The New Tin Pot Dictators: Green NGOs

Posted by Ben Pile on February 1, 2013
Feb 012013

It should be clear to everyone by now that environmentalists have no sense of proportion. For instance, on the green view, the claim that ‘climate change is happening’ has been a matter of true or false, rather than a matter of degree. But is this misconception the consequence of green ‘ideology’, or simply a strategy intended to promote it?

A press release from Friends of the Earth on Friday announced:

Samsung questioned over tin as profits soar

25 January 2013

Commenting on phone manufacture Samsung’s soaring profits revealed today (Friday 25 January 2013), Friends of the Earth’s Head of Campaigns Andrew Pendleton said:

“Samsung’s profits may be soaring, but do they come with a cost? The company has yet to explain whether the tin it uses in its phones is ravaging the tropical forests and coral reefs of Bangka Island, Indonesia.

“Research shows that tin from Banka is almost certainly in Samsung’s products.

“New rules are needed to make all companies disclose their supply chains – starting with a Europe-wide law next year.”

ENDS

FoE’s research was published last November, in a report called, Mining for smartphones: the true cost of tin [PDF]. On page 20, the report explains FoE’s decision to target Samsung:

Samsung is the top-selling smartphone brand in Europe. It offers a wide range of handsets and as a result has a global reach like no other – in 2011 it sold 95 million smartphones – that’s nearly one in five of all smartphones sold worldwide (19.5 per cent of the global market share). In fact just one model, the Galaxy S, launched in June 2010, and updated Galaxy S2 and S3, has already sold more than 42 million. Samsung Electronics is South Korea’s biggest company and has extended its reach as an Olympic Games 2012 partner and Chelsea football club sponsor.

When Friends of the Earth investigators contacted Samsung Electronics prior to publication to ask if the company sourced tin from Bangka or was aware of the damage tin mining is causing the island’s communities and ecosystems, a Samsung spokesperson neither confirmed nor denied this. In a statement, the company said it took the issue of ethical sourcing of minerals very seriously. “Samsung is committed to upholding the highest standards of corporate responsibility, and we continue to evaluate our sourcing policies to ensure they comply with global standards associated with our industry,” said a spokesperson. “We will monitor the Bangka Island situation to determine if an investigation into whether tin in our supply chain is being sourced from the region is required.”

During Friends of the Earth’s research Samsung was identified as a buyer or user of Indonesian tin via the supply chain of PT Timah.

The problem, according to FoE is the environmental destruction caused by tin mining operations in Indonesia. As this FoE film shows, it’s certainly not a pretty process, and the lot of the workers involved in the production of tin have a pretty lousy time.

Tin is used in the production of mobile phones, chiefly as an ingredient in solder, a substance used to hold electronic components to circuit boards. But to what extent is Samsung responsible for the situation in Indonesia?

Let’s start with the facts. FoE claim that Samsung sold 95 million smartphones last year. That’s a lot of phones. So how much tin is that? Curiously, for it’s emphasis on smartphones, FoE’s report is vague about how much tin is in a smartphone. It produces this graphic instead. (Page 7).

A tablet contains between 1 and 3 grammes of ‘tin rich solder’. So let’s assume that a smartphone, which is about half the size and complexity of a tablet, contains a gramme of tin rich solder. So Samsung used 95 million grammes of tin in smartphones in 2011. There are a million grammes in a tonne (1,000 grammes in a kilogramme; 1,000 kg in a tonne). So that’s 95 tonnes of tin, for Samsung’s global smartphone market.

Is that a lot?

No.

According to the US Geological Survey, in 2010, the world produced 277,000 tonnes of tin. On the FoE’s own gallery of images of tin mining in Indonesia, it shows a picture of an operation that produces 50,000 tonnes a year:

So Samsung and the market for smartphones hardly drive the bulk of production of tin in Indonesia.

Pretty much any electronic device will contain solder and therefore tin. It is an extremely useful substance. But its extraction, like the extraction from the earth of many useful substances, causes problems. And those problems are far more pronounced where institutions that might regulate extractive processes and protect workers are not as developed as they are in the west. For another instance, we might want to look at the extraction of rare earth metals for use in wind turbines and electric vehicles, which is arguably a dirtier and more dangerous process, but which Friends of the Earth seems to ignore.

