The Unsuitablog

Exposing Ethical Hypocrites Everywhere!

Archive for January, 2011

Nature Conservancy Embrace Dow Chemical Business Model

Posted by keith on 27th January 2011

Below is a long list of chemical compounds and elements. This is not just an ordinary list, for it is special in all sorts of ways – not least of all to anyone who is a supporter of our old friends The Nature Conservancy. The list contains just those substances that the US Environmental Protection Agency deem it necessary for companies to declare, and which have been declared by one particular company, for just one site:

1,1,1,2-TETRACHLOROETHANE
1,1,1-TRICHLOROETHANE
1,1,2,2-TETRACHLOROETHANE
1,1,2-TRICHLOROETHANE
1,2,3-TRICHLOROPROPANE
1,2,4-TRIMETHYLBENZENE
1,2-DICHLOROBENZENE
1,2-DICHLOROETHANE
1,2-DICHLOROETHYLENE
1,2-DICHLOROPROPANE
1,3-BUTADIENE
1,3-DICHLOROBENZENE
1,3-DICHLOROPROPYLENE
1,4-DIOXANE
2,2-DICHLORO-1,1,1-TRIFLUOROETHANE
2,3-DICHLOROPROPENE
ACETALDEHYDE
ACRYLAMIDE
ALLYL ALCOHOL
ALLYL CHLORIDE
ALUMINUM (FUME OR DUST)
AMMONIA
ANTHRACENE
ANTIMONY
ARSENIC
ASBESTOS (FRIABLE)
BARIUM COMPOUNDS
BENZENE
BERYLLIUM
BIPHENYL
BIS(2-CHLORO-1-METHYLETHYL) ETHER
BROMOFORM
BROMOMETHANE
CADMIUM
CARBON DISULFIDE
CARBON TETRACHLORIDE
CERTAIN GLYCOL ETHERS
CHLORINE
CHLOROBENZENE
CHLORODIFLUOROMETHANE
CHLOROETHANE
CHLOROFORM
CHLOROMETHANE
CHROMIUM
COBALT COMPOUNDS
COPPER COMPOUNDS
CUMENE
CYCLOHEXANE
DIBENZOFURAN
DICHLOROBROMOMETHANE
DICHLOROMETHANE
DICHLOROTRIFLUOROETHANE
DICYCLOPENTADIENE
DIOXIN AND DIOXIN-LIKE COMPOUNDS
EPICHLOROHYDRIN
ETHYLBENZENE
ETHYLENE
ETHYLENE GLYCOL
ETHYLENE OXIDE
ETHYLIDENE DICHLORIDE
FORMALDEHYDE
FORMIC ACID
HEXACHLORO-1,3-BUTADIENE
HEXACHLOROBENZENE
HEXACHLOROETHANE
HYDROCHLORIC ACID (1995 AND AFTER 'ACID AEROSOLS' ONLY)
LEAD
MANGANESE
MERCURY
METHANOL
METHYL ISOBUTYL KETONE
N-BUTYL ALCOHOL
N-HEXANE
NAPHTHALENE
NICKEL COMPOUNDS
NITRATE COMPOUNDS
NITRIC ACID
PENTACHLOROBENZENE
PENTACHLOROETHANE
PHENANTHRENE
POLYCYCLIC AROMATIC COMPOUNDS
PROPIONALDEHYDE
PROPYLENE
PROPYLENE OXIDE
PYRIDINE
SELENIUM
SILVER COMPOUNDS
STYRENE
SULFURIC ACID (1994 AND AFTER 'ACID AEROSOLS' ONLY)
TETRACHLOROETHYLENE
THALLIUM
TOLUENE
TRICHLOROETHYLENE
VANADIUM (EXCEPT WHEN CONTAINED IN AN ALLOY)
VINYL CHLORIDE
VINYLIDENE CHLORIDE
XYLENE (MIXED ISOMERS)
ZINC COMPOUNDS

But not only is this a list of substances merely declared, it is a list of substances that have been released into the environment beyond the legal boundaries of the site: The Dow Chemical plant, Plaquemine, Louisiana. Every one of these substances is classified as a pollutant by the EPA; every one of these substances is out of the control of Dow Chemical.

This list is not from 1940, or even 1970, but 2009. In 2009, this one plant released half a ton of lead; a pound of dioxin; 12 tons of benzene; 32 pounds of mercury…go and look for yourself if you want. It’s all in a handily downloadable file.

