The Unsuitablog

Exposing Ethical Hypocrites Everywhere!

Archive for March, 2010

Rainforest Alliance Certification : Worse Than Useless (Guest Post)

Posted by keith on 29th March 2010

Following my article on the Team Earth corporate greenwash, I was contacted by a reader – LS – who was keen for me to publish an exposé on the Rainforest Alliance, the corporate-led organisation (sorry, NGO) who’s logo adorns the jars, packets and cups of a great many comsumer products, produced by a great many less than savoury corporations. Think Chiquita (formerly United Fruit), Nestlé, Kraft, Unilever and Coca Cola, and you get an idea of how selective the Rainforest Alliance are in allowing the certification of products.

The following article was written in August 2009 by Samantha Madell, and is available (with pictures) by following this link:

Over the years, many journalists and bloggers have portrayed Rainforest Alliance certification as being equivalent to (or even better than) organic and Fairtrade certification. Unfortunately, this simply isn’t the case.

In truth, the Rainforest Alliance certification standards contain none of the best aspects of either organic or Fairtrade certification. (And, as has been discussed quite extensively in this thread, organic and Fairtrade certification programs are, themselves, far from perfect).

Below, I will address the following issues in more detail:

1) The Rainforest Alliance’s standards are weak, to the point of being meaningless.

2) The Rainforest Alliance’s standards are poorly enforced.

3) By poorly enforcing weak standards, the Rainforest Alliance is able to provide buyers and consumers with an abundance of cheap, “certified” products. This, in turn, has enabled the Rainforest Alliance to gain an unfair advantage over other (more expensive) certification programs which have much stronger standards.

4) the Rainforest Alliance has encouraged consumers to believe that ethical production is no more expensive than non-ethical production. The stark reality is this: ethical production is always more expensive than an exploitative method of production.

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1) The Rainforest Alliance’s standards are weak, to the point of being meaningless.

****
Note: Certification standards sometimes change. This blog post relates specifically to the following certification standards, both dated April 2009, and both current at the time of writing:
Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agriculture Standard (April 2009)
Rainforest Alliance Farm Certification Policy (April 2009)
These documents can be accessed via www.rainforest-alliance.org
****

How does Rainforest Alliance certification actually compare with Fairtrade and organic certification? The two most obvious points for comparison are pesticide usage, and the payment of premiums to growers. Then there are more general issues such as health care, education, rainforest protection, biodiversity, and sustainability. From what I can gather, the Rainforest Alliance doesn’t do much in any of these areas:

PESTICIDES

Organic certification disallows the use of synthetic pesticides. In stark contrast, the Rainforest Alliance allows the use of a wide range of pesticides. If a pesticide can be legally used in the USA and the EU, then it can be used by Rainforest Alliance certified growers.

As Bill Alpert points out in his article “Do-Gooders Who Could Do Better”, the Rainforest Alliance allows the use of pesticides that can kill the tree frog shown in its logo.

Furthermore, as Gallagher and McWhirter wrote more than 10 years ago, in “Bananas, Bulldozers and Bullets – Chiquita Banana”:

Chiquita’s use of pesticides degrades and destroys rainforests and poisons workers, sometimes fatally. Chiquita executives have found that it is far cheaper to pay willing “environmental” organizations to apply their stamp of approval than to pay for cleaning up the problem. [...] Chiquita’s primary partner in green-washing is the Rainforest Alliance

Reference: http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Transnational_corps/BananasBullet…

PRICES RECEIVED BY GROWERS

Organic and Fairtrade certification programs attempt to improve growers’ lives (and also reduce the use of child labor) by paying growers a set premium for their produce.

In stark contrast, the Rainforest Alliance pays no such premium. Instead, the Rainforest Alliance simply requires workers to be paid the local minimum wage. This is a meaningless standard for two reasons:

1) the local minimum wage must (by law) be paid anyway, and
2) the local minimum wage is often not enough to live on.

Nothing that I have seen in the Rainforest Alliance’s certification standards explicitly does anything to alleviate grower poverty.

Indeed, the Rainforest Alliance has been widely criticized for failing to alleviate grower poverty. In a public statement addressed to the Rainforest Alliance, the International Labor Rights Forum and the Organic Consumers Association wrote:

When cocoa farmers sell their beans in the conventional market, they routinely receive payment below the world market price which traps farmers in a cycle of poverty. As a result, they must use child labor and cut back on other expenses. If farmers are ensured a fair, living price for their beans, they are more able to institute better labor standards and provide food, health care, education and other necessary services for their families. Ensuring a fair baseline farmgate price in these conditions is not “throwing money” at a problem – it is responding to a fundamental inequality that affects farmers’ ability to implement all standards for sustainability. The price system under Fairtrade certification is thus one of that system’s major strengths.

Reference: http://www.laborrights.org/sites/default/files/publications-and-res…

ACCESS TO EDUCATION, HEALTH CARE, AND CLEAN WATER

The Rainforest Alliance’s website states that families on Rainforest Alliance-certified farms and forests “have access to education and health care”.

This is a profoundly misleading statement, which implies that Rainforest Alliance certification somehow brings about access to these services. It does not. In fact, farmers cannot obtain Rainforest Alliance certification unless and until their workers have access to education and health care. Nothing that I have seen in the Rainforest Alliance’s standards in any way facilitates access to these services.

Health care, education, and clean water cost money. However, while farmers must pay to obtain Rainforest Alliance certification, Rainforest Alliance certification does not, in turn, guarantee growers an increased income, nor any kind of financial premium for their products. In my opinion, this is unethical.

RAINFOREST AND SHADE TREES

Prior to October 2005, the Rainforest Alliance was actively promoting its certified cocoa as being grown “under the canopy of the rainforest”. That claim was false. (The Rainforest Alliance quietly removed that claim from their website, shortly after I made a formal complaint about what I saw with my own eyes at a Rainforest Alliance-certified plantation Ecuador in 2005) …

When I visited a Rainforest Alliance-certified cocoa plantation and fermentary in Ecuador, I saw no rainforest anywhere near the plantation. Furthermore, there were no shade trees of any description.

Perhaps most incredible of all: a large number of mature, productive cocoa trees had been cut down not long before our visit (there were ripe pods hanging from the limbless trunks). The growers told us that they cut the trees down because they had been told that they would be better off growing maracuya (passionfruit). This is clear evidence that growers simply do not receive a high enough price for Rainforest Alliance-certified cocoa.

When I came home and examined the Rainforest Alliance’s certification standards in detail, I was shocked to learn that the standards do not require a plantation to contain any shade trees, let alone rainforest.

