Tagged ‘Greenwash‘
Keystone XL Theatre | Why did Obama Choose NRDC Founder John Bryson as his Commerce Secretary?

Keystone XL Theatre | Why did Obama Choose NRDC Founder John Bryson as his Commerce Secretary?

Published January 26, 2012 by Political Context

By Cory Morningstar

Frances Beinecke, president of NRDC, on the nomination of NRDC founder John Bryson by President Barack Obama: “As one of the founders of NRDC, John Bryson is a visionary leader in promoting a clean environment and a strong economy. He has compiled an exemplary record in public service and in business that underscores the strong linkage between economic and environmental progress.”

“The ability to deal with people is as purchasable a commodity as sugar or coffee and I will pay more for that ability than for any other under the sun.” – David Rockefeller, the current patriarch of the Rockefeller family

As Sands Action Coalition continue to fill the self-proclaimed “progressive media” airwaves with self-congratulatory articles of strategic grassroots efforts and so-called victories, many are aware of the fact that a key player collaborating with the “Tar Sands Action” coalition is the NRDC (Natural Resources Defence Council). Forgetting for a moment the beginnings and correlation between, the Rockefellers, the Clintons and big business, what other ties to the very industry and administration could these “environmental groups” such as NRDC behold? One such revelation known to few is the fact that NRDC’s John Bryson was confirmed as Barack Obama‘s Commerce Secretary on 20 October 2011. Who nominated Bryson to fill this position? President Barack Obama himself nominated Bryson as Secretary of Commerce on 31 May 2011. Obama’s nomination was endorsed by key corporate players including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Bryson co-founded NRDC in 1970 by way of a $400,000 grant, courtesy of the Ford Foundation. Bryson has served on the United Nations Secretary-General’s Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change alongside other elite associates of powerful corporations such as Tata (India) and ESKOM Holdings (South Africa). (And as Rio+20 will prove, the United Nations has become as corrupt an institution as the nations that control it; an instrumental tool for serving the world’s powerful oligarchy. It is nothing less than a Greek Tragedy that it has taken 20 years to figure this out – a further tragedy being that we citizens still delude ourselves that we can influence these negotiations, in any meaningful way. We cling to denial, our fingers blue, eyes wide shut. [1])

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

November 23rd, 2011

The Unsuitablog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s break that down a bit:

Being an active member of the RSPO;

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

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

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

Disclosing how much palm oil they use;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…and benefiting WWF’s financial performance.

Must Watch Interview with WWF doc maker in English | The Silence of the Panda

Interview with WWF doc maker in English:

English subtitled interview with Wilfried Huismann, the maker of the documentary ‘The silence of the Pandas’, just before it was broadcasted on German TV. Contains some previews of the documentary and some extra items.

Shock documentary: WWF and industry – The pact with the Panda

Tuesday, 05 July 2011

The article below summarises the contents of the recently broadcast German documentary ‘The silence of the Pandas’, which exposed WWF’s close ties with corporations, including Monsanto. The film has caused shockwaves in Germany and many donors have reportedly withdrawn their support for WWF.

An English-subtitled interview with Wilfried Huismann, the maker of the documentary ‘The silence of the Pandas’, is here.

EXCERPTS: since 2010 Monsanto’s genetically modified soybeans have been certified as “sustainable” by the “Round Table on Responsible Soy” (RTRS). The certification system was created at the initiative of the WWF.

Hartmut Vogtmann, head of the Deutscher Naturschutzring (German League for Nature Conservation and Environmental Protection), is clearly outraged at this. In an internal letter to Detlev Drenckhahn, president of the German WWF division, he warns insistently against participating in the “Round Table on Responsible Soy”. In the letter, obtained by, Vogtmann argues that according to recent studies, through the cultivation of soy, the use of pesticides has “increased tremendously … because more and more weeds are becoming resistant to Roundup, which is used in the cultivation of soybeans”. Its active ingredient, glyphosate, “causes malformations in embryos and leads to higher rates of cancer,” he writes with respect to an investigation, and concludes: The Round Table, co-founded by the WWF, is “artificially keeping a failed system of agriculture alive”.

… Even before its initial screening, the film clearly stirred the German affiliate of the WWF. Attempts were made, through warnings and media attorneys, to influence the broadcast and to cancel interviews.

And what is one to think when the organization, in response to inquiries by the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, admits to having accepted donations from Monsanto? And of the fact that the promotion of genetic engineering by Jason Clay is termed an “individual opinion of an outsider”? In fact, he is not. He is the vice president of the WWF global organization.

Enquiries by WDR into the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)
WWF and Industry – the Pact with the Panda[1] By Lars Langenau[2]
22 June 2011
[German original:]

How industry-friendly is the WWF? On the fiftieth anniversary of the organization’s founding, the German broadcaster WDR did some behind-the-scenes research on the renowned globally operating environmental organization. Its explosive documentary shows how deeply the organization has become entrenched in economic interests and their billions in profits.

Baby tigers, polar bear cubs, young orangutans – cute and cuddly and evoking sympathy with their big eyes and snub noses. They have the perfect look that appeals to children. There’s only one thing that tops them all: the panda, cuddliness personified.

The panda is the poster animal of the globally renowned World Wide Fund for Nature, also still known today by its former name, the World Wildlife Fund. According to market research, the most powerful nature conservation organization in the world has one of the most credible images in the world. For 50 years it has stood for climate protection, sustainability, and the maintenance of the earth’s biological diversity.

And it is always in search of donors – in the service of nature. Children will not hesitate to raid their piggy banks; they collect animal pictures that the supermarket giant Rewe, in cooperation with the WWF, was until recently giving away with purchases, setting off a collection frenzy (“Animals – adventure. Discover all of them!”). Donors are made to feel as though they are buying a little piece of an ideal world.

But reality, at least in part, looks in fact quite different.

According to research by the WDR, the influential environmental organization WWF with its annual donations of around 500 million euro, its 4,000 employees, and affiliates in more than 100 countries, has become entwined in industry interests – the report raises the question whether the work of the organization can be reconciled with the slogan “For a living Planet”.

In the WDR documentary “The Pact with the Panda”, which was broadcast by ARD[3] last Wednesday at 11:30 PM, Wilfried Huismann, the recipient of several Grimme [media] awards, suggests that donors’ credulity is in some cases stretched rather thin for interests that scarcely serve the preservation of the planet.

