There is part of me wanting this to be a spoof, but most of me knows it’s real. I’m talking about the latest hair-brained scheme to tempt the mindless tourist into spending cash, in this case in the state of Jordan.
Building a sustainable, energy efficient luxury resort and theme park is an engineering challenge in and of itself: both are traditionally water- and energy-intensive. But in Jordan, where only 10 inches of rain fall per year and energy and water security is always tenuous, achieving as much self-sufficiency as possible is a necessity.
That’s why -as you may have heard-the $1.5 billion dollar Star Trek-themed Red Sea Astrarium in Jordan is being built with on-site renewable energy production facilities, integrated grey water and solid waste management systems, and numerous other cutting edge efficiency measures.
The reduction of the potable water use of the resort buildings alone will save 57.6 million gallons per year (as compared to business as usual). That’s enough water to serve the annual drinking needs of 303,000 people.
If you’re interested, I’d like to connect you with the engineers from Arup that developed the design, for a peek behind the curtain and a frank discussion about the nuts and bolts of the project.
Arup’s plans will:
– reduce water and energy usage by up to 20%,
– reduce resort cooling demand by up to 19%, and
– allow the Astrarium to produce 15 to 20% of its energy from on-site using renewables.
Clearly Courtney is just a hired drone who takes no interest in her copy otherwise, in the name of all that is holy, she would have realised what an unwittingly hilarious piece of greenwashing PR bilge this is. You only need to try and digest the phrase “Building a sustainable, energy efficient luxury resort and theme park” to realise that. The obvious response is: “So why build the fucking thing in the first place?!”
But I am more polite than that:
This is a joke, yes? A “sustainable” luxury report and theme park that is completely superfluous and about as relevant to the Jordanian culture as building a copy of the Great Wall of China in New York – that’s hilarious. Well done.
No response, and how rude is that? There are three forces at work here – not in preventing a response, you understand, I’m not paranoid – in making such a concept possible in the first place:
1) A nation or corporation that promises to pay a nation, so desperate for money that they will stoop to such incredible depths to make a project like this happen. According to the Business Anti-Corruption Portal:
“Despite the absence of any significant natural resources, Jordan has succeeded in attracting foreign investments through economic reforms and has demonstrated solid economic growth rates, while the government has gradually been implementing policies to improve competition and to foster transparency. The need for such policies have gained strength under the circumstances that Jordan has witnessed and which are strongly related to the public uprisings that have swept the Arabic region since early 2011. Public dissatisfaction with government policies and the rule of law has mobilised the King and the government to initiate reforms to improve the political, economic and social climate of the country.”
Which obviously includes attracting as many tourists as possible regardless of the cultural, social and environmental implications of implementing a straight-down-the-middle capitalist attitude. The announcement of the project was made in May 2011:
Rubicon Group Holding (RGH), a diversified global entertainment organization producing innovative digital animated content and location-based attractions, will design and produce The Red Sea Astrarium (TRSA), a 184-acre themed entertainment resort located in Aqaba, Jordan, which, through a license from CBS Consumer Products, will prominently feature an amazing attraction inspired by the 2009 international hit motion picture, Star Trek. The “Star Trek” attraction is being creatively developed by Paramount Recreation.
That announcement was made today by Randa S. Ayoubi, CEO of Rubicon Group Holding, at the Jordanian-American Business Forum, under the patronage of His Majesty King Abdullah II of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, in a special signing ceremony attended by business leaders from Jordan and the United States.
2) An engineering company determined to prove its “green” credentials, despite being a major provider of oil and gas infrastructure, aviation services, mining infrastructure and massive commercial developments. Arup are all this and far more; and as such gloss over their activities with a thick layer of greenwash, everywhere you look. The Astrarium is no exception:
The Red Sea Astrarium (Astrarium) represents an opportunity to demonstrate Jordan’s commitment to innovation and sustainable development. Resort developments, particularly those that target a global audience, increasingly reflect the global interest in sustainable development. The Astrarium will be at the forefront of sustainable resort development by implementing Arup’s infrastructure recommendations.
The Astrarium is a planned 184 acre entertainment resort and virtual reality theme park showcasing the rich cultural history and future of Jordan and the Middle East. Situated on a soaring plateau close to the Port City of Aqaba, the park includes four hotels, an entertainment district, a man-made saltwater lagoon, and two waterfront areas, one anchored by a ‘Star Trek’ themed attraction.
Brought in to provide infrastructure planning and design of the development’s energy, water, wastewater, solid waste, mobility and logistical management systems, the Astrarium presented a number of challenges to the Arup team. Located 200 metres above sea level in the mountains bordering the Red Sea, the site has no natural source of potable water thanks to the region’s arid climate while the development itself will have a substantial energy demand due to the array of attractions and amenities.
