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Archive for the 'Greenwashing Tools' Category

Dispatches: Conservation’s Dirty Secrets

Posted by keith on 21st June 2011

JUST-WATCH-THIS…

http://www.channel4.com/programmes/dispatches/4od#3201652

Dispatches reporter Oliver Steeds travels the globe to investigate the conservation movement and its major organisations. Steeds finds that the movement, far from stemming the tide of extinction that’s engulfing the planet, has got some of its conservation priorities wrong.

The film examines the way the big conservation charities are run. It questions why some work with polluting big businesses to raise money and are alienating the very people they would need to stem the loss of species from earth.

Conservation is massively important but few dare to question the movement. Some critics argue that it is in part getting it wrong, and that, as a consequence, some of the flora and fauna it seeks to save are facing oblivion.

Long term it can also be viewed on YouTube via http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SUwYZSwSLY0

More information about Conservation International’s activities can be found at http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/877241/conservation_international_agreed_to_greenwash_arms_company.html

More information about WWF’s capitalist addiction can be found at http://www.worldwildlife.org/what/partners/corporate/index.html. You can make your own mind up about the motivation of the various businesses.

Posted in Corporate Hypocrisy, Cover Ups, Exposure, Funding, Human Rights, NGO Hypocrisy, Sponsorship | 2 Comments »

I’m On The Run

Posted by keith on 7th June 2011

Actually I’m not. It would have been quite exciting to have been writing a blog from an internet cafe somewhere, or hijacking a wireless connection outside an office building, but it seems I am safe and snug in my home completely bereft of law enforcement officers hammering at my door demanding I complete the 2011 Census. Following on from my public announcement that I would be breaking the “law” (actually breaching the terms of the Census Act, as they aren’t allowed to call it a law) there was a mixture of wholehearted support, denial that the census was anything but an important social tool, and personal appeals to just fill the damn thing in.

As expected I received a few visits from the census taker, a very nice lady in her 50s, I would say, who continued to follow the official line regardless of what I said, although towards the end I did sense that she felt she would rather be somewhere else than at my door listening to various problems I had with the execution of the census. What emerged prior to census day really sealed my position though. It turned out that, during an experimental testing of the census materials, I couldn’t get the envelope to stick down. After all the claims of security on the Scotland’s Census website with regards to CACI (UK) Ltd, they couldn’t even use proper envelope glue, effectively making the act of posting the census form a security failure in itself. It wasn’t just me – of the four people I asked in Scotland, two of them had already noticed this, one had stuck their envelope successfully, and one hadn’t checked. As the two people weren’t even that local to me then I have to assume the problem was more widespread than just my local office.

This I passed onto the Census Office, my local MSP, my MP and a couple of newspapers. The resulting publicity over this complete balls-up was…zero. It seemed that the census was sacrosanct and nothing would be allowed to cast a pall over its exulted status – especially given the amount of money and airtime being utilised telling people that the MUST FILL IN THE FORM. A £1000 fine loomed, so we were all told.

After the second note of non-compliance had been put through my letter box, I bumped into the census taker outside my gate. The conversation went something like this:

“Have you filled in your census form yet?”

“No.”

“You do know that you have to fill it in or you will get a fine.”

“Yes.”

And I walked off to buy a local paper.

The next time I met the census taker was on my doorstep. She was a bit less smiley than usual. I explained that this was nothing personal but I would not be filling in my census form until the Census Office had explained how they were going to deal with the likely security breaches resulting from the failure of the envelopes to seal, and that I had absolutely no confidence in their ability to keep confidential data from a military contractor given that they couldn’t even keep their data safe from casual sorting office glances. This was noted, and that was the last time I ever saw her.

I expected a formal letter soon afterwards. None came. It has been six weeks since the Census was supposed to have been filled in. According to the Census Web Site, this is the compliance process:

1. Your census taker (enumerator) will visit to remind you to complete the questionnaire and offer help and advice to do so. If you’re out, they will leave a reminder card.

2. If the questionnaire is still not with us after seven days, your census taker will visit again and, if you’re out, will leave a second reminder card.

3. If you refuse to take part, that information will be forwarded to the census non-compliance team.

4. You will be sent a warning letter from the Registrar General Duncan Macniven. Warning letters are also issued to people who publicly state that they refuse to fill in a census and/or encourage others not to.

5. You may also be visited by census non-compliance officers and your case may be referred to the Procurator Fiscal. Successful prosecutions will result in a fine of up to £1,000 and a criminal record.

No letter, even though I publicly stated my refusal to fill in the census, and encouraged others not to do so. No visit from non-compliance officers. Nothing.

I am very disappointed; I wanted a fight, in court, and in public. It would have been a great pleasure to explain to the media and the courts that despite my calls to the Census Office and my so-called representatives, no public statement was made, not even the pathetic “You could stick it down with tape” one official respondant suggested, with regards to the impending security breach. I would have loved to have got the Census Office to publicly state that despite not even being able to source a decent glue we should still trust our personal information to a company that used state privilege to escape prosecution for repeated human rights violations.

If it happens, you’ll be the first to know.