Is this a sustainable cocoa plantation?

SUSTAINABILITY

The Rainforest Alliance routinely refers to its certified products as being “sustainably grown”, thereby implying that Rainforest Alliance certification and sustainability are synonymous. Unfortunately, the facts don’t support this claim.

For example, how can a field of felled cocoa trees (as shown above) be described as a “sustainable” cocoa plantation? Obviously, it isn’t.

However, if we suspend disbelief and assume for a moment that Rainforest Alliance certification is synonymous with sustainability – then what about the fact that a product with as little as 30% certified content can display the frog logo, and claim to be “Rainforest Alliance certified”?

Read more about the Rainforest Alliance’s highly deceptive labeling practices at Coffee and Conservation: When is 100% not 100%?

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2) The Rainforest Alliance’s standards are poorly enforced.

In 2005, I personally witnessed child labor at a Rainforest Alliance-certified cocoa facility in Ecuador.

The children we saw were engaged in lugging heavy sacks of wet cocoa beans around. Heavy lifting can damage growing bodies, and it is widely considered to be one of the worst forms of child labor. For example, when INTERPOL recently rescued dozens of child slaves in West Africa, they reported that the children were found working in “extreme conditions, forced to carry massive loads seriously jeopardizing their health.”

It was surprising to me that, amongst our group of Western tourists, there was a high degree of complacency about this child labor.

Several members of our group believed that the boys were family members of other adult employees, and that this made the child labor OK. Other people told me that child labor is generally OK, because (for example) working on the family farm as a child never harmed them.

I have three main problems with this complacent attitude:

1) Child labor, such as we witnessed in Ecuador, is illegal. (Anybody who truly objects to this legal protection of children might want to take the issue up with Ecuador’s law makers, or UNICEF).

2) The use of child labor, as well as being illegal, is in breach of the Rainforest Alliance’s own standards. And finally,

3) Child labor goes hand-in-hand with poverty – and Rainforest Alliance certification does nothing to actively alleviate the grinding poverty which typically leads to the use of child labor.

It is obvious to me that the Rainforest Alliance doesn’t (and probably can’t) effectively enforce its standards. Therefore, their standards are not only weak, they are actually meaningless.

I am not alone in trying to highlight this problem with the Rainforest Alliance. For example, in a study titled “Examining the Rainforest Alliance’s Agricultural Certification Robustness” (2007), Feliz Ventura concluded that “it is impossible to classify the Rainforest Alliance certification process as robust”.

Furthermore, as Justin Trauben wrote for the Organic Consumers Association in June 2009:

with the release of “Tainted Harvest: Child Labor and Obstacles to Organizing on Ecuador’s Banana Plantations”, the veil was pulled by Humans Rights Watch. The farms investigated in the article, farms certified by Rainforest Alliance, relied on child labor, violated basic labor rights and suppressed attempts at unionization. In response, Rainforest Alliance went back and re-inspected the plantations in 2003, but maintained all their certifications.

Perhaps worst of all: in 1998, when Rainforest Alliance-certified plantations were found to be in breach of the standards (specifically, by using pesticides not registered for use in the United States) the Rainforest Alliance responded – not by de-certifying the plantations, but rather by weakening their own standards!

Read more about this unbelievable behaviour here, in an article titled “Environmental group loosens pesticide standards”.

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3) By poorly enforcing weak standards, the Rainforest Alliance is able to provide buyers and consumers with an abundance of cheap, “certified” products. This, in turn, has enabled the Rainforest Alliance to gain an unfair advantage over other (more expensive) certification programs which have much stronger standards.

(I would like to preface my expansion of this point by reminding readers that existing Fairtrade and organic certification programs are far from perfect. However, by numerous objective measures, Fairtrade and organic are both much stronger certification programs than Rainforest Alliance).

In 2008, global sales of Fairtrade certified products increased by 22%. That sounds like very impressive growth – until you compare that figure with the Rainforest Alliance’s sales figures:

The amount of coffee purchased from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms has increased by an average of 93 percent every year for the past five years.

In a document titled “Sustainable is Attainable” (PDF doc), the Rainforest Alliance notes that consumers want environmentally friendly products. The problem that they have identified is that many consumers “do not what to sacrifice anything when buying environmentally friendly products (price and quality)”.

The Rainforest Alliance concludes that “people want to see sustainability mainstreamed”. Their response to this knowledge is to commit to “mainstreaming sustainability!”.

The concept of “mainstreaming sustainability” seems, to me, to be a euphemism for providing an abundance of cheap food items bearing the cute (but essentially meaningless) green frog logo.

In its “Sustainable is Attainable” document, the Rainforest Alliance discusses what a great marketing opportunity the Rainforest Alliance frog logo represents. Take, for example, McDonald’s UK sales of Kraft Rainforest Alliance-certified coffee:

• Unit sales up 15%
• Coffee £ sales up 23%

Hang on a minute … the number of cups of coffee sold has increased 15% (impressive!), but the income earned from coffee sales has increased 23% (even more impressive!). To me, this sounds distinctly like concerned consumers are being gouged.

Remember that Kraft is not obliged to pay anything above the market price for Rainforest Alliance-certified coffee. You should also be aware that Kraft is one of the Rainforest Alliance’s biggest corporate sponsors: according to the Rainforest Alliance’s recent annual reports, Kraft donates an unspecified amount (between $100,000 and $999,999) to the Rainforest Alliance each year (as does Mars).

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4) the Rainforest Alliance has encouraged consumers to believe that ethical production methods are dirt cheap. The stark reality is this: ethical production is more expensive than production methods which exploit people and the environment.

By providing enormous quantities of cheap agricultural products (such as cocoa, tea, coffee, and bananas), the Rainforest Alliance has led consumers to mistakenly believe that ethical production methods can be as cheap as exploitative production methods. Unfortunately, this isn’t true: decent wages and sustainable growing methods are inevitably more expensive than exploitative and non-sustainable methods of agricultural production.

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What can you do?

Don’t take ethical claims at face value: educate yourself; read the relevant standards; ask questions.

Be prepared to pay more for genuinely ethical products.

How do I respond to these issues? By speaking out, and by actively avoiding all products which bear the Rainforest Alliance logo.

Posted in Astroturfs, Company Policies, Corporate Hypocrisy | 10 Comments »

Team Earth: Another Load Of Corporate Bullshit From Conservation International

Posted by keith on 26th March 2010

Environmental groups used to be funded largely by their members and wealthy individual supporters. They had only one goal: to prevent environmental destruction. Their funds were small, but they played a crucial role in saving vast tracts of wilderness and in pushing into law strict rules forbidding air and water pollution. But Jay Hair–president of the National Wildlife Federation from 1981 to 1995–was dissatisfied. He identified a huge new source of revenue: the worst polluters.

