Greenpeace and Sierra Club are doing more harm than good by co-opting grassroots environmental movements and giving destructive, polluting industries their “green” stamp of approval
“Greenwashing” is an attempt by corporations to cover up environmentally harmful practices by marketing products as “green” or “eco-friendly.’ While saavy consumers are catching on that corporations still care more about the green in our pockets than the greenery of the earth, many of them would be surprised to learn that some of the world’s most prominent environmentalist organizations have green “blood” on their hands too.
A short video called “Green is the Color of Money” – a clip from the larger documentary End Civ – accuses Greenpeace, Sierra Club and other non-governmental environmental organizations of not only not doing their job, but of conspiring with corporations who want their “green” stamp of approval:
State of the Planet
The video begins with a briefing on the state of the planet by Lierre Keith, author of The Vegetarian Myth.
“Ninety eight percent of the old growth forests are gone, 99 percent of the prairies are gone and 80 percent of the rivers on this planet do not support life anymore,” Keith says. “We are out of species, we are out of soil and we are out of time.”
Keith co-founded a radical environmental movement with Derek Jensen called Deep Green Resistance. On their website they warn “industrial civilization is killing ALL life on the planet” – driving 200 species into extinction each day. Since most species on the planet are interdependent, it’s only a matter of time before humans get added to the endangered species list, they argue.
The Co-opting of Environmentalism
After environmentalism became popular in the 1970s and 80s, corporations realized they could sell things by calling them “green.”
The problem is most of these “environmentalists” take our industrial economy as a given, says coauthor of What We Leave Behind Aric McBay. Their attitude is – “How can we save the industrial economy? Oh, and it would be nice if we still have a planet.”
The mainstream environmental movement tells us the way to “save the planet” is by making better personal consumer choices, but Keith argues that’s a lie propped up by corporations and the environmental organizations they’ve co-opted. “It doesn’t matter if I buy hemp soap if there’s a runaway greenhouse effect and the planet becomes uninhabitable.”
The philosophy of the big environmental organizations is “rooted in the same cultural lie” that views nature as a supply of resources to be used, managed and transformed into commodities for us to buy and sell, co-author of Igniting a Revolution Michael Becker says in the film.
“They may say we need to manage it more wisely, but as long as they maintain the mindset that we are the lords of creation, and creation exists for us … they’re working within the same framework of the ultimately self-destructive path our culture is on.”
Greenpeace co-creator Paul Watson says in the film that he sometimes feels like Dr. Frankenstein, as he now believes the organization does more harm than good. He calls Greenpeace the world’s biggest “feel good” organization.
“People join it to feel good, to feel like I’m part of the solution,” he said. “The organization brings in close to $300 million a year. And what do they do with that money? Generate more money. The people at the top of the totem pole now are not environmentalists – they’re fundraisers, they’re accountants, they’re lawyers, they’re business people.”
Watson listed a handful of examples of revolving doors between Greenpeace and some not-so-environmentally friendly industries:
* Former president of Greenpeace Canada, Patrick Moore, now works for the logging industry.
* Former president of Greenpeace Australia, now works for the mining industry.
* Former president of Greenpeace Norway, now works for the whaling industry.
In the 1990s, the indigenous Canadian people Nuxalk Nation engaged in a campaign of direct action to stop logging on their traditional land in the Great Bear Rainforest. Greenpeace, Sierra Club and Forest Ethics co-opted their movement. While publicly claiming to be brokering a deal with the industry for 40-60 percent conservation, the NGOs gave their blessing to a deal of only 20 percent conservation.
In 2010, 21 logging companies signed a deal known as “The Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement” with several major environmental organizations aimed at silencing all criticism of logging practices in the Boreal Forest.
“With Greenpeace, David Suzuki, Forest Ethics, and Canadian Parks and Wilderness on our side, when someone comes and tries to bully us, the agreement actually requires that they come and work with us in repelling the attack,” said Avrim Lazar, CEO of the Forest Products Association of Canada in a conference about the deal. “We’ll be able to say, fight me, fight my gang.”
There you have it – the logging industry considers Greenpeace a member of their “gang.”
Silencing Grassroots Activism
The filmmakers aren’t the only ones who see Greenpeace as an accessory to corporate greenwashing. An collective of indigenous environmental organizations called “Wretched of the Earth” accused Greenpeace and Avaaz of trying to silence their message at a climate march in London last year.
Organizers from Greenpeace and other NGOs called the police to confiscate signs from the grassroots activists that “didn’t fit the message of the day.”
While the narrative of the typical Greenpeace or Sierra Club member is “we do this for the love of skiing,” the Wretched of the Earth see their brand of environmentalism as a fight for survival. They see themselves as being up against a new form of British imperialism – corporate colonialism – behind climate genocide in “black and brown” indigenous territories around the world.