Words and thoughts consistently fail me with every sentence of this remarkable piece of rhetorical bullshit. One thing it does wrap up nicely is that there is NO SUCH THING AS SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT.
3) A PR company so willing to bend over and take whatever any corporation cares to shove in their direction that they will deliver, en masse, complete lies in order to make a fast buck.
Anyone wishing to undermine any of these three forces has my complete blessing; if you have any success let me know, I would love to see this all come toppling down.
From the wonderful London Mining Network comes this report of the BHP Billiton. I have emphasised key phrases that demonstrate the hypocrisy of one of the most destructive companies ever to grace planet Earth.
At today’s London AGM of the world’s biggest mining company, BHP Billiton, new company chair Jac Nasser and CEO Marius Kloppers spoke at length about climate change. They explained that the company fully accepts the science and believes that greenhouse gas emissions need to be limited so that the increase in average atmospheric temperatures can be held at two degrees above the pre-industrial average.
But BHP Billiton believes that it is for society and governments to decide on the way forward. Meanwhile it will continue with its plans to increase production of coal, oil and gas in the hope that currently unavailable technical solutions might one day help limit the effects of burning them. Jac Nasser did not rule out future involvement in the massively destructive and controversial tar sands exploitation in Canada or deep sea oil drilling in the Arctic.
Part of the solution to climate change, in the company’s view, is increased reliance on nuclear energy – unsurprising, given its investment in uranium mining expansion in Australia, expansion opposed by Aboriginal communities in both South and Western Australia.
Not that the company wishes to go too far towards accepting Indigenous Peoples’ rights. Marius Kloppers explained that accepting the right to Free Prior Informed Consent as envisaged in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples could violate the terms of company leases if it conflicted with national governments’ views on Indigenous rights. The company believes only national governments have the right to decide on mineral development.*
Siti Maimunah of JATAM, the Indonesian mining advocacy network, drew attention to the destructive impacts of existing opencast coal mining in Kalimantan (Borneo) and called for BHP Billiton to cancel its plans to begin coal mining in Central Kalimantan. She accused the company of trying to change the boundaries of protected forests to enable it to mine in areas currently off-limits. Both Nasser and Kloppers assured her that the company had not attempted to change the boundaries of protected forest areas and that the company would not begin opencast mining within protected forests.
Siti Maimunah accused the company of allowing its subsidiaries to continue exploring in an area where permission had been withdrawn. Marius Kloppers said that he was unaware of this; Siti Maimunah pointed out that the Indonesian Department for Forestry had made the information public in March 2009.
What the company would not do was commit to pulling out of Kalimantan: it refuses to take no for an answer.
Communities removed for mine expansion around the company’s 33% owned Cerrejon Coal mine in Colombia complained of the continuing slow pace of progress in implementing relocation agreements. The mine workers’ union sent a statement in which it said that an increasing number of workers are suffering work-related illnesses and the company is failing to assist them adequately, while the six thousand sub-contracted workers at the mine are denied union rights. Jac Nasser said the company would investigate the complaints and continue to work with Cerrejon Coal to improve its performance.
Questioned on the company’s plans to buy Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan, Jac Nasser claimed it was too early in the negotiations to comment and so pleaded ignorance of the details of Potash Corp’s involvement in phosphates mining in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara. Ken Ritchie of the Western Sahara Campaign pointed out that buying phosphates from an illegally occupied country is itself against international law and would be in violation of United Nations resolutions. Nasser said that the company was still conducting its ‘due diligence’ on Potash Corp and would avoid violating its own business principles.
BHP Billiton sees itself as indispensable to the prosperity of the world. Millions of the world’s poor are apparently relying on it to help them embrace the urbanised life of high consumption which it believes to be their destiny. Those who have a different view – like Indigenous communities in Kalimantan or small farmers in Colombia – have to be moved out of the way. BHP Billiton plans to continue mining, burning and irradiating its way towards a vision of the future that its board finds inspiring and which many of its critics reject as apocalyptic.
A set of case studies related to the behaviour of BHP Billiton, entitled “BHP Billiton 2009-10 – other sides to the story: case studies questioning the company’s record on human rights, transparency and ecological justice”, can be downloaded via this link (MS Word Doc)
*Note: National governments formalise corporate policy.
Look, I’m being serious: it’s the idea of Lester Brown, head of the Earth Policy Institute, who’s primary driver doesn’t appear to be saving the global ecology or humanity in general, but saving civilization. Yep, that’s right: civilization – that thing which is utterly incompatible with saving humanity or the global ecology.