Hair found that the big oil and gas companies were happy to give money to conservation groups. Yes, they were destroying many of the world’s pristine places. Yes, by the late 1980s it had become clear that they were dramatically destabilizing the climate–the very basis of life itself. But for Hair, that didn’t make them the enemy; he said they sincerely wanted to right their wrongs and pay to preserve the environment. He began to suck millions from them, and in return his organization and others, like The Nature Conservancy (TNC), gave them awards for “environmental stewardship.”

Companies like Shell and British Petroleum (BP) were delighted. They saw it as valuable “reputation insurance”: every time they were criticized for their massive emissions of warming gases, or for being involved in the killing of dissidents who wanted oil funds to go to the local population, or an oil spill that had caused irreparable damage, they wheeled out their shiny green awards, purchased with “charitable” donations, to ward off the prospect of government regulation. At first, this behavior scandalized the environmental community. Hair was vehemently condemned as a sellout and a charlatan. But slowly, the other groups saw themselves shrink while the corporate-fattened groups swelled–so they, too, started to take the checks.

Christine MacDonald, an idealistic young environmentalist, discovered how deeply this cash had transformed these institutions when she started to work for Conservation International in 2006. She told me, “About a week or two after I started, I went to the big planning meeting of all the organization’s media teams, and they started talking about this supposedly great new project they were running with BP. But I had read in the newspaper the day before that the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] had condemned BP for running the most polluting plant in the whole country…. But nobody in that meeting, or anywhere else in the organization, wanted to talk about it. It was a taboo. You weren’t supposed to ask if BP was really green. They were ‘helping’ us, and that was it.”

(extracted from Johann Hari, “The Wrong Kind of Green“)

Looking at the summary above, one is tempted to abandon the idea that NGOs (Non-Governmental Organisations) have any part to play in the removal of destructive actions upon the natural world. I think that’s a fair assumption. None of the NGOs come out of this well, not even the apparently “radical” ones like Greenpeace and RAN who are still batting on the side of industrial civilization; but if you had to choose which ones to really steer clear of, and relentlessly attack and expose, a surefire way of choosing is to look for the names of “Corporate Partners”.

If an NGO partners, or receives money from a corporation, then thay are not to be trusted.

Here is one excellent example, that I found while trawling the web:

Team Earth is all of us, working together to make our world a place of clean air, fresh water, plentiful resources and a stable climate, today and far into the future. Team Earth is companies, schools, non-profits, you, your family and friends – everyone who wants to help make sure the Earth is healthy enough to support us all.

It’s about smart, sustainable actions (call it “S-squared”) that each of us can accomplish in our daily lives. Actions that, when multiplied by our social networks, and the cross-section of people that make up Team Earth, will have a huge impact on the health of the planet we call home.

We are setting out to tackle the big challenges of our planet and to our lives – climate change, clean water, healthy food, the ways we are using our resources, and more. Each of us can make a difference, and by working as a team, we will all live better, healthier lives.

This is straight out of the corporate style book; almost excruciating in its “Hey guys, let’s put on a show, right here!” mentality. Alarm bells! Scroll down a few lines and the rationale becomes clear:

Who’s on the Team?

You. Me. The neighbors down the block. Your boss. Parents and kids across the country. People in big cities and small towns.

We are companies like Starbucks and Wrigley. Students and teachers in thousands of classrooms and schools.

Team Earth is anyone and everyone who wants to do the right thing for our shared home, united by a joint commitment, so that when each of us makes a small, personal contribution, the cumulative impact is huge.

Nice bit of community togetherness, and then “WE are companies” – you might be “on the team” but “Team Earth” is a group of companies who are greenwashing as though their survival depends upon it.

Not their ecological survival – nothing as trivial as that, you understand – but their financial survival. They have to be seen to be doing good. And who better to get to run your Astroturf than Conservation International, who proudly display their logo at the top of each page. Mentioned above as a truly dishonourable stain on the reputation of NGOs everywhere, Conservation International are quite possibly the most corporate-friendly NGO around; and if you don’t believe the quotation, have a look at their roster of Corporate Partners which is have the extreme displeasure of reproducing here:

3M
Alcoa
Alpargatas (Havaianas)
Aveda
Bank of America
Barrick Gold
Bella Figura Letterpress
BG Group plc
BP
Brunton Inc
Bunge Limited
Cargill
Celebrity Cruises
Celestial Seasonings
CEMEX
Chevron
Coach, Inc.
Coca-Cola
Compendium, Inc.
Daikin Industries Ltd
Daiwa Securities Co. Ltd.
Darden Restaurants
Dell
DreamWorks Animation
DuPont
ePals
FedEx
FIJI Water
Ford Motor Company
General Growth Properties
Givaudan
Gold Reserve Inc.
Goldman Sachs
Hamilton
Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc.
Hyatt
Intel
International Paper
JPMorgan Chase
Kango
Kimberly-Clark
Kraft Foods Inc.
Marriott International, Inc.
Matter Group
McDonald’s
Monsanto
Newmont Mining Corporation
Office Depot
Organic Bouquet
Pearl Jam
Peter Gillham’s Natural Vitality
Rio Tinto
Royal Caribbean
Save Your World
SC Johnson
Seeds of Change
Shell Group
Sony Computer Entertainment America
Sotheby’s International Realty
Starbucks Coffee Company
Toyota Motor Corporation
United Airlines
United Technologies Corporation
Volkswagen
Walmart
Walt Disney Company
Weyerhaeuser
WhiteWave Foods
Wrigley Company
Yves Saint Laurent

That’s a pretty good rundown of all that is bad in Western commerce – they only need ExxonMobil and BHP Billiton for a full house, but I’m sure they’re working on it as I write.

As for Team Earth, well it’s just another lump of corporate bullshit masquerading as ordinary people who care. The really sad thing is, the people who fall under their spell are likely to think that Team Earth are getting down and doing good work on their behalf, when all the “Team” are doing is making a load of corporate Earth killers look slightly less murderous.

STOP PRESS! Team Earth have a Facebook Group which I would encourage you to join. They have a nasty habit of blocking people who don’t agree with their point of view, and deleting anything that runs counter to their corporate worldview. You might want to post the link to this article, or perhaps this image, which tells the truth about Conservation International…

(click for downloadable full size)

Posted in Astroturfs, Corporate Hypocrisy, NGO Hypocrisy | 3 Comments »

Earth911 Don’t Want My Empty Paper Bag!