Posted in Cover Ups, Exposure, Government Policies, Political Hypocrisy | 2 Comments »

Scholastic U-Turn On Coal: Shame About Their Other Partners

Posted by keith on 17th May 2011

Well, that didn’t last long. From the first outrage to a “Move along, nothing to see here!” clean up of the website, Scholastic seem to have recovered relatively easily from what they claim was just a mistake. When Scholastic published a set of four worksheets and a printable map (see here for a cache image) that had been produced by the American Coal Institute, the group Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood went into overdrive. May 11, 2011 saw the first offensive which had snowballed into a well-orchestrated furore the next day, followed a couple of days later by an apparently complete reversal of publishing policy by the much-loved American publisher of schoolbooks and materials.

Here’s how it played out in the New York Times:

Coal Curriculum Called Unfit for 4th Graders
Published: May 11, 2011

Three advocacy groups have started a letter-writing campaign asking Scholastic Inc. to stop distributing the fourth-grade curriculum materials that the American Coal Foundation paid the company to develop.

The three groups — Rethinking Schools, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and Friends of the Earth — say that Scholastic’s “United States of Energy” package gives children a one-sided view of coal, failing to mention its negative effects on the environment and human health.

Kyle Good, Scholastic’s vice president for corporate communications, was traveling for much of Wednesday and said she could not comment until she had all the “United States of Energy” materials in hand.

Others at the company said Ms. Good was the only one who could discuss the matter. The company would not comment on how much it was paid for its partnership with the coal foundation.

Scholastic’s Big Coal Mistake
Published: May 12, 2011

Children’s books and other educational materials produced by the publisher Scholastic reach about 90 percent of the nation’s classrooms. With this enormous access to what amounts to a captive audience of children, the company has a special obligation to adhere to high educational standards.

It fell short of that when it produced a fourth-grade lesson packet called “The United States of Energy,” a treatise on coal that was paid for by the American Coal Foundation, a nonprofit group. As Tamar Lewin noted in The Times on Thursday, the lessons talked about the benefits of coal and the pervasiveness of power plants fueled by it — and omitted mention of minor things like toxic waste, mountain-top removal and greenhouse gases.

The issue came to light recently when children’s advocacy groups hammered Scholastic for giving a one-sided view of coal usage. This is not the first time that the company had come under fire. Last year, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood attacked Scholastic for encouraging schools to have classroom parties with, and to collect labels from, the sugary juice drink SunnyD as a way of winning free books.

(We’ll come to that last point later)

Letters: This Lesson Plan Is Brought to You by…
Published: May 16, 2011

“Scholastic’s Big Coal Mistake” (editorial, May 13) acknowledges that Scholastic’s children’s books, magazines, reading programs and Web site content are used in most American classrooms — a responsibility and trust that we have built through painstaking work through 90 years of service to teachers and schools.

A tiny percentage of this material is produced with sponsors, including government agencies, nonprofit associations and some corporations.

Your editorial criticizes a lesson packet called “The United States of Energy,” about different sources of energy — coal, nuclear, hydroelectric, solar, wind and natural gas — primarily for its sponsorship by the American Coal Foundation.

We acknowledge that the mere fact of sponsorship may call into question the authenticity of the information, and therefore conclude that we were not vigilant enough as to the effect of sponsorship in this instance. We have no plans to further distribute this particular program.

Because we have always been guided by our belief that we can do better, we are undertaking a thorough review of our policy and editorial procedures on sponsored content to ensure that we publish only those materials that are worthy of our reputation as “the most trusted name in learning.”

RICHARD ROBINSON
Chairman, President and C.E.O.
Scholastic Inc.
New York, May 13, 2011

It is now all but impossible to find any evidence that the worksheets and map were ever on the Scholastic web site unless you search various web caches. Of course the American Coal Foundation still proudly peddle their filth because that’s what business does. There is no sense in suggesting that the coal industry stop producing these materials as the commercial model that they and all corporations work by is the need to continually generate profit for shareholders; if they don’t grow then they fail, therefore any way of getting in the minds of vulnerable individuals (including you and me) is fair game for a corporation.

Scholastic is a corporation – it may produce what it likes to call “educational” materials (a.k.a. whatever is approved by the industrial capitalist system) but it still needs to make money, so willingly takes any handouts it can from other corporations. There isn’t a lot of money in “educational” publishing, the margins are simply too low, so sponsorship is the way to go for any good corporation. As CCFC point out:

For years, Scholastic has exploited its reputation as an educational publisher to serve as a Trojan horse for all sorts of inappropriate marketing in schools—from the highly commercialized content of its Book Clubs, to marketing the over-the-counter drug Claritin in elementary schools, to urging teachers to throw parties for the sugar-laden beverage SunnyD in their classrooms. Scholastic’s InSchool Marketing division offers its services as curriculum producer for hire. The program is designed “to promote client objectives” and “make a difference by influencing attitudes and behaviors.”

So this apparent U-turn and clean-up of the web site is really just a way of saving face because a lot of potential customers really do want less commercial influence in schools, enough customers to offset the losses caused by refunding the American Coal Foundation.