Journey around the globe

Huismann documents that the WWF is clearly helping dubious companies obtain “sustainability certificates”. The organization cooperates in “roundtables” with GMO companies such as the agricultural giant Monsanto and the multinational Wilmar Group – and then certifies that they produce soy and palm oil “sustainably”.

In the film, the nature conservation organization justifies such close cooperation as a “non-ideological” course that “accomplishes a great deal more than consistent rejection”. Huismann, through his research, shows what consequences this cooperation with industry can have.

Displacement of one million aboriginal inhabitants for the tiger

Among other things, he cites the massive, often forced displacement of native peoples in India and Indonesia, who had coexisted for centuries with the wild animals that they venerate as holy. Huismann traveled to India, where one million aboriginal inhabitants are to be displaced, allegedly for the protection of tigers. But local activists say this is nonsense. WWF’s Tiger Project has been in existence since 1974, when there were still 5000 tigers. If it had been successful, then at least 8000 should be living there now, says an environmental activist, but there are clearly far fewer. And these few big cats are followed around their tiger reserve for eight hours a day by eco-tourists brought in by the WWF’s own travel company in its 155 jeeps. According to research, the well-heeled guests must pay about $10,000 for the privilege, while local activists complain that in the name of eco-tourism the original forest is being destroyed.

In Argentina the issue is genetically modified monocultures that place stress on humans and the environment. Huismann traveled in the northern part of the country, in the Gran Chaco, once the largest savannah in the world. Nowadays half of it has been cut down and taken over by a monoculture of soybeans which is spreading to adjoining land and is alleged to make people sick. The WWF’s attitude? “As of today, the soy wasteland in South America covers an area twice the size of Germany,” says the narrator in the film. “And the acreage is scheduled to double. The Argentinian WWF supports the project because the forests here, in its opinion, are of ‘low value’, and have been ‘degraded’ by human use”. Of the original forest stock, nothing more is to be seen.

The tightrope act of an environmental protection organization

Huismann also traveled to Borneo, where slash-and-burn clearing for the monoculture of palms to produce palm oil has been advancing at a rapid pace. In return, those in charge are locally creating a token forest for precisely two orangutans. But even these are threatened with starvation due to the minimal size of the reserve, says Huismann: “80 hectares on a 14,000-hectare plantation, that’s 0.5 percent. Is that a success, when 99.5 percent is wiped out?” In one of the most powerful scenes in the film, Doerte Bieler, the WWF’s specialist for biomass, is confronted with this question and responds laconically: “Now, if the 80 hectares were no longer there, that would mean absolutely certain death. Then they would be dead already.”

When Bieler is asked by Huismann to give an example of successful cooperation with industry, she is unable to find an answer. What’s important to her is that the WWF as a non-governmental organization (NGO) is “not just to be ridiculed, but to be accepted as a competent discussion partner.”

In Indonesia Huismann is visiting a plantation, one that research shows has just been certified as “sustainable” with the help of the WWF, and in which unfiltered wastewater seeps in to the ground. With this certificate “the company can cash in on subsidies ‘for regenerative energy’,” says the film’s narrator, and adds: “And the WWF gets a fee for having advised the company in ‘sustainability’ issues. For both sides, this is a good deal.”

According to Huismann, one major bank alone is forking over $100 million for a “climate partnership” with the WWF. But meanwhile, in Indonesia, that very financial institution is financing clear cutting by palm oil companies, to which large parts of the rain forest have already fallen victim. Despite that, the WWF sits down with the major players in the food industry at a “Round Table for Sustainable Palm Oil” (RSPO). Other NGOs, such as Friends of the Earth or Greenpeace, are distancing themselves, have left this round, or were never part of it.

Married to aristocracy – of blood or of money

The film also documents the involvement of aristocracy, whether of blood or of money, in the WWF. Its honorary president is Prince Philip. In an exclusive interview with the WDR he justifies hunting wild animals this way: “A balance among the species must be created. This can’t be left to nature. By decimating predators, you protect the animals.” The 90-year-old consort of the Queen of England defends his own shooting of a tiger in 1961 by noting that, after all, it was only one.

The secret “Club of 1001”

The WWF was co-founded largely by members of European aristocratic families. Huismann speculates that the organization was established only because, in the era of decolonization, the higher nobility were afraid of losing their hunting preserves. Their motto was still that of colonialism: “Nature is the absence of people – or at least of locals,” says Huismann to Süddeutsche Zeitung (, one of Germany’s largest dailies.

Over the last few decades, hardly any donation, and hardly any donor, was objectionable to the WWF, from Dow Chemical and Shell all the way to – at least for WWF USA – Monsanto itself.

Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, the organization’s first president, also founded the “Club of 1001”, a sort of “Friends of the WWF”, in which the western elite meets to this day. Its members are primarily from industry. In the early days even leading figures in the South African apartheid regime belonged to the Club, along with members of the Argentine junta and state terrorists such as Zaire’s dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.

Membership in this green country club is still secret. Only a few prominent members have left, mainly members of the aristocracy, says Huismann. According to his research, at least during the mid-eighties, many major figures from the German industrial elite were also members, from the bankers Robert von Pferdmenges and Hermann Abs to Friedrich Flick and Bertold Beitz.

Inhuman broadcasting time

That is a thing of the past, as the film’s narrator also says. But today, too, the WWF does not have many reservations. Thus, since 2010 Monsanto’s genetically modified soybeans have been certified as “sustainable” by the “Round Table on Responsible Soy” (RTRS). The certification system was created at the initiative of the WWF.

Hartmut Vogtmann, head of the Deutscher Naturschutzring (German League for Nature Conservation and Environmental Protection), is clearly outraged at this. In an internal letter to Detlev Drenckhahn, president of the German WWF division, he warns insistently against participating in the “Round Table on Responsible Soy”. In the letter, obtained by, Vogtmann argues that according to recent studies, through the cultivation of soy, the use of pesticides has “increased tremendously … because more and more weeds are becoming resistant to Roundup, which is used in the cultivation of soybeans”. Its active ingredient, glyphosate, “causes malformations in embryos and leads to higher rates of cancer,” he writes with respect to an investigation, and concludes: The Round Table, co-founded by the WWF, is “artificially keeping a failed system of agriculture alive”.