Posted by keith on 23rd March 2010

Ever get the feeling that people just aren’t getting it? This is one of those occasions when the email tells the story – especially the responses, which are beyond dumb and show Earth911 up to be just another green smokescreen for business as usual.

Earth911 is Looking for Cool, Green Products
Get involved in our Earth Day 40/40 Giveaway!

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, Earth911.com will feature 40 products and tips about how to recycle them in our Earth Day 40/40 Campaign, as well as host a Giveaway of green gifts to its readers.

Why we’d love to have you: Every year, the weeks surrounding Earth Day constitute the highest influx of traffic on Earth911.com. In exchange for giving a prize to be part of the Giveaway, your company will receive recognition on our site: We’ll announce your organization’s participation in our Giveaway through editorial coverage on Earth911.com, as well as through Twitter and Facebook. You’ll also be featured in our announcement of the winners on Earth Day itself, giving you elevated visibility. Translation: Free advertising during the most popular time on our site!

If you want to learn more: Email Jennifer (below) for more details. While we may not be able to take everyone who wants to participate, we are open to checking out any products that have a “green” spin, especially those that incorporate recycled or recyclable materials. We also have paid sponsorships available as well for an even better deal!

CONTACT
Earth911

Jennifer Berry, Public & Strategic Relations Manager
O: 480-889-2650
C: 602-692-1721
jberry@earth911.com

Our mailing address is:

Earth911.com
1375 N. Scottsdale Rd
Suite 360
Scottsdale, AZ 85257

I had a little think about this, and realised what the ideal prize would be. Ok, I’m not a company and don’t have products with a “green spin” but surely there are some gifts that say far more than others…

Dear Jennifer

Thank you for your email. I am writing on behalf of the anti-greenwashing site, The Unsuitablog, and we would be delighted to take part in your giveaway.

We are offering an empty, plain paper carrier bag filled with life-giving air. Should the owner decide to put purchased goods of any type in the bag then the life-giving air will be forced out of the bag, replaced by an item that required energy to manufacture and transport, not to mention the resources required in its production and the damage caused by the extraction of the fuel required to provide the energy. Thus, the empty bag, unfilled, symbolizes no net increase in greenhouse gases or environmental degradation.

The bag will be pre-owned, and as it starts to degrade naturally it may be composted, thus returning it’s constituents back to the soil.

Please let me know where you would like the item to be sent.

Kind regards

Keith Farnish
The Unsuitablog
Rayleigh, Essex, England.

Hmm, no response…

Hi Jennifer

Could you please acknowledge this – my email was deadly serious.

Regards

Keith

Hi Keith,

My lack of response didn’t indicate any inclination on my part that you weren’t serious. I’ve simply been quite busy as this week has moved along :)

We won’t be using your gift as part of our giveaway. But thank you for submitting it, and please don’t hesitate to reach out to me in the future if I can be a resource to you in any way!

Thanks,
Jennifer Berry

I felt the need to reach out to Jennifer…

Hi Jennifer

Could you tell me why you will not be using my gift? Surely it is far more environmentally sound than any other gift you have been offered.

As I said, we are offering an empty, plain paper carrier bag filled with life-giving air. Should the owner decide to put purchased goods of any type in the bag then the life-giving air will be forced out of the bag, replaced by an item that required energy to manufacture and transport, not to mention the resources required in its production and the damage caused by the extraction of the fuel required to provide the energy. Thus, the empty bag, unfilled, symbolizes no net increase in greenhouse gases or environmental degradation.

The bag will be pre-owned, and as it starts to degrade naturally it may be composted, thus returning it’s constituents back to the soil.

This seems like the best possible symbol of good intentions.

Yours

Keith Farnish
www.unsuitablog.com

I mean, how could they refuse the most environmentally friendly gift I could think of? Surely Earth911 is all about preventing global catastrophe…

Hello Keith,

My name is Raquel Fagan and I am the Executive Editor of Earth911. Thank you for your email. We will not be using your submission for following reasons:

Though we appreciate the gesture, we do not believe that the value the gift will provide the winner will be worth the approximately 38 pounds of carbon it will take to transport the package form London to Phoenix (calculated using CarbonFund.org).

It would be much more environmentally sound to simply have people use a bag they already own, then to send them a bag via postage.

From our home composting system to our re-purposed home decor prizes, we promise that we have given this contest much consideration. We are doing our best to assure that it honors Earth Day as much as possible while still providing people with objects designed to remind them of their personal impact during the other 364 days of the year.

Thanks again, and have a nice day.

Raquel Fagan
www.Earth911.com
Executive Editor
1375 N. Scottsdale Rd.
Suite 360
Scottsdale, AZ 85257

480.889.2650 P
480.889.2660 F

Got an iPhone? Get iRecycle!

(I had to leave that “iPhone” signature in)

Hmm, I get the feeling that I’m not really communicating what I want to, here. They are happy to accept crappy gizmos made in the Far East by underpaid wage-slaves, then transported halfway across the world, but my paper bag…no, that isn’t nearly “green” enough.

I had to say something:

Dear Raquel

Thank you for your response. Did you think I was going to fly it? I would never do that, it would go by sea and surface. Better than that, I could get a friend in the USA to send one of their bags to you; that should cover any concerns you may have.

Of course, as you think it would be much more environmentally sound for people to use a bag they already own, why is it ok to give away other items? I thought that compost bins or wind up lights, for instance, would require rather more than 38 pounds of carbon to manufacture. They might honour Earth Day, such as it is, but they don’t honour the Earth.

Could it be because the idea of zero-consumption doesn’t fit with your organization’s agenda? I’m assuming those great bastions of green action that sponsor youBP, Kmart, ExxonMobil and the American Chemistry Council for instance – might sit uncomfortably with “saving the Earth”; certainly I would feel *very* uncomfortable to be taking money from them.

Sort of puts my potential 38 pounds of carbon into perspective…

Kind regards

Keith

No response so far.

(By the way, I checked out how much carbon my paper bag would require to transport, and it’s actually just 2 pounds by ship based on http://www.carbonfund.org/business/calculator#Office. But if you only think by plane, how could you imagine other people not using a plane?)

Posted in Corporate Hypocrisy, NGO Hypocrisy, Promotions, Sponsorship, Techno Fixes | 2 Comments »

Kit Kat Killers

Posted by keith on 18th March 2010

Have a break? from Greenpeace UK on Vimeo.