In the past, a large part of the world’s supply of tin was produced in the south west of England. And the story was similar. As the following video from Cornish Mining World Heritage demonstrates, what was once a dangerous and exploitative industry is now celebrated for its historical significance.

Might it not be the case that in a hundred or so years — perhaps, and I hope, many fewer — that the tin mines of Indonesia will become museums like their Cornish predecessors? How is it that we can see Britain’s part in the history and development of global trade as so essential, but the expansion of such processes into the emerging economies as such a bad thing? After all, aren’t they the same story? The video shows, even if it doesn’t say so directly, the transformation of an economy, alongside the transformation of the landscape, politics, and concomitantly, the conditions that workers in tin mines experienced. Now we see videos like this, and perhaps visit the museums that now stand in place of the mines. They show how much life has changed. We would not tolerate the danger, the child labour, and the rates of pay. But in 19th Century Britain, there was no Friends of the Earth, and there were no global environmental NGOs complaining about the environmental impact of mining.

None of this is to defend unsafe working conditions and the ruthless exploitation of workers, of course. However, green NGOs have a tendency to not present the development going on behind the ugly images they trade in. Data from the World Bank is useful here.

As we can see from the above chart, the most striking thing is that mobile phone usage is now pretty widespread. It’s not as if Indonesians have been left out of the mobile phone and tin markets. The second most striking change in Indonesia since 1991 is the decline in infant mortality — from 80 per 1000 live births in 1991 to 33 in 2010. Next, we see enrolment in secondary education rising from 44% to 77% in a generation. Then we see life expectancy rising from 62 to 69. Finally we see 11% more people enjoying access to clean water than in 1991. Over the same period, GNI per capita, PPP (at current international $) rose from $1,390 to $4,180.

What is clear, then, is that in spite of the picture FoE have presented, conditions for people in Indonesia — tin miners amongst them — have improved. Readers will no doubt differ in their views about whether or not this progress is fast enough, and what, if anything could be done to speed that process up. The rights and wrongs of this need bringing out of the debate. On the one hand, it is hard to imagine that we owe nothing to people whose working conditions are dire if we are in a position to help. However, the basis on which we intervene in the political and economic lives of others needs careful consideration.

This is how Foe see things though…

As major users of tin and hugely influential brands that deal with companies buying tin from BangkaBelitung province, we’re also calling on these smartphone giants to:

> Bring together affected parties in Bangka to agree and implement a plan to halt environmental and human problems caused by tin mining.
> Back new rules for all companies to come clean about how they do business.

We don’t have all the answers for Bangka. But as a crucial first step Friends of the Earth and our colleagues in Friends of the Earth Indonesia, Walhi, want Samsung and Apple to bring together all the affected parties to agree and implement a plan to halt environmental and human problems caused by mining. Finding a solution will need to involve miners, fishermen, government and other community groups. Friends of the Earth believes mining firms shouldn’t be allowed to operate without community consent, cleaning up properly afterwards and avoiding operating in precious ecosystems and habitats.

To help prevent these sorts of problems happening elsewhere in the world and to ensure that companies make our favourite products in a way that’s within the limits of our planet’s ability to support us, we’re asking Samsung and Apple to support Europe-wide legislation requiring full reporting on product supply chain impacts.

What is immediately obvious is the self-conscious tacking of human problems onto environmental concerns. After 200 years of history, the people of Cornwall — the descendants of the first industrial tin miners — are able to assert themselves politically. They are protected from dangerous and exploitative working conditions. These are rights which we expect for ourselves, and would surely wish for everyone. But wishing them for everyone means letting other people decide for themselves what the value of their environment is. The conditions FoE put down, however, are that mining operations must not take place in ‘in precious ecosystems and habitats’, and operate ‘in a way that’s within the limits of our planet’s ability to support us’.

