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Los Alamitos School Board Member Makes U-Turn on Climate Change Teaching

Posted by keith on 19th May 2011

I’ve just had a very interesting and productive email discussion with Dr Jeffrey Barke. Some of you may be familiar with his position on the teaching of climate science. Here’s some background information, from MSNBC:

LOS ALAMITOS — A new high school advanced placement class that addresses global warming has prompted the school board to start requiring teachers to present opposing views in courses that include controversial topics.

Los Alamitos Unified School district trustees unanimously agreed to update the policy on controversial issues at the request of board member Jeffrey Barke, who said he is concerned about “global warming dogma” and wants students to be offered a balanced perspective on the topic.

“There are two clearly divergent opinions on global warming,” Barke said in an interview. “There are those who believe that global warming is a fact, created by man’s impact on the environment and the consequences will be devastating. There are others on the conservative side who believe it’s much ado about nothing. It’s overhyped and politically motivated, and the science is not solid, and there’s room for more studies.”

Since news of the board’s decision was posted on a numerous national blogs, Barke said he has received more than 100 e-mails criticizing the district’s move and attacking him personally.

Los Alamitos resident J.M. Ivler, who has a daughter at the high school, did not e-mail Barke, but he was critical of the school board.

“There is consensus in the field that we have global warming happening, it is getting warmer and it is related to what we are doing to the planet,” he said. “That is not in dispute in the scientific community. It is in dispute in the political community. This is a science class. Teach science.”

Below is a word for word copy of the emails we exchanged in relation to an interview published in The Guardian yesterday. The outcome of our discussion is that he agrees (twice) that science teaching should reflect the balance of evidence in current climate science. Dr Jeffrey Barke will now need to go back to the school board and state that clearly before kids really do start thinking that science is just politics with numbers.

>>>> Dear Dr Barke
>>>> I have just read an interview between you and Leo Hickman in today’s Guardian, and have a question that Leo either left out in the printed version or did not ask. I think it should sort this out once and for all.
>>>> Would the school board be amenable to the science class teaching climate science based on the balance of information that climate scientists can attest to (rather than just “believe”)? In other words if, as I believe, the balance is between 100 and 1000 climate scientists being able to show scientifically that civilized humanity is the predominant cause of current climate change, for every 1 who opposes this view, then between 0.1% and 1% of the science class should relate the dissenting view, with the remaining 99% to 99.9% of time spent teaching the majority view.
>>>> This seems like a fair and logically inarguable outcome for a science class which, I would assume, teaches according to scientific principles.
>>>> Kind regards
>>>> Keith Farnish

>>> From: Jeff Barke
>>> Sent: Wednesday, May 18, 2011 2:28 PM
>>> To: Keith Farnish
>>> Subject: Re: Fair Balance re Climate Change Science
>>> Facts are facts. I disagree with your premise. The following is a partial list of scientists who also disagree.
>>> Global Warming Skeptics (Scientists and Thought Leaders) partial list:
>>> Tony Abbott
>>> Don Aitkin
>>> Dennis Avery
>>> Sallie L. Baliunas
>>> Tim Ball
>>> Robert C. Balling of Arizona State University
>>> David Bellamy
>>> Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen
>>> Douglas Carswell M.P.
>>> Robert (Bob) Carter
>>> Ian Castles
>>> John R. Christy
>>> Ian Clark
>>> Alexander Cockburn
>>> Martin Cohen, and philosophical objections to the global warming theorists
>>> Joseph D’Aleo
>>> Martin Durkin
>>> Paul Driessen
>>> David Evans
>>> Ray Evans
>>> The Rt. Rev. Peter R. Forster The Bishop of Chester
>>> Stewart Franks
>>> George Fox
>>> Robert Giegengack
>>> Steve Goddard
>>> Bill Gray
>>> William Happer
>>> Chris Horner, the author of “Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming
>>> Sherwood Idso
>>> Andrei Illarionov, chief economic adviser to Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin
>>> James M. Inhofe
>>> Aynsley Kellow
>>> William Kininmonth
>>> Czech president Vaclav Klaus
>>> Donna Laframboise
>>> Lord Lawson
>>> David Legates
>>> Marlo Lewis, from the Competitive Enterprise Institute;
>>> Richard S. Lindzen
>>> Bjorn Lomborg
>>> Stephen McIntyre
>>> Ross McKitrick
>>> Patrick J. Michaels
>>> Christopher Monckton
>>> Andrew Montford
>>> Alan Moran
>>> Luboš Motl
>>> Alan Oxley
>>> Garth Paltridge
>>> Tim Patterson
>>> Roger Pielke Jr.
>>> Ian Plimer
>>> Arthur B. Robinson
>>> Frederick Seitz (deceased 2008)
>>> S. Fred Singer
>>> Willie Soon
>>> Roy Spencer
>>> Carlo Stagnaro
>>> Bob Stallman
>>> Philip Stott
>>> John H. Sununu
>>> George Taylor,
>>> Wolfgang Thüne
>>> Jan Veizer
>>> Len Walker
>>> Anthony Watts
>>> Sammy Wilson
>>> Jeffrey I. Barke, M.D.