This is just one site, albeit a big one, from the EPA list, which only covers the USA. According to Dow Chemical themselves, “China is Dow’s second largest country in terms of sales, with 5 business centers, 20 manufacturing sites and approximately 3,900 employees.” That’s one more nation: 20 more sites, none of which are under such close scrutiny as in the USA.

The nature of Dow Chemical is the manufacturing and processing of industrial products. This is a good snapshot of the corporation:

The Dow Chemical Company is the world’s second largest chemical company, behind only BASF. Dow’s primary industries are chemicals, herbicides, pesticides, agricultural sciences and plastics. Dow’s main business is supplying chemicals to other industrial and chemical companies. Using oil, coals, natural gas, salt, brine and other basic inputs, Dow makes inorganic chemicals like soda, solvents, and chlorine, and organic chemicals like acetone, ethylene glycol, glycerine, phenols, etc. Dow is also the biggest plastics manufacturer in the world.

The page from which this comes is required reading for anyone who wants to absorb (and, no doubt, your body already has) the nature of Dow’s business. Like any corporation, they exist to make money for their shareholders – and like any corporation, if they can get away with something to increase shareholder profit then they will. It’s the nature of capitalism; the name of the game.

If you visit Dow’s website, then you will notice something truly striking: a bloody great mountain; a pristine lake; desert sands and an ocean full of tropical fish. That thing about getting away with something – Dow have mastered the art. While few people will ever read the EPA reports on Dow’s toxic releases, many people will go to Dow’s website and be confronted with a tableau of nature’s bounty, and the following words:

The Nature Conservancy Collaboration

Leaping in head first to the challenge of “protecting nature” in partnership with Dow chemical is The Nature Conservancy, which Dow have kindly furnished with $10 million over a five year period.

According to TNC: “The Nature Conservancy and Dow Chemical Company are working together on a breakthrough collaboration to demonstrate that protecting nature can be a global business strategy – and a corporate priority. Dow and its foundation together have committed $10 million over the next five years to develop tools and demonstrate models for valuing nature in business decisions. With the help of the Conservancy, Dow will work to incorporate biodiversity and the value of nature into its company-wide goals, strategies and objectives. With support from Dow’s foundation, the Conservancy will use lessons learned, collaborative scientific analyses, and its own conservation experience to pursue wide-spread use of these conservation tools by other companies.”

$10 million may seem like a lot of money to you and me, but to Dow Chemical it’s just 0.3% of their annual profit (as of 2009) – yes, that’s profit, not income, which is 3 times as much. Actually it’s even less because Dow can claw much of that investment back in charitable giving rebates. And what do Dow Chemical get for that $2 million a year?

They get branding – everywhere, on their websites, on the Nature Conservancy’s website, on their corporate materials (The Nature Conservancy logo), on every billboard and TV ad they are no doubt planning to roll out in order to make the most of their “partnership”.

They get fantastic PR – just do a quick search on “Dow Chemical” and “Nature Conservancy” and as of today there are 115,000 hits on Google. More specifically, do a search for “Dow Chemical” and “protecting the earth” and you get 2,590 results and counting. Dow look like a great, green company.

They make money – just look at the wording of the joint press release from Dow and TNC:

MIDLAND, MICHIGAN – January 24, 2011 – Andrew Liveris, chairman and chief executive officer of The Dow Chemical Company (NYSE: DOW) and Mark Tercek, chief executive officer of The Nature Conservancy jointly announced today a new collaboration between the organizations to help Dow and other companies recognize, value and incorporate nature into global business goals, decisions and strategies. The senior leaders issued the news to some of the world’s foremost business, environmental and sustainability leaders, dignitaries and media at the Detroit Economic Club.

The global organizations will work together to apply scientific knowledge and experience to examine how Dow’s operations rely on and affect nature. The aim of the collaboration is to advance the incorporation of the value of nature into business, and to take action to protect the earth’s natural systems and the services they provide people, for the benefit of business and society. One of the major objectives of this collaboration is to share all tools, lessons learned and results publicly and through peer-review so that other companies, scientists and interested parties can test and apply them.

