FLASHBACK: WWF’s Eco Imperialism

Corporate Power and Mining in Mongolia

November 03, 2008

Some of parts of the environmental movement have long presented a serious obstacle to the destruction wrought on life by the corporate powers that be and their imperial overseers. On the contrary, other influential and well publicized parts of the movement have also played a critical role in undermining the emancipatory potential of environmentalism in order to satisfy imperial interests. Environmental groups that fit comfortably within this latter category of “environmentalists” include those collectively referred to as the Big Green, or the Group of Ten, although only the work of one member of this elite group, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), will be examined in this article. (For a comprehensive overview of WWF’s capitalist-friendly agenda, see my recent article “The Philanthropic Roots of Corporate Environmentalism,” Swans, November 3, 2008.)

Recognition of the imperialist nature of many so-called green nongovernmental organizations has, paradoxically, been widely promoted by conservative commentators. Thus resident scholar at the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, Paul Driessen, recently published a controversial book titled Eco-Imperialism: Green Power Black Death (Merril Press, 2003). The introduction to Driessen’s book was penned by Niger Innis, the national spokesperson of the once progressive civil rights group Congress of Racial Equality – an organization which has now warped into a “fraudulent” corporate front group. In his introduction, Innis noted how:

“The ideological environmental movement is a powerful $4 billion-a-year US industry, an $8 billion-a-year international gorilla. Many of its members are intensely eco-centric, and place much higher value on wildlife and ecological values than on human progress or even human life. They have a deep fear and loathing of big business, technology, chemicals, plastics, fossil fuels and biotechnology – and they insist that the rest of world should acknowledge and live according to their fears and ideologies. They are masters at using junk science, scare tactics, intimidation, and bogus economic and health claims to gain even greater power.” (pdf)

Innis is correct in observing that the environmental movement is a multi-billion dollar industry, but like Driessen, he deliberately fails to highlight how the most powerful and well-funded environmental groups driving this industry work hand-in-hand with big business and imperial governments. On the other hand, those environmental organizations that seriously challenge corporate prerogatives receive little funding from the public or even for that matter from ostensibly progressive liberal foundations. Consequently I agree with Innis and Driessen that the best-funded parts of the environmental movement that are regularly talked-up in the mass media promote eco-imperialism, but this is not because they challenge powerful elite interests, but rather because they serve them so effectively. For instance, in 2007 WWF’s Global Networks income was US$0.8 billion; therefore, it should be no surprise that such groups that were founded by powerful corporate and political elites, and are presently funded by those same elites, should first and foremost promote capitalist interests under the cloak of environmentalism. For more on this see Elaine Dewar’s groundbreaking book Cloak of Green: The Links between Key Environmental Groups, Government and Big Business (Lorimer, 1995).