Not to worry, though, because there are plenty of other sponsorship opportunities available that might seem a little more acceptable to the school system. I had a look through the Science section on the Scholastic web site and, as they say, there are few overt commercial connections: I found the Lexus Environmental Challenge and the extremely blatant Count on Wet Ones Wipes (that’s for the indoctrination of tiny people). But what was more interesting was the number of resources that clearly had an extreme bias towards industry and the culture of imperialism:

What Is Technology, and How Does It Benefit Us? is such an obviously loaded title that you don’t have to read the contents to realise that technology is bound to be seen as a Great Thing. But read I did, and found this little gem (my emphasis):

Explain to students that although technology presents many benefits to humanity, there may also be by-products or issues that arise through the process of manufacturing and the development of technology. Engage students in a discussion of these benefits, as well as the by-products or issues and how these issues are being or might be addressed. If your students don’t include environmental challenges in their discussion, suggest the responsibility everyone has in controlling waste, and that recycling represents our effort to achieve that. Examples of how technology can enhance society might include: battery technology, solar power, satellites, text messaging, MP3s, gaming, plasma TVs, air and water testing, improved product designs.

Nice bit of accentuate the positive going on there.

The Culture of The Inca does a remarkable job in ignoring virtually anything to do with the culture of the Inca, including their brutal massacre by Spanish conquistadores, favouring instead to focus on llamas!

The empire of the Inca existed for many centuries in Peru. Today the descendants of these people continue many aspects of the culture, including traditional language, stories, folk songs, dance, and farming practices.

The descendants of the Inca still live in Peru. Visit them, listen to their songs, read their jokes, and try out a bit of their language at http://www.andes.org/.

[various instructions]

Did you notice llamas in the pictures you looked at? The llama was the most important animal to the Inca, and is still important today. To find out why, go to http://www.llamapaedia.com/origin/domestic.html. List at least three ways the Incas used llamas.

Extension Activity:

Llamas are also popular in the United States. You can find out much more about llamas at http://www.llamapaedia.com/index.html. Work with your classmates to research and report on different aspects of llama care, llama behavior, and how llamas are used today.

And just as I was going to wrap up the examples, I found a perfect example of state-sponsored brainwashing in the form of Save the Flag: Find out how to keep yours in shape for summer’s patriotic holidays. Are you ready?

What you need:

one 12″ x 12″ sample of each of the following: red felt, white felt, blue felt, 100% cotton white fabric
scissors
bowl of hot water
sandpaper
dirt
sunny window

What to do:

1. Discuss famous flags from U.S. history with your child — the Betsy Ross flag and the flag that inspired the national anthem, among others...

…at which point I could safely assume that Scholastic probably isn’t the best place to get information about the slaughter of Native American peoples either. Nope, thought not.

Posted in Company Policies, Corporate Hypocrisy, Media Hypocrisy, Sponsorship | 5 Comments »

A Billion Acts of Greenwash

Posted by keith on 21st April 2011

Tomorrow is Earth Day – whoopee doo! It’s that time of year that all the environmental NGOs and countless businesses work towards in order to bring about a sudden upsurge in pointless symbolic actions and purchases of “green” things like (I’ll just have a look in my Deleted Items folder) LED candles, Napa Valley wine (with free trees), halogen light-bulbs, Target ecoboutique products, USB rechargable batteries, wine from Chile, lots of iPhone apps, quick dry towels, foldable speakers, a 100% recycleble shoe and even more wine.

The Earth Day Network have fully embraced this festival of tat and symbolism by introducing a Facebook application called – and this is the very epitomy of hope – A Billion Acts of Green. Basically what you do is type in what you are planning to do for Earth Day.

That’s it.

It’s meant to be inspiring, and has clearly been a runaway success with 100,502,680 “Acts of Green” showing on the counter at the time of writing. But it’s a bit odd because there’s another figure: 385 “Acts of Green on Facebook”. I’m still trying to work out where the hundred million-odd figure comes from, but the hype seems to be exceeding the reality, which is really comforting, sort of.

In 2008 I wrote about the nature of Facebook “actions” that end up sublimating any desire people may have had to do anything of any substance. That is not the biggest problem with the Earth Day Network campaign, though – it is the trivial nature of the pledges that are so galling. Our normal contact with the idea of “green” in industrial civilization is with regards to symbolic or superficial activities: typical examples being to sign petitions, change lightbulbs, recycle, wave banners, pray, use canvas shopping bags and so on. These “actions” play into the teeth of the machine for they simply allow the machine to continue its dominance over our entire way of life without threatening it in any way.

The Facebook app allows one line for your pledge. How much real change can be encapsulated into a single line? Moreover, if you are expressing your desire for change in the form of a Facebook application pledge then it suggests you have fully embraced the myth of “green technology”. Yes, there are situations where technology can be used as a starting point for change – such as with the efforts of Anonymous, Wikileaks and various underground activities that utilise electronic communications for speed – but to imagine that a Facebook application can be a catalyst for change is to succumb to the lies of the industrial system.

If you feel like subverting the app, then go ahead; but make sure you do something else as well. Something real.

Posted in NGO Hypocrisy, Symbolic Action | 3 Comments »

Irony Alert! Red Tape Challenge a Breach of National Security

Posted by keith on 18th April 2011

I’ve just come off the phone after speaking to a nice person at the UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. She sounded a little concerned, or maybe that was just bemusement, after I pointed out that the UK Government’s latest brain-busting measure – known, all chummily, as the Red Tape Challenge – is actually in breach of national security. Why does this matter? Well, it’s taken a little bit of research, but essentially the government appears to have been so hasty to roll out yet another pro-business, pro Daily Mail / Sun Reader, pro corporate industrial lobby idea, that they haven’t bothered to check their own legislation, nor considered what Cutting Red Tape would actually mean.

