The Inconvenient Truth about Greenwashing


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"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;color:black”>A discussion initiated by activist, author and filmmaker Naomi Klein has raised important questions for the environmental movement, from the character of mainstream groups to the strategies of the left. Chris Williams, author of Ecology and Socialism: Solutions to Capitalist Ecological Crisis and a participant in the ecosocialist coalition a three-part article.

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color:black”>: the science and art of using a fighting force to the best advantage having regard to the immediate situation of combat.
Strategy: the science and art of conducting a military campaign in its large-scale and long-term aspects.
— The New Webster's Comprehensive Dictionary of the English Language

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";color:black”>NAOMI KLEIN, in a recent interview for Salon.com titled "Green groups may be more damaging than climate change deniers," has sparked a furious debate among activists on the right and left of the North American environmental movement.

 in a quite rancorous piece, labeled Klein's views as "filled with contrarian 'media bait' statements devoid of substance" and recommended that no one review or buy her upcoming book and film on climate change.

Klein responded that since neither her book nor her film have been released yet, offering a critique of them was "a new twist on old-school arrogance"–and that if anyone was guilty of "taking a sledge hammer to an ally," Romm should examine "what's in your (bloody) hand."

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 justice, as activists of color did when they formed organizations in the late 1970s and early '80s to tackle virulent and pervasive institutionalized environmental racism, this debate actually goes back, as Naomi Klein referenced, to controversies that first emerged with the rise to prominence of the modern U.S. environmental movement in the late 1960s.

 relationship and opposing sides with distinct interests.

To quote Van Jones in a Washington Post article earlier this year, "We essentially have a racially segregated environmental movement…We're too polite to say that. Instead, we say we have an environmental justice movement and a mainstream movement."

  noted:

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";color:black”>This problem [of separation between grassroots environmental justice organizations and large Green NGOs] reflects a shortcoming of many mainstream environmental advocates: while denouncing the fact that the climate change will disproportionately impact poor people and people of color in the Global South, many climate advocates have often failed to highlight the ongoing, disproportionate impact of carbon-intensive industries on poor people and people of color in the United States. Campaign energy tends to be focused on coal plants that are geographically proximate to (mostly white, middle-class) climate campaigners–such as coal plants on college campuses–rather than targeting those coal-fired power plants that most heavily impact poor people and people of color.

 an interview for Yale's environmental site e360 on the dearth of leadership and representation from people of color in major environmental organizations, she responded, "There's been a historic failure to articulate the impacts of these issues on communities of color and low-income communities in the United States."

 are seeking to change and become more cognizant of the disproportionate racial impacts of pollution in the North, as well as become more representative, inclusive and involved, as long as there is a focus on a corporate strategy of lobbying, fundraising and high-profile publicity stunts which lack a strong element of social justice, member democracy or community involvement, change will be incremental and painfully slow.

    and, most importantly, the newly emerging indigenous organization   In responding to Klein, the EDF's senior vice president of strategy and communications Eric Pooley said that when "faced with the choice of making real progress in our fight against climate change or waging ideological warfare, we will always choose the former"–as if it is self-evident that the two things are mutually exclusive. In tooting the industry's horn, Pooley wrote:

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";color:black”>In 1991, we helped McDonald's phase out foam "clamshell" sandwich containers. In 2004, EDF and FedEx launched the first "street-ready" hybrid trucks ever built. Today, hybrids are in hundreds of corporate fleets, from UPS to Coca-Cola to the U.S. Postal Service. And since 2008, EDF's Climate Corps program has placed hundreds of MBAs at some of the biggest corporations in the world to both increase energy efficiency today and train them as business leaders of tomorrow. To date, our Climate Corps fellows have identified $1.2 billion in potential energy savings, with greenhouse gas reductions equivalent to taking 200,000 cars off the road.

 "greenwashing," I don't know what does.

 as Klein has previously pointed out, many of the largest Green NGOs not only have tens of millions of dollars–and in some cases, hundreds of millions–invested in the corporate casino otherwise known as the stock market, many don't even screen for weapons manufacturers or fossil fuel stocks, in the midst of a burgeoning student-led divestment campaign.

 the $26 million dollars it received from Chesapeake Energy Corp.–which fracks for natural gas and apparently donated in the hopes of seeing off its competitors in the coal industry–the Club's leaders had no problem swapping donors and accepting double that amount from multibillionaire stop-and-frisk advocate Michael Bloomberg, the mayor who boasts of turning New York City into a value-added commodity and "high end product."

 "the Great Green Fleet"–or the Environmental Protection Agency, which gave a Climate Leadership Award this year to Raytheon, a company which specializes in being "the world's premier missile maker, providing defensive and offensive weapons for air, land, sea and space." 

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