“This collaboration is designed to help us innovate new approaches to critical world challenges while demonstrating that environmental conservation is not just good for nature – it is good for business,” Liveris said. “Companies that value and integrate biodiversity and ecosystem services into their strategic plans are best positioned for the future by operationalizing sustainability. At Dow, we see sustainability as an adjective and one that we apply to almost everything we do: sustainable manufacturing, sustainable solutions and sustainable opportunities to constantly add to the quality of life for our communities and fellow citizens. Today, tomorrow, always.”

What a crock of shit! I have emphasised the parts that betray the true reason for the deal because they have so carefully been wrapped in a shawl of greewash, ably assisted by one of the largest NGOs in the world. Dow Chemical have hamstrung not only the business-friendly Nature Conservancy, but anyone who really believes that business can work in partnership with nature.

The whole concept of “nature” as an entity is alien to the business world except as a resource to be exploited for profit; the PR copy version of “Nature” might benefit – hey, want to see a pristine lake protected by Dow’s money? – but look beyond that lake, into the soil, the underground water supplies, up into the air, down through the oceans and weaving our way through the organic tapestry of life that is being picked apart, terminally frayed by the activities of the industrial world. Look beyond the glowing, rhetoric laden bullshit touted by companies like Dow, dutifully spewed out by dangerous NGOs like The Nature Conservancy, and you see something that should never have been.

A ruined world: Today, tomorrow, always.

Or at least until the industrial system is gone.

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Sudden Oak Death – It’s News Because It’s Commercial

Posted by keith on 19th January 2011

It’s commonly called Sudden Oak Death, so why the picture of a stand of larch trees? That’s a question well worth asking, but a far more important question is: why has Phytophthora ramorum, the name of the fungus responsible, become such big news in the UK?

Ever since P. ramorum started blowing its way through the great Californian coastal forests in the late 1990s there has, rightly, been great concern for the future of many varieties of oak and other related trees in the western USA; although the impact is so far not as great as some speculators had suggested. Then, in 2010, after some 8 years of the A1 strain of P. ramorum in the wild in the UK, and 6 years or so in other parts of northern Europe including Ireland, the news began to increase at a blistering pace.

In August 2010, a BBC report from Northern Ireland stated:

Whole stands of trees in County Antrim have been killed by a disease known as Sudden Oak Death.

This fungus-like organism attacks anything from larch to rhododendron, and it can devastate wide areas of woodland.

It has already destroyed hundreds of acres of trees in England and Wales and now its here with devastating results.

The accompanying video was suitably doom-laden, using the words: “The effects are devastating, and this didn’t happen overnight…this is more like the set from an environmental disaster movie, because that what it really is – a small environmental disaster.” Now, consider those words “environmental disaster”, and then look at the species that are currently being affected in the UK and Ireland:

In Europe known hosts include the trees and ornamentals described above [all native USA species]. Beech and red oak are the most susceptible tree species so far; infection on these takes the form of extensive bleeding cankers on the trunk. Infected individuals of holm oak (and sweet chestnut have also been reported, but only the foliage is colonised by P. ramorum. With some ornamental species, particularly Rhododendron and Pieris, leaves and shoots are affected, whereas with Viburnum the stem bases are affected.

There is no mention of larch because it was not until 2010 that they began to be affected, possibly through a mutation of the infectious agent. Not entirely coincidentally, it was not until 2010 that Sudden Oak Death became big news in the UK. The reason for this is made very clear for anyone who cares to read the Forestry Commission web pages:

However, few trees in the UK were affected until 2009, when P. ramorum was found infecting and killing large numbers of Japanese larch trees in South West England. Then in 2010 it was found on Japanese larches in Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

This sudden change in the pathogen’s behaviour was the first time in the world that P. ramorum had infected and sporulated (reproduced) on large numbers of a commercially important conifer tree species. It was also an unexpected setback to efforts to tackle ramorum disease.

We and our partners have moved quickly to respond to this development. Full details about the pathogen and what’s being done to research it, minimise its impact, and support affected woodland owners are available at the links on this page.

I didn’t start investigating this until today; yesterday I was walking through an avenue of lime trees in my village wondering, with great dispondancy, why the news of Sudden Oak Death had hit me so hard, possibly harder than anything in the last year. I felt that there was nothing at all I could do, I guess. Today I am angry, both with myself for allowing myself to slip into such a deep funk, and with the mass media for taking the bait about this “environmental disaster” hook, line and sinker.