According to the RTC web site, the aim of the project is:

about harnessing the experience and ideas of those who deal with regulation day-in, day-out to help us cut red tape. Through this site we’re gathering your thoughts on which regulations should stay, which can be merged, which can be scrapped and so on. Ministers and government officials will then use this information to help them cut the right regulations in the right way.

There are, apparently, 21,000 pieces of legislation that are up for review and the real focus comes clear not much further down the page:

The challenge aims to look at the stock of over 21,000 statutory rules and regulations that are active in the UK today. The priority will be to focus on regulations that we know place the biggest burdens on businesses and society.

The Red Tape Challenge starts to look like a nasty piece of work already, as it’s clearly about making it easier for businesses to do what they want more easily, which is essentially to make money. The fillip of “society” at the end is revealed to be code for “more business” as the RTC is actually being run by a team at the Department for Innovation, Business and Skills (the old Department for Trade and Industry).

You can call them if you like to check: it’s 020 7215 5720 and I know it’s that department because it’s in the number range for the old DTI. I also know this because on the BIS website is a big banner promoting the project.

The BIS’s watchword is “growth“; in fact the entire UK government’s watchword is “growth”:

Growth is the Government’s top priority and every part of Government is focused on it. But we need to grow differently.

Growth must be sustainable, shared and balanced – across the country and between sectors of the economy.

There is a clear and active role for Government to create the conditions for the private sector to grow and remove unnecessary barriers that can stifle growth.

And there is a strong role for BIS, as the Department for Growth, in enabling this.

Almost everything that BIS does – from investing in skills to making markets more dynamic and reducing regulation, and from promoting trade to boosting innovation and helping people start and grow a business – helps drive growth.

Growth, especially private sector growth, is a guarantee of environmental harm. It is economic growth that leads to greenhouse gas emissions. Here’s a graph I produced for another article:

So, we have an obvious desire – unless, somehow they have overlooked this massively obvious correlation – by the UK government to cause environmental damage. Bear in mind that it would be childs play to construct similar graphs comparing trade to global deforestation, species extinction, water toxification, oceanic fish depletion and so on. Economic growth= environmental damage, end of story.

Then we have this interesting statement on the RTC page:

Are any regulations excluded?

The exercise will not examine regulations in relation to tax or national security.

Ok, so what is National Security. It’s not so hard to find that out because I used to work in something called Business Continuity Management which meant regular contact with the various rules that governed contingency planning at all scales. National Security actually means the protection of anything that is covered by National Emergency legislation; in the UK this falls under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004. Obviously this is not going to be repealed by the Red Tape Challenge (actually I don’t think anything is, but that’s another matter entirely) as it is at the core of national security legislation. What is particularly interesting are the definitions listed in the Act itself:

19 Meaning of “emergency”

(1)In this Part “emergency” means—

(a)an event or situation which threatens serious damage to human welfare in the United Kingdom or in a Part or region,

(b)an event or situation which threatens serious damage to the environment of the United Kingdom or of a Part or region, or

(c)war, or terrorism, which threatens serious damage to the security of the United Kingdom.

(2)For the purposes of subsection (1)(a) an event or situation threatens damage to human welfare only if it involves, causes or may cause—

(a)loss of human life,
(b)human illness or injury,
(c)homelessness,
(d)damage to property,
(e)disruption of a supply of money, food, water, energy or fuel,
(f)disruption of a system of communication,
(g)disruption of facilities for transport, or
(h)disruption of services relating to health.

(3)For the purposes of subsection (1)(b) an event or situation threatens damage to the environment only if it involves, causes or may cause—

(a)contamination of land, water or air with biological, chemical or radio-active matter, or
(b)disruption or destruction of plant life or animal life.

Ring any bells? Yep, the things related to environmental damage are precisely those that are caused by economic growth, including radioactive matter (hint: Fukushima). Strange also then that is a whole section on the Red Tape Challenge related to the 278 regulations that currently provide at least a bit of protection to the very environment that, were it threatened – say, by a lack of regulation – would be a breach of national security!

Care to take another look at this Mr Cameron, or are you too busy thinking up another business-loving scheme to care?

Posted in Government Policies, Political Hypocrisy | 2 Comments »

350.org on Facebook: Now You See It…Now You Don’t

Posted by keith on 8th April 2011

Naomi Klein decided to join the board of 350.org. They are delighted, as you would be if one of the world’s most influential anti-capitalism writers joined your campaign.

Obviously this puts Naomi Klein’s writings in a whole new focus – she’s happy to be part of an organisation that received its seed money from a foundation that bears the name of the kinds of business empires she railed against in the Shock Doctrine. She’s happy to be part of an organisation that has recently forsaken its grass-roots members in favour of business partners in order to add a bit of money to its empty coffers.

They are happy, so they put something on their Facebook Page to say so. Not surprisingly the fans were also delighted and started posting gleefully, as they do on everything to do with 350.org.

Then someone posted a link to my previously mentioned article – it didn’t quite gel with the self-congratulatory sense of the rest of the comments, but criticism is criticism and 350.org are surely big enough to cope with a bit of that:

Apparently not. Within a few minutes the link was removed. Someone alerted me to this and I posted a comment asking why the link had been removed, and whether their recent merger with 1Sky was not just a way of saving money.

That post disappeared as well, as did the post of the person who originally alerted me to the link.