The first problem, then, is that any emerging economy will be developing into space that is, on the green view, a ‘precious ecosystem’. Even in the UK, where barely a square inch of the landscape can be claimed as untouched by human hands, protests about building roads and homes still take place on the basis that it will disturb some ecosystem or other. Yet this image from the UK National Ecosystem Assessment Report tells a different story:

Barely 1.5% of the UK has something built on it — be it a home or a road. James Heartfield demonstrates the problem with the greens’ mindset at Spiked — the environmentalist’s failure to develop a sense of proportion:

Meanwhile, Britain’s protected Green Belt is expanding all the time. Currently it accounts for 12.6 per cent of the land area of England. ‘Special areas of conservation’, ‘sites of special scientific interest’ and ‘areas of outstanding natural beauty’ account for a further 29.8 per cent (see More Homes and Better Places, published by the Building and Social Housing Foundation in September 2011). New national parks are also being created, the latest being the South Downs that stretches from Eastbourne to Winchester. The marking out of these restricted areas prevents any development of any scale from taking place.

The population of the UK are squeezed into 1.5% of its area, while flora and fauna frolic in the remainder. So if that’s what environmentalists want for an industrialised, advanced economy like the UK, what do they want for Indonesia?

It isn’t clear. And it never is clear. The sense of disproportion in the green argument is in this sense, strategic: to give the substance of numbers to an argument means committing yourself to redundancy once that number is made a target, and then realised. To leave the figure unstated gives the environmentalist to push for more, more, more. Moreover, giving the argument the perspective of numbers allows the putative destruction of one area to be seen against a greater whole — context. What might be a tragic episode for a one-eyed Disney-esque perspective might in fact be a convenient trade-off of development and conservation on a view with more depth. It might well be the case that Indonesians could decide for themselves that Bangka, as beautiful as it is, is a sacrifice worth making.

No doubt, however, Indonesia’s turbulent political history, and the economic circumstances of many Indonesians have precluded the kind of public debate about planning we might expect in the UK. But then, is the issue environmental? Or is it political? The basis on which FoE decide to intervene in the lives of Indonesians, then, doesn’t emerge out of a desire to work in solidarity with poor Indonesians, but out of what seems to be a desire to ‘protect the environment’. Hence, FoE call for ‘Europe-wide legislation requiring full reporting on product supply chain impacts’. FoE demand that mining shouldn’t occur without ‘community consent’, but the politics of tin mining in Indonesia is to be settled in Brussels and Strasbourg. It’s not enough that the EU’s undemocratic influence only extends as far as Europe; it is to set standards for the rest of the world, too, driven, as it is, by ‘civil society’ organisations — NGOs like Friends of the Earth. Environmental concerns, invariably expressed in unscientific and hopelessly catastrophic terms with no sense of proportion, are turned into world wide legislation by a level of governance with barely a mandate even from the people it governs. ‘Community consent’, my elbow.

Barely a mandate… for what seems to be a desire to ‘protect the environment’ But is that the whole story?

Something akin to a mandate is necessary, though, of course. And here we return to the disproportionate emphasis on just 95 tonnes of tin, that may possibly have been produced in Indonesia.

Friends of the Earth are attempting to raise the profile of their campaign by emphasising the putative environmental impact on a consumer item of choice — the smartphone. In this way, it is able to piggyback off, if not hijack, the marketing hype and consumer demand for these items. The remaining 276,905 tonnes of tin used in almost every other electronic item and plumbing system is not part of this story.

The campaign is launched. Obedient journalists (if that is what they really are) at The Guardian pick up the press release, and a journalist is sent off by plane, to meet with the victims of your desire for a smartphone…

Death metal: tin mining in Indonesia
If you own a mobile, it’s probably held together by tin from the Indonesian island of Bangka. Mining is wrecking the environment and every year it claims dozens more lives

Yes, ‘if you own a mobile’, possibly… But also if you own a kettle, a low energy CFL lamp, an oven, a boiler, a radio… anything… it too is ‘probably held together by tin…’ from the same place.