Sudden Oak Death in Europe may be something to be concerned about, but no more than hundreds of other threats to the natural environment, such as water pollution from arable fields, the loss of insect habitats from the same arable fields due to intensive agriculture and the use of broad-spectrum “pest” killers, and the sell-off of vast areas of ostensibly public woodland to commercial interests. The same commercial interests who would love to rip up the varied habitat and plant out great tracts of pine, spruce and larch.

Ay! There’s the rub.

The “shocking” news of larch woodland being grubbed up in south-west England, described in armageddon-like tones – the same tones that gave me such a miserable sense of loss:

no-one is sure where it will travel next.

Alison Field, regional director for the Forestry Commission in the south west, said: “We’re worried because this is one disease, will there be another?

“And what might we expect with the changing climate, the warmth of the summers, the cold winters, the wetter summers of the future?”

The Forestry Commission is the commercial forestry arm of the UK government. This scaremongering is drawing attention to a disease that is commercially harmful; the outcome, the government and the large timber companies hope, is to make people fear for the future of all woodland, thus allowing huge amounts of money to be pumped into protecting commercial plantations.

Professor David Gowing of the Open University puts SOD into a far more sober context than the shrill media outpourings of recent weeks:

“Sudden Oak Death is not known to affect either of our native oaks, so the name gives the wrong impression to the UK public. In fact it does not currently appear to threaten any of our native trees, so from a nature-conservation perspective, it is not a concern at the moment.

“Indeed some conservationists may see a potential benefit because Rhododendron ponticum, the scourge of woody habitats in the west of Britain, seems to be its preferred host in this country.

“Foresters have valid concerns, however, because the fungus which is responsible for the disease, Phytophthera ramorum, is becoming prevalent on Japanese larch, which is an important commercial species – but no larch species are native to Britain.

“The other tree species reported to have contracted the disease in the UK include sycamore, horse chestnut, sweet chestnut and beech, all of which are considered non-native and may have succumbed to disease following the run of cool, damp summers in 2007-2009.

“Hopefully our native species will prove to be better adapted to such conditions and will keep the fungus at bay.”

The saddest part of this is that a syndrome that could actually kill off huge humbers of oak trees – far more than Sudden Oak Death – is being ignored. Acute Oak Decline is something that, if you live in the UK, you will have definitely seen the effect of: leafless oak trees standing like giant naked sentinels in the middle of the fields they once dominated, and blessed with their sprawling, teeming green canopies. Yet this causes barely a ripple in the media – 4 stories on the entire BBC News archive, as compared to 49 stories about Sudden Oak Death – because commerce just isn’t interested, and thus the government just isn’t interested.

The moral of this sad tale of twisted priorities is thus: if you want to make an environmental story big, make sure it’s also a commercial story.

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Mother Nature Network: A Hypocritical Crock Of Shit

Posted by keith on 10th January 2011

I make no apologies for the title of this post: I have just spent a short while reading the biographies of the Mother Nature Network Team, and have ended up in the kind of moral position that Immanuel Kant might have struggled with if he had had the internet to contend with in his philosophical struggles.

MNN promotes itself as covering “the broadest scope of environmental and social responsibility issues on the internet. And, we do so in a way that is engaging and easy-to-understand. As opposed to scientists, activists or experts—MNN is designed for the rest of us—everyday people who simply want to make our world better.”

So who are these people referred to as “the rest of us”? Clearly not scientists, activists or experts – although I would have thought that these people would at least play some part in making “our”* world better – but perhaps people such as those on their team. Now I don’t pretend to have a squeaky clean career path leading (or rather, nothing at all to do with) my current vocation as a DIY troublemaker; but nor do I proudly exhibit all the companies I have worked for, as though this is somehow a qualification for making the world better. Unlike their CEO, Joel Babbit, who was a high-flying PR guru whose “clients have included The Home Depot, Coca-Cola, Dell, USA Today, American Express, Holiday Inn, UPS, and Citigroup [and] is especially noted for his marketing work related to corporate transitions which have included the acquisition of RJR Nabisco by KKR, BellSouth by AT&T, Georgia –Pacific by Koch Industries, and numerous acquisitions during the formation of Coca-Cola Enterprises.”

Hmm. As I say, your past is not necessarily a guide to your future, but I’m slightly worried that this is considered relevant enough to highlight on your bio page, Joel.

Go further down the list, and it seems MNN is actually a big party for PR, marketing and technical bods rather than something to make “our”* world better.