>>> Hi Jeff
>>> I’m not sure about your list. Sammy Wilson, for instance, is a politician from Northern Ireland, Tony Abbot is an Australian politician, Lord Nigel Lawson is a politician, Martin Durkin is a journalist, Bjorn Lomborg is an economist and so on. Even Tim Ball isn’t a climate scientist, even though he claims to be (he’s a geographer).
>>> So, all I ask is that the balance of *climate scientists* be reflected in the teaching. I can’t see why you would disagree with this.
>>> Regards
>>> Keith

>> From: Jeff Barke
>> Sent: Wednesday, May 18, 2011 3:17 PM
>> To: Keith Farnish
>> Subject: Re: Fair Balance re Climate Change Science
>> And look at all those that signed off on the IPPC position. Certainly not all “scientist.”. Answer me this why is the majority of true believers on the left if this is not a political issue and simple just scientific fact? The IPCC is a UN political body. The list I provided you includes politicians because ultimately they are the ones that determine governmental policy. To suggest that the science is settled is intellectually dishonest.
>> Jeffrey I. Barke, M.D.

>> Jeff, please could you just consider what science is – that is, after all, what this issue is about. Politicians, activists, businesspeople etc. on any side of the fence should not determine the balance of what is taught. Human biology for instance wouldn’t now be taught based on the writings of Aristotle, even if a large number of politicians agreed that it should, because Aristotle has been shown by modern science to be wrong on almost all aspects of anatomy. The same should stand for climate change in science: it should reflect the current view of climate science which is overwhelmingly on the side of anthropogenesis.
>> Anyone who suggests the science on anything is settled doesn’t understand science. That’s why I said “current view”.
>> So do you agree that climate change should reflect the views of climate scientists or not? That’s all I am asking.
>> Thanks
>> Keith

> From: Jeff Barke
> Sent: Wednesday, May 18, 2011 3:49 PM
> To: Keith Farnish
> Subject: Re: Fair Balance re Climate Change Science
> Agree. But what I do not think you realize is the large number of main stream scientists that are skeptics and their work is not reported by the media.
> Jeffrey I. Barke, M.D.

> That’s good – I hope that is reflected in your discussions with the school board. Don’t forget that there may be many mainstream scientists who are skeptics, but if their evidence doesn’t support their position then it’s not scientifically valid. In the end verifiable evidence is what counts, and there is very little around that stands up to scrutiny.
> Best
> Keith


Jeffrey I. Barke, M.D.

Posted in Good News! | 4 Comments »

EnviroLeaks : Now Live

Posted by keith on 16th December 2010

EnviroLeaks is a repository of leaked information that fills the gap between what the mainstream media allow us to know about the environmentally destructive behaviour of the industrial system, and the often highly classified and largely political information from groups such as WikiLeaks.

EnviroLeaks encourages ordinary people with access to embarrassing and potentially disruptive information, to submit it for review, with the intention of it being published as a publicly accessible article. This may take anywhere between a few days and a few months depending on the level of verification needed, and the nature of the information: sometimes a leak will be prioritised in order to increase the potential impact.

EnviroLeaks does not discriminate:

– Whether the information is damaging to a major corporation or a small NGO, if it reveals a significant element of hypocrisy or double-standards then the subject is fair game, regardless of the public perception of that subject;

– We do not provide information in advance to the mass media – information is published here, and anyone can redistribute it;

– The “environment” is everything that sustains the basic needs of humanity, so a relevant leak may reveal mass deforestation, the co-ordinated cover up of greenhouse gas emissions figures, the pollution of a local stream or the removal of allotments for housing – the smallest exposure may be a wedge to exposing far larger things;

– One person’s meat may be another person’s poison: just because “other” people don’t consider an activity to be damaging or hypocritical doesn’t mean it isn’t. If it feels wrong then it probably is – you feel that because you have managed to avoid being conditioned to ignore it;

– We recognise that leaks are not always going to be exclusive. We don’t mind; most of the information published is not likely to be revealed by the mainstream media, so you can send it to us as a backup – we are not proud.