The WWF Germany wrote to on this issue: “We are continuing to cooperate with the RTRS because we want more GM-free soy, and in general, we want to minimize the environmental damage caused by soy cultivation, such as the destruction of forests.”

Meanwhile, the WWF has published a “fact check” on its website, stating, among other things: “We reject genetic engineering. We will do so until it is proven that genetically modified plants are completely harmless for the environment, for biodiversity and for us humans. This position of the WWF International applies to all WWF national organizations.” However, it is conceded that, at the level of “individual national organizations, there are also employees whose opinion does not conform to the official WWF position. This is particularly true for countries in which the share of genetically engineered crops in agriculture is already very high, such as the USA und Argentina”.

Even before its initial screening, the film clearly stirred the German affiliate of the WWF. Attempts were made, through warnings and media attorneys, to influence the broadcast and to cancel interviews.

And what is one to think when the organization, in response to inquiries by the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, admits to having accepted donations from Monsanto? And of the fact that the promotion of genetic engineering by Jason Clay is termed an “individual opinion of an outsider”? In fact, he is not. He is the vice president of the WWF global organization.

Copyright 2011 © GmbH / Süddeutsche Zeitung GmbH

1. This article was posted on the homepage of at 7:00 PM on 22 June 2011 where it remained in the top position for over 24 hours when it was moved further down to make room for more pressing news. It remained on the homepage until the evening of 24 June, the day a different article on the same issue was published in the print version of Süddeutsche Zeitung (p. 19 – Im Namen des Pandas: Der WDR dokumentiert die Verstrickung des Naturschutzverbandes mit Industrie und Lobbyisten.) In that second article the paper focuses more on the events that occurred immediately after the TV documentary was broadcast.
2. Translation from the original article in German by Larrass Translations, Ottawa
3. May be viewed online from the official ARD website media archive at

Greenpeace forest team works hard toward REDD – A False Solution Opposed by Indigenous Around the World

Forest Code becomes real at UNFCCC climate discussions

Blogpost by John Bowler – June 16, 2011 at 11:14

Bonn jour :-) and "hi" from the UNFCCC climate negotiations in Bonn, Germany where the Greenpeace forest team is working hard to secure a good REDD deal. The REDD concept is fairly simple: rich, developed countries provide funding to help developing countries protect their forests and invest in clean, green development). But we are not just listening, lobbying and negotiating. We are also campaigning. Last week we held a side event focused on the consultancy company McKinsey. I’m not going to get into that here so if you want to know more about that go to David’s blog. What I want to let you know about is a spoof presidential decree from Brazil’s President Dilma that we distributed yesterday morning.

The decree was about Brazil’s Forest Code and although not under discussion here we believe it to be of such importance that we could not let the negotiations end without bringing the problem to the attention of the world’s governments represented here.

Brazil is seen as a leader in reducing rainforest destruction so it is all the more important and urgent to let the international community know what is going on with the Forest Code. The new proposed version of the Forest Code is a dismal affair. It will weaken what in fact is a good law: it will grant amnesty to those who have deforested; reduce the areas to be protected; and lessen the responsibility of the government.

The new Forest Code, if it ever becomes law, will drastically reduce forest protection and kill the government’s goal to achieve an 80% reduction in Amazonian deforestation.

So yesterday morning a small team gathered inside the venue lobby and distributed the spoof decree to delegates as they entered for their early morning meetings. The response was good. Many of those reading it could be seen smiling once they realised that it was not true but a smart Greenpeace communication on what is required to protect Brazil’s rainforests. Simple, and let’s hope effective in initiating international support for President Dilma to deliver on her pre-election promises.

(John Bowler is Greenpeace Forest campaigner, from the UNFCCC Intersessionals in Bonn)

Wilderness Society greenwashes Frontier Airlines

you’re reading…


Wilderness Society greenwashes Frontier Airlines

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


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

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

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

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

(Image credit: fotdmike at Flickr)

From Greenpeace to Greenwash

Weekend Edition
April 29 – May 1, 2011

A Concise History of the Rise and Fall of the Environmental Establishment

How Green Became the Color of Money


From Greenpeace to Greenwash

Over the past quarter-century, Greenpeace has gone from one of the more radical environmental groups around to a gateway into the corporate world. More and more a stint at Greenpeace seems to be prerequisite on the resumé of top-flight public relations honchos. Greenpeace has already seen former executive Patrick Moore defect to the timber industry in Canada and Paul Gilding (former CEO of Greenpeace International) set up a consulting firm for such corporate villains as DuPont, Monsanto and Placer Dome Mining.

One of the most high-profile Greenpeacers to cash in is Lord Peter Melchett, former head of Greenpeace UK, who in 2002 took a position with Burson-Marsteller, the notorious PR firm. While at Greenpeace, Lord Melchett led the group’s high-profile campaign against genetically-engineered foods, targeting, in particular, the products of Monsanto, a Burson-Marsteller client.

According to a company press release, Lord Melchett will head a committee advising companies on how to deal with thorny issues such as GM food, toxic waste, oil drilling, nuclear power, child labor and sweatshops in the developing world. Burson-Marsteller executives told the Guardian newspaper of London that his lordship will also dispense advice on how Burson-Marsteller clients can counter environmental protests.

Lord Melchett knows the protest scene from the inside. He’s been called the José Bove of Britain, after he was arrested in 2001 for destroying a plot of genetically-engineered sugar beets in Norfolk. But the Eton-educacted Lord Melchett’s knows the corporate world even better. Melchett is a member of the House of Lords, his father headed British Steel and his great-grandfather founded the ICI chemical empire.

Greenpeace executives in Britain said they saw no conflict of interest in Lord Melchett’s defection to the dark side. "Anyone who knows him will know that he hasn’t changed his agenda at all," said Stephen Tisdale, then director of Greenpeace UK. "He sees Burson-Marsteller as a conduit to some very influential companies who would not normally talk to environmentalists. In some ways, Greenpeace held him back, and he has become more radical after leaving last year."

