Category Archives: Greenwashing

Obama’s State of the Union: fantasy, fact, fiction or all of the above?

by Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project

During Obama’s State of the Union address last night the presence of the star of the reality TV show Duck Dynasty might have been the most real part of a very surreal evening.

Of particular note were Obama’s comments on energy and climate change.

While the US Southeast was being hammered by a highly unusual winter storm which stranded thousands in the metro Atlanta area, (no, this does not disprove climate change you nitwits, climate scientists have warned for years that a warming globe means extreme and unpredictable weather) Obama was proclaiming a desire to address climate change so that “when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, [we can say] yes we did.”

This sounds wonderful until we consider the “all of the above” energy strategy Obama touted earlier in the speech, which gives a nod to some of the dirtiest, most polluting and destructive energy sources.  It includes shale oil from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota–the gas flares of which can be seen from space.  This shale oil is so extremely volatile that in the past year two trains carrying bakken oil have exploded.  It means more coal; it means more deep water offshore drilling of the type that caused the BP oil spill disaster.  It means more nukes, even in the shadow of the ongoing catastrophe at Fukushima.  And it means more fracking.  Obama made a big show of his support for natural gas “if extracted safely,” which it is not.

Obama spent exactly one paragraph on climate change.  He declared it a fact.  That anyone even needs to do that in this day and age, decades after global warming was identified as a problem, after the Northeast US was smashed by not one but two hurricanes in two consecutive years, after Super-Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines, after the record droughts in Australia, Africa and the US Midwest–to name just a few climate-related catastrophes of the past 8 years–is astounding.  However, climate change is not only a fact. In my opinion it is the single greatest threat to future generations of humans and most other species.  Yet it merited only a passing mention.  One paragraph out of a 13 page speech.

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Filed under Climate Change, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Green Economy, Greenwashing, Oil, Political Repression, Pollution, Posts from Anne Petermann

Earth Watch Interview: Simone Lovera of Global Forest Coalition on UN Climate Talks

Last week’s Earth Minute discussed COP-19, the UN Climate Talks in Warsaw Poland. Simone Lovera, Executive Director of Global Forest Coalition described the situation on the ground.

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Climate Change, Climate Justice, False Solutions to Climate Change, Green Economy, Greenwashing, Pollution, UNFCCC, Warsaw/COP-19

Sojourner Truth show Earth Minute on U Florida censorship of GE trees talk

Global Justice Ecology Project teams up weekly with Pacifica’s Sojourner Truth show hosted by Margaret Prescod to cover important news about the environment.  Every Tuesday we produce an “Earth Minute” and each Thursday an “Earth Watch” interview segment with an activist from the front lines of the battle to protect mother Earth.

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Filed under Climate Change, Corporate Globalization, Earth Minute, Earth Radio, Forests, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, Greenwashing, Political Repression

Need and Greed

Note: Today’s essay and yesterday’s were penned this past week by 14 year-old Lena Heinrich, daughter of Rachel Smolker, co-Director of BiofuelWatch and Berndt Heinrich, noted naturalist.  They are both insightful and inspiring.  We hope you enjoy them.

–The GJEP Team

By Lena Heinrich

The first thing my dad said when I was born was that I looked like a raven, due to my black hair (he was studying them at the time); he seemed to get his kicks from placing my brother and I in baskets, then letting the ravens he was observing in our aviary dote over us.

My Dad is a simple, serious and focused man, who some might say isn’t quite caught up with society, still carrying a number of the values passed down to him through his parents and his experiences in life. Some of my fondest memories with my father are of catching insects to prepare for his collections, and watching him sit hunched over his boxes, carefully splaying the bugs wings and legs just so, pinning here and there, until they were perfectly displayed, like they might fly off the pin board any second. It was an art, and for a child, it was simply mesmerizing to be able to examine the different bugs up close, with their brittle limbs, fur and sometimes bright colors. He would point out which wing patterns were used for camouflage and the purpose for each of the insects unique anatomical features with glassy, immersed eyes and an unsaid sense of pride as I prodded him with questions about luna moths and larvae.