EnviroLeaks has an agenda: it is the undermining of the destructive industrial system that is currently making the future of humanity and much other life on Earth untenable. If you have the same agenda then welcome! Comments are invited as is sharing.

More information at

The EnviroLeaks website is at

Posted in Good News! | No Comments »

After The Yes Men’s Chevron Spoof, What Next For YOU?

Posted by keith on 26th October 2010

Strike while the iron is hot, or take a breather and think about your next move. The feelings of an Underminer during a hot spoof are often confused, but in some cases a retrospective look is necessary in order to understand what effective action really means. Case in point, the action by the Yes Men in undermining Chevron’s “We Agree” campaign, which for reasons Googley, I’m not going to link to.

At 07:37 BST (that’s 02:37 EST) an email popped into my mailbox purporting to come from Chevron Corp. Fortunately I was up at around this time, read the email, examined the headers, looked at the links and concluded it was a spoof: a very good spoof. Here’s the email:

From: Chevron Media Relations
Sent: Monday, October 18, 2010 7:37 AM
To: Keith Farnish
Subject: Radical Chevron Ad Campaign Highlights Victims

Chevron has added a news release to its Investor Relations website.

Title: Radical Chevron Ad Campaign Highlights Victims

Date(s): 18 October. 2010

To view this release on the web, please click here

Radical Chevron Ad Campaign Highlights Victims

By honestly featuring oil industry misdeeds, Chevron “We Agree” campaign scores ad industry first
SAN RAMON, Calif., Oct. 18, 2010 (BUSINESS WIRE) — Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX) has announced a new global advertising campaign aimed at showing Chevron as a “real people” corporation, and admitting to problems that companies usually try to hide.

“We want the world to know that we’re just like you and me,” said Chevron Vice Chairman George L. Kirkland. “We’ve got problems and challenges, and we too make mistakes, but we’re telling truths no one usually tells, and looking wide-eyed into the future.”

The candid advertising campaign, created by award-winning long-time Chevron ad partner McGarryBowen, features real people on the receiving end of Chevron controversies in Ecuador, Nigeria, the U.S. Gulf Coast and elsewhere. Each print ad is designed with an authentic pop-culture street-art aesthetic, and features a sincere slogan followed by a big red “We Agree” stamp, the signature of Chevron executives, and the Chevron logo.

“Chevron is making a clean break from the past by taking direct responsibility for our own actions,” said Rhonda Zygocki, Chevron vice president of Policy, Government and Public Affairs.

“Oil Companies Should Clean Up Their Messes,” reads one ad; the small print refers candidly to the damage done by oil companies around the world. “For decades, oil companies like ours have worked in disadvantaged areas, influencing policy in order to do there what we can’t do at home. It’s time this changed.”

Another ad, “Oil Companies Should Fix The Problems They Create,” is just as topical. “Extracting oil from the Earth is a risky process, and mistakes do happen. It’s easy to pass the blame or ignore the mistakes we’ve made. Instead, we need to face them head on, accept our financial and environmental responsibilities, and fund new technologies to avoid these mistakes in the future.”

“We were asked to show an agreeable, involved, of-the-people face for Chevron, and we think we came up with some really great ways of doing that,” said Gordon Bowen, Chief Creative Officer of McGarryBowen. “But what’s unique and different here is the honesty. We’ve never been able to do this before.”

“We’re telling truths no one usually tells,” said Zygocki. “We’re changing the way the whole industry speaks.”

“BP’s response to the Gulf tragedy was widely perceived as perfunctory and insincere,” noted Bowen. “Chevron has big problems too, like in Ecuador – but they’re really stepping up to the plate.”

The “We Agree” campaign is an evolution of Chevron’s “Power of Human Energy” campaign, which launched in 2007 with a series of print, online, broadcast and outdoor ads that all sought to raise awareness and encourage discussion about the major issues facing the energy industry. Though the exact cost of “We Agree” remains confidential, Chevron routinely spends $90 million per year on US advertising alone.

“‘We Agree’ conveys that Chevron is all for people,” said Zygocki. “Just as ‘We’ is inclusive, so Chevron is inclusive. It’s time we were on the side of people, no matter where those people are from.”

Chevron Corporation is one of the world’s leading integrated energy companies. The company has about 58,000 employees, and Chevron’s subsidiaries conduct business in approximately 180 countries. Chevron operates across the entire energy spectrum – exploring for, producing and transporting crude oil and natural gas; refining, marketing and distributing fuels and other energy products; generating power; designing and marketing large-scale energy efficiency solutions; and commercializing the energy resources of the future, including biofuels and other renewables. Chevron is based in San Ramon, Calif.