He has teamed up with our friend Bill McKibben and Jim Hansen (or perhaps press-ganged the latter) to start a campaign to raise some kind of fee or other to put into renewable energy and stop cap and trade. In a world where climate science permitted the current levels of greenhouse gases without causing the atmospheric-climate system to produce a global mass extinction echoeing the end of the Permian Era (90% of all life on Earth gone) then that would be fine: just go for it Lester, Bill and Jim; keep us writing those letters to “our” Senators (as opposed to the Senators who have always worked for corporations?) and pretend political changes will have any effect on our future at all.
But this is not a world like that, it is reality: a reality where we have to finally realise that NOTHING WITHIN THE EXISTING INDUSTRIAL-POLITICAL SYSTEM OFFERS US A SURVIVABLE FUTURE!
Still want to be all symbolic and lovely? Watch the excruciating video the Million Letter March has produced, and see if you can see anything at all which would make a blind bit of difference to greenhouse gas levels:
And is it just me or are there just a few too many creepy moments there?
“Just imagine if today’s technology could be re-purposed in radical ways to help solve our planet’s environmental problems? Well, a new project called Open Planet Ideas has been designed to enable you to do just that.”
Ok, thought experiment, so I’m doing just that and you can join in too. What you will probably end up realising is that very little of today’s technology could ever be re-purposed to solve environmental problems; unless you can think of a way to use a billion television sets for the benefit of the natural world, or a hundred million Playstations. Yes, this is a venture by Sony; that well-known philanthropic organisation that will stop at nothing to make our world a better place, so long as it is crammed with its consumer goods.
Sony Europe and WWF to crowdsource eco technology applications with “Open Planet Ideas”
a.. Sony Europe launches Open Planet Ideas in conjunction with WWF.
b.. Open Planet Ideas is an online platform which challenges members of the public to imagine how current Sony technologies could be repurposed to tackle environmental problems.
c.. Projects may be collaborative, with online participants sharing inspiration.
d.. Those who collaborate on the winning idea will have the opportunity to work with Sony engineers and WWF specialists to bring it to life.
e.. For more information see www.openplanetideas.com.
Just imagine if today’s technology could be re-purposed in radical ways to help solve our planet’s environmental problems? Well, a new project called Open Planet Ideas has been designed to enable you to do just that.
Open Planet Ideas is an online community that challenges you to imagine how technologies such as gaming devices, digital cameras and GPS units could be used to address environmental issues like climate change, biodiversity and water conservation.
You can share inspirations and ideas in photographs, videos and stories, and then evaluate and vote on which concepts should be developed further. Those who collaborate on the winning idea will have the opportunity to work with Sony engineers and WWF specialists to make the project a reality.
Nice of Clea to provide to much contact information – she must have really wanted people to get in touch…later.
In case anyone is unsure later on about the environmental claims being made by Sony with regards to this project, I now quote verbatim from the website, including the robust support WWF are giving to said project:
Why is Sony doing this?
As one of the world’s biggest digital entertainment companies, it’s no big surprise that at Sony we believe passionately that technology can do good things. But we also believe that people can make really amazing things happen when they get together.
We’ve created Open Planet Ideas as part of our commitment to help create a more sustainable environment for current and future generations. And we’ve also built it to show that communities can play a vital role in accelerating the pace of technological, social and environmental change.
At Sony we believe strongly that technology can play a key role in solving some of the environmental issues facing the planet. Reflecting this philosophy, we’ve also set ourselves strict sustainability targets that include lowering energy consumption, re-using materials and recycling more. We also look beyond our products to support eco initiatives that could benefit from using our technologies and products for environmental gain.
Why is WWF doing this?
At WWF we’re always open to embracing new ideas – especially those that help raise awareness of today’s environmental issues, inspire solutions-oriented responses and ultimately benefit our one and only planet.
We also believe that we can’t do everything alone. That’s why we have a long and successful track record of working in partnership with others – including some of the world’s leading companies – to raise standards, drive sustainability and bring about positive change.
WWF’s corporate partners use their voice to make change happen. And this is exactly what Open Planet Ideas is also about: leveraging the amazing potential of modern technology to make a positive contribution to the environment and to society.
Our vision is one of a world where people live in harmony with nature. We’re positive that by working together constructively we can, and will, solve current problems. Especially if we use the great tools and resources that we have at our disposal – and above all, our ability to think creatively and innovate.
Not surprisingly, I wasn’t completely convinced that Sony were really showing “commitment to…a more sustainable environment”, given their entire business model depends upon shifting as many new electronic items to consumption slaves as humanly possible. I had a short email dialogue with Clea:
To: Clea Gray
Subject: Re: Sony Europe and WWF launch “Open Planet Ideas”
So, Clea, what Sony and WWF are proposing is that all Sony products sold will now have a positive effect on the environment. Yes?
