, Sam Rawlings Walton, the grandson of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, serves on the Board of Trustees of EDF.

Times Articles Put Spotlight on Walmart, Highlight Media Failures

Two New York Times articles in April 2012 put Walmart and the Walton family’s “dirty laundry” in the international spotlight, leading to a renewed call by the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) for the public to support their boycott of Walmart.

The Times articles covered Walton family support for anti-fishing, pro-privatization efforts in North America, followed by the publication’s exposure of alleged $24 million worth of bribes in Central America to speed up the chain’s expansion into Mexico.

“The headlines prove that Walmart and the Walton Family Foundation are no friends of local communities anywhere, and their ongoing efforts to destroy coastal fishing businesses through support of arbitrary marine reserves and privatization of fish stocks nationwide should not be supported by anglers,” said RFA executive director Jim Donofrio. “We’re asking coastal fishermen who support open access, under the law, to healthy and sustainable fish stocks to send a clear message to this arrogant corporation that we’ve had enough of their greenwashing and grafting efforts.

Donofrio noted that Walmart made world headlines following a New York Times story that charges the Bentonville, Arkansas company and its leaders of squashing an internal investigation into suspected payments of over $24 million in bribes to obtain permits to build in Mexico.

The bribery scandal was exposed on the same day that the Gloucester Times of Massachusetts exposed a reporting lapse in another recent New York Times article about the relationship between Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Walmart partnering together for “more enlightened and sustainable operations.”

The New York Times had earlier reported that EDF “does not accept contributions from Wal-Mart or other corporations it works for.”

However, when confronted on the fact that the $1.3 billion Walton Family Foundation (started in 1987 by Wal-Mart’s founders, Sam and Helen Walton, and directed presently by the Walton family) has been underwriting EDF’s successful effort to replace the nation’s mostly small-business, owner-operated fishing industry with “a catch shares model designed to cap the number of active fishermen by trading away ownership of the resource to those with the deepest pockets,” the author of the New York Times report conceded by email that in her rush to meet deadlines, she had not considered the relationship between the Walton family and Wal-Mart, according to Donofrio.

“I didn’t think to check the EDF board for Walton family members, or Walton Family Foundation donations,” said reporter Stephanie Clifford, adding “None of the third parties I’d spoken to had mentioned that connection, which isn’t an excuse – I should have thought of it myself, but didn’t.

RFA is hoping that saltwater anglers and fishing business owners help send Walmart stocks tumbling by refusing to shop at the corporate giant any longer.

“The Walton family uses their fortune to buy off friends who’ll cover for their despicable business practices, whether it’s corporate greenwashing with EDF, rebranding efforts through national trade association campaigns, or apparently by way of directed bribes to local officials in other countries,” Donofrio said. “Don’t just stop buying fishing tackle at Wal-Mart – stop supporting this company altogether and let’s quit supporting complete buyouts and takeovers of local communities.”

In August 2011, RFA asked fishermen to publicly boycott Walmart stores following issuance of a news release from Wal-Mart corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas where the Walton family announced investments totaling more than $71.8 million awarded to various environmental initiatives.

Over $36 million alone was handed over to “Marine Conservation” grantees including the Ocean Conservancy, Conservation International Foundation, Marine Stewardship Council, World Wildlife Fund and EDF. All of these organizations are notorious for their role in corporate greenwashing efforts across the globe.

The RFA pointed out that by contributing over $36 million to NGOs promoting alleged “marine protected areas” like those created under Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative and catch share programs in 2010, the Waltons were contributing to the demise of sustainable recreational and commercial fisheries and the privatization of the oceans.

Commercial Fishermen Back Boycott

Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, supports RFA’s boycott of Walmart.

“People who are concerned about our environment or labor rights should all be boycotting Walmart,” said Grader. “Their polices are clearly intended to commodify our natural resources and put them under the control of large corporations.”

“The Walton Family Foundation is funding the Environmental Defense Fund, which wants to commodify water through water marketing and privatize our fish through catch shares program,” said Grader. “These are tools used by corporations to further the growing disparity between 1 percent and rest of us.”

“I’ve been boycotting Walmart for decades and it’s absolutely great that recreational and commercial fishermen are together on this,” concluded Grader.