Please visit for more on the “We Agree” campaign. More information about Chevron is available at

At this point, some people other than me were bound to have uncovered the ruse, but rather than making a big deal of it, I chose to keep quiet and let things take their course: what is the point of supporting something if you’re going to uncover it in public in the same breathe? I also wanted to think that this wasn’t the work of the Yes Men.

A strange sentiment? Well, after popping back a quick note to the originators…

That is very clever – don’t worry, I won’t tell. But if you need any help then let me know. Good mask on the domain names too.


…I noticed that this bore far more of a resemblance to the kinds of spoofs that I have been discussing on my blogs, and even (ahem!) carrying out myself. I really wanted this to be from at least a Yes Men spin-off, if not a completely independent entity, because it would mean that the PR companies and corporate killers were starting to lose control of things.

Later on in the day, it was becoming clear that the Yes Men were being fingered with the spoof, the spoof itself (partly “thanks” to various smartarse bloggers) having been exposed fairly quickly. Following this exposure period something happened which gave new legs to the action – another press release from “Chevron”:

From: Chevron Corp.
Sent: Monday, October 18, 2010 5:45 PM
Subject: STATEMENT: Chevron Deplores Subterfuge, Investigates Options

Chevron has added a news release to its Investor Relations website.

Title: Chevron Deplores Subterfuge, Investigates Options

Date(s): 18 October. 2010

For a complete listing of our news releases, please click here

Chevron Deplores Subterfuge, Investigates Options

SAN RAMON, Calif., Oct. 18, 2010 (BUSINESS WIRE) — Earlier today, a group of environmentalists cyber-posing as Chevron officials illegally spoofed Chevron’s just-launched “We Agree” advertising campaign, confusing reporters (link). While such a campaign does exist, its official URL is The advertisements released earlier today, at, were an elaborate subterfuge and must not be mistaken as real.

“Chevron does not take this attack lightly,” said Hewitt Pate, General Counsel for Chevron. “We invest extremely heavily in our campaigns, and we take them extremely seriously. Such actions can never be tolerated.” Though the exact cost of “We Agree” must remain confidential, Chevron routinely spends $90 million per year on US advertising alone.

Pate also noted that the environmentalists have made libellous allegations regarding Chevron’s record and obligations in Ecuador and beyond. “Despite what some will say, we are not obliged to abide by decisions that Ecuadorian judges make or do not make. This is because we have binding agreements with the Ecuadorian Government exempting us from any liabilities whatsoever, granted in exchange for a $40 million cleanup of some wells by Texaco in the 1990s.”

“We have always upheld the best values of every country to which we are attached,” added Pate.

“This hoax is part of an ongoing effort to blame Chevron for 18 billion gallons of toxic waste dumped in the Amazon during drilling operations,” said Rhonda Zygocki, Chevron vice president of Policy, Government and Public Affairs. “This blame game continues despite Chevron’s long-standing agreement with the Ecuadorian government which very obviously puts the issue behind us.”

For further information please visit Chevron’s official press page. For more information about Chevron please visit

What was going on here was an attempt to inject some confusion into the story, by using a fake press release site to disseminate fake anger at a real spoof, while also adding fuel to the fire of Chevron’s abuses in South America.

Again, I fired off a quick response, and then kept schtum:

Oh, that’s wonderful. Slight coding error on the website (“stories” and “global issue”s toplinks are broken) but otherwise a brilliant bit of “heading them off at the pass” just as people realise it was a hoax. *I’m* not convinced you’re the Yes Men, though


I didn’t get a response, as responding in the affirmative is something you should never do when trying to cover your tracks, but they did fix the links – someone was on the ball here.

Someone at Business Week clearly wasn’t on the ball, as their article the next day clearly attests to. They may have been taken in by the further fakery related to Advertising Age, for not only was the Chevron site a fake, there was a fake AdAge web site to boot, something that is recorded in some detail by the real Advertising Age:

NEW YORK ( — First BP was targeted with a satirical Twitter feed, and now oil giant Chevron has been hit by pranksters hijacking its corporate-public-relations efforts. While the prank may go unnoticed by consumers, it does raise issues for both marketers and media.

The hoax that Chevron is now grappling with is far more elaborate and is timed to the launch of an ad campaign from the San Ramon, Calif.-based company and its lead agency, Dentsu-owned McGarryBowen.

Not only was a fake website created that parodied the real campaign, but fake press releases were sent out, including one posted to a site that looks remarkably similar to Chevron’s actual website. That release uses fake quotes by Rhonda Zygocki, Chevron’s VP-policy, government and public affairs, and Gordon Bowen, chief creative officer of McGarryBowen.