*Ah yes, the asterisk; that’s because it is not “our” world, it is “the” world. We don’t own it, just happen to misuse it.

So what of the stories on Mother Nature Network? I picked one, that looked as though it would reveal the editorial policy of MNN, something about the Consumer Electronics Show. I would have assumed that to “make our world better” it would have to include an element of criticising the nature of technology, it’s ability to consume the human soul while at the same time despoiling vast tracts of land and water with pollution, sucking huge amounts of energy in its usage and making the lives of the millions of people involved in its manufacture anything but human.

This is the crux of the article:

Slick new smartphones, ultra-thin laptops, tablet computers to rival Apple’s iPad and Web-connected and 3D television sets are expected to grab the most attention during the four-day event at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

But the show floor will also feature more smart home appliances such as ovens which can download recipes and vehicles which give drivers hands-free voice control access to their smartphone applications.

Technology titans such as Cisco, Intel, LG Electronics, Microsoft, Motorola, Panasonic, Samsung, Sony and Toshiba were among the firms offering a glimpse of their upcoming products to reporters here ahead of the official CES opening.

Motorola Mobility and LG Electronics both announced plans to launch touchscreen tablet computers this year powered by “Honeycomb,” the latest version of Google’s Android software optimized for tablets.

It’s just a copy and paste from Associated Press; no comment, no critique, nothing at all. What the hell does this have to do with Mother Nature?!

Skipping around the site, reveals the news pages to be little more than a catalogue of light-green, consumer and lifestyle editorial, with nary a mention of anything that would actually make a difference to human behaviour; and the reason for the complete lack of anything challenging is made clear at the bottom of the every page:

That really is their list of sponsors, each of which has paid to sponsor a section within MNN, and each of which must therefore have been approved by MNN as being appropriate for that section.

Like Southern Company, sponsor of the Energy section – with two giant animated banner ads to show for it – and whose 43 gigawatt generation plant comprises 57% coal, 16% nuclear, 23% gas and – just so they can mention it in their “sustainability” page – 4% hydro. And that hydro plant is largely river-killing dams, in case you were wondering.

Like Georgia-Pacific, sponsor of both the Business Products and Healthy Eating sections, and solely owned by Koch Industries, primary supporters of the Tea Party anti-climate change agenda, and whose own website displays a level of climate change muddle-headedness and disinformation that can only come from a company whose income is dependent upon the continual consumption of dirty energy. For their part, Georgia-Pacific have repeatedly flouted pollution laws and continue to buy timber from illegally logged forests.

Like Siemens, sponsor of the Sustainable Business Practice section, whose business interests include weapons systems, oil and gas (“one of the most important technology partners for the oil and gas industry”) and all sorts of heavy industrial managementsystems, including those for nuclear power.

Like Coca-Cola, the water snatchers. Like MillerCoors, behemoths of the brewing world.

Get the picture?

So next time a web site claims it wants to make our world better, it’s worth thinking who exactly that “our” is. Could it be the companies who give them the money they need to run the site? Could it be the interests of the people who actually run the organisation? It certainly won’t be the world that needs to be given a bit of breathing space from all these corporations in order to recover.

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The Unsuitablog’s Worst of 2010

Posted by keith on 4th January 2011

Taking a cue from all the awards and “looking back on”s going on at the moment, it seems like just the right time to pick the very worst ethical hypocrites of 2010. Taking the year as a whole, there is a huge selection to choose from even when just looking at the pages of The Unsuitablog; and that’s going to be the focus – I could reach out to other places but I think that just throwing a few darts at a board of corporate logos is far less instructive than looking into the dark recesses of near history and seeing what can be pulled out of the grime for a further airing.

Best of all, it gives me the chance to have one more pop at those offenders who really deserve a second go at.

Worst Large Company

Lockheed Martin would deserve this award for merely having the word “responsible” anywhere on their website, but as we found out in June, it seemed that one of the largest arms manufacturers in the world had undergone a complete logic transplant.

LOCKHEED MARTIN ANNOUNCES NEW GREEN INITIATIVES FOR 140,000 EMPLOYEES, THEIR FAMILIES AND COMMUNITIES

BETHESDA, Md. – Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) today announced new green initiatives to reach its 140,000 employees, their families and communities. The orchestrated effort is rolling out in conjunction with National Environmental Education Week (EE Week), the largest organized environmental education event in the United States.