From Greenpeace UK – a very good spoof video indeed, for a very important message…

We all like a break, but the orang-utans of Indonesia don’t seem to be able to get one. We have new evidence which shows that Nestlé – the makers of Kit Kat – are using palm oil produced in areas where the orang-utans’ rainforests once grew. Even worse, the company doesn’t seem to care.

So the Greenpeace orang-utans have been despatched to Nestlé head offices in Croydon to let employees know the environmental crimes their company is implicated in, and begin an international campaign to have Nestlé give us all a break.

As we’ve noted many times before, Indonesian forests are being torn down to grow palm oil which is the vegetable fat of choice for companies worldwide, including Nestlé. But while many companies such as Unilever and Kraft are making efforts to disassociate themselves from the worst practices of the palm oil industry, Nestlé has done diddly squat.

By lining the route from East Croydon train station to their office with posters, leaflets and billboard adverts – not to mention orang-utans hanging off the side of the building – we hope to start raising questions within the building about the kind of companies Nestlé is doing business with. And we’re asking them to have a break at 11am this morning to find out what else we have planned. Join us back here at 11am for a quick break too.

The palm oil Nestlé uses in products like Kit Kat is sourced from what used to be rainforest in Indonesia, forest which is being destroyed faster than anywhere else on the planet. One of Nestlé’s suppliers, the giant Sinar Mas group, is responsible for a large part of this arboreal carnage and has a track record of appalling environmental and social practices, not only on its palm oil plantations but also, through its subsidiary APP, its pulp and paper ones. Just take a look at these photos for a small glimpse of what Sinar Mas companies are up to.

The evidence collected in our report, Caught Red Handed, shows how Sinar Mas is not only clearing forests but destroying carbon-rich peatlands. Burning and draining these peatlands releases vast amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, helping to make Indonesia the third largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world.

Meanwhile, the palm oil industry often comes into conflict with local communities over land rights and resources, and the already endangered orang-utans are being pushed closer to extinction. With the forests destroyed, they’re left without their natural sources of food and so are forced to venture into the plantations to eat young palms, where they can be seen as pests.

If you’ve been following Greenpeace for a while, you’ll know we’ve been working to halt the devastation in Indonesia for some time, and two years ago our orang-utans were out in force outside Unilever’s offices. As a result of our work, Unilever has recently dropped Sinar Mas as a supplier and other companies like Kraft have done the same.

Yet despite Nestle’s claims that it expects its own suppliers to uphold high green standards (as detailed in their Supplier’s Code), the Kit Kat makers still continue to do business with Sinar Mas. With other companies not willing to be tarnished by the devastation Sinar Mas is creating, this leaves Nestlé – like the orang-utans – out on a limb.

The recent Fairtrade certification for some of its Kit Kat range shows Nestlé is keen to point to its ethical credentials, but the benefit brought by the Fairtrade ingredients is undermined by the palm oil loaded with wilful deforestation.

It’s time Nestlé took a break from turning a blind eye to what its suppliers are up to.

UPDATE: There’s been so much going here over the last 18 hours that I’ve only now found the time to write an update. Since the last post here, the Kit Kat video which was pulled from Youtube (following a complaint from Nestlé about copyright infringement) was resurrected on Vimeo and has been racking up views like there’s no tomorrow – 78,500 as of this moment. Not the shrewdest move Nestlé could have made, and I liked how Canada’s Globe & Mail referred to it as “a global game of whack-a-mole”.

More Palm Oil hypocrisy here. Remember, so many products contain palm oil that the only way of really avoiding it is by getting a guarantee from the manufacturer that there is no palm oil in that product; if the product says “vegetable oil” then it might contain palm oil!

For UK shoppers, here is a useful guide from the BBC

Posted in Company Policies, Corporate Hypocrisy, Exposure, Spoofs | No Comments »

British Airways To Cut Emissions 40% In Just 3 Days (Video)

Posted by keith on 18th March 2010

Willie Walsh, CEO of British Airways has committed the company to cutting aircraft emissions by 40% in just 3 days. From Saturday 20th March, BA will only be operating around 60% of their previous flight schedule, in a drive to dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions.

This is a remarkable turnaround for a company that has strived to ensure offsetting, rather than direct reductions, is seen as the method of choice for the air transport industry. Other operators are considering similar cuts, with British Airways looking to make up to 100% cuts in emissions within 10 years. This will ensure the industry plays its part in helping prevent the worst effects of climate change.

Watch the video here.

[Oh, ok, it's a spoof - the strike has struck, and the planes have been grounded. Now that's how to cut emissions!]

Posted in Company Policies, Corporate Hypocrisy, Spoofs, Techno Fixes | No Comments »

BT’s Stupid Little Phone Book Claim

Posted by keith on 15th March 2010

30,000 tonnes of phonebooks in the UK alone, and perhaps 100,000 tonnes more in the USA…every year! That’s an awful lot of paper; an awful lot of forest being ripped up; a huge amount of energy being used to pulp, print, distribute and (possibly) recycle the books. What a pointless waste, especially considering each of us probably use our regular phone book, what, once or twice a year?

Anyhow, this isn’t just a rant about phonebooks; it’s far more general than that – it’s about bullshit statements of “environmental” intent. I was looking through our phone book on the off-chance that it would tell me how to stop our phone number coming up on people’s displays – of course I couldn’t find any such useful information, given that it’s now virtually all adverts – and I stumbled across this statement on page 7 of our local edition, entitled “Environmental Policy”.

Here’s what it says:

As you would expect from BT, we strive to act in a responsible way at every stage in producing and distributing The Phone Book. This includes reviewing the type of paper and ink we use through to how the Book is printed and distributed.

The Phone Book is completely recyclable and can be used to produce more paper or shredded for use in animal bedding or loft insulation and much more. even the ink can be recycled to be used as dye for road surfaces!

I didn’t need to add my own explanation mark after that last stupid statement, they did it for me: as though they knew I would have the word “WHAT?” in my head, reading the absurd contradiction between being “green” and supplying dyes for road surfaces. And what about the classic “recyclable” claim? Yep, you know the one: it’s recyclable but we’re not going to tell you how much pristine forest was cut down to make it.

“Can be used”, “strive to act”, “reviewing” – BT love spewing out the weasel words so we think better of our beloved slab of paper. How apt, for such a weasely (apologies to proper weasels) company that they suggest using it for animal bedding. Is that before or after we use it to wipe our arses with?