As part of the prank, there was even a fake story planted on a fake Ad Age site. Ad Age received calls Monday morning from someone purporting to be a Chevron spokesperson saying an erroneous story was posted to the While the story looked real — the masthead and frames were swiped from a Marketer of the Year story posted to and the text was replaced with a Chevron story — the URL was a fake, one that misspelled the “advertising” in (and there was no byline on the piece).

So that is that, it seems. The story has all but blown over and, with more irony that a professor of linguistics could muster, Chevron’s latest press release is trumpeting a new attempt at large-scale deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

But that is not that!

It doesn’t take a computer genius or expert in public relations to dream up and execute something that could do great damage to a company or even an entire government; something I will be writing about at length in my new book. People who follow my writing may have come across this article on The Sietch a couple of years ago. You will have to take my word for it that at least three more spoofs have been carried out in three entirely different ways since then, with varying success.

And I am just one person.

What about you?

Posted in Advice, Exposure, Good News!, Spoofs, Subvertising | No Comments »

Hackers Shut Down EU Carbon-Trading Website [From The Guardian]

Posted by keith on 28th July 2010

Sorry for all the reposts recently, but it’s been a very busy time at Unsuitablog HQ, and I also can’t top this bit of news from The Guardian covering an excellent example of Undermining. Emissions Trading, like all forms of offsetting, is a method of ensuring that the industrial system can keep operating.

Anti-carbon trading activists shut down the website of the European Climate Exchange (ECX), over the weekend, replacing the site with a spoof page lampooning the industry.

The website of the London-based carbon credit trading platform was hacked at close to midnight on Friday and showed the spoof homepage for around 22 hours. It then took technical staff another day to restore the official homepage.

Instead of its normal rolling ticker data listing bids for carbon credit futures, the ECX website blared: “Super promo – climate on sale: Guaranteed profit!”

Explaining the “carbon trade scam”, the spoof site decried how the EU’s flagship environmental policy is “susceptible to corporate lobbying,” offers industry “licences to pollute so they can continue business-as-usual,” and “generates outrageous profits for big industry polluters, investors in fraudulent offset projects [and] opportunist traders.”

On Saturday, shortly after the ECX website went down, activists announced their handiwork on a number of environmental discussion groups, saying: “In a public act of digital direct action, the ECX website was taken offline and replaced with our message in an effort to try to raise awareness about carbon trading as a dangerous false solution to the climate crisis.”

One of the activists responsible, from the online activist group, Decocidio, told the Guardian: “We feel the EU Emissions Trading Scheme is not well understood by the general public or even within the environmental movement. It is a major fraud touted by the mainstream media, politics, industry and lobbyists as the main solution.” The group is part of Earth First, a radical environmental protest organisation.

“Attempting to cause as much inconvenience, economical loss and image damage as possible, we deliberately tried to maximise the virtual damage,” said the hacker, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

A spokeswoman for the European Climate Exchange, Kelly Loeffler, said: “We have no comment relating to the incident as there is nothing to report publicly.”

The exchange was also targeted by activists from Climate Camp last summer. They dubbed it a “climate change casino”.

Damien Morris, of Sandbag, a self-described “critical friend” of the EU ETS said: “It’s very unfortunate that this sort of infighting over emissions trading has developed within the environmental movement, especially on the radical end,” he said. “There seems to be a large grassroots following and public presence of these sorts of ideas, but not at the more technical and realistic, solutions-focussed part of the movement.”

“There is certainly a place for criticism of the ETS, but the problem with those who disagree with carbon trading is that they oppose it in principle, not in practice. It’s a good idea when done properly. There are many problems with the ETS, but there is a clear pathway as to how it can be made more effective and robust.”

The weasel words of Sandbag reflect their mainstream credentials; clearly Earth First! and Decocidio are so far outside their awareness bubble that anyone who opposes emissions trading must have some kind of theoretical issue, rather than the far more obvious fact that it’s all part of the ecocidal global economy

Posted in Corporate Hypocrisy, Good News!, Offsetting, Political Hypocrisy, Sabotage | No Comments »

Thank Goodness For The ASA

Posted by keith on 12th November 2008

ASA Logo

Quite often, when I’m not dreaming of a different world that reflects my primal longing for wildness and self determination as part of a deeply connected community of like-minded souls, I do feel pleased that I live in the UK. One reason — it’s not a great one compared to the longing dreams, but we are talking about Industrial Civilization here — is that I can call on the services of the Advertising Standards Authority.