I’m slightly surprised that any high complexity technology that relies on an industrial infrastructure could ever be environmentally friendly, but I’m willing to listen if you could explain the theory.
To: Keith Farnish
Subject: RE: Sony Europe and WWF launch “Open Planet Ideas”
Thanks very much for your e-mail.
Sony in not trying to crowdsource for new ideas on how it’s technology can become more environmentally friendly but rather trying to encourage the public to collectively create ideas around how existing Sony technology can be repurposed and redesigned to help tackle some of the worlds key environmental problems (defining a specific issue is the first stage of the Open Planet Ideas campaign).
This kind of approach to re-using current technologies was first demonstrated by Sony last year in the Forest Guard project. Working with Sony, a group of young people from California conceived the novel use of Sony’s IPELA security cameras, wireless networks and photo-stitching software to create an online community of citizen firewatchers, monitoring at-risk areas where forest fires are a major environmental threat.
I hope this answers your question, Sony and WWF are holding a breakfast media briefing event for ‘Open Plant Ideas’ on the 10th Sept at the National Geographic store on Regent Street, London which you are more than welcome to attend.
Here is a brief outline of the itinerary:
09:15 Arrive at National Geographic Store, 83-97 Regent Street, London, W1B 4EW
Coffees & welcome
09:30 Adrian Northover-Smith, Sony – introduction to Open Planet Ideas
09:40 Celebrity spokesperson
09:55 Open Planet Ideas – demonstration of key features
10:15 Dax Lovegrove, WWF
10:25 Q&A sessions
10:40 Photo shoot
11:05 121 interviews and breakout-sessions
Please let me know of you will be able to make it or if you need any more information.
So now, not only are WWF getting in on the act, but our old car advert loving friend National Geographic are hosting a conference, which I wholeheartedly recommend you attend and make your opinions felt…
To: Clea Gray
Subject: Re: Sony Europe and WWF launch “Open Planet Ideas”
You seem to have answered every question except for the one I asked:
“So, Clea, what Sony and WWF are proposing is that all Sony products sold will now have a positive effect on the environment. Yes?”
The implication being that something like a Playstation – the function of which, at the lowest level, is to make Sony money; but at a more superficial level, to entertain people, or rather distract them from the real world – can have a net environmental benefit. I would be keen to see Sony’s calculations, as to this net benefit.
To: Keith Farnish
Subject: RE: Sony Europe and WWF launch “Open Planet Ideas”
I’m happy to talk through the Open Planet Ideas project in more detail, it might be best to do so over the telephone. Do you have a contact number I can call you on?
So call her up I did. Because Grayling are a PR company which, no doubt, want to ensure their efforts touch as many people as possible, I think it’s only fair you get the chance to hear the recording too. To add to the listening experience there are also a few links that you need to be aware of which are to pages referred to in the conversation.
Greenwashing has a habit of making it into every facet of our society, not just from the obvious sources such as the PR offices of polluting corporations, but also for example from major charities and in the media. A recent example I came across is a blog post from last October by the BBC’s ‘Ethical Man’ Jason Rowlatt, entitled “Is the green movement too radical?”.
In his article the main thrust of his argument is that the ‘green movement’ should accept carbon markets as the solution to limiting emissions, rather than more systematic changes involving the basis of the economy. Accepting the need to cut emissions, he asks:
So how can we find ways to persuade people to change their behaviour? Most economists believe the most powerful instrument for changing behaviour is the market…Economists say we need some system of “carbon pricing”.
Note how he talks about economists – no criticism or balance (that the BBC is meant to be so famous for) about what they say, just a simple statement of what they think as fact. ‘Greens’ on the other hand are presented as sceptics and destructive (note the reference to smashing capitalism, and repeated reference to the ‘Greens’), and their barely presented argument dismissed:
It is not a policy that is likely to engage most mainstream politicians – or for that matter – ordinary people. What is more, spurning market solutions means ignoring one of the most powerful mechanisms for changing behaviour ever developed.
Although he is right that systemic changes are less popular to our politicians and to people wanting to continue with their modern lifestyles, the latter statement is backed up by no evidence or argument, it is simply presented as fact. It is telling that he uses the claim that “With just six years left, surely we should use all the weapons in our armoury to get change” in order to justify only using the carbon market. Perhaps this reflects his blog’s focus on “what individuals can do to tackle climate change” – focusing on our own individual actions rather than those of the institutions who cause most of the damage.
Neither does Jason mention that Europe’s own carbon trading system (ETS) not only failed to reduce emissions, as too many permits were issued to corporations by our leaders for free, fluctuating prices meant the polluters actually made more money than they would have done otherwise – in effect, carbon trading paid them to pollute more. As a result of these inherent shortcomings, carbon trading is even more unrealistic as a method of limiting emissions than the more “radical” solutions, such as systemic changes to the way society and the economy operates, that the Ethical Man dismisses. More information on carbon trading can be found at http://www.carbontradewatch.org/, and in the ‘zine “The Carbon Supermarket”.