His study room was a dusty, forbidden, musk smelling wonderland of old books and boxes and boxes of insects, from every country imaginable- rare stag beetles and cicadas that only come out one night every 60 years to common bees, all displayed with the same undying care and precision. With careful hands, he would hold beetles up to the sunlight for me, so as to show me how the light changed the drab black insect into a flashing array of colors. His work is solitary and, to me, trying, but he goes about it with child-like intrigue every day, always searching for an explanation and a better understanding of the natural world, which is one of the reasons as to why he now resides in the forest in a cabin in Maine, to live simply.

Although I don’t share the same need for an explanation for the ways in which nature works, being the child of an environmentalist and a biologist, I’ve been raised and instilled with a deep appreciation, respect and understanding of nature and peoples place in it that goes back for generations of explorers and scientists on both my mother and father’s side.

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Filed under Climate Change, False Solutions to Climate Change, Greenwashing

Feel Good-Ism

Note: This remarkable essay and tomorrow’s were penned this past week by 14 year-old Lena Heinrich, daughter of Rachel Smolker, co-Director of BiofuelWatch and Berndt Heinrich, noted naturalist. They are both insightful and inspiring.  We hope you enjoy them.

–The GJEP Team

By Lena Heinrich

One thing I’ve always known about myself and my sense of place is that I’m not so much tied to a specific and defined area, but more through an appreciation and respect of the natural world, which I channel through my feelings of needing to protect it, so for this project I put together a small article in hopes that I could educate some people and possibly spark someone else’s interest, which I’m going to read aloud now.

What people may be expecting from a speech about environmentalism is a convincing and sweet paragraph about why you should recycle, drive a prius, change your lightbulbs, and go vegan- what I’m going to give you today is not that. As sweet and symbolic as the notion of being able to make “big change through small actions” is, it is also extremely disempowering, and, contrary to popular belief, has little to no correlation to the dire environmental crisis’ at hand, even if the entire world was to do all those things religiously- this belief of change is less about making actual change, and more of a “selfish obsession with personal morality”.

Though using reusable grocery bags and biking to school rather than driving are all good things to do and these small actions within our individual lives may make us feel good about ourselves, they ultimately have little to no effect on our carbon footprint, and if any are replaced by more detrimental habits. An example of this is the person who gives up meat, only to start eating higher amounts of imported nuts that naturally have a higher carbon footprint than locally purchased meat.

Where did this idea of individual responsibility for the environment come from? Corporations looking to undermine green movements for the purpose of growth and profit. What corporations have made people believe to be change is no match whatsoever for the odds we’re up against if people are to continue living on our tiny and delicately balanced planet. Coke doesn’t want you to stop buying it’s products, so they have spread the mindset that as long as you’re recycling the plastic bottle, you’re safe. The car industry doesn’t want people to stop buying cars, so they spread the mindset that as long as you drive a car with better mileage, you’re making all the change you should be expected to make.

The idea that simple things like picking up litter can have any kind of effect on the state of our environment was produced and funded by corporations through commercials and companies, and made to diverge the attention away from the destructive ways of those very corporations and move the spotlight onto the idea of individual peoples’ roles in ruining the environment and their personal role and responsibility in fixing it. This idea has been supported and it’s traction has only increased from businesses and even well-meaning individuals and their movements within their own towns, schools, communities, and states.

Webpages like “10 simple and easy ways to save the environment” and blogs about simple lifestyle changes made while shopping for groceries or doing house chores have sprouted out of nowhere, all implying that we really can save the earth without even breaking a sweat. That is the type of environmentalism that corporations fund, because it still supports America’s unhealthy death-wish mega-consumer lifestyle. The truth is, though, that there is no way to shop our ways out of the crisis.