Then 350.org commented back, which you can see in the image below, along with the absence of the two posts being referred to:

That response in full:

“Hey Rachael and Keith. I’m a 350.org FB admin — and didn’t delete any comments, except the sudden notes you left accusing 350.org of deleting comments (could you have re-posted your criticism?) We do moderate comments, and will un-publish ones that are divisive, or seek to draw people into movement in-fighting. We don’t have time for that anymore. Critical discussion is a whole other ball-game — we welcome that, of course, and need it to keep evolving. Thanks.”

I highlighted a key phrase here – “Critical discussion is a whole other ball-game — we welcome that, of course” – in view of the next move by the 350.org administrators. They blocked both me and my contact from commenting further on the Facebook page. Not content with censoring anything that looked like dissent they decided to lock out any dissenters entirely, in case their rose-tinted views might be damaged in any way.

The following email has been sent to 350.org. I await their response:

Hi Guys

Well done for the brave move in banning people from your Facebook group. Glad to see that the merger with 1Sky is making you even more keen to avoid any kind of criticism rather than engage with the criticisms of symbolic action and working too closely to businesses.

Don’t worry, though, because the original screen captures of posts you deleted and people you banned are still available and will be appearing on a few websites soon.

I think it’s safe to say you ran out of money even with your appeals to business, which is why you have been forced to recombine with 1Sky. Call it a tactical retreat if you will, but I think there are a growing number of people who recognise that writing letters to senators and forming pretty pictures out of tee-lights isn’t really the way to undermine the planet killing system that’s loving every “action” that leaves them unscathed.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vb9JdH6sU1Y – the industrial system must be really crapping itself with this kind of hardline stuff.

Cheers

Keith Farnish
www.unsuitablog.org
www.timesupbook.com

Posted in Exposure, NGO Hypocrisy, Symbolic Action | 10 Comments »

Switch Your Lights ON for Earth Hour!

Posted by keith on 24th March 2011

Earth Hour Sucks tower block

Once upon a time there was just greenwash: corporations and governments went to great lengths to convince a concerned public that they were doing everything they could to help the natural environment return to its former glory. All the time they were filling their bank accounts and pumping up their career prospects. You could be green and profitable and no one would suspect the former was nothing but a lie.

Then the non-profits got involved and things started to become complicated. Partnerships were drawn up between the biggest “environmental” NGOs and the most destructive corporations on Earth, all for a tiny sliver of the corporate pie, and a large wad of environmental fuzziness. The corporations looked good; the NGOs got their funding; the planet continued to fry and die.

And then it went even further. Greenwash became partnership became parody as the NGOs fully embraced both the corporate world and the trivial activities they put forward as symbols of their committment to a better world. And a better world it would be: if all you cared about was making money, that is.

Earth Hour 2011 is nearly upon us, and it stands as the ultimate parody of this great coming together of all that is evil in the world of greenwashing. I don’t use the term “evil” lightly. A person cannot be evil; an action can. Earth Hour is evil because it not only allows corporations, politicians, urban sprawls and industrial monoliths to look good in the eyes of a naive public, it actively attacks genuine attempts to try and undermine the very things that feed off Earth Day. An ordinary person in the thrall of industrial civilization cannot fail to be impressed by the sight of a thousand buildings simultaneously switching off their lights in the name of planet Earth; how can something as mundane as building non-dependent communities compete with such glamour.

How can supergluing the valves on the Las Vegas fountains compete with the casinos on the strip switching off their lights for an hour?

How can setting up a community barter scheme compete with Canary Wharf in London switching off its lights for an hour?

How can creating food self-sufficiency compete with Sears in Canada switching off or dimming its lights for an hour?

How can groups of people finding that time spent embracing their local environment rather than jetting across the world compete with Skycity in New Zealand switching off its lights for an hour?

Well, exactly. It’s bullshit, all of it!

And that is why, for Earth Hour 2011, at 8.30pm on Saturday 26th March, if you are doing nothing more important then switch all your lights on. Every single one.

You might have to fight with that part of you that says, “This is wasteful!” but you need to fight it. That one hour spent consciously doing the exact opposite of what the industrial system would like you to think is the right thing to do is what will help cut that link between the machine and your own individual humanity.

Earth Hour is Evil.

SWITCH ON YOUR LIGHTS ON MARCH 26TH.

Posted in Campaigns, Corporate Hypocrisy, NGO Hypocrisy, Political Hypocrisy, Sabotage, Symbolic Action | 22 Comments »

International Atomic Energy Agency Spinning Like Crazy!

Posted by keith on 13th March 2011

Courtesy of BBC News website

In the light of the Japanese earthquake and subsequent tsumani, government and internation agencies are working like crazy to ensure no news remains good news regarding the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Yet from the BBC we hear the following:

There are now problems at the number three reactor – the concern is that it is overheating. They’re trying to pump sea water through it at the moment. That’s an unusual, somewhat innovative solution to the problem. But the fact that they’re prepared to consider unusual solutions like that gives you a hint of just how serious the problem is.

This is a very difficult issue for the Japanese government. There has always been concern here about the safety of nuclear power stations, about the wisdom of building nuclear power stations, on which Japan relies hugely for its energy needs, in a country which is so prone to earthquakes.

They’re also aware that they don’t want to cause panic. On Saturday we saw the exclusion zone around this plant gradually increase. First of all it was just a few kilometres, now it’s much wider. But obviously once that exclusion zone is extended, you’ve then got to get the people out. So it’s important, they would say, not to cause unnecessary panic. And that’s why they’re trying to play this down as much as they can.