What is most revealing about this case though is that an article clearly biased towards the politically favoured solution of carbon trading is being published by a supposedly neutral media organisation. Although this is his personal blog, it is still hosted by the BBC, and it would be surprising if the BBC allowed “radical” greens to operate in the same way. It wouldn’t therefore be surprising that this sort of bias didn’t slip into their more mainstream productions too, especially as Jason is the BBC’s in-house reporter on climate change and looking at his record of posts (for example including “Is the green movement bad for the environment?” and “Greens on trial” which both make much the same points again). Indeed, Media Lens reports on the extent to which this occurs in the mainstream media.
A key player in the ensuing demolition of the Green movement – which is what happened – is the mass media, the means by which environmental concerns might have reached and mobilised a mass audience. The media is part of the same corporate system, one that naturally protects traditional centres of power and short-term profits against rational challenges of exactly the kind Greens had in mind. Thus, despite all the evidence, Greens and progressives have continued to be ignored, marginalised and vilified.
This is yet another example showing that major media organisations such as the BBC are as implicit in greenwashing and preserving the status quo as the corporations environmentalists normally target. Greenwash has seeped throughout the establishment and contaminated it – we must see through the organisations we were brought up to trust if we are to move beyond the status quo that they form a part of.
This article was written for The Unsuitablog by the environmental activist and writer, David McKay.
Someone sent me an email containing an article which, on first glance, appeared to be neatly undermining Walmart’s corporate line that the world’s biggest retailer is becoming “green”. It turns out that I read too much into the article, and they were actually praising Walmart and suggesting they were changing the way the global economy operates. Yeah, right!
Guess all the Far Eastern workers they screw, and the millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases they emit are starting to get a bit too public. Time to slap on the greenwash a bit more.
So, rather than republish the article, I will simply reproduce the graphic that was originally going to sit at the top. Use and enjoy to your heart’s content…
Take a look at the video above. On the right is a person who has the guts to appear on the BBC and say, without embarrassment or political correctness, that people just need to stop flying so much. The Plane Stupid representative’s comments are brilliantly amplified by Jeremy Paxman’s priceless question to the representative of the budget airline industry:
“How do you balance a stag weekend in Prague against millions of people dying in Africa?”
I came across this video searching for the point at which Greenpeace’s de facto poster boy (and that’s coming from people inside Greenpeace) and Guardian columnist, Joss Garman, went utterly mainstream. Recall in the video the level of anger from Joss against both the airline representative and, later on, Jeremy Paxman himself. Now read this extract from Joss Garman’s opinion piece in last Sunday’s Independent, which is related to the new Conservative – Liberal Democrat environmental policy:
Upwards of £150bn will be needed for new energy infrastructure and efficiency over the next decade because a third of our power plants are coming to the end of their lifespans. Nick Clegg said the Lib Dems would put up more than £3bn for a proposed Green Investment Bank, plus £400m to upgrade our shipyards to accommodate an offshore wind boom. But Mr Cameron has offered no new money for clean energy, and won’t even say if he will protect existing spending in this area.
Talk of “localism” sounds good, but only central government has the big economic levers to drive investment in clean technologies, to build an offshore super-grid in the North Sea, and to regulate dirty coal stations.
Similarly, many solutions need to be international. Driving down our car emissions will be done only by co-operating on efficiency with our European neighbours and by sharing energy infrastructure such as the proposed carbon capture and storage pipelines under the North Sea. And the electricity cabling that would allow us to trade with our European allies, to make energy cheaper, more secure and greener, can be effected only in harness with Brussels.
This piece is written in the name of Greenpeace, and thus underlines Greenpeace’s own views on the future of energy, to wit: “We need to have a huge amount of energy available in the future, and that can only be achieved through massive industrial projects and big government. There is no way we will reduce emissions without large-scale techno-fixes.”
Where is the call to make draconian reductions in energy use in the immediate future? Where is the bile against big business and the political hedgmoney that keeps the energy industry sucking the life out of the planet? And in case you think I am maybe over-egging the point about scale, look at the key – sickening – phrase in the middle: “Talk of ‘localism’ sounds good, but only central government…” At a stroke, the author kicks community and individual efforts in the teeth, including the thousands of local activists which are the core of Greenpeace’s campaigning base.
Sometime between stating on BBC Newsnight in 2006 – with reference to techno-fixes and climate change – “The science says you can’t do that!” and his Independent article in 2010, stating “There is no way we will reduce emissions without large-scale techno-fixes”, Joss Garman underwent an ethics transplant.