But no matter, the campaign has its publicity, and asks for the public to ‘Take Action‘. Meanwhile, the manufacturers, keen to sustain their fluffy eco-friendly PR are forced to submit. Companies embarrassed, and public mood demonstrated, the NGO takes the proof of concept and demonstration of public mood to the legislators.

To say that this is cynical would be an understatement. After all, where is FoE’s campaign for  the rights of workers who are not involved in extractive industries? Why is ‘community consent’ an issue only where a community attached to a ‘precious ecosystem’? And what business is it of the EU’s or the FoE’s to demand negotiations between the ‘community’ and the mining operations? The ‘environment’ is merely a basis from which political interests can extend their reach.

So the failure to develop a sense of proportion is strategic. The story begins with a tall tale about your smartphone and the ugly impact of mining on a picturesque landscape. The 95 tonnes is but a tiny fraction of the tin extracted anywhere, but the campaign mobilises (pardon the pun) consumer guilt about the remaining bulk, and turns it into political capital. Next we see the lot of the workers, but again, not in proportion, and not in the context of development — they are helpless victims, incapable of organising themselves politically, and so need European NGOs and political institutions to protect them. And of course, the ‘environmental destruction’ itself is not discussed in terms of what an appropriate level of protection is necessary.

Were there any sense of proportion to the FoE campaign, consumers might shrug, rather than join the campaign. If the ugly steps of economic development and industrialisation were seen in their context of improving conditions, and the growing potential of workers to bargain for rights for themselves, FoE would be unable to put on a parade victims. And if the loss of ‘precious ecosystems’ in our own and other country’s histories were seen in proportion to the vast stretches that — contrary to FoE’s claims — still exist, it would be hard to say that it’s not worth pulling tin out of the ground. And if there was any sense of proportion at all, the few people who are taken in by FoE’s absurd campaigns would carry no weight with EU legislators whatsoever.

But perhaps the worst of the FoE’s campaign is this unholy meeting of EU politics, ‘civil society’ and consumer ‘democracy’. The attempt to forge superficial solidarity between consumers in the West, and Indonesian tin miners belies a compact between wholly undemocratic organisations. FoE market themselves through images of muck and squalor to channel emotions far more cynically than any brand marketing campaign. And rather than simply turning such emotion into profit, FoE turn images of poverty and deforested areas into political power.

  20 Responses to “The New Tin Pot Dictators: Green NGOs”

  1. This is a typical green shake down.

    Money for nothing parasitism, the trademark of all green mafias.

  2. How can you possibly argue that an increase in enrolement at the leading cause of ignorance -public schooling- (NB: not “Education”) is in any way an societal improvement? It makes for certain economic improvements only because it throws more people’s curiosity and natural capabilities for thinking under a bus and turns them into factory fodder who willingly walk into under-paid work where taking orders and shutting their gobs about conditions is the order of the day. Schooling is a pox on the world – but a pre-req if you’re planning on exploitation.

    Aside from that, the green-washing is surely wearing thin.

  3. Scott, I don’t share your views on education. But either way, being at school means not being at work.

  4. I not only don’t share Scott’s views, I take offence at them. When he talks about “ignorance” he doesn’t mean anything at all, other than not sharing his political views.

    Education, and by that I mean public education, is the way to break down the rule by oligarchy and clan. People who have expanded their horizons beyond village and clan – by the ability to read, by travel, by the ability to talk to strangers – does more than anything else to break cycles of ignorance.

    It makes for certain economic improvements only because it throws more people’s curiosity and natural capabilities for thinking under a bus.

    The most close-minded kids are those raised at home, which is precisely why religious fanatics are keenest on home schooling.

    Public school exposes kids to other kids and to other adults. That the teaching might not be politically what you want is irrelevant, because the social learning doesn’t take place in the classroom anyway. Home schoolers keep their kids away from school because they don’t want them to learn dangerously different ideas from other people.

  5. “Millions of us consume foods such as baked beans, soup and tinned tomatoes every year. But supermarkets such as Tesco and Aldi, and many thousands of corner shops everywhere sell food in cans almost certainly made from tinplate that’s come from Bangka Island…”

    Wouldn’t quite be the same, would it!