Posted in Company Policies, Corporate Hypocrisy | 1 Comment »

Scientists vs Deniers

Posted by keith on 11th March 2010

The following groups say the danger of human-caused climate change is a … FACT:

U.S. Agency for International Development
United States Department of Agriculture
National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration
National Institute of Standards and Technology
United States Department of Defense
United States Department of Energy
National Institutes of Health
United States Department of State
United States Department of Transportation
U.S. Geological Survey
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
University Corporation for Atmospheric Research
National Center for Atmospheric Research
National Aeronautics & Space Administration
National Science Foundation
Smithsonian Institution
International Arctic Science Committee
Arctic Council
African Academy of Sciences
Australian Academy of Sciences
Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Sciences and the Arts
Academia Brasileira de Ciéncias
Cameroon Academy of Sciences
Royal Society of Canada
Caribbean Academy of Sciences
Chinese Academy of Sciences
Académie des Sciences, France
Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences
Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina of Germany
Indonesian Academy of Sciences
Royal Irish Academy
Accademia nazionale delle scienze of Italy
Indian National Science Academy
Science Council of Japan
Kenya National Academy of Sciences
Madagascar’s National Academy of Arts, Letters and Sciences
Academy of Sciences Malaysia
Academia Mexicana de Ciencias
Nigerian Academy of Sciences
Royal Society of New Zealand
Polish Academy of Sciences
Russian Academy of Sciences
l’Académie des Sciences et Techniques du Sénégal
Academy of Science of South Africa
Sudan Academy of Sciences
Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
Tanzania Academy of Sciences
Turkish Academy of Sciences
Uganda National Academy of Sciences
The Royal Society of the United Kingdom
National Academy of Sciences, United States
Zambia Academy of Sciences
Zimbabwe Academy of Science
American Academy of Pediatrics
American Association for the Advancement of Science
American Association of Wildlife Veterinarians
American Astronomical Society
American Chemical Society
American College of Preventive Medicine
American Geophysical Union
American Institute of Physics
American Medical Association
American Meteorological Society
American Physical Society
American Public Health Association
American Quaternary Association
American Institute of Biological Sciences
American Society of Agronomy
American Society for Microbiology
American Society of Plant Biologists
American Statistical Association
Association of Ecosystem Research Centers
Botanical Society of America
Crop Science Society of America
Ecological Society of America
Federation of American Scientists
Geological Society of America
National Association of Geoscience Teachers
Natural Science Collections Alliance
Organization of Biological Field Stations
Society of American Foresters
Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics
Society of Systematic Biologists
Soil Science Society of America
Australian Coral Reef Society
Australian Medical Association
Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society
Engineers Australia
Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies
Geological Society of Australia
British Antarctic Survey
Institute of Biology, UK
Royal Meteorological Society, UK
Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences
Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society
European Federation of Geologists
European Geosciences Union
European Physical Society
European Science Foundation
International Association for Great Lakes Research
International Union for Quaternary Research
International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
World Federation of Public Health Associations
World Health Organization
World Meteorological Organization

(but, apparently, they are all lying)

The following groups say the danger of human-caused climate change is a … FRAUD:

American Petroleum Institute
US Chamber of Commerce
National Association of Manufacturers
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Industrial Minerals Association
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
Great Northern Project Development
Rosebud Mining
Massey Energy
Alpha Natural Resources
Southeastern Legal Foundation
Georgia Agribusiness Council
Georgia Motor Trucking Association
Corn Refiners Association
National Association of Home Builders
National Oilseed Processors Association
National Petrochemical and Refiners Association
Western States Petroleum Association

(but, apparently, they have no reason to lie).

Posted in Astroturfs, Campaigns, Company Policies | No Comments »

RecycleBank Is Worse Than Doing Nothing

Posted by keith on 8th March 2010

We’re moving house soon, which means discovering untold secrets in the rarely visited corners of our current place of abode. After 16 years in the same place, much of that with an attitude that could possibly be described as “hoarder”, it’s no surprise that our domestic recycling bin is being kept filled up, as is our recently opened Sellers eBay account, the shelves of the local charity shops and the boot fair (I don’t know if these are unique to the UK) at which we will be selling off lots of stuff for little money next weekend.

The corollary to this is that we look back and wonder how on earth we accumulated so much stuff, quickly realising that merely recognising the problem is a step on from the typical “consumer” mindset. When this recognition turns into the understanding that we have a massive social problem, driven by the constant belief that to be a civilian you must contribute to economic growth, then you definitely start to diverge from the consumer highway. When you accept that this is the way civilisation is, and the only way to avoid being a destructive person is to reject the label “consumer” entirely, then you probably start to feel like a social pariah! “What do you mean you aren’t a consumer! What else is there to life?”

No surprise then, that in the early lead up to the UK General Election, the Conservatives made the pledge to encourage the collective citizen’s green blanket that is recycling by (wait for it) giving away shopping vouchers to the best recyclers!

Now don’t get me wrong, in some cases recycling is better than not recycling – but that’s where it ends. In order to be a “good recycler” you first have to have lots of stuff to recycle in the first place, meaning that you have to be a Good Consumer. That’s a lovely title, isn’t it?

Mike Webster of Waste Watch makes the point excellently:

“Although the scheme will encourage people to recycle more, it does not actually encourage them to produce less waste. You could even say that it is encouraging people to produce waste by paying them.”

Spot on, Mike, but that hasn’t stopped an entire industry growing up around the act of rewarding people for being good Recyclers / Consumers. Step up to the plate RecycleBank

We’re sure that any person can make changes in life to lessen their impact on the planet. That’s why we go to every kind of neighborhood and involve people from all walks of life: recycling is the one thing we can all do.

RecycleBank is here to change behaviors and attitudes – not as enforcers, but encouragers. Whether you are taking baby steps, learning the path to greater awareness, or are a bona fide tree hugger, we respect your shade of green.

We believe we can help by making recycling understandable, easy and rewarding. We’re proud that we have created a level playing field where everyone can feel free to participate; appreciated for what they do and have the opportunity to live more sustainable lives. We enthusiastically support all forms of forward progress.

Now isn’t that just lovely? But look at the last sentence: “We enthusiastically support all forms of forward progress.” What does “progress” mean in the industrial world? It means anything that creates economic growth, and that’s where RecycleBank excels; as demonstrated by their Recycle-Redeem-Reward process:

RecycleBank partners with cities and haulers to reward households for recycling. Households earn RecycleBank Points that can be used to shop at over 1,500 local and national businesses.

RecycleBank records the amount you recycle…

Redeem the points in your account…

Get Rewards at over 2400 retailers.

Among the retailers who clearly have a heart of green are:

Dunkin’ Donuts
Kraft
Kmart
Footlocker
Texas Roadhouse
Sears
Evian

I think you get the picture.

And the company’s efforts are sponsored by Coca Cola, that bastion of all things sustainable and long-term.