Sometime between these two events, Joss Garman became the key media spokeperson for a mainstream environmental organisation.
Over the last few months I have become ever-strident in criticising the hypocrisy of “environmental” groups, especially those with corporate ties. Like a green slick of goo being pumped from a burst hypocrisy pipe at the ocean’s bed, the tide of greenwash keeps coming to the surface, engulfing all the good it touches.
There is a deep, philosophical reason behind this rage I feel towards the hypocrisy of a movement that pretends to speak for the Earth; I explained it in an Earth Blog article last year, and feel I should publish it again, in full in The Unsuitablog, lest this rage be misunderstood:
In the 1970s life became simpler. The Age of Aquarius was the stuff of satire and the hippy dream of a world full of love and peace had died; ironically killed off by a war in a country that few in the West had heard of until the body bags started coming back, and new terms like Agent Orange and Napalm seeped out of the jungle. In the Summer of Love, groups of free-thinking individuals thought about a new way of living – many started down that path, making tracks towards a life that nature found less objectionable and which was fulfilling in a way that no amount of kitchen gadgets and sunny holidays abroad could ever match. Then we got distracted, again and again: we “grew up”, we got jobs, we sent our children to school, we had “responsibilities”, we didn’t have time to think beyond our next holiday…as the years passed we got distracted so many times that it became too late to fix the problems we thought we might be able to solve back then.
We need a cure for cancer: it’s your job to find it. What will you do?
Convention would suggest a combination of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and excision to be the best course of action, depending on the nature and progress of the disease. This costs money, so you campaign for more funding to provide medicines, machines and reduced surgical waiting lists. The treatment often works, but the cancers keep coming. So what of the cure? You need to ensure money is put into research for better treatments, and the possibility of a vaccine against virus-borne cancers; you also want to provide extensive information about how to avoid carcinogens and reduce your chances of developing cancer, through lifestyle changes. But the cancers keep coming. Think out of the box! You start stepping outside of the comfort zone that most cancer charities confine themselves to: you find evidence that the cause of many cancers is in the air, the water and the soil – carcinogens expelled by industrial processes responsible for the production and disposal of the goods and services the same people suffering from the cancers avidly consume. You work to close down the worst of the factories, plants, incinerators and industrial farms: victory in the courts! New rules are drawn up; the worst offenders are told to change. But what of the cure?
What of the cure? Surely your job is done – others continue the fight, but you have done well to drill down to the heart of the problem; further than the “mainstream” campaigners ever thought of going. Did anyone ever consider shutting down the reason for these toxic processes ever existing in the first place?
We need a cure for the inexorable destruction of the global ecology, and the potentially catastrophic changes in the climate that will add to the burdens being piled upon our already weakened life-support system. What will you do?
I didn’t start this tale in the 1970s by accident. In 1972, following the efforts of four anti-nuclear activists in trying to prevent the testing of nuclear devices in Alaska, Greenpeace was formed. They were undoubtedly a group focussed on a small number of issues, presenting a small number of point solutions: with only a few resourceful and enthusiastic individuals available to try and make a difference what else could they have done? In 2009, Greenpeace worldwide has millions of donors and, perhaps, hundreds of thousands of activists working on its behalf across a range of issues related to reversing environmental damage. In the last year, Greenpeace UK has campaigned on climate change, deforestation, over fishing, GM crops and nuclear proliferation. It lists among its solutions: decentralisation of energy production, creating marine reserves, changing government and business practices in timber use, encouraging organic agriculture and pushing for global disarmament treaties. Greenpeace is widely considered to be among the most radical of the world’s large environmental organisations.
In 2009, WWF boasted a membership of around 5 million worldwide. It has a similar focus to Greenpeace, although GM and Nuclear issues are absent from their headline roster, and WWF does spend a significant amount of effort on academic research. Among its solutions for individuals, it encourages people to use less electricity at home, to recycle, to buy goods with less packaging and attract wildlife to gardens. It also sells carbon offsets for people who wish to fly. Its larger scale solutions have business at the forefront, with a number of corporations, including banks, advertising agencies, consumer product manufacturers and mining and extraction companies, partnering with WWF to improve their globally destructive practices. WWF is widely considered to be one of the less radical, and most business friendly environmental organisations.