The kind of change needed is that of a much larger scale- what our world needs to save itself is not more recycling bins, but a complete social and political turnaround within our people, culture, government, policies and corporations; that includes a healthy environment, gay and lesbian rights, accessible health care for all, and a more democratic process, but there is no way we are going to achieve those ideals without banishing the notions and stereotypes surrounding activism and getting the youth population and general populations aware, educated and empowered about the state of the environment.

No single person can make change whilst staying in their own personal life or community- what is needed is a stand-up, and a fight back, and an iron fist from the inhabitants of the earth we are currently on the path of destroying completely. The materialistic and ignorant consumer lifestyle people in the United States lead, though comfortable, is inefficient and is leading humans down a rosy path of extinction in the next 60 years. On the course we are taking, our generation could be the first to die not of old age, but mass extinction.

To save our planet, we have to make fast and powerful changes throughout the world, but especially in the United States- and though the idea is nice, we can’t get distracted by the “feel good” tactics of change we’ve been brainwashed to believe is the be-all-end-all of what we can do to preserve ourselves as a species. Doing what is necessary to save Earth will not be comfortable and it will not be as simple as dropping your soda bottle in the right bin or switching a light bulb or two. It will require real power and a real revolution among our people. New laws and policies regarding the environment will need to be implemented along with a complete change in cultural norms and the ways in which we are using technology.

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Biodiversity, Climate Change, False Solutions to Climate Change, Greenwashing

KPFK Sojourner Truth Earth Minute: Honduras hosts ‘sustainable’ palm oil convention, despite related human rights abuses

August 7, 2013. 

kpfk_logoGlobal Justice Ecology Project teams up with the Sojourner Truth show on KPFK Pacifica Los Angeles for a weekly Earth Minute each Tuesday and a weekly Earth Watch interview each Thursday.

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Filed under Bioenergy / Agrofuels, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests, Green Economy, Greenwashing, Indigenous Peoples, Industrial agriculture, Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean

Obama’s green agenda seen through Vermont eyes

Note: Will Bennington, featured in the article below, is Development and Campaigns Associate with Global Justice Ecology Project’s Vermont office.  He is also a volunteer organizer with Rising Tide Vermont.  Bennington has not listened to Obama’s speech, and doesn’t plan to.  Instead, along with GJEP Executive Director Anne Petermann, he went straight to the actual policy document.  Apparently, other environmentalists in Vermont would prefer to chew on the rhetoric instead of digesting the facts, which are more coal, more nukes, more fracking, more industrial biofuels and more false solutions taking us over the climate cliff.

-The GJEP Team

By Joel Baird, June 25, 2013. Source: Burlington Free Press

Energy efficiency isn’t a bold, new idea in Vermont. Nor is the quest for renewable energy and cleaner air.

But Green Mountain environmental activists took keen notice of President Obama’s unveiling Tuesday afternoon of a new, national climate action plan.

Within minutes of the speech’s conclusion, author Bill McKibben, a Ripton resident and founder of the global 350.org movement, issued a single, simple email.

In response to Obama’s remark that approval of the Keystone XL tar-sand pipeline from Alberta, Canada, hinged on its contribution to increases in greenhouse gas levels (a widely acknowledged outcome), McKibben wrote: “This is an appropriate standard that the president appears to be setting.”
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Filed under Climate Change, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Green Economy, Greenwashing, Hydrofracking, Nuclear power, Oil, Pollution, REDD, Tar Sands

Obama’s plan for the climate: Greenwash our way into oblivion

By Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project

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Image captured from The Weather Channel

At 1:45 today, President Obama announced his new Climate Action Plan in a nationally televised speech.

He described the emerging climate crisis and its impacts–both past, present and future, while be suffered the heat of an abnormally warm June day in Washington, DC. His arguments for climate action were compelling and hard to argue with.  Unfortunately his actions do not match his words.