Back in the UK, RecycleBank are just starting to make inroads, which is where the Conservative policy comes in, because it was the Marks and Spencer vouchers mentioned in the article that links to the UK page and the potential for hundreds, if not thousands of businesses (and forget the “local business” flannel, this is about global economics) to all stick their finger in the recycling pie and pull out a juicy plum in the form of lots more good and sadly deluded consumers, all thinking they are doing something good for the planet.

It almost makes me want to cry.

Posted in Campaigns, Corporate Hypocrisy, Political Hypocrisy, Sponsorship | 2 Comments »

The Chagos Archipelago – Where “Conservation” Meets Colonialism

Posted by keith on 5th March 2010

No need for comment, straight repost with thanks to Fred.

Not Wanted : Indigenous People

How do you greenwash a large airforce base? A base that is responsible for bombing nearby countries, and which was built on an island you confiscated from residents who are now living in exile on the other side of the world?

Easy. You announce the creation of a giant nature reserve which will be off-limits to its former inhabitants. Not to the military, of course. That might create complications. But the people-free zone will cover the islands and oceans all around. Then, if you’re really clever, you get the world’s premier network of conservation scientists to endorse your plan.

That’s what happened last week.

The Foreign Office is currently “consulting” on the establishment of a marine protected area covering the Chagos archipelago, a large swathe of coral islands across the Indian Ocean that Britain neglected to hand back to the locals when it abandoned most of the rest of its empire east of Suez in the 1960s.

This is bad news for the Chagossians, who were removed from the islands by British naval vessels almost half a century ago, so that the US could establish a large air base on the largest of the islands, Diego Garcia. The Chagossians have always wanted to return, and two years ago they published detailed plans to go back to some of the more distant islands of the archipelago.

But successive British governments have said this can never be. Foreign secretary David Miliband appears intent on cementing this position by creating a protected area where Chagossians would not be allowed to live. Americans will be welcome, of course. The consultation document (pdf) notes coyly that “it may be necessary to consider the exclusion [from the protected area] of Diego Garcia and its territorial waters.”

Last week, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) endorsed the plan despite, as New Scientist magazine has revealed, angry dissent from its own legal advisers.

The conservation case for protecting the Chagos archipelago is undoubtedly strong. It is one of the most pristine coral reef systems in the world. Announcing his plan last November, Miliband said: “This is a remarkable opportunity for the UK to create one of the world’s largest marine protected areas and double the global coverage of the world’s oceans benefiting from full protection.”

More than 10,000 British greens have signed in support of the move to create “Britain’s [sic] Great Barrier Reef”. The campaign is backed by the Chagos Environment Network, a coalition that includes Kew Gardens, London Zoo, the RSPB, the Royal Society and the Marine Conservation Society.

The question is whether Britain has any legal or moral right to do this unilaterally.

What about the claims of the 4,000-plus Chagossian exiles – many of them live close to Gatwick airport in readiness for their return home? The glossy pamphlet (pdf) encouraging people to support the conservation plan is silent on their expulsion and desire to return.

Most international lawyers believe the expulsion was a breach of international law, and the exiles should be allowed to return forthwith. Robin Cook is the only British foreign secretary to have agreed with them. Under the conservation plan, the only way any of them could return would be as employees of the park.

What about the fact that Britain accepts that neighbouring Mauritius should have sovereignty over Chagos when the Brits and Americans no longer need it? Protests from the Mauritian government about the plan last week fell on deaf ears.

The Chagos Conservation Trust says: “Strong support for this initiative for conservation was expressed by both Chagossian leaders who spoke at [a] meeting on 9 April 2009 at The Royal Society. The creation of a protected area would clearly be without prejudice to the outcome of the pending legal case [in the European Court of Human Rights] in regard to Chagos Islanders and the arrangements for the protected area could be modified if necessary in the light of any change in circumstances.”

Indeed so. The law would have to be obeyed. But some environmental lawyers see the conservation plan as an attempt to greenwash the status quo.

There is a frightful row going on at the IUCN over the decision of its executive director Julia Marton-Lefevre last week to side with Britain over the creation of the marine protected area. Klaus Bosselmann, the chair of the IUCN’s ethics group, part of its Commission on Environmental Law, wrote that it “violates IUCN’s own commitments towards sustainability” because the plan would “invalidate… the right of the Chagos Islanders to return.”

Bosselmann, director of the New Zealand Centre for Environmental Law, told the Guardian that “concern for ecological integrity and human and indigenous rights have to be mutually reinforcing.” For IUCN to back the permanent exclusion of the Chagossians from the islands “is severely unethical and against everything the international conservation movement stands for.”

Marton-Lefevre denied this. She called for consultation with “all stakeholders”, including the Chagossians. And she said the IUCN’s position “in no way takes or endorses a position with regard to the sovereignty of the archipelago.”

At least we are talking about Chagos now. Back in 1994, when Britain published the first biodiversity action plan for its surviving specks of empire, it literally removed the zone, known as the British Indian Ocean Territory, from the map.

Now, rather than airbrushing out Chagos, the mandarins want to paint it green. Conservation seems to be the last hurrah of the British Empire.

(From http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/feb/18/chagos-nature-reserve-greenwash)

Posted in Government Policies, Political Hypocrisy | No Comments »

Monthly Undermining Task, March 2010: Throwing off the Shackles of Debt

Posted by keith on 1st March 2010

by Guy R. McPherson, Keith Farnish, Dave Pollard, and Sharon Astyk

Indebtedness is a form of involuntary servitude and, in extreme cases, involuntary imprisonment. Consider, for example, the current usurious rates of interest (versus what savers earn on their savings in the same banks that charge that interest). Many religious organizations loath interest rates as immoral and criminal. According to all four gospels in the Christian bible, even the normally passive, peaceful prophet of Christianity got so worked up about usury in a temple he started acting like Alex Ferguson on the sidelines of a Manchester United football match.

Purchases by consumers (this awful word is used here only because that’s what we have become – involuntarily) drive the world’s industrial economy. And purchases by consumers depend on the confidence of those consumers, so that consumer confidence underlies commercial success. If a potential consumer has no confidence in her ability to purchase an item, then she won’t. If enough potential consumers lose confidence in their ability to purchase and pay for any particular item, the sales of that item will plummet, causing the manufacturer and sellers of that item to fail.

Considering the current financial situation, which will no doubt crash again within the next year, we can help create a situation that will both change behaviour for the better and prevent people from getting into financial trouble. The latter portion is vital to getting wide support for such activities, and will be a huge challenge for hopelessly optimistic, reality-challenged members of the industrial economy.

