Here is a guest post from one of my environmental heroes, Patrick Moore. The reason he’s an environmental hero is because, unlike so many campaigners in the green movement, he doesn’t believe that in order to save the world its necessary to destroy Western industrial civilisation.
I highly recommend his superb book Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout which describes how he lost his faith in the organisation he co-founded:
Since I left Greenpeace, its members, and the majority of the movement have adopted policy after policy that reflects their antihuman bias, illustrates their rejection of science and technology and actually increases the risk of harm to people and the environment. They oppose forestry even though it provides our most abundant renewable resource. They have zero tolerance for genetically modified food crops, even though this technology reduces pesticide use and improves nutrition for people who suffer from malnutrition. They continue to oppose nuclear energy, even though it is the best technology to replace fossil fuels and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They campaign against hydroelectric projects despite the fact that hydro is by far the most abundant renewable source of electricity. And they support the vicious and misguided campaign against salmon farming, an industry that produces more than a million tons of heart-friendly food every year.”
Patrick’s guest post begins here:
Imagine a situation in which an activist group with certain political ambitions and close ties to a computer manufacturer engaged in a campaign of threats against specific UK retailers.
Targeted retailers were told that they must buy computers from only a select manufacturer (the one closely associated with the activist group) and no other, to the detriment of the retailer, market competition, and consumers at large. If retailers dared to purchase from any other computer manufacturer, the activist group would continue a campaign to spread misinformation, harass and embarrass the retailer, and sully its name brand. If this fictional scenario were made real, it would likely be cause for an investigation. In the world of organized crime, this type of strategy has a name: racketeering.
And yet when my former colleagues at Greenpeace employ a similar strategy to target Indonesian forest product producers (albeit without the threat of violence often associated with racketeering) they’re hailed as leaders by their fellow environmental activists.
Greenpeace is threatening name-brand retailers and manufacturers who do not agree to a Greenpeace-backed wood fiber and paper policy that gives preference to one particular forest certifier, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), over all other forest certification bodies.
For Greenpeace, it doesn’t matter that other forest certifiers enforce rigorous forest certification standards that either match or exceed those of the FSC. It doesn’t matter, my old group says, that Indonesian forest product producers adhere to strict environmental and social standards and provide enormous benefits to local and often poor people in the areas where producers operate.
It doesn’t matter that leading Indonesian forest product producers are aggressively certifying plantation forests through a range of independent, third-party standards including Indonesia’s rigorous national standard, Lembaga Ekolabel Indonesia (LEI).
Instead, what matters to Greenpeace is its close association with the FSC. Greenpeace was instrumental in the FSC’s founding and maintains, along with its fellow environmental activists, tight political control over the organization. It follows that Greenpeace wishes to see only the FSC thrive and all other certification standards perish.
No other forest certifier has the advantage of Greenpeace support. Not only does Greenpeace promote the FSC. Greenpeace actively threatens any retailer or manufacturer that decides to purchase wood and paper products certified using other, equally rigorous forest certification standards.
Greenpeace is essentially attempting to create a monopoly for the FSC in Asia by using a strategy of threats and intimidation.
It won’t work.
Greenpeace tried a similar strategy in North America, pushing home improvement retailers, home builders, and other wood and paper product purchasers to buy only FSC-labeled product. But home improvement retailers and home builders eventually realized they could provide better value to their customers while still ensuring sustainable forest practices by giving preference to a range of forest certification standards. Having failed to secure an FSC monopoly in North America, Greenpeace is now attempting to do so in Asia, with a particular focus on Indonesia.
The real tragedy is that for the sake of a forest certification label and in the name of monopoly, Greenpeace is ignoring the true causes of forest destruction in Indonesia: unsustainable agricultural practices, illegal forest encroachment, and illegal logging and poaching.
Targeting Indonesia’s legal and sustainable forest sector will do nothing to prevent forest destruction in the country and will likely only exacerbate deforestation. And promoting an FSC monopoly will limit consumer choice and market competition while having no impact on forest sustainability.
It’s time for Greenpeace to end this wrong-headed, damaging approach.
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