That last bit is a stark admission of how thoroughly impotent Greenpeace has become. For those who have forgotten, Burson-Marsteller is the pr firm of last resort. They rushed to defend Union Carbide after the company killed 2,000 people and injured thousands more in Bhopal, India. It also ran cover for Babcock and Wilcox after the company’s nuclear reactor suffered a near meltdown at Three Mile Island in 1979. They’ve represented Exxon and Monsanto, big tobacco, the Argentine junta, Indonesia’s Suharto, the Saudi royal family, and Nicolae Ceausescu, the late Romanian dictator.

Lord Melchett joined some old friends at Burson-Marsteller. Richard Aylard, the former head of Soil Association (which represents organic farmers) and Gavin Grant, a former environmental adviser to the Body Shop, both worked full-time the pr giant. While the others have severed their ties with environmental groups, Lord Melchett remained on the board of Greenpeace International.

In an email to John Stauber, former director of PR Watch, a former Greenpeace executive lamented that Lord Melchett’s defection was a sign of the moribund condition of the big time environmental movement.

"The Lord Melchetts of the activist (and now corporate) world are only one symptom of a broader contagion. Is there even a real environmental movement anymore? How accountable are NGOs to their own base? … Look how little is being accomplished in addressing Global Warming in the U.S. at a time when it’s obviously a national security issue and a global security issue. I think this is in part because the environmental groups don’t believe in mass movement building like they used to. Most of us are treated like consumer and spectator activists — expected to pay our membership dues and trust that full-time salaried activists will solve the issue — without expecting to get involved ourselves. How easy it is to confuse salaried NGO actors with real movement leaders. And when they leave to work for corporations, if they haven’t built a base that can carry on the radical push for change, how weak the organizations become that they leave behind. But alas, Lord Melchett hasn’t even fully left Greenpeace: Should Greenpeace International allow an employee of Burson-Marsteller on their board?"

The question might well be reversed. Given Greenpeace’s utter corrosion does it really serve the interests of the corporate spin doctors to recruit from their ranks anymore? These days picking up a Greenpeace staffer is little different than hiring away a pr flack from any other corporation.

To be continued.

Jeffrey St. Clair is the author of sitka.

This essay is excerpted from the forthcoming book GreenScare: the New War on Environmentalism by Jeffrey St. Clair and Joshua Frank.

Click here to read Part One.

Click here to read Part Two.

Click here to read Part Three.

Click here to read Part Four.

Click here to read Part Four.

Click here to read Part Five.

Click here to read Part Six.

Click here to read Part Seven.

Click here to read Part Eight.

Click here to read Part Nine.

Click here to read Part Ten.

Click here to read Part Eleven.

First Nations excluded from world’s largest conservation agreement

First Nations excluded from world’s largest conservation agreement

Julius Melnitzer July 8, 2010

Twenty-one forestry companies and nine environmental organizations, including Greenpeace, have signed what purports to be the world’s largest conservation agreement. But Rosanne Van Schie, an economic development officer with Wolf Lake First Nation, says that The Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement, demarking logging and conservation activities, was developed without First Nations input and without regard to the rights and social realities of First Nations. This despite the fact that the territorial scope of the agreement covers land over which First Nations have negotiated historic and modern day treaties or have claims extant. The Canadian Boreal Initiative recognizes that more than 600 First Nations communities maintain traditional roots in the Boreal.

Read more:

Campaign to Correct NRDC Continues at Bar Association

March 10, 2010

NRDC again was targeted for supporting gas drilling in NYS and beyond

By Kerry

A coordinated campaign to challenge the promotion of gas drilling by the Natural Resources Defense Council, a corporate-friendly environmental organization which has come under fire in recent years for its controversial stances, funding sources, and what-some-perceive as a Board of Directors with many conflicts of interests between their ties to polluting industry and the mission of the organization expanded into Midtown today.

Related: NRDC Blasted For Gas Drilling Support: Activists exposed NRDC’s support for gas drilling at Green Drinks event in West Village

Keywords: News, Bronx, Nature,

A coordinated campaign to challenge the promotion of gas drilling by the Natural Resources Defense Council, a corporate-friendly environmental organization which has come under fire in recent years for its controversial stances, funding sources, and what-some-perceive as a Board of Directors with many conflicts of interests between their ties to polluting industry and the mission of the organization expanded into Midtown today.

Activists crashed the event:

Marcellus Shale: Shall We Drill?

Co-sponsored by the New York City Bar Environmental Law Committee and the Environmental Law Institute

at the New York City Bar Association

the Moderator: Jeff Gracer, Sive, Paget & Riesel, P.C. and the Panelists: Kate Sinding, NRDC Thomas West, Counsel for Chesapeake Energy Corporation Hilary Meltzer, New York City Corporation Counsel’s Office The activity was promoted by the NYC Environmental Meetup Group although all of the panelists support gas drilling.

Fliers distributed stated: Stop Greenwash Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)

The NRDC has been an incredibly destructive force for the environmental movement in the United States. Now Greendrinks is providing legitimacy for this corporate “environmental” group.

But the NRDC supports gas drilling!

They have partnered with the worst polluting industry as part of the United States Climate Action Partnership to greenwash these industries’ role in polluting the local and global environment. USCAP advocates for: • Continued use of coal for decades • New Nuclear power plants • Targets for carbon stabilization of 450-550 ppm (when the entire world knows that 350 ppm is the outer limit of what we need to aim for to avoid catastrophic environmental destruction.

Ask NRDC to explain their betrayal inside. Or ask Greendrinks why NRDC is being allowed to our green party. Greendrinks has a sponsorship program – is NRDC appearing under that guise, and paying to present their greenwash?

See these websites for more information on NRDC polluter greenwash and the threat their support for ‘natural gas poses to the environment of New York State:

Stop Greenwash by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)

The NRDC has been an incredibly destructive force for the environmental movement in the United States. Now Greendrinks is providing legitimacy for this corporate “environmental” group. • But the NRDC supports gas drilling! • They have partnered with the worst polluting industry as part of the United States Climate Action Partnership to greenwash these industries’ role in polluting the local and global environment. USCAP advocates for: • Continued use of coal for decades • New Nuclear power plants • Targets for carbon stabilization of 450-550 ppm (when the entire world knows that 350 ppm is the outer limit of what we need to aim for to avoid catastrophic environmental destruction.

Ask NRDC to explain their betrayal inside. Or ask Greendrinks why NRDC is being allowed to our green party. Greendrinks has a sponsorship program – is NRDC appearing under that guise, and paying to present their greenwash?