Held each year during the week before Earth Day, EE Week coordinates environmental education outreach nationwide to increase Earth Day’s impact. Lockheed Martin will celebrate EE Week and Earth Day by introducing several new company-wide employee initiatives to encourage environmentally-friendly behavior at work, at home and in local communities.

“At Lockheed Martin, it is our goal to raise awareness of natural resource conservation and to help our employees take an active role in their communities,” said Dr. David J.C. Constable, vice president, Lockheed Martin Energy, Environment, Safety & Health. “With the reach of our organization’s network, we have the opportunity to inspire hundreds of thousands of individuals – starting with our employees, their families and communities – so that as a corporation, we can make a big impact one small action at a time.”

The only response I could make was a video spoof, which still hasn’t been seen enough. It seems like a suitable enough prize for this video to be posted as far and wide as possible.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRfGzFMypIk

Worst Small Company

Cairn Energy is not a very small company, but compared to the other players in their sector (oil and gas) they are just a baby. Yet, for all their size, they seem to have become experts at pissing off communities and exploiting pristine environments that put even the oil giants to shame. Their efforts in greenwashing are similarly spectacular:

Below is a verbatim lift from the Corporate Responsibility page on the website of Cairn Energy. I have just highlighted the one key point that you must bear in mind when reading:

Cairn’s strategy is to deliver shareholder value through establishing commercial reserves in high potential exploration plays in various parts of the world. In implementing this strategy, the Group focuses on conducting all of its activities in a responsible manner.

Human Rights
Cairn recognises the importance of human rights. In Rajasthan, for example, we apply a ‘Rights Aware’ approach to safeguard the local community’s right to water in an area with limited water resources while accessing the water required to support our operations.

Environmental Impact
Cairn recognises that its exploration, development and production activities can have an impact on the environment. Some of Cairn’s exploration and production acreage lies in areas of environmental significance. Cairn recognises its responsibilities and focuses on the avoidance of negative impacts on the environment during its operations.

Climate Change
Activities involved in our operations, such as power generation, flaring, venting and transportation, produce emissions to air, including methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2), two gases recognised as greenhouse gases (GHG). The burning of oil and gas, our primary products, also produces GHG emissions. Climate change is a complex issue with many causes both natural and due to human activity. We acknowledge that there is a growing consensus about the extent and effect of global warming. Energy is essential to social and economic progress but we recognise that we have a responsibility to take a precautionary approach to climate change. At all times, we seek to minimise GHG emissions from our operations.

People and Planet have a slightly different viewpoint:

A slide within Cairn’s presentations on Arctic oil exploration shows the melting Arctic ice. Reduced heavy sea ice makes exploration work easier around Cairn’s two most “promising” licences, off Disko Island – an area frequently visited by those inspecting the impacts of climate change first hand. What Cairn Energy views as an opportunity, Greenland’s Inuit population experience as a threat to their very survival and are increasingly vocal about the impacts which climate change is already having on them.

The prize is a free-of-charge rebranding.

Worst Industry Front

The American Petroleum Institute is a long established front for, well, the American petroleum industry, and have a strong pedigree in producing all sorts of highly damaging misinformation for the benefit of the American public. In September, the API went all Tea Party – a prime audience for their rhetoric – in organising a series of rallies against oil industry regulation, apparently to benefit the general public.

Just in from Public Citizen is a report on a series of rallies around the USA which are being organised by the American Petroleum Institute (API) on behalf of the oil industry. Here is the report:

Today marks the start of rallies across the country organized by the oil and gas industry to block Congress from passing much-needed measures to address problems that came to light during the BP Gulf of Mexico disaster.

The American Petroleum Institute (API), which is organizing the events in Texas, Ohio, Illinois, New Mexico and Colorado, claims to speak not only for industry workers but for “countless consumers” who are concerned about the proposals.

By staging these rallies, API is trying to distort public perception. In fact, people want the government to ensure that another BP oil disaster never happens again. Lawmakers would be derelict in their duty if they didn’t respond to the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.

Last summer, API President Jack Gerard sent a memo to API member groups that laid out a plan to create astroturf rallies as a tactic to oppose climate change legislation. The memo asked recipients to give API “the name of one central coordinator for your company’s involvement in the rallies.” And it warned: “Please treat this information as sensitive … we don’t want critics to know our game plan.”