Unlike in the USA, for instance, where advertising is sort of regulated by the Federal Trade Commission, in a horribly convoluted and haphazard way, the ASA deals with virtually every form of advertising in much the same way as a well-tuned combine harvester: the grain goes in the hopper, and the unwanted straw is baled up and chucked out the other side – usually with a tart note saying, “Don’t do it again!”

This week alone the ASA, in response to complaints and general looking out for bad stuff, made 11 formal adjudications — these things are pretty thorough — upholding 7 complaints and rejecting 4. Bear in mind that a complaint might be made by a rival advertiser, or for spurious reasons, so these figures are not particularly significant: what is significant, though, are the number of complaints upheld against greenwashing advertisers.

In July, the ASA launched a report, focusing in greenwashing in advertising, which was introduced as follows:

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has today published a report detailing the findings of a stakeholder consultation seminar entitled ‘Environmental Claims in Advertising: Is Green a Grey Area?’. The ASA used the seminar to engage with industry, environmental and consumer groups on establishing where problems arise and setting parameters for environmental and ethical claims.

The June event was held in response to rising concern over what consumers and campaigners see as ‘greenwash’. Claims about CO2 emissions such as carbon ‘neutral’, ‘zero’ or ‘negative’ are particularly open to challenge, as are absolute claims such as ‘100% recycled’ or ‘wholly sustainable’.

The ASA acknowledged that the increased public awareness of environmental issues coupled with fast evolving scientific knowledge and the prolific rise in green initiatives pose a tough challenge for advertisers in ensuring their claims comply with the rules and regulations. A key objective of the consultation event was to give advertisers greater clarity about the current rules on environmental claims to help prevent consumers from being misled or confused, and to gauge stakeholder opinion on the challenges they face.

Now, obviously, the ASA is not anti-advertising per se, it is, after all their raison d’etre (this is like an excerpt from Finnigan’s Wake!), but simply the recognition that advertisers are regularly overstepping the mark is significant in itself. When you look at the adjudications for the last calendar year, using the keyword “environmental”, it gets even more heartening:

Try the search for yourself…

There are some pretty big hitters here: Shell, Lexus, Boeing, British Gas, ExxonMobil…all of whom have been told to change their advertising or not use it again. One example, by Shell advertising the “environmental benefits” of their oil sands abortion includes this damning comment by the adjudicators:

The ASA noted Shell’s argument that they were committed to meeting the world’s energy needs in social, economic and environmentally responsible ways. We understood that oil sands were composed of sand, silt, clay, water and bitumen, which could be upgraded into synthetic crude oil. We also understood that the Canadian oil sands covered over 140,000 square kilometres of Alberta, with each individual mine ranging from 150 to 200 square kilometres, and contained 173 billion barrels of recoverable bitumen. We further understood that the oil sands were either strip-mined from open pits or, where the oil sands were deeper, bitumen was heated so it could flow to a well and be pumped to the surface for in situ extraction.

We noted that a 2006 report by Canada’s National Energy Board, the independent federal agency that regulates Canada’s energy industry, stated that the large scale of the oil sands developments had considerable social and environmental impacts, including those on water conservation, greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), land disturbance and waste management. We understood from that report that approved oil sands mining projects were licensed to divert 370 million cubic meters of fresh water per year from the Athabasca River, but that despite some recycling, almost all of the water withdrawn for oil sands operations ended up in waste tailing ponds. We also understood that demand for freshwater for in situ projects was projected to more than double between 2004 and 2015. We noted the report stated that the mining of bitumen and synthetic crude oil from oil sands produced higher GHG emissions than from the production of conventional crude oil, and had been identified as the largest contributor to GHG emissions growth in Canada…

Sheer bureaucratic poetry.

The advert was banned: up yours, Shell! Thanks, ASA!

Posted in Advice, Good News! | No Comments »

The Guardian: Anti-Greenwashing Going Mainstream

Posted by keith on 24th October 2008

Guardian Greenwashing Title

Question: When a media company decides they will start a campaign against greenwashing, but still has a few chinks in their armour, does that invalidate their campaign?

I’m not 100% sure of the answer, but I’m going to give The Guardian the benefit of the doubt, given that they have an impressive track record in environmental reporting (probably unrivalled in the mass-media) and have consistently provided a voice to (almost) the entire range of environmental opinions in a representative manner. Sadly, being representative means that the few voices calling for a removal of Industrial Civilization are not heard; but I think that will also change soon.