  6. @Mooloo

    “I not only don’t share Scott’s views, I take offence at them.”

    You are offended by a blog comment which wasn’t directed at you personally but was, in point of fact, leveled at an abstract system? Did you design this system? Or are you a paid pedagogue, nervously sensing in my comment a neo-cretaceous meteor hurtling towards the idea that institutionalised schooling is a good thing?

    “When he talks about “ignorance” he doesn’t mean anything at all, other than not sharing his political views.”

    Your representation of my view of the ignorant is mistaken. I would never claim someone to be ignorant for not sharing my political views and always try to remain diffident in the face of new information.

    “Education, and by that I mean public education, is the way to break down the rule by oligarchy and clan. People who have expanded their horizons beyond village and clan – by the ability to read, by travel, by the ability to talk to strangers – does more than anything else to break cycles of ignorance.”

    “Public education”, as you define it, is an oxymoron. Etymologically speaking, the origin of the word “education” is “to reveal that which is within”. Do you feel that the policy-makers, or indeed some well-meaning teachers, who have zero knowledge of your child can adopt this kind of approach with their schooling of your progeny? In analogous terms, education would most meaningfully treat a child’s arrival at himself as a sculptor treats a block of stone – removing the unnecessary and burdensome elements to reveal the inner form within. In direct opposition to this, however, schooling treats the child as a blank canvas, requiring as many applications of paint as it can handle – and, importantly, using the same palette, applied in *exactly* the same way.

    If you standardise what children learn, without any meaningful accommodation for who they are individually and what they love doing, then they will slowly but surely lose their individuality, their creativity and love for learning. This is how you train fleas – you don’t instruct them; instead, you kill their desire to escape the flea box and then you harness what propensities are left after they’ve abandoned attempts to pursue their unique flea agendas. Public schooling SUPPORTS oligarchy BY DESIGN – because it is an oligarch-designed system. Examine the history of the establishment of the American Education Board (one idea which was definitely not encouraged at school but which is still available in US congressional records) and you will see that it was lobbied for and created by wealthy industrialists who required a far larger underclass of obedient workers than that which was available at the time to staff their factories and industries. In the mid 1800′s, 75% of Americans had independent livelihoods and the rest were building their own stakes – the establishment of institutionalised public schooling provided the means to change all that the betterment of the system and at the expense of the free thinker. Why did institutionalised schooling only rear its head in the last 130 years, when all other institutions were already well established? How did we ever get by? The fact is that institutionalised public schooling we have today originated in Prussia – and was directly based on the Prussian military model to make men fearful of arbitrary authority, malleable and obedient. See von Clausewitz, Fichte, Wunt, Hegel, Kant & co. for how Germany provided not only a technical model but a philosophical justification for moulding you and your children into their vision for mankind.

    You appear to have ill regard for community – which you define as “village and clan”. The family unit is a natural extension of oneself, and the community is a natural extension of one’s family. There is nothing wrong with community – you allude to this yourself, since without being able to find happiness and balance within one’s own community, how can someone be expected to do so with others that they find on their boundary-expanding adventures? Do you believe that we have functional communities these days or are they as terminally ill as the nuclear family appears to be? In this regard, I agree with you that schooling does destroy communities and robs families of the gifts that come with gently kindling curiosity and wonder in the minds of their children. Schooling rips children out of the community and away from their family, and denies them the ability to learn and function naturally in both. But I am afraid I disagree with your point that this leads to breaking the cycle of ignorance – schooling teaches our children “what” to think, not “how” to think, it defines intelligence as memorisation rather than performance, rewards conformity rather than individualism and fails to teach critical thought – the most lethal assailant of ignorance. Is it any wonder that the end result of this process is an individual who has no real sense of self-esteem, and who tries to fill the gaps by buying tin-pot Chinese Smart tablets (which they don’t need) because they are “cool”? Is it any wonder that so many people have fallen victim to the predatory shenanigans of global warming alarmists because schooling has failed to equip them with the intellectual self-defence skills required to see when someone is predating them and selling them a bill of goods?