See these websites for more information on NRDC polluter greenwash and the threat their support for ‘natural gas poses to the environment of New York State:

By Kerry

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Conservation projects displace locals | U.S. Nature Conservancy Exploitation

Friday, February 26, 2010

Listen to the show

Guarani people walk around their island village Several years ago three U.S. companies sank millions of dollars into a forest reserve in southern Brazil to earn credits to cover some of their carbon emissions back in America. How does the scheme work on the ground? Michael Montgomery reports in collaboration with Mark Schapiro.

Guarani people walk around their island village. (


  • Frontline/WORLD: Carbon Watch
    A project tracking the new currencies of global warming.
  • Center For Investigative Reporting: Carbon Watch
    A project looking at some of the key issues of climate change with a special focus on the trillion-dollar carbon trading market it has created.
  • Calculating the value of carbon in trees
    Delegates at the global climate summit failed to figure out a way to stop the destruction of the world’s forests. But some lawmakers think they have a solution, and it relies on financing from some of America’s biggest polluters. Michael Montgomery reports in collaboration with Mark Schapiro.
  • A green police trooper rides a boat in Brazil.A green police trooper rides a boat in Brazil.
  • Guarani tribal leader Leonardo Wera TupaGuarani tribal leader Leonardo Wera Tupa


BOB MOON: How about this idea: Save a tree in Brazil, keep polluting here at home. A plan pending in Congress would allow some of America’s biggest polluters to cancel out their emissions here, if they buy up endangered forests around the globe. Some U.S. firms have already been doing that by sinking millions of dollars into a forest reserve in southern Brazil. And how has that gone over with the locals down there?

Michael Montgomery has that story, in collaboration with Mark Schapiro of the Center for Investigative Reporting.

Michael Montgomery: If you want to save a forest in Brazil, you might call on the services of the state’s Force Verde, or Green Police.

Recently, five Green Police troopers set out on a patrol of a nature reserve in the vast Atlantic Forest. Three big U.S. companies — American Electric Power, Chevron and GM — invested millions of dollars to protect 50,000 acres of land here. It’s a very 21st century idea: these companies don’t own the land or the trees. They own credit for the carbon stored in the trees, and someday, they hope to use it to cancel out some of their greenhouse gas pollution back home.

Sound of Green Police commander speaking

The team’s commander leads us through tall grasses and into the forest, where orchids grow wild and jaguars prowl. The Green Police are here to make sure that no one is cutting down trees. They’ve chased off land developers and poachers. But locals complain the green police are also targeting them.

Jonas da Silva: If I go there, I’ll be humiliated in front of my family, because I’ll be arrested. I’ll be called a thief.

That’s Jonas da Silva. He grew up on the reserve’s border. The subsistence farmer says now he can’t hunt or fish or even use the forest paths that the community has relied on for generations. Da Silva lives among some 10,000 farmers, fishermen and Indians who eke out a living from the land.

Sound of children singing

On a small island near the reserve, we meet up with Leonardo Wera Tupa. The Guarani tribal leader has watched with apprehension as American companies cordon off the land here, in the name of fighting climate change.

Leonardo Wera Tupa: When those lands end up in the hands of environmentalists who say they want to preserve them, it ends up limiting many things for the people around and the local population suffers.

Jutta Kill: It is denying them access to land that they have used for many generations and which they have maintained and preserved.

Jutta Kill of the British environmental group FERN has compiled extensive testimony from dozens of locals who complain about abuses by police and park rangers.

Kill: We heard of people being arrested, we heard of people having their produce confiscated and we heard of the increasing difficulty of sustaining families. And therefore, a number of families have also had to leave the area.

Kill says some people fled to Antonina. That’s a small town a few miles outside the reserve. Carlos Machado is Antonina’s mayor.

Carlos Machado: Directly or indirectly, it was through these conservation projects that the population came here and created a ring of poverty around our city. It’s caused a big social problem here.

Machado calls these displaced people “carbon refugees.” But environmental groups managing the reserve see it differently.

U.S. Nature Conservancy promotional video: Forests are the lungs of our planet.

In a promotional video, the U.S. Nature Conservancy, which brokered this deal, says its forest projects in Brazil are:

U.S. Nature Conservancy promotional video: Offering local communities economic alternatives that are compatible with forest protection.

Duncan Marsh directs international climate policy for the conservancy. He says the group’s work in the reserve has given the community dozens of new jobs with health benefits, where before there were virtually none.

Duncan Marsh: Most of those jobs are jobs with the full range of benefits, whereas a lot of these people were not necessarily employed in a full and fully compensated way prior to the existence of the project.

Marsh described retraining locals to sell things like organic bananas and honey. But the Nature Conservancy’s own manager in Brazil told us that most money for job programs ran out a couple years ago. Now, even some of the project’s own corporate backers concede that mistakes were made.

Mike Morris: I wasn’t there in the early go, but I would imagine that we came in as American companies frequently do, “Everybody get out of the way, we’re going to do this.”

That’s Mike Morris, CEO of American Electric Power, one of the country’s biggest utilities. Morris says he’s still excited about the idea of preserving forests to cancel out some of AEP’s greenhouse gas emissions, but he says moving forward the company will do things differently.

Morris: Our effort will be never to repeat those endeavors but to go in as a willing partner and participant, after conversations with the local folks and the governmental folks involved, to make certain there’s agreement with what we’re doing.

Climate legislation making its way fitfully through Congress now includes a provision to respect the rights of people who live off forest land. But it remains to be seen whether companies only pay lip service, or find a way to protect the forest’s people as fiercely as they do the trees.

With Mark Schapiro, I’m Michael Montgomery for Marketplace.

Moon: Our story was produced in collaboration with the PBS program Frontline/WORLD.


  • Comment | Refresh
  • By Olga Swarthout
    From Holly, MI, 02/27/2010

    These relatively small tribes of indiginous people have suffered throughout history like the American native Indians.
    In the 16th century they were victimized by European geo-political machinations that gave Brazil to the Portugese and the rest of S. America to Spain ( see the award winning 1980’s movie THE MISSION, starring Robert DeNiro, Jeremy Irons and Liam Neeson ). In the 20th century they were again disenfranchised by Brazil’s massive agricultural development. The government ultimately gave them safe haven deep in the high forests bordering Argentina. Today, even that land is not safe for the Indians.