The World Nuclear Association are being fairly up-front with the facts, albeit holding back on speculation about possible outcomes; thus we read from them:

Operations to relieve pressure in the containment of Fukushima Daiichi 3 have taken place after the failure of a core coolant system.

The news comes one day after the plant’s first reactor was effectively written off as a result of a hydrogen explosion and the move to inject seawater to make certain of cooling the reactor core. Two days ago were the earthquake and tsunami that have proven Japan’s worst ever natural disaster.

Reactors 1, 2 and 3 were in operation at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s (Tepco’s) east coast power station when the earthquake struck. Three other reactors were already shut for inspection and all three operating units underwent automatic shutdown as expected. Because plant power and grid power were unavailable during the earthquake, diesel generators started automatically to supply power for decay heat removal.

This situation continued for one hour until the plant was hit by the tsunami wave, which stopped the generators and left the plant in black-out conditions. The loss of power meant inevitable rises in temperature within the reactor system as well increases in pressure. Engineers fought for many hours to install mobile power units to replace the diesels and managed to stabilise conditions at units 2 and 3.

However, there was not enough power to provide sufficient coolant to unit 1, which came under greater and greater strain from falling water levels and steady pressure rises. Tepco found it necessary yesterday to vent steam from the reactor containment. Next, the world saw a sharp hydrogen explosion destroy a portion of the reactor building roof. Prime minister Naoto Kan ordered the situation brought under control by the injection of seawater to the reactor vessel.

Now Tepco has reported it has not been able to restart unit 3′s high pressure injection system after an automatic stop. This has left the reactor without sufficient coolant and obligated Tepco to notify government of an emergency situation.

Yet what do we hear from the International Atomic Energy Agency, which purports to speak for the entire nuclear industry and all governments that have nuclear capability:

Japanese authorities have informed the IAEA that Units 1, 2, and 4 at the Fukushima Daini retain off-site power. Daini Unit 3 is in a safe, cold shutdown, according to Japanese officials.

Even the WNA are incredulous at this statement; their Twitter feed states:

#IAEA quashes reports of problems at #Fukushima Daiichi 3 #nuclear #japan #earthquake

Which leads us to the obvious conclusion that there is a huge cover-up taking place, but failing in part because there is too much obvious contradiction of information. In this situation the best approach is to listen to your nearest equivalent to a trusted news source and not listen to a word emanating from government (Japanese or otherwise) or the IAEA.

Posted in Cover Ups, Government Policies, Political Hypocrisy | 11 Comments »

ExxonMobil Biofuel Advert Officially Pronounced as Greenwash

Posted by keith on 10th March 2011

ASA Adjudication on ExxonMobil UK Ltd

ExxonMobil UK Ltd
ExxonMobil House
Ermyn Way
Leatherhead
Surrey
KT22 8UX

Date: 9 March 2011
Media: Television
Sector: Utilities
Number of complaints: 1
Agency: Euro RSCG London Ltd
Complaint Ref: 141542

Ad

A TV ad for ExxonMobil UK Ltd (ExxonMobil) featured a scientist talking about researching algae as a source of biofuel. He said, “In using algae to form biofuels, we’re not competing with the food supply, and they absorb CO2, so they help solve the greenhouse problem as well.”

Issue

The complainant, who believed that any carbon dioxide (CO2) absorbed by algae would be re-released back into the atmosphere when it was burned as fuel, objected that the ad misleadingly implied that the technology would reduce CO2 levels.

BCAP Code

3.1 3.2 3.9 9.5

Response

ExxonMobil UK Ltd (EM) said one of the advantages associated with second generation biofuels like algae, was their potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by partial replacement of conventional transport fuels derived from hydrocarbons. They said lifecycle analysis showed that using second generation biofuels resulted in lower greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional fuels. They said this was because biofuel feedstocks absorbed CO2 from the atmosphere and therefore the CO2 emitted during their combustion did not contribute to additional CO2 emissions.

EM also provided a study from the Joint Research Centre of the European Union, which they claimed proved that second generation biofuels achieved greenhouse gas reductions on a comparative basis. They acknowledged that the study did not specifically analyse algae. They said that algae as a source of biofuel was an emerging area of scientific analysis. However, they maintained that it was generally agreed that algae had a potential for high productivity compared to conventional biofuels.

EM provided a third-party report that concluded that the world community could slow and then reduce global emissions of greenhouse gases over the next several decades by utilising a range of public policies and current and emerging technologies. The report detailed a range of actions that could reduce emissions from key sectors, including using new and emerging technologies. It mentioned that biofuels had the potential to replace a substantial part of the petroleum now used by transport.

EM said that solving the greenhouse problem could mean many things as there were many different stabilisation scenarios being discussed by the scientific and world communities. They said that a core component of any stabilization scenario was the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions; furthermore, it was generally recognised that biofuels could play a key part in this.

They provided information which they believed supported their view that fuel switching was commonly discussed among policymakers, scientists and industry as a means of helping to solve the issue of rising greenhouse gas emissions. They said the ad made no claim to the effect that advanced biofuels such as algae could achieve this result on their own.