How do we convince people they definitely cannot afford to take out loans to buy things? More impact will be realized by targeting luxuries such as houses, cars, and appliances than small “goods.” Governments throughout the industrial world recognise this, and have therefore rewarded people for purchasing houses, cars, and — most recently – appliances, by giving them huge financial incentives (i.e. taxes on other taxpayers who might not even be tempted to play the “consumer” game).

Loans are required for most people to purchase these “durable goods” (which are no longer durable or good). Loans traditionally are seen as safety nets, but it has become clear they really represent traps. Never mind the psychological or ecological implications of consumerism — there exists no evidence suggests anybody has minded so far — the focus here is on the trap into which each potential consumer falls by taking out a loan to mindlessly invest in transient baubles. Every loan is a bad deal for the borrower, whether a straight money request, an HP deal, a mortgage or a credit card payment.

The system needs you to keep borrowing; if you don’t then who knows what could happen…

Note: The risk levels indicated below are approximate and will vary according to your personal situation and the jurisdiction you operate in. Always take legal advice if you are unsure.

No Risk:

Don’t take out a loan for anything. If you need it — and probably you don’t — save your money and buy it, barter for it, or borrow it.

Encourage others to join you. Start by sharing your car, your garden, your tools, even your clothes. Pass stuff on; give stuff away. You don’t need that loan and neither do the people you care about.

If you already have loans, and most recent students do, then seek deferral under economic hardship. Odds are pretty high you’re actually experiencing economic hardship, so this is no big deal. And even if you’re not, there’s no sense feeding the beast if the beast defaults down the road.

Low to Medium Risk:

Start a “misinformation” campaign (from the point of view of the loan companies):

1) Via snail mail, send out false press releases from loan companies and banks to media outlets such as local radio stations, local press and even the nationals if you are brave enough. These press releases should discourage people from taking out loans because, after all, people don’t really need all the toys they buy on credit. If you make the “press releases” as complete as possible, and word them so that responses are not required then there is a good chance they will be run without questions being asked.

2) Do a bit of subvertising, on the internet or (for a little higher risk) on billboards: focus on loans companies and banks changing the messages to emphasise the theft aspect of loans. Alternatively, just remove loan adverts entirely. For more information on techniques, read this post.

Other potential actions along these same lines include:

- Organising “default-ins” along the lines of the “love-ins” and “sit-ins” of the 1960s,

- Devising and publicising satirical fake get-rich-quick schemes that exploit government mortgage subsidies and the overvaluation of real estate: “Get £1 million in property free from Government mortgage subsidy scheme with no risk or money down!”; “Sell property short before the crash and make £1 million with no risk or cash!” and

- Helping to organise and formalise the exploding “grey” market for overpriced property: Thousands of people are moving or retiring and unable to sell their homes at anywhere near their mortgages, so they are renting out their homes for a fraction of current market rents, and likewise renting others’ homes in areas to which they are moving at far below market rents. Everyone hopes prices will somehow bounce back and save them from default. Eventually these homeowners will have to threaten default to get mortgage companies to write off the excess of mortgage value over real property values. We need to help them do that, and also help them find “grey” market properties in the meantime.

Obvious satirical routines can be developed for a variety of venues. This strategy should hold particular appeal to artists.

Medium Risk:

This is taken from Dave Pollard’s article ”Walking away from your mortgages”:

Many people are now living in homes with mortgages that are greater than the value of their property. Why would anyone continue to pay a debt that is higher than the asset it secures? After all, big corporations view pulling the plug on unsuccessful ventures and sticking the debtholders and shareholders a key business strategy. The whole idea of “risk capital” is that the interest and other fees you earn for lending to risky borrowers compensates you for the risk, so that if the borrower defaults you accept the loss and chalk it up to experience. Yet for some reason homeowners feel some moral obligation to throw good money endlessly after bad. This of course is exactly what the corporatists, who have no such moral compunction, are counting on, what economists call moral asymmetry. The logical response would be to tell the lender to write off the excess of the mortgage beyond the property value, and refinance the mortgage accordingly. Apparently in some US states (called “recourse” states) this moral asymmetry is institutionalized — that is, lenders can go after a mortgagee’s personal assets if they default. There is, of course, no recourse when the corporatists walk away from debts, offshore their operations, and stiff the taxpayers whose subsidies and bailouts paid for the corporatists’ ventures.

Where is the sense of outrage here? Have the education system and media so dumbed down the citizens that they can’t see this scheme for the cruel and criminal con it is? If everyone with a mortgage greater than the value of their home either walked away from it, or was legally empowered to require the excess to be written off as the “bad debt” it is, then of course there would be many bank failures and plunging profits. That’s how the market system is supposed to work. The lenders, of course, want it both ways, and Obama and the citizens seem blithely willing to let them have it.

Walking away from your mortgage entails medium risk because it will damage your credit rating. Obviously, this doesn’t matter in the long term, but it still causes concern for many people.

On the same lines as the lower risk snail mail press releases, via electronic communications, send out false press releases from loan companies to media outlets. These press releases would discourage people from taking out loans because, after all, people don’t really need all the toys they buy on credit. This requires a level of technical expertise as the instigator would need to hide behind an alter-ego and fake domain.

High risk:

Taking a step beyond abandoning your underwater mortgage, don’t pay off your mortgage even if you’re not underwater. Simply default but continue to occupy your house. Ditto for other loans. The lenders cannot afford to tell their stockholders about it, so the borrower gets the loan for no payments while the lender gets stuck. This idea was encouraged by the reporter who writes about housing issues for the New York Times when he stopped paying his mortgage (and wrote about it, nine months later, in the Times, by which time nobody had asked for a payment). At this point, the idea is receiving plenty of attention, and even CNBC is on board.

These actions are high risk because they could bring criminal proceedings related to fraud. Probably they won’t. But stranger things have happened, so we issue the following disclaimer:

The authors and the host of this web site do not condone any actions which break the law under the jurisdiction where the described activity is taking place.

Which, of course, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do them at your own risk.

What we’re trying to do here is help bring down a house of cards: People feeling forced to pay debts far greater than the real value of the assets that secure them. People seduced into getting into debt needlessly. People paying usurious interest rates and fees because the banks own the politicans. It’s a debtors’ prison without locks and doors, and it’s immoral. Help us bring an end to it.

________________________

This essay is part of a larger collaboration between the authors. It represents the third month of the Monthly Undermining Tasks.

Posted in Monthly Undermining Tasks, Sabotage, Subvertising, Uncategorized | 5 Comments »