If we are to take this to its logical conclusion then, surely, the solutions to the global environmental crisis lie somewhere along the spectrum occupied by the environmental mainstream, from the business-led approach of WWF at one end to the “radicalism” of Greenpeace at the other. Except that there is no logic to this at all: the logic completely breaks down at the point where you start to analyse the worth of the “solutions” that these groups propose. Even if we take Greenpeace’s approach – rather than that of WWF – the potential success of creating marine reserves, for example, is minimal unless those marine reserves occupy around 40% of the world’s oceans (this, ironically, is based on a study carried out by WWF), and that fishing in the remaining areas does not exceed sustainable biological limits. Given that there is very little chance of even a single-digit percentage of the world’s oceans being formally protected (due to corporate power and government protectionism), let alone the ecological diversity and size required to halt marine collapse, the proposal by Greenpeace is doomed to failure. And that’s just the proposal: how they intend to achieve this is another matter entirely. The range of activities includes petitions to government ministers, leafleting on High Streets, the symbolic planting of flags in the sea bed and parliamentary lobbying. Greenpeace say:
“We must do all we can to make sure that our (sic) politicians deliver a large-scale network of fully-protected Marine Reserves through European and national legislation.”
(Source: Greenpeace UK website)
They do not say: “We must not eat any fish we do not catch ourselves.”
You see, while there is a sliver of a chance that the governments of the world might superficially support the creation of a series of inadequate reserves, even while lobbying on behalf of their own industrial fishing industries to prevent any reductions in catch, Greenpeace and other mainstream (not “radical”) environmental organisations will pursue this avenue. Why? Because no one of any significance in the organisation’s hierarchy can accept that it is the system of Industrial Civilization that is the root of the problem; that the only way to prevent global marine collapse is to completely abandon the way that civilization fuels its insatiable demand for energy. Governments and corporations are not going to stop doing things in the way that has led us to the brink of ecological collapse, because that way is the way civilization works: it would be like a person cutting off one or more of their limbs.
Greenpeace, WWF, the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth and every other mainstream environmental organisation believe that you can “fix” the problems inherent in the system, to make this planet a better place; that you can appeal to the goodness of politicians and industrialists to make them curb their destructive behaviour; that you can bring about a sustainable society by urging people to change their light bulbs, shower instead of bath, travel a bit less, offset their emissions and recycle.
They are the acceptable face of environmentalism in the eyes of the civilized majority, and so what if the occasional publicity stunt makes the odd company or politician squirm? So long as the public remain Good Consumers then the environmental groups can carry on pushing their “solutions” to as many people as they like.
“Government needs to regain control of big business to give rights for people and rules for big business…Big business must improve its environmental and social performance.”
(Source: Friends of the Earth website)
So, I ask you again: What is the cure for the inexorable destruction of the global ecology, and the potentially catastrophic changes in the climate that will add to the burdens being piled upon our already weakened life-support system?
More pointedly: Do you really think that the environmental organisations that claim they have the solutions and the means to carry them through are going to save us; or are we going to have to do this ourselves, individually and in small groups taking a completely different approach to the way we are living our lives?
I have no doubt that the vast majority of people believe humanity and the global environment can be saved through conventional means: for this the mainstream environmental groups have to take much of the blame; they are as much villains of the piece as the corporations and governments who, at least up until recently, never claimed they were going to “save the world”. Unless the environmental mainstream makes a radical about-face, rejecting the civilized orthodoxy that says the system can be fixed, and leading us in completely the opposite direction, then we have no choice but to reject them and make our own way along the path to a sustainable future.
A bit like the hippies.
Here is the key phrase:
“no one of any significance in the organisation’s hierarchy can accept that it is the system of Industrial Civilization that is the root of the problem”
Next time you read a press release or opinion piece from an “environmental” group or their spokeperson, keep that in mind…
We’ve been enjoying the sunshine (yes, wonderful sunshine) of North Wales for the past week and now we’re moving house, so The Unsuitablog has had to take a back seat for the time being. Don’t worry, we will be back soon, but to tide you over is the latest from the RANVideo YouTube channel, which it looks as though is well worth visiting on a regular basis.
Love this week’s take on the Nopenhagen Accord (not to be confused with the similar sounding, and equally execrable Copenhagen Communique), and look forward to more biting stuff…
Ever get the feeling that people just aren’t getting it? This is one of those occasions when the email tells the story – especially the responses, which are beyond dumb and show Earth911 up to be just another green smokescreen for business as usual.
Earth911 is Looking for Cool, Green Products
Get involved in our Earth Day 40/40 Giveaway!
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, Earth911.com will feature 40 products and tips about how to recycle them in our Earth Day 40/40 Campaign, as well as host a Giveaway of green gifts to its readers.
Why we’d love to have you: Every year, the weeks surrounding Earth Day constitute the highest influx of traffic on Earth911.com. In exchange for giving a prize to be part of the Giveaway, your company will receive recognition on our site: We’ll announce your organization’s participation in our Giveaway through editorial coverage on Earth911.com, as well as through Twitter and Facebook. You’ll also be featured in our announcement of the winners on Earth Day itself, giving you elevated visibility. Translation: Free advertising during the most popular time on our site!