Clearcast pointed out that the ad stated, “Algae could be converted into biofuels that we could someday run our cars on” and “We’re making a big commitment to finding out just how much algae can help meet the fuel demands of the world”. They said the ad made clear that the technology was still being developed. They said, in this context, viewers would understand the claim “In using algae to form biofuels, we’re not competing with the food supply, and they absorb CO2, so they help solve the greenhouse problem as well”, related to what the advertisers hoped the technology would achieve. They also claimed the study provided by the advertiser proved that algae produced less CO2 than hydrocarbon fuels on a comparative basis.

Assessment

Upheld

The ASA noted the ad referred to “unlocking the potential in algae” and considered it had made clear it was an emerging technology. Nonetheless we considered the ad made an objective claim that algae, if developed as a source of biofuel, would help solve the greenhouse problem. We noted that, by absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere and then re-releasing this CO2 when combusted, the technology would not add new greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Because of this we considered the technology could have a mitigation benefit. We noted the reports submitted by EM and acknowledged that many stabilisation scenarios highlighted the importance of reducing greenhouse gas emissions as part of tackling the greenhouse problem.

We also noted that the ad stated “In using algae to form biofuels, were not competing with the food supply, and they absorb CO2, so they help solve the greenhouse problem as well”. We considered that viewers would infer from this that it was because of the absorption of CO2 from the atmosphere that using algae to form biofuels helped “solve the greenhouse problem”, by acting as a carbon sink. We considered this claim went beyond stating the mitigation benefit. Because we understood that any CO2 absorbed by the feedstocks would eventually be re-released into the atmosphere, we concluded that the ad overstated the technology’s total environmental impact and was therefore misleading.

The ad breached BCAP Code rules 3.1 and 3.2 (Misleading advertising), 3.9 (Substantiation) and 9.5 (Environmental claims).

Action

The ad must not be broadcast again in its current form.

Posted in Adverts, Corporate Hypocrisy | No Comments »

Interview With Bill McKibben, Winner of Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship and Gregory Vickrey, Winner of International Peanut Butter Subsistence Prize

Posted by keith on 24th February 2011

Climate reality writer and activist Gregory Vickrey. (L) ( Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Founder of 350.org, writer and environmentalist Bill McKibben. (R) (Photo: Nancie Battaglia /
350.org)

Bill McKibben, Schumann distinguished scholar at Middlebury College, is the author of a dozen books about the environment, including “The End of Nature” (1989), regarded as the first book for a general audience about global warming. He is also founder of the global grassroots climate movement 350.org, which organized what CNN called “the most widespread day of political action in the planet’s history.” Most recently, he was the recipient of the annual $100,000 Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship. Of this honor, McKibben said:

“I’m a beginner as an organizer; it’s a great honor to be included on this list of people who have changed America for the better. I am deeply grateful to The Puffin Foundation and The Nation Institute for this recognition of my work. I am even more appreciative that this award is representative of a shared conviction that now is a singular moment in our history for all people of good conscience to come together in defense of the planet. Our work has never been more urgent.”

Gregory Vickrey, Peace of the Action distinguished board member and generally unknown writer and activist, is the author of not a few critiques of environmental organizations, including “Environmentalism is Dead”, likely one of the least read articles on Counterpunch, ever. He has been lucky to work with Cory Morningstar of Canadians for Action on Climate Change; otherwise, he’d be extra-unknown. Most recently, he was the recipient of the $0 Peanut Butter Subsistence Prize. Of this honor, Vickrey said:

“It sucks to be broke and targeted, but what can I do? The entire world is at stake. So few of us stick to our guns and speak the truth about climate change – recognizing it as the greatest crime against humanity in history – I’d hate to cull myself from that group. Even if it meant I could also afford jelly on occasion.”

On that note, I interviewed Bill McKibben and Gregory Vickrey and would like to share our conversation with you.

Mickey Z.: You’ve noted that this award highlights your shift from writer to organizer. Can you tell us more about how and why you made that shift?

Bill McKibben: At some point, it became obvious to me that we were losing badly in the global warming fight, and that one reason was we had no movement. All the scientific studies and policy plans on earth don’t get you very far if there’s no movement to push them. So we’re doing our best to build that – too late and too slowly, but as best we can.

Gregory Vickrey: I think Bill is genuine here. He did realize we are losing badly in the global warming fight – and we still are. It is important to question ourselves when we endeavor to build a movement. In Bill’s case, I think one of the first questions was funding. And that’s can be a dangerous question, especially when one considers the history of the environmental movement, and even recently sees organizations like The Nature Conservancy cutting deals with Dow Chemical. Unfortunately, with the incarnations of what was to become 350.org, we find seed money from the likes of Rockefeller Brothers Fund (think big oil), and we find a pronounced effort to create a brand, rather than a movement – and that strategy was created by Havas, one of the world’s largest marketing firms.

MZ: Of your work, Derrick Jensen has said: “One of the problems that I see with the vast majority of so-called solutions to global warming is that they take industrial capitalism as a given and the planet which must conform to industrial capitalism, as opposed to the other way around.” How do you respond to this critique?

BM: It strikes me that the single biggest variable explaining the structure of the world today is the availability of cheap fossil fuel – that’s what happened two hundred years ago to create the world we know, especially its centralization. I think if we can put a serious price on fossil fuel, one that reflects the damage it does to our earth, then the fuels that we will depend on – principally wind and sun – will push us in the direction of more localized economies. Those kind of changes have been the focus of my work as a writer in recent years.