The astroturfing is pretty blatant, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see API banners at the rallies; but just in case the links aren’t clear, the rallies are being organised under the banner “Rally For Jobs”, which is coincidentally the current headline graphic on the API web site. If you go to the “partners” page on the Rally For Jobs website then the American Petroleum Institute are there, standing in pride of place.

Their prize, in recognition of their phony “people power” is for all of you to go and buy yourselves a decent pair of shoes, and start walking instead of driving. Who knows, you might even meet some real people.

Worst Charity or NGO

Conservation International easily take the prize for being both the largest and the most corporate-friendly “environmental” organisation around. In 2010 they continued their romp with business by launching Team Earth; an astroturf with a twist, for it pretends that corporations can play nicely with the public.

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.

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.

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.

Another prize of a free corporate rebranding for Conservation International, or rather Corporation International.

Worst “Environmental” Campaign

So many to choose from with so many awful disasters and civilization-made catastrophes happening in 2010, but my personal choice was the unspeakably crass video produced by the 10:10 team in the UK. Now I’m all for tough messages, but the idea of blowing people to smithereens because they didn’t agree with the specific message espouced by the 10:10 Organisation (yes, the organisation that uses military style dog-tags as a branding opportunity) really pissed me off.

It also pissed off mobbsey on the Powershift forum, who stated beautifully:

This is just sick; not the fake blood (cinematic suicide bomber chic?), but the whole belief in piffling measures like low energy lights and the like as being the way we can cut emissions. We have to offer a vision outside of the present consumer paradigm that encourages a shift in lifestyle rather than the substitution of existing consumption trends. Actions like this are a simplistic exhortation to change brand or product, not to change the nature of the human system and its impacts on the biosphere. And if, in the rhetoric of “10:10″, this is just something easy to get people interested, that’s absurd too — a lot of recent work on issues around behavioural economics demonstrate that such incantations to change only work where the change is insignificant or equivalent, but fail when it requires a real and difficult realignment of lifestyle patterns.

A prize of some blood-soaked 10:10 tags is very, very appropriate.

Worst Politician / Government

Up to the end of 2010 there were so many dodgy politicians to choose from that I would probably have had to call stalemate on this award. Then WikiLeaks released Cablegate, and the military-industrial politicians spoke as one in their condemnation of…not the crap and hypocrisy revealed in the cables, but the fact that the cables were released at all. In a scramble to be the most shrill commentator of all, few topped Sarah Palin’s claim than Julian Assange was “an anti-American operative with blood on his hands”, although various US and Canadian politicians did manage to suggest that a mass cull of everyone involved in WikiLeaks would be of benefit to humankind.

So, in tribute to the efforts of this august institution (WikiLeaks, not world government) the award goes to every politician who suggested violence in the face of freedom of speech in 2010.

The prize is a few more people mirroring the WikiLeaks website, copying the Insurance file for safekeeping, and sending on a few choice leaks to a site of your choice (EnviroLeaks is your friend).

Worst Religious Hypocrisy

It was going quite well in the religious world until Christmas, with even the Pope railing against environmental damage, and all sorts of religious institutions helping in community efforts. And then that hardy annual Operation Christmas Child came along to spoil the party of every poor child who doesn’t want Christian Evangelism shoved in their faces. Where help is concerned, missionaries have never exactly been on the side of the unconverted, but OCC are taking it to a level not seen since the Crusades:

I’d like to share with you just one story about what God did in a little village in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mimbulu is a collection of mud-brick houses and thatched huts with no electricity or running water. Most of the villagers are subsistence farmers living on far less than $1 a day. You can imagine how happy and excited the children were when our team handed out shoe box gifts from Operation Christmas Child. Later, hundreds of girls and boys signed up for our Discipleship Program, and most of them made commitments to Jesus Christ through the Bible study course.

Traditional religions and occult practices are common in this part of Africa, but many people in Mimbulu have been delivered from spiritual darkness as a result of this evangelistic outreach. Three girls, all under the age of 10, confessed to being involved in witchcraft, repented of their sins, and accepted the Lord Jesus Christ. One cult leader, after reading his son’s Bible lessons, renounced his false religion and surrendered his life to the Lord. Other adults turned to Christ at the graduation ceremony where they heard their children recite Scripture and listened to a pastor preach the Gospel.

The Lord is doing great things in Mimbulu, and we give Him all the glory!

