The Unsuitablog

Exposing Ethical Hypocrites Everywhere!

Energy Union and Friends Of The Earth : A Greenwashing Alliance

Posted by keith on May 8th, 2009

Lightbulbs Not The Answer For the first time in about two weeks my garden is getting a decent smattering of rain, which might refresh the water butts so I can keep the vegetables growing during the next dry period. Things like this bother me from day to day, as I get more concerned with trying to become self-sufficient (like yesterday when I found that my garlic had grown into garlicky spring onions rather than bulbs). That said, I can’t imagine myself becoming any less concerned with the kind of dour, trivial activity that masquerades as positive action: symbolic action and inadequate solutions are just as dangerous as intentional greenwashing, and that is why it is very important that you understand the implications of the Energy Union; a collaborative project that says it has the solution to our current predicament.

I first learnt about this on Wednesday, when I received an email from someone (who I won’t name, because I believe he has been duped) working for a media company who wanted to know where he could get hold of some videos of greenwashing to assist with a project.

Hi Keith

….Its for a satirical piece for a project called Energy Union (

This looked interesting, so I went to the web site and was a little underwhelmed. Sourcing videos wouldn’t be a problem, but did I want to help out with something that was only pushing for a 40% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020? I wasn’t suspicious at this point, merely unmotivated because I had seen campaigns like this so many times before. It also happened that I was aware of something being worked on by Friends of the Earth which had an identical carbon target.

Hi xxxxx

I’ve had a look at your site, and I’m afraid there is a little greenwashing going on there too – though it may be unintentional. You see, a 40% cut by 2020 may be tough by civilised standards, but because we need a 95% cut by 2030 — based on current work by Jim Hansen, David Wasdell et al — you are selling yourselves way short (I do realise this is a FoE project, so that would explain the conservatism). If the demand is not for a 60% cut by 2020 then you will end up compromising on 20% with everyone, including FoE (I’ve worked with them a lot in the past) going away happy: if the industrial system is happy then you know something is badly wrong.

So, I will do my best to source some good material for you, but only on the understanding that the commitment is increased commensurate with a 95% cut in the industrial world by 2030. Does that sound fair? Given that the future of humanity depends on it, then I would be a hypocrite to endorse anything else.


As this point, I assumed that the correspondent had some say in the project, and had no idea who was running the show overall. He responded thus:

Hi Keith,

I realise that the reality of the science doesn’t match the efforts of some environmental NGOs and campaigns, but we are doing our best. Fyi, the project is not being run by us or by FOE. Its being run by an Munich based agency and the EC. So we don’t have any control about the political ask. Our role is to produce an audio-visual show that, amongst other aims, satirizes big corporations greenwash efforts. We’ve very much been given artist freedom and so want to push the envelope as much as possible. We would really love your help sourcing high quality video of greenwash adverts and news items but I’m afraid I don’t have the power to meet the criteria you suggest.

Can you help us anyway?

I know the future of the planet is at stake, for myself I spent many years as an wwoofer, Permaculture activist and road protester. I try and work from many angles not relying on any single avenue. Hopefully you can see the value of the same tactic.

The guy means well and apparently has artistic freedom, but to what extent? Clearly a video saying that the project he is working for is totally inadequate and leading people in entirely the wrong direction wouldn’t go down well with the agency; but given what he said about FoE not running things, I was keen to find out more.

What I did find made me angry: not only because the aims of the project were inadequate, but because the “solutions” presented played right into the hands of the system that is ensuring we continue destroying the natural world and that these solutions were being proposed by vested interests…vested corporate interests.

Hi xxxxx

I don’t think you are doing your best, otherwise you would realise that what you are working on is helping the existing system to continue taking us on the path to destruction. I’m assuming you have looked at the list of Partners, of which you are one: the Project Coordinator is a renewable energy consultancy, who presumably will make an awful lot of money out of the (trivial) 40% cut if it means driving governments into investing wholesale in renewables. Another key partner is EREC, who are an “umbrella organisation of the European renewable energy industry, trade and research associations active in the sectors of bioenergy, geothermal, ocean, small
hydropower, solar electricity, solar thermal and wind energy. EREC represents the entire renewable energy industry with an annual turnover of more than 40 billion Euros and more than 400,000 employees.” This is big business.

What is disturbing, apart from the modest cut proposed, is the list of “solutions” ( which concentrates almost solely on converting electricity generation over to renewables, yet says almost nothing about reducing overall consumption, the *only* way the problem can be fixed. This *is* greenwash.

So, it is clear that you have either been misled, or you are happy to work with the system that dictates that we must keep the economy growing, and to hell with the consequences.

There is no way that I could ever work with Energy Union. I will, however, be putting Energy Union on The Unsuitablog, for the reasons I have stated above, and in my previous email.



N.B. The campaign lead is Friends of the Earth Europe, as I said

Don’t let yourself get distracted: there is a lot of work ahead, and it doesn’t need any “help” from politicians or businesses.

2 Responses to “Energy Union and Friends Of The Earth : A Greenwashing Alliance”

  1. gswork Says:

    Hi Again Keith

    Nice to read your adventures in growing food.

    A thought experiment if i may

    Imagine 3 different futures:

    1) Everything stays as it is, a few decades to 100 or so years from now depletion, food shortages and flooding lead to a really nasty, possibly high death toll crunch point as currently projected

    2) there is a 40% reduction in greenhouse gases (and the modest reduction in the material economy this implicitly suggests) so effects of scenario #1 are lessened but not avoided and there may still be a nasty crunch some decades ahead, though possibly less catastrophic.

    3) somehow there is a 95% reduction, corresponding to a vast reduction in global industrialization, and all worst effects are avoided*

    *there would be significant effects of reduction in global industrialization – presumably mass transit, medicine, tools of production (supporting intensive farming etc) among others

    My guess is you would choose #3 if you had to. I don’t think seeing #1 and #2 as equivalent would be credible for they are different, just not as radically different as #3. Which do you think the vast majority of people would aspire to?

    interested in your thoughts

  2. keith Says:

    Whoops, really sorry I didn’t respond, Gswork

    For your first question, I think that a 40% reduction, if implemented by the corporate-political system and accepted by the environmental mainstream, could be more damaging than the zero reduction. This sounds counter-intuitive, and from a pure science point of view is not correct (a 40% reduction will have a very small effect on climate change, but an effect, nonetheless), but psychologically it is quite likely to lead to even more apathy on the part of the population who are now even less likely to make the dramatic changes that are required. The system will still be able to continue growing economically (40% is easy just in terms of efficiency), but make out it has our best interests at heart (what heart?). In effect, we will be owned.

    The answer to the second question is easy: whatever the system says is best for us.


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