GV: What strikes me is that Bill did not respond to the question that was asked. What Bill says instead is that we should depend upon the political system that got us into this mess to get us out of it by taxing the crap out of fossil fuels. Unfortunately, we could elect Bill (or me!) as president and we still wouldn’t get the policy in place to force corporations to kill the carbon economy. Jensen is on point with the quote you provided, and Bill and corporate brand 350.org ignore that part of reality.

MZ: So many people believe they’re already “doing their part,” e.g. recycling, using CFL bulbs, bringing their own bag to the grocery store etc. How do we help them see ASAP that this isn’t even remotely enough?

BM: Well, I think we keep encouraging them to become politically active too, not instead. It’s good to do what you can around your house; and our job is to help people realize that there are ways they can be effective in a larger sphere too. That’s what movements are. And especially with climate change, the feeling that you’re too small to make a difference can be crippling.

GV: This is another arena where Bill has no forthright response at the ready, because he and 350.org are not in the business of systemic change. They believe in green capitalsm, so changing light bulbs is good, recycling is good, etc. See, the “feel good” in recycling allows us to continue consuming at preposterous rates. Changing light bulbs damns us to suffer Jevons Paradox, and corporations love that. So 350.org loves that. Instead, we should be making people aware of reality: our only chance is effective zero carbon emissions, and we must get there in a matter of years. That means dramatic systemic change. That means drastic lifestyle changes. It’s apolitical, in the end, because Mother Nature doesn’t care about having a seat at the table in DC. She doesn’t need it.

MZ: The US Department of Defense is the world’s worst polluter, the planet’s top gas guzzler, and recipient of 53.3 percent of American taxpayer dollars. How does your work address this situation and the concurrent “untouchable” status the US military has among the majority of American citizens?

BM: I’m not sure it really does, directly. Indirectly, I think the biggest reason we have the oversized defense that we do is that we rely on distant and unstable sources of energy as the core of our economy. I remember one sign in particular from the early Anti-Iraq-War rallies I went to: “How did our oil end up under their sand?”

GV: Bill’s work doesn’t address militarism at all. We need to drastically cut military spending in order to subsidize systemic change in the short term, and that mechanism is the fastest way to start cutting carbon. You won’t find that on the 350.org website.

MZ: Since 51 percent of human-created greenhouse gases come from the industrial animal food business, are you encouraging people to adopt a plant-based diet lifestyle?

BM: I’ve written time and again that industrial agriculture, especially factory livestock farming, is a bane – not only for its greenhouse gases, but for myriad other reasons. Interestingly, though, scientific data from the last couple of years is leading to the conclusion that local, grasspastured, often-moved livestock, by the action of their hooves and the constant deposition of manure, improve soils enough to soak up more carbon and methane than they produce. (This would explain why, say, there could have been more ungulates on the continent 300 years ago than now without it being a curse to the atmosphere). So there may be hope for meat-eaters as well – but only if you know and understand where your dinner is coming from.

GV: Again, Bill misses the point. Beyond eliminating militarism, we can cut into our carbon budget most drastically and immediately by scrapping the agro-meat industry. In time, Bill’s scenario providing hope for voracious meat eaters may come into effect, but we do not have the time to gradually shrink agro-meats. If we implement a strategy of incrementalism here, we are doomed to suffer the worst effects of climate change.

MZ: Is there a question you’ve always wished to be asked during an interview? If so, please feel free to ask and answer now.

BM: I’ve … done a lot of interviews.

GV: How do we get to zero? In short, the United States, Canada, and Australia must get to zero emission before 2020, with most of the cuts occurring over the next 5 years. Europe, Japan, China, India, and a few other countries must accomplish the same before 2025. The rest of the developing world must accomplish the same before 2030. Even in the best of circumstances, this scenario does not protect us from the feedback loops that are not included in any of the predictive models. But it gives us our best shot. Assuming policy-makers balk at this, we need an all-out global uprising to overcome, overwhelm, and overtake the system, and to be prepared for massive sacrifice. The system and its masters will not be easily returned to the masses. We must give them no choice.

MZ: What do you like to do when not engaged in writing, organizing and activism? What inspires you outside of those realms?

BM: I like to be outdoors – cross-country skiing most of all, or hiking. That’s why I live in the woods. And that’s why it’s tough to be on the road so much organizing. But I love the people, especially the young people, who are my colleagues.

GV: I chase dogs and kids and soccer balls. I succumb to the “need” of college basketball. I wonder where my next meal is coming from.

MZ: How can readers connect with you and get involved with your work?

BM: By going to 350.org and signing up. We spent what little money we had on a website; it works in about a dozen languages, and we think it’s pretty sharp.

GV: People can learn more about Bill’s work here and here. People can go to my website to get in touch and learn more about climate reality; it works in one language – occasionally two when I can manage to get a translator – and it’s pretty sharp considering I still owe the guy who helped me with it some cash. Maybe I can fix him a peanut butter sandwich instead.

Note: The preceding interview is not real. Mickey Z. and Bill McKibben held an interview that may be found here; their sections remain the same. Gregory Vickrey’s sections are a fictitious addition meant to bring the reality of corporate brand 350.org to the fore, and to urge everyone to get serious about climate change. Wake up. Tear down. Rise up.

Posted in Celebrity Hypocrisy, Funding, NGO Hypocrisy, Spoofs, Symbolic Action | No Comments »