So, it is with a small fanfare, and a smile on my face that The Unsuitablog welcomes The Guardian into the Anti-Greenwashing frey: they have launched a new Thursday column which started by laying into a subject that I had meant to cover some time ago – “green” electricity tariffs.

Most of us are not foolish enough to suppose that our electricity supplier specially packages up “green energy” for us, and shoves it down the wires. We just get regular electricity, of course. But most of us would suppose that if we pay a green tariff, someone somewhere generates more renewable energy – and burns less fossil fuel – than they would if we hadn’t done our bit for the environment.

But no. In fact, we are usually subsidising the power companies to do what they are required by law to do already. Worse, despite us paying through our green noses, they still can’t meet their targets. Then they rub our noses in it by selling what “green electricity” they do produce over and over again.

The writer of the column is Fred Pearce, author of “When The Rivers Run Dry” amongst other works, and long time popularist of environmental issues for New Scientist. In fact, his efforts at New Scientist have been remarkable in turning a once staid and non-reflective journal into one that reflects the issues of the day in a frank and honest way.

Let’s hope that The Guardian doesn’t pull any punches when dealing with greenwashing: especially the kind carried out by its advertisers – now that will be an interesting test of nerve.

Posted in Good News! | 3 Comments »

Lexus Greenwashing Ad Banned In UK

Posted by keith on 24th September 2008

Lexus Fraud

Yes, people really are getting the message about greenwashing and, at least for the moment, some of it is being stamped down upon. I highlighted an appalling advertisement by Lexus in March 2008, which had been banned for claiming “High performance, Low emissions, Zero guilt”. Lexus subsequently toned down their adverts, but still implied that driving one was environmentally acceptable.

The full story is told in The Guardian:

A national press advertising campaign for a Lexus hybrid four-wheel drive car has been banned after it claimed it was “perfect for today’s climate”.

Viewers complained that the ad misleadingly implied that it caused “little or no harm” to the environment.

The press ad, for the Lexus RX 400h, made the claim: “perfect for today’s climate. (And tomorrow’s) … Driving the world’s first luxury hybrid SUV makes environmental, and economic, sense …”

Four complaints were made to the Advertising Standards Authority that the claims were misleading because “they implied that the car caused little or no harm to the environment and gave a misleading impression of the car’s CO2 emissions in comparison with other vehicles”.

Lexus said that the use of the word “climate” in the ad was meant to operate at “two levels”.

One was that in the current economic market the Lexus was offered with attractive financial packages, the other that hybrid cars were more environmentally friendly.

Lexus said that it did not claim that the vehicle caused “little or no harm” to the environment, just that it was more environmentally friendly than standard premium SUV vehicles.

But the ASA said the ad implied that the vehicle’s emission rate was low in relation to all vehicles and that readers were likely to understand that “the car caused little or no harm to the environment”.

The watchdog concluded that the ads were likely to mislead and banned the ads.

Lexus said it amended the copy after receiving the complaints.

If it only takes 4 complaints to get an advert banned, it must mean the ASA are getting pretty strict on greenwashing. If only this were the case in the rest of the world.

Posted in Adverts, Corporate Hypocrisy, Good News! | No Comments »

Norway Tells Rio Tinto To Bugger Off

Posted by keith on 10th September 2008

Rio Tinto Destruction

Incredible, a nation acting in the best interests of the planet. Ok, it’s Norway, and they do have lots of gas and oil, but even so, a snub of this magnitude deserves to be highlighted, especially when it involves one of the most destructive corporations on Earth:

The Norwegian government has launched an unprecedented attack on the UK mining giant Rio Tinto, selling a £500m holding in the company after accusing it of “grossly unethical conduct” relating to environmental damage.

The Norwegian Ministry of Finance released a statement yesterday saying it had “decided to exclude the company Rio Tinto from the Government Pension Fund – Global, due to a risk of contributing to severe environmental damage”.

The government has blocked its $375bn (£213bn) sovereign wealth fund, known worldwide as its “oil fund”, from investing in Rio over its mining operations in Indonesia, in a move that could drive other investors to review their holdings in the group.