If you want to learn more: Email Jennifer (below) for more details. While we may not be able to take everyone who wants to participate, we are open to checking out any products that have a “green” spin, especially those that incorporate recycled or recyclable materials. We also have paid sponsorships available as well for an even better deal!
Jennifer Berry, Public & Strategic Relations Manager
Our mailing address is:
1375 N. Scottsdale Rd
Scottsdale, AZ 85257
I had a little think about this, and realised what the ideal prize would be. Ok, I’m not a company and don’t have products with a “green spin” but surely there are some gifts that say far more than others…
Thank you for your email. I am writing on behalf of the anti-greenwashing site, The Unsuitablog, and we would be delighted to take part in your giveaway.
We are offering an empty, plain paper carrier bag filled with life-giving air. Should the owner decide to put purchased goods of any type in the bag then the life-giving air will be forced out of the bag, replaced by an item that required energy to manufacture and transport, not to mention the resources required in its production and the damage caused by the extraction of the fuel required to provide the energy. Thus, the empty bag, unfilled, symbolizes no net increase in greenhouse gases or environmental degradation.
The bag will be pre-owned, and as it starts to degrade naturally it may be composted, thus returning it’s constituents back to the soil.
Please let me know where you would like the item to be sent.
Rayleigh, Essex, England.
Hmm, no response…
Could you please acknowledge this – my email was deadly serious.
My lack of response didn’t indicate any inclination on my part that you weren’t serious. I’ve simply been quite busy as this week has moved along :)
We won’t be using your gift as part of our giveaway. But thank you for submitting it, and please don’t hesitate to reach out to me in the future if I can be a resource to you in any way!
I felt the need to reach out to Jennifer…
Could you tell me why you will not be using my gift? Surely it is far more environmentally sound than any other gift you have been offered.
As I said, we are offering an empty, plain paper carrier bag filled with life-giving air. Should the owner decide to put purchased goods of any type in the bag then the life-giving air will be forced out of the bag, replaced by an item that required energy to manufacture and transport, not to mention the resources required in its production and the damage caused by the extraction of the fuel required to provide the energy. Thus, the empty bag, unfilled, symbolizes no net increase in greenhouse gases or environmental degradation.
The bag will be pre-owned, and as it starts to degrade naturally it may be composted, thus returning it’s constituents back to the soil.
This seems like the best possible symbol of good intentions.
I mean, how could they refuse the most environmentally friendly gift I could think of? Surely Earth911 is all about preventing global catastrophe…
My name is Raquel Fagan and I am the Executive Editor of Earth911. Thank you for your email. We will not be using your submission for following reasons:
Though we appreciate the gesture, we do not believe that the value the gift will provide the winner will be worth the approximately 38 pounds of carbon it will take to transport the package form London to Phoenix (calculated using CarbonFund.org).
It would be much more environmentally sound to simply have people use a bag they already own, then to send them a bag via postage.
From our home composting system to our re-purposed home decor prizes, we promise that we have given this contest much consideration. We are doing our best to assure that it honors Earth Day as much as possible while still providing people with objects designed to remind them of their personal impact during the other 364 days of the year.
Thanks again, and have a nice day.
1375 N. Scottsdale Rd.
Scottsdale, AZ 85257
Got an iPhone? Get iRecycle!
(I had to leave that “iPhone” signature in)
Hmm, I get the feeling that I’m not really communicating what I want to, here. They are happy to accept crappy gizmos made in the Far East by underpaid wage-slaves, then transported halfway across the world, but my paper bag…no, that isn’t nearly “green” enough.
I had to say something:
Thank you for your response. Did you think I was going to fly it? I would never do that, it would go by sea and surface. Better than that, I could get a friend in the USA to send one of their bags to you; that should cover any concerns you may have.
Of course, as you think it would be much more environmentally sound for people to use a bag they already own, why is it ok to give away other items? I thought that compost bins or wind up lights, for instance, would require rather more than 38 pounds of carbon to manufacture. They might honour Earth Day, such as it is, but they don’t honour the Earth.
Could it be because the idea of zero-consumption doesn’t fit with your organization’s agenda? I’m assuming those great bastions of green action that sponsor you – BP, Kmart, ExxonMobil and the American Chemistry Council for instance – might sit uncomfortably with “saving the Earth”; certainly I would feel *very* uncomfortable to be taking money from them.
Sort of puts my potential 38 pounds of carbon into perspective…
No response so far.
(By the way, I checked out how much carbon my paper bag would require to transport, and it’s actually just 2 pounds by ship based on http://www.carbonfund.org/business/calculator#Office. But if you only think by plane, how could you imagine other people not using a plane?)