    “The most close-minded kids are those raised at home, which is precisely why religious fanatics are keenest on home schooling.”

    That may be your experience, but it certainly isn’t mine. I wonder how many home educated children you have actually met or where you’re drawing these claims from. Every single home-educated child I have encountered has been a joy to be around. And every single a***hole I’ve met went to school. And I haven’t met anybody who chose to take responsibility for their kids’ education on religious grounds. But I know plenty of people whose absolute unshakeable “faith” in pedagogy has led their children through the school gates without even the thought of questioning the notion.

    “Public school exposes kids to other kids and to other adults.”

    This may be factually correct, but you miss the fact these very loose ‘connections’ are formed in highly unnatural way. It is functional families and communities which provide children with a rich, natural environment in which to encounter other people of ALL ages and allows for confidence to be built as well as highly worthwhile and meaningful connections. School is anathema to a natural social environment – it is a breeding ground for meaningless competition (gold stars?), peer pressure, social earmarking, bullying and segregation – and this happens because children would rather not be there.

    “That the teaching might not be politically what you want is irrelevant, because the social learning doesn’t take place in the classroom anyway.”

    It’s not about what they do or don’t teach “politically” at school – it’s about the fact that children are being denied the option to become themselves and that leads to some profound societal problems and has actually become a driver of countless industries – prisons, policing, psychoactive drugs (legal), psychoactive drugs (illegal), etc.

    “Home schoolers keep their kids away from school because they don’t want them to learn dangerously different ideas from other people.”

    From what I’ve found, the families who chose to home educate do so because they want their children to explore all sides of the argument, and thus have the best possible chance of thriving in an increasingly corporate-owned, predatory society. I can agree with you that schools do promote ‘dangerously different ideas’ – one is that “global warming” is caused by these little mites being born, another is that if they can’t memorise these “facts” and spew them back onto a page when told to, their livelihoods will be affected.

    Here’s a dangerous idea for the sovereign mind; parents CAN educate their own children – and do a far better job of it than schools.

  7. I have removed a comment. This discussion will not be derailed by an argument about the rights and wrongs of education.

  8. The state we are in is directly driven by the stimuli and influences we encounter as a society. Respectfully, it’s a shame you can’t regard it as a necessary part of the argument.

  9. So Ben exactly how many millions has Apple and Samsung bunged to Green Causes to get get them of their backs.

  10. The Guardian article dates from last November. The author is their South East Asia correspondent based in Bangkok. She has Green interests, and a four-part article on her website about trying not to fly, which is clearly impossible in her job. (though one might question her need to go to India simply to visit a town which happened to share her Slovak name).
    How she manages to quote the FoE anti-Samsung campaign two months before it was launched is a bit of a mystery.
    Her article is actually extremely informative. The atrocious conditions and rising death toll in tin mining seem to be due to illegal “informal” mining, as she calls it.
    The problem seems to be that you can’t get an article on a serious subject published these days in the Guardian unless you link it to the environment. They have an article today about how the war in Mali is hindering action to mitigate climate change. When you read it, you discover that the war has disrupted the distribution of seeds by a western NGO, and the seeds are designed (presumably by some fiendish western multinational) to grow in all sorts of climates, which is obviously a good idea, given that Mali is tropical jungle in the South and desert in the north.
    The two photos used in her article are brilliant, and are credited to Ulet Ifansasti/Friends Of The Earth.

  11. Ben: your reference to FoE’s ignoring the dreadful consequences of extracting rare earth metals ((a) for “green” products and (b) in China) nails it. FOE not only exhibits a poor sense of proportion, it’s also blatantly hypocritical – especially where its obsessions are concerned and/or its EU/NGO allies are powerless.

    For example, this article (about the world’s planned 1,200 coal-fired power plants – mostly in China and India) quotes FoE’s Guy Shrubsole as saying:

    This is a scary number of coal-fired plants being planned. It is clear that the vested interests of coal companies are driving this forward and that they will have to be reined in by governments.

    No, Guy – it’s the Chinese and Indian governments themselves that are driving this forward.