The bloody struggle between native West Papuans whose land was stolen from them by the Indonesian government in the 1960s has been well documented, and it is such a stark example of corporate / government injustice that I made a point of highlighting it in A Matter Of Scale:

The tribal people of West Papua live in a manner that is entirely alien to most of modern humanity. According to Bernard Nietschmann: “The people of West Papua are different in all respects from their rulers in [Indonesia]: language, religions, identity, histories, systems of land ownership and resource use, cultures and allegiance.” Imagine, for a moment, living in such a way that you had no concept of outside rules, beliefs and culture; when, suddenly, the land you have nurtured for centuries with delicate care is ripped away from you to be handed to a corporation intent on mining it for metals, leaving the land in tatters and thousands of tonnes of toxic spoil leaching poison into the ground. This is precisely what happened in the years following 1967 under the despotic leadership of President Suharto of Indonesia (who also forcibly took control of the country following a military coup in 1965). Two large mining companies from “democratic” nations; Freeport, based in the USA, and Rio Tinto Zinc, a UK / Australian conglomerate; were handed the mineral rights for a large part of West Papua in return for generous donations to the Suharto regime. Despite Suharto’s bloodthirsty behaviour across his empire, including responsibility for the slaughter of half a million Indonesians in 1965, the CEO of Freeport, James Roberts, called Suharto, “a compassionate man.”

The native West Papuans have never had the land returned to them, primarily because there is no profit to be made in giving a peaceful, nature respecting people stewardship of a region under which there are rich mineral resources to be plundered.

Now go back to the article in The Independent, and read the responses of the Rio Tinto PR machine:

A Rio spokesman said the company felt “surprise and disappointment” at the decision, adding it had come out of the blue after the company had held meetings with the ministry.

Rio countered the claims [of the Norwegian government] in a written statement to the government that it “maintains the highest environmental standards at all its operations wherever they are located, and it contributes technical support to its joint venture partners to ensure that the most appropriate solutions are identified and implemented”.

No mention of human rights abuses, of course — they are totally undefendable — and the “highest environmental standards” must be referring to the industry’s own definition, in which case this is a combination of both an absurd reframing of what environmental protection means, and a phenomenally large pile of greenwash.

Norway, for today The Unsuitablog salutes you!

Posted in Corporate Hypocrisy, Good News! | 3 Comments »

Lord Smith Denies UK Government To Tell Truth

Posted by keith on 24th August 2008

Thames Flood - Courtesy of “Flood” The Movie

In the wake of Phil Woolas’ absurd proclamation that all laws are wrong and that the burden of proof now lies with the defendent (imagine how that would pan out following a bruising Saturday night), Lord Smith of Finsbury has decided that it’s time to speak out about the UK Government’s recent torrent of greenwash.

Ostensibly speaking to The Independent about the need to make a tactical retreat in the light of rising sea levels and increasing storminess, he also took some fierce swipes at the government’s two-faced attitude to environmental issues:

*Building a third runaway at Heathrow Airport would be a “mistake” because of pollution and aircraft noise;

*Plans for a new generation of coal-fired electric power stations should be abandoned until the Government is certain they will not pump out harmful gases;

*The proposed Severn barrage will destroy fish stocks and wreck bird habitats.

This, of course, means that Lord Smith will shortly be out of a job, but for the time being The Unsuitablog salutes him for daring to stand up to UK Business Champions PLC (a.k.a. the UK Government) at such a crucial time. No wonder they are so keen to scrap the House of Lords — too many free thinkers for comfort…

Posted in Good News!, Political Hypocrisy | No Comments »

Surprise – Not All Green PR Is Greenwash!

Posted by keith on 25th July 2008


Believe it or not, I like giving out good news. Ok, I would really like it if the good news was something really tangible and Earth changing, but even a little bit of good news makes the day pass a bit better; which is why I have just come off the telephone feeling slightly warm and not my usual bitter, twisted self.

It started with a random search for greenwashing on the Internet, which turned up a PR company called Futerra. As you know, I hate commerce in its normal form and despise greenwash; so a company that seeks to show other companies how to make themselves look environmentally sound is like a rag to a bull. Their client list is very interesting, including government agencies and corporations, plus a large number of one-off environmental campaigns. Oh, and Greenpeace International are there; which either means they haven’t done their homework (not for the first time) or the PR company isn’t that bad.

Futerra mainly carry out internal marketing, i.e. gearing staff up on how to do the “green” messaging right. They also help companies with their public perception, presenting a great opportunity for greenwashing; so I wondered what they would think about a global coal and bauxite mining company (about as bad as you can get) wanting to look good.

Futerra: “If you’re looking for public perception, that’s not the type of area that we work in.”

Me: “Is that just because of the nature of the company?”

Fut: “Yes.”

Me: “Because of the nature of your company or our company?”

Fut: “Well, the nature of our company [mentions standard trade criteria], but we are in the business of promoting green products, green behaviours, sustainable behaviour, so we wouldn’t promote coal…we wouldn’t even promote clean coal.”

So there you go. A PR company that actually stands by what it says, and may even make some companies a little less likely to greenwash.

Now, back to my bitter, twisted persona…

Posted in Good News! | No Comments »