    By Larry Tobos
    From MI, 02/26/2010

    Nothing new here: “civilized” people taking advantage and forcing “savages” to remain that way so we can have “big oil” enjoying the same old bonanza. Just appaled by the story, and you categorizing it as a “green” story. Sincerely,
    Laurentiu (Larry) Tobos

Conservation Groups & Corporate Cash: An Exchange

Johann Hari’s piece “The Wrong Kind of Green” takes mainstream environmental groups to task for selling out their principles, often in exchange for money from the worst polluters. Posing the question, “How do we retrieve a real environmental movement, in the very short time we have left?” Hari argues that we have no choice but to confront the movement’s addiction to corporate cash and its penchant for environmentally destructive political deal-making–even if doing so requires having a “difficult and ugly fight.” We invited a range of green groups mentioned in the article to respond to Hari’s arguments in this special online forum, which concludes with Hari’s reply. Readers may also be interested in the web letters written about the piece.   –The Editors

Christine Dorsey, National Wildlife Federation
Leah Hair, National Wildlife Federation
Phil Radford, Greenpeace
John Adams, Natural Resources Defense Council
Kieran Suckling, Center for Biological Diversity
Carl Pope, Sierra Club
Bill McKibben,
Karen Foerstel, The Nature Conservancy
Johann Hari, The Nation

National Wildlife Federation

Christine Dorsey

The Nation‘s cover story “The Wrong Kind of Green” is an irresponsible and toxic mixture of inaccurate information and uninformed analysis. The author, who did not contact the National Wildlife Federation for this story, has written a work of fiction that hardly merits a response, except that it stoops to a new low by attacking the reputation of the late Jay Hair, a former CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, whose powerful legacy of conservation achievement speaks for itself.

In case The Nation is interested in publishing facts, the National Wildlife Federation is funded primarily by the generous donations of 4 million members and supporters. Corporate partnerships for our educational work account for less than 1/2 of 1 percent of our funding. Our dedicated staff, volunteers and state affiliates fight tirelessly to take on polluters, protect wildlife habitat, promote clean energy and educate families about wildlife and the importance of spending time outdoors in nature.

What will The Nation do next, blame polar bears for global warming?

National Wildlife Federation

Leah Hair

In “The Wrong Kind of Green” Johann Hari made outrageous and entirely false statements about my late husband, Dr. Jay Hair.

Jay died in 2002 after a five-year battle with an incurable bone marrow cancer. He devoted his life, with all his considerable passion, courage and intelligence, to protecting this planet. Jay never betrayed that mission in order to “suck millions,” as the article claimed, from oil and gas companies. During Jay’s tenure as president of the National Wildlife Federation, corporate contributions never exceeded 1 percent of NWF’s budget.

In 1982 Jay established NWF’s Corporate Conservation Council to create a forum for dialogue with Fortune 500 leaders. Prior to this controversial initiative, almost the only place business and environmental leaders met was in court. Jay took considerable heat, but he understood that the enormity of our environmental challenges required that all sectors–private, governmental, NGO, religious–be involved and talking to one another.

The Council was funded solely by its members; NWF’s budget was not drawn upon to create the Council, nor did corporate money from the Council seep into NWF’s regular budget.

In 1989 the Exxon Valdez spilled 10 million gallons of Prudhoe crude. Jay was the first national environmental leader to go to Prince William Sound to draw attention to the social and environmental devastation. Under Jay’s leadership, NWF initiated the class action lawsuit against Exxon for punitive damages. He protested on the floor of the Exxon stockholders meeting. If Exxon or anyone else thought that Corporate Conservation Council membership bought them “reputation insurance,” per Mr. Hari, for “an oil spill that had caused irreparable damage,” they clearly were mistaken.

Jay was only 56 when he died. Had he lived, he would have continued to be a passionate and courageous voice on behalf of our imperiled planet.

Your sloppy reporting smeared the reputation of a fine man. You owe an apology.


Phil Radford, Executive Director

“The Wrong Kind of Green” points to three principles that could make environmental advocacy groups stronger and the world a safer place for our children. First, avoid the perceived or real conflicts of interest created by taking corporate money. Second, start with what must be done to save the environment, not with what we think we can eke out of an unfriendly Congress. Third, the way forward will be bottom-up, shutting and stopping coal plants. I couldn’t agree more.

For forty years, Greenpeace has maintained our financial independence, refusing money from corporations.

A few years ago, Greenpeace and our allies decided to stop deforestation in the Amazon by “convincing” the major industries driving the problem to cease and desist. We would then permanently lock up the forests by securing financing from rich countries. When we discovered that cattle ranching was one of the primary drivers of deforestation, Greenpeace activists throughout the United States and Europe nudged Nike and Timberland to cancel their contracts with leather company causing deforestation. A few cancelled contracts later; the major ranching companies agreed with Greenpeace Brazil to a moratorium on any ranching that causes deforestation.

It doesn’t matter if you work with companies or governments, as long as you are independent, start with the ecological goal, work globally with governments or companies to change the game, and ultimately bring your opponents to a place where they’ll lobby for your law or can’t withstand it.

It is difficult to imagine a way forward on global warming that gets at the root of the problem–coal, the number one cause of global warming pollution–without a plant-by-plant fight to shut down coal. Some have approached coal with an attitude of “if you cant beat them, join them.” The Sierra Club and Greenpeace have a different approach: “beat coal until they join us.”

Natural Resources Defense Council

John Adams, professor of political science, University of Pennsylvania

I read your article “The Wrong Kind of Green” and was disappointed with your comments about Jay Hair, now dead eight years. I have no knowledge of any contributions made from oil and gas to NWF, but what I do know is, Jay was a dedicated environmentalist, and to the best of my knowledge, he did not sell out on any issues. I find it very troubling that someone who cannot defend himself is made the center of this article without many facts backing up the charges.

Center for Biological Diversity

Kieran Suckling, Executive Director

Johann Hari’s article follows upon stories in the Washington Post and E&E which ask similar questions: Why do so many of the large U.S. environmental groups appear to take their lead on climate policy from Congress and the White House? Why do they appear to lack a bottom line on climate policy? He is puzzled by the quick endorsement of weak climate bills, lauding of the Obama administration’s regressive position at Copenhagen, and claims that Copenhagen was a success.