  12. What strikes me most, Ben, is FoE’s colonialist attitudes. While many Greens really believe that Chinese coal plants threaten Europe (thus giving the EU grounds for involvement), no one is making an argument that Indonesian tin mines have any impact on Europe at all, apart from making its manufactured items a tiny bit cheaper. Whether Indonesia’s tin policies are evil or just making the best of a bad hand, they don’t hurt — and probably help — Europe.

    So why get involved at all? FoE makes no argument that Kipling didn’t make better, and clearer. They wish the EU to once again take up the, er, burden, of managing the affairs of who they clearly see as sullen half-children unable to do for themselves.

  13. Robin Guenier:
    “this article .. quotes FoE’s Guy Shrubsole as saying: This is a scary number of coal-fired plants being planned..”
    And who’s Guy Shrubsole? FOE spokesman, UKYCC delegate to Copenhagen, WWF trainee, and author of an article at the NewLeft Project; “The UK Climate Movement: Eight Reasons to be Optimistic” where Robin’s and my comments are now censored.
    The FoE press release only exists because the Guardian’s SE Asia correspondent leaked it two months in advance in an article based on a visit where she was accompanied by a FoE photographer. Who paid, the loss-making “facts are sacred” Guardian, or the highly profitable NGO FoE? (But an NGO can’t be accused of being profitable, can it? Not according to orthodox capitalist rules, but who’s sticking to orthodox capitalist rules? Surely not the FoE?)
    The FoE only exists because a founding member like Tom Burke has gone on to become environmental policy adviser to Rio Tinto, visiting professor at Imperial College and University College, senior business adviser to the foreign secretary’s special representative on climate change, member of the external review committee of Shell, and adviser to three Secretaries of State of the Environment. (that comes from a CV supplied by Guardian editor Rusbridger at a recent Greenpeace debate)
    So is environmentalism a religion, an ideology, or a government-backed Ponzi scheme?: Discuss.

  14. Geoff: “So is environmentalism a religion, an ideology, or a government-backed Ponzi scheme?”

    Why not all of them at the same time? These people run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. They eat their cake and have it too. It’s a fine old life!

    Kate Hodal is against flying, but nonetheless flies. John Vidal is against flying, but flies prolifically. Vivienne Westwood instigates “Climate Revolution” but jets off to open Shanghai Fashion Week, while her partners Lush Cosmetics bankroll Plane Stupid and HACAN but rake in the cash from their outlet in Orlando International Airport. Jeremy Grantham pays Bob Ward to attack fossil fuel interests out of income derived from fossil fuels. Al Gore attacks fossil fuels but works hand in glove with the fossil-fuelled Qataris. FoE attacks Samsung and Apple when it suits but uses them to promote ethical shopping and gets a cut from the proceeds, again when it suits.

    If Joseph Heller’s character Milo Minderbinder were a real person and living now, I tell you he’d be taking notes from these people!

  15. Geoff: “So is environmentalism a religion, an ideology, or a government-backed Ponzi scheme?”

    None exactly: it’s the Establishment – the ruling class.

  16. Re the environmentalists as the establishment, it reminds me of something Tom Burke said at the “broken filter” event last year:

    “… Greenpeace are still running David and Goliath as their core story, and you know the thing about the David and Goliath story – nobody knows what they were fighting about, but everybody knows whose side they’re on – brilliant piece of communications. We haven’t adapted in the environmental community our narrative to the fact that we’re now mainstream. Once upon a time we were the contrarians, so we were news, now we’re mainstream, and unless we sound like we’re talking about the things that people care about, we’re not going to get covered.”

    It’s as if they’re playing at being both David and Goliath, in a fight that resembles something organised by the WWE.

  17. [...] few weeks back, I took a look at the Friends of the Earth campaign that links Samsung to environmental destruction in Indonesia. FoE wanted to mobilise public [...]

  18. [...] But that’s nothing compared to another poster which features a photograph of North Korea’s late dictator, Kim Jong Il with the text: “Standby lights are evil” added to it. I can’t think of a better illustration of one of Ben Pile’s frequent themes. As he says: “environmentalists have no sense of proportion.” [...]

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