Unlike Bill McKibben, I do not believe that “the solutions agenda [Obama has] begun to advance moves the country in a sane direction.” (Did you read the actual Climate Action Plan, Bill?!?)  No, what I read in Obama’s Action Plan was a rehashing of the same old dangerous false solutions that many of us have been fighting for years and years.  But what’s really criminal is that even though Obama clearly understands both the science and implications of climate change, he still pushes an agenda that will drive us all over the climate cliff.

First the plan’s “Case for Action” reiterates Obama’s pledge to decrease carbon emissions by a paltry 17% below 2005 levels by 2020–but only if all other major economies agree to do so as well. Climate scientists are not calling for 17% reductions by 2020. In fact, countries like the US need to reduce our emissions by 80-90%.  And not in seven years, but immediately.  Last year preferably.

The main takeaway from Obama’s greenwashed nonsense? We can continue our unsustainable way of life indefinitely with just a few key tweaks.

“Deploy Clean Energy.” Ain’t nothin’ clean about this.  Obama’s “clean energy” plan includes more fracking, more oil, more nukes, more biofuels and “clean coal.”  Yes, Obama wants to stop climate change by screwing over rural communities through promotion of more hydrofracking and increased natural gas exports; expanding domestic oil production–including the hellish Bakken shale oil fields (but don’t worry, it will be clean Bakken oil­–no really, that’s in there); devoting more land to growing feedstocks for plant-based liquid fuels (i.e. less land for biodiversity, growing food or for peasant communities to survive on); protecting forests that store carbon while cutting down trees to burn for electricity production; building more nuclear power plants (apparently never heard of Three Mile Island, Chernobyl or Fukushima); and maintaining the fantasy of that wonderful oxymoron “clean coal.” Sane direction?

Spur Investment in Advanced Fossil Energy Projects. Like “clean” coal, we can burn our fossil fuels and stop climate change too!

Maintain Agricultural Sustainability. For this one, Obama wants us to trust the vehemently pro-GMO US Department of Agriculture to “deliver tailored, science-based knowledge to farmers, ranchers and forest landowners.”  ‘Climate ready’ GMO crops anyone?

Negotiate Global Free Trade in Environmental Goods and Services. Right, cuz global free trade has served biodiversity, ecosystems and the 99% so well!

But the most ludicrous item is the last on the menu: “Leading efforts to address climate change through international negotiations.”  (I know, I know, stop laughing)

This section excels in Orwellian newspeak. It highlights the disastrous 2009 UN Copenhagen Climate Conference as “historic progress,” and insists that the secretly negotiated Copenhagen Accord (that was booed even by reporters when Obama announced it late in the negotiations) was a breakthrough in developing “a new regime of international transparency.” Omitted is the fact that this Accord was never actually consensed upon, but merely “noted” by the official body.  Well history is “his story” after all…

The section goes on to trumpet the accomplishments of the equally disastrous UN Climate Conference in Durban in 2011–about which Nature Magazine wrote “It is clear that the science of climate change and the politics of climate change, now inhabit parallel worlds.”

Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of Friends of the Earth International similarly condemned Durban’s outcomes, “developed countries, led by the US, accelerated the demolition of the world’s international framework for fair and urgent climate action. And developing countries have been bullied and forced into accepting an agreement that could be a suicide pill for the world. An increase in global temperatures of four degrees Celsius, permitted under this plan, is a death sentence for Africa, small island states, and the poor and vulnerable worldwide. This summit has amplified climate apartheid whereby the richest 1% of the world have decided that it is acceptable to sacrifice the 99%.”

But Obama’s Climate Action Plan insists Durban was “a breakthrough”–because countries agreed to come up with some kind of new climate agreement that would not go into force until 2020.

Gee, guess who won’t be in office anymore in 2020…

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Filed under Climate Change, Climate Justice, Copenhagen/COP-15, Corporate Globalization, False Solutions to Climate Change, Greenwashing, Oil, Pollution, Posts from Anne Petermann, UNFCCC