What motivates such positions is unclear. But this much is very clear: as a political strategy, such positioning has been a failure. Congress and the White House have taken progressively weaker positions since early drafts of Markey-Waxman. They are giving ground in the face of corporate opposition and see little reason to move towards environmental groups who have already endorsed weak positions and signaled that they will endorse even weaker positions.

Similarly, it was a strategic mistake to press Congress to pass comprehensive climate legislation by pitting it as the alternative to Clean Air Act regulation. The result of that strategy could be (and was) predicted from the outset: climate deniers would latch onto the sense that Clean Air Act regulation is a bad idea and climate supporters (such as Kerry) would feel they have cover to use the Clean Air Act as a bargaining chip to win conservative votes. We would not be looking at such vehement opposition to Clean Air Act and such confusion about its working in the media, had the larger environmental groups been clear from that the outset that the Clean Air Act is effective, should be used to its fullest to combat global warming, and that any new legislation must be additive to the Clean Air Act, not in opposition to it.

Climate and wildlife scientists have convincingly shown that we must reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions to 350 parts per million from our current level of 387 ppm if we are to avoid runaway global warming and the extinction of polar bears, corals and thousand of other species. The Center for Biological Diversity has joined with groups such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, and to establish this as a bright line criteria for endorsement of any climate legislation, policy, or international agreement. It is not a negotiable position because the conditions which support life on Earth are not negotiable.

While pushing for new, comprehensive legislation, the Center believes it is imperative that we simultaneously use existing environmental laws such as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act to begin reducing greenhouse gas emissions now and updating land and wildlife management plans to ensure imperiled species are able to survive the level of global warming that is already locked in. We’ve had many successes in this arena and, as Hari describes, recently petitioned the EPA to scientifically determine the safe level of atmospheric carbon dioxide (and other greenhouse gases), just as it does for other criteria air pollutants. We believe that level is 350 parts per million or less.

Hari correctly describes the aggressive, public opposition to having EPA determine this safe level by a faction within the Sierra Club. Even worse, this faction tried to convince other environmental groups to support a congressional vote to prevent the EPA from determining the safe level of greenhouse gas pollution. The scientific determination of a clear greenhouse gas emission target is not in the interest of those who have endorsed vastly weaker targets.

The good news, however, is that the Sierra Club is a diverse and dynamic organization. Many of its leaders (including board members and chapters) are strongly in favor the Center and the’s petition to cap greenhouse gas emissions. I agree with Hari that recent changes in Sierra Club management are promising and look forward to working with the organization to fully use the power of science, the Clean Air Act, and new legislation to reduce carbon dioxide to 350 part per million. That is unquestionably the task of our generation.

The questions asked by Hari will continue to be posed by astute reporters, and will be asked with increasing urgency as endorsement are lined up for a very weak Kerry-Graham-Lieberman bill which will seek to increase oil drilling, continue coal burning and allow greenhouse gas emissions to increase past irrevocable tipping points. Whether one agrees with Hari’s answers or not, his questions are critical for our time. As environmental leaders, we would do well to take them as opportunities for self-reflection rather than defensive dismissal.

You can find more information on the Center for Biological Diversity’s efforts to combat global warming here.

Sierra Club

Carl Pope, executive director

While thin on solutions Hari’s story was so plump with distortions of reality that it might have been written by Lewis Carroll.

Hari’s silliest innuendo is that the Sierra Club is somehow less than aggressive in the fight against coal power. Sierra Club members have blocked no less than 119 coal-fired power plants in recent years and the organization is regarded by friend and foe as the most successful force in the critical effort to scrap coal power. On February 10, even climate scientist James Hansen pulled on a Sierra Club T-shirt and participated in Sierra Student Coalition anticoal rally at the University of North Carolina–one of dozens of such rallies our young activists have held in support of Hansen’s number one anti-climate disruption goal–to move America beyond coal.

The author also offered the false and offensive analogy that Sierra Club’s cause-related marketing partnership with Clorox’s environmentally friendly cleaning products was like Amnesty International being funded by genocidal war criminals. The Sierra Club had ensured that these products met the Environmental Protection Agency’s most stringent standard, “Design for the Environment,” spending four months reviewing Green Works to ensure that it deserved this designation. In the two years since the partnership began, no one has cited any evidence that Green Works products do not meet the environmental claims made for them. They are, rather, helping to increase demand for green products in the marketplace.

Finally, while there are legitimate disagreements between lawyers about the best legal strategies for cutting carbon emissions, we have always supported the deepest emissions cuts in line with the science and need to convert to a new clean energy economy. This includes cuts endorsed by the Center for Biological Diversity, with whom we often join in litigation. Indeed, it was the Sierra Club that helped bring the original suit which led to the Supreme Court Decision that spurred EPA to begin regulating global warming pollution.

Bill McKibben, founder

Many thanks to Johann Hari for an interesting piece, and for the very kind words about our work. Those of us at aren’t so much an organization as a campaign, and as such we’ve always looked for allies everywhere. And we’ve managed to find them not only across the environmental spectrum but, just as importantly, from less likely places–churches and synagogues and mosques and temples, sports teams and theater troupes. When we organized our global day of action last October–which CNN called “the most widespread day of political action in the planet’s history”–it involved 5,200 demonstrations in 181 countries. Around the world we worked easily and cooperatively with lots of big green groups as well as thousands of organizers from tiny local campaigns, and people who’d never done anything at all.

We were, sometimes, a little surprised at how hard it was to get buy-in to our campaign from some of the big American environmental groups. This piece might explain some of the reasons, but we’re not privy to their councils in those ways. Our guess is that history had something to do with it too–it’s worth remembering, as Hari points out, that these groups were set up and scaled to fight much smaller battles, doing the noble work of saving particular canyons or passing remediating laws. It’s a whole ‘nother level to try and take on fossil fuel, the center of the economy. Using the Sierra Club as an example, it should be noted that even if the front office didn’t like what we were doing, chapters all across America and around the world engaged with the 350 campaign in really great ways, helping pull off rallies and demonstrations. The same was true of many other groups. Which is good, because we’re a tiny outfit–a couple of dozen young people and one rapidly aging writer, spread out across a big planet. Immodestly speaking, we’re good at what we do, but not good enough to replace other organizations. Our real strength, of course, is the amazing volunteers who make the work happen everywhere–including places you’re not supposed to be able to do this work. If you check out the pictures at, one of the things you’ll be struck by is the fact that environmentalism is no longer something for rich white people. Most of our colleagues are black, brown, Asian, poor, young–because that’s who most of the world is.