We treat every single gift box as a Gospel opportunity. That’s why prayer is the most important thing we ask people to do when they pack their shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child. We want each person to pray for the child who receives the box and ask God to touch that child’s heart. That’s where the real power of Operation Christmas Child lies—in God’s answers to those millions of heartfelt prayers.

Another appropriate rebranding for Operation Christmas Child, along with a bonus prize of hundreds of parents raising serious complaints with their children’s schools in 2011 should the brainwashing boxes be suggested.

Operation Christmas Child convert christian samaritan's purse

The “Too Naive To Understand” Award for Accidental Hypocrisy

Sometimes The Unsuitablog is a bit too successful, but rarely do I ever feel sorry for one of the targets. In May the Green Youth Movement was soundly berated for its sloppy attitude to environmentalism; being dressed up as the kind of thing you can “do” as part of your hectic Beverley Hills lifestyle.

I have met some incredible young people with vision, passion and the willingness to stick two fingers up at the system in order to create some kind of change. I have learnt from some young people what it feels like to be a concerned person in a society that values shopping, celebrity and vacations above the fundamental need to have a functioning ecosystem. I have seen young people cry – including my own children – at the thought that certain types of humans are capable of such horrific acts in the pursuit of wealth and status. Oh, that I had such knowledge at such an early age – what could I have done by now?

Well, if I had been Ally Maize, I could have got to meet Miley Cyrus, Renee Zellweger and that prime example of eco-conscious thinking, Paris Hilton. I could also, as per the above introduction to GYM, have become utterly deluded that small, superficial actions create big change; adopted the lie that politicians have any part to play in a sustainable future; in order to alienate part of my audience entirely, I would have referred to “teens” as “young children”; and finally, I would have got my parents to by me an electric car for when I passed my driving test – well, she does live in Beverley Hills…

The attack was justified on the basis that GYM hired a PR company to pump up its image – then I found out that the parents of Ally Maize were far worse than Ally herself (see the comments below the article). Too late: GYM was dead in the water, or as near as dammit. A good thing too, because if we are to bring the next generations along in the fight for environmental justice, the last thing we should be telling them is that it’s ok to just do little things.

I can’t present Ally Maize with a sense of modesty, but I think perhaps the magic curtain has been lifted a little for one deluded person. That’s reward in itself.

The “Cannibalism” Award for Self-Destruction of the Environmental Movement

Anyone who says the Environmental Movement is growing is a fool. There is no one “movement”, and even if there is something resembling a movement then it’s so diluted as to be completely ineffective. When an organisation comes along and brands itself in such a way as to imply it has all the answers, then you should expect it to be pretty damn good.

350.org are pretty damn something, but it’s not good:

Not a week goes by without some campaign or other being launched to prevent environmental destruction, or make efforts to put right that destruction. The vast, vast majority of these campaigns are based upon the same “logic” as the vast, vast majority of people who make comments to newspapers or television stations: this is the system we have, so we have no choice but to make it behave itself as best it can. That, of course, is bullshit.

As I have written time and time again, it is an utterly pointless task trying to make Industrial Civilization sustainable or “environmentally friendly”, because the nature of civilization is to destroy, to take what it wants to achieve its aims and only stop when it runs out of energy, people or space. It only stops when it collapses – it never stops of its own accord.

The mainstream environmental movement has never got this, and never will, because its very existence depends on the support of a large number of people both for income and staffing. It also depends on the good will of the system itself, that permits it to protest peacefully, speak freely and generally operate within the Law of the Land. There is an invisible line that separates the words and deeds of the mainstream from the words and deeds of the “extremist”; that same line separates that which is pointless, ineffective action from that which will actually achieve the kind of change humanity requires in order to survive.

This line is never crossed.

If you want to see this entire movement in microcosm, look no further than 350.org and the work they do which has come, in recent months, to define environmental symbolism.

350 parts per million – their lodestone number – is too high to prevent the Earth continuing to warm. The symbolic action, particularly the appeals to politicians, is not just pointless – it is extremely divisive. Symbolic action in defence of a dying planet is like a Band Aid on an amputation. 350.org should be ashamed of themselves for perpetuating such a dangerous idea.

But they aren’t, because they think they are right – they have become too big.

The best prize for them is a real movement of people who get things done, and don’t accept compromise. We will see this in 2011; mark my words.

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