One key battle that lies ahead for American groups is passing legislation to finally do something about our enormous contribution to the planet’s rapid warming: when we talk to our organizers in Addis Ababa or Beijing or Quito or pretty much everywhere in between, they say that American legislation is vital before anyone else will take real steps. Our movement-building history–beginning with the StepItUp campaign in 2007, which organized 1400 rallies in all fifty states–would indicate that it’s easier to try to rally people around bold and ambitious goals that would really safeguard our future. The lobbying in DC will go more easily if there’s a real movement around the country making senators feel at least a little inclined towards action, and that movement can only be built behind legislation that would truly change the system.

Copenhagen was a very serious drag–still, it was wonderful to see 117 nations endorsing the 350 target. True, they were the poorer and more vulnerable nations; we’ve still got persuade the real fossil fuel addicts. But the good news is everyone gets another chance to help out, all over the world. Working in collaboration with our UK friends at the 10:10 movement, we’ve set October 10 as the date for a global-scale Work Party, with people across the planet putting up solar panels and insulating houses, all with a 350 theme. The point is not that we’re going to solve climate change one house or solar panel at a time–unfortunately, that’s not mathematically possible. But we can use the occasion to send a distinctly political message to our leaders: we’re doing our work, why aren’t you? If we can get up on the roof of the school with hammers, surely you can find the strength to do your work in the Senate, or the General Assembly. If leaders simply won’t lead, then we’ll have to lead for them. We hope everyone will join in, from big groups and small. Working together is fun and empowering, or so we’ve found.

The Nature Conservancy

Karen Foerstel, director, climate media relations

The article “The Wrong Kind of Green” offers readers in inaccurate and incomplete picture of the role deforestation plays in climate change and the way in which environmental and conservation organizations are fighting for policies to address global warming. For the full story, visit

The Nation

Johann Hari, reporter

It is simply a fact that Jay Hair kick-started the process of environmental groups partnering with and taking money from the world’s worst polluters. It is also a fact that this process has been taken much further by other groups like Conservation International and The Nature Conservancy, and has ended with their missions becoming deeply corrupted, in ways I described in great detail in my article. This account of what has happened is not just my view–it’s the view of America’s most distinguished climate scientist, Professor James Hansen, the whistler-blower Christine MacDonald, and of virtually all the environmental groups that don’t take money from polluters.

I am perfectly prepared to accept that Hair was a fine person in his personal life and had some positive motives. Of course his early death is tragic. But many people who have made harmful misjudgments have also had some some admirable achievements in their lives. In public debate, we have to be able to expose the harm they did and show how it continues, or we cannot make sense of the world and prevent even more harm. Is John Adams seriously suggesting that since the dead cannot answer us, we should hold back in our criticism of their actions? How could any serious discussion of how the world came to be as it is take place under such an omertà?

The apology Leah Hair demands is in fact due from the “green” groups who have chosen to take polluter cash and have betrayed their own mission. If she wishes to preserve the best of her husband’s legacy rather than the worst, she should direct her anger at them–rather than at journalists honestly describing how this corruption began.

Rather than engage with the serious issues I raised, Carl Pope sadly plays the old politician’s trick of denying charges I did not make. Where did I say the Sierra Club doesn’t oppose coal? Nowhere. In fact, I did the opposite, writing that “there is an inspiring grassroots movement against coal power plants in the United States, supported by the Sierra Club.”

I went on to describe some plain facts–that under his leadership, the Sierra Club vehemently opposed a lawsuit to force the US government’s policies into line with climate science by returning us to 350ppm of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Pope doesn’t even try to justify this in his response, even though it was the most serious criticism of the club in my article.

The Center for Biological Diversity describes this behavior accurately as throwing “climate science out the window,” and Jim Hansen–the very man Pope waves as a papal authority–describes it as “shocking” and “abominable.” So, yes, the Sierra Club opposes coal in many places and at many times–but it is a matter of record that when there was a lawsuit to ensure the dramatic scale- back we need to preserve a safe climate, they lined up with former Bush administration members to mock and condemn it. I would like to hear Pope offer a serious explanation, rather than name-calling about Lewis Carroll.

Pope also gives an account of the Clorox scandal that is contradicted by his own staff. As Christine MacDonald exposes in her book Green, Inc., the company approached Pope and said they would give the Sierra Club a cut of their profits if they could use the club’s logo and brand on their new range of cleaning products. MacDonald reports that Pope gave the go-ahead without making a rigorous effort to check they were genuinely more green than their competitors. The club’s own toxics committee co-chair, Jessica Frohman, was very clear about this, saying: “We never approved the product line.”

It is a disturbing example of how corporate cash has perverted the behavior of even as admirable a green group as the Sierra Club–and may be the reason why Pope is being replaced with a leader from the more serious and science-based wing of the environmental movement. Its members certainly deserve better than this.

If there are so many “inaccuracies” in my description of TNC, why can’t they name a single one? Do they think the banal propaganda they link to is an answer?

Yet this is not the only glaring hole in these responses (apart, of course, from the arguments of Greenpeace, who refuses polluter cash). Do none of these people feel any concern that the leading environmental groups in America are hoovering up cash from the worst polluters and advocating policies that fall far short of what scientists say we need to safely survive the climate crisis? Do they really think there is nothing to discuss here?

· Slide Show: The Wrong Kind of Green

“Our objective is to save humanity and not just half of humanity. We are here to save mother earth. Our objective is to reduce climate change to [under] 1°C. [above this] many islands will disappear and Africa will suffer a holocaust. The real cause of climate change is the capitalist system. If we want to save the earth then we must end that economic model. Capitalism wants to address climate change with carbon markets. We denounce those markets and the countries which [promote them]. It’s time to stop making money from the disgrace that they have perpetrated.”

Evo Morales, December 16th, 2010, Copenhagen Climate Summit