Greenpeace

Greenpeace is the largest environmental organization in the world, with an international membership of over 3 million and offices in over 40 countries. Forbes magazine once described it as “a skillfully managed business” with full command of “the tools of direct mail and image manipulation — and tactics that would bring instant condemnation if practiced by a for-profit corporation.” But Greenpeace has escaped public censure by hiding behind the mask of its “non-profit” status and its U.S. tax exemption. In other countries, however, Greenpeace has not been as lucky: Both Canada and New Zealand have revoked the organization’s non-profit status, noting that the group’s overly politicized agenda no longer has any “public benefit.”

Greenpeace was originally the brainchild of the radical “Don’t Make a Wave Committee,” a group of American draft-dodgers who fled to Vancouver in 1969 and, supported by money from anti-war Quaker organizations, got into the business of forcibly blocking American nuclear tests. Over the years the group has loudly made its feelings known on a variety of issues (nuclear testing, whaling, and global warming, for instance), and its Amsterdam-based activist moguls pull the strings on what is estimated to be a $360 million global empire.

In the United States, however, Greenpeace is a relatively modest activist group, spending about $10 million per year. And the lion’s share of that budget in recent years has gone to outrageous attempts to smear agricultural biotech products, consumer electronics, and the logging and fishing industries.

  • Greenpeace campaigns against all forms of energy production except for wind and solar. Unfortunately, a whopping 98 percent of the world’s energy supply comes from sources other than wind and solar, This is not likely to change anytime soon due to the cost, both in dollars and in raw materials, required to produce wind turbines and photovoltaic arrays.
  • Greenpeace claims to be dedicated to saving the whales. They are happy to exploit the emotional impact of the slaughter of these noble creatures to raise funds and recruit members, but less interested in acting to end the practice of whaling worldwide. In principle, Greenpeace is not even opposed to whaling.
  • Greenpeace is against the use of numerous chemical substances including, but not limited to, elemental chlorine, one of the building blocks of life on our planet. Considering that chlorine is responsible for providing much of the world with clean drinking water, and the Earth’s population with some 85 percent of all pharmaceuticals and vitamins, this hard-line stance is must be considered both uninformed and inhumane.
  • Greenpeace is unwavering in its conviction that the “unforeseen” health and environmental consequences of planting genetically engineered crops that can grow in hostile environments will forever outweigh any potential humanitarian benefits. While they mount protests aimed at ripping these mutant “Frankenfoods” from the soil and the supermarket shelves, impoverished populations around the globe suffer from the preventable pandemic of malnutrition.
  • Greenpeace remains bent on destroying aquaculture industry while they continue to raise alarm about the status of wild fish stocks. Using the apocalyptic image of oceans picked clean of all aquatic organisms, Greenpeace keeps raking in the donations while battling against an industry that is already taking great pains to ensure its sustainability.

Instead of working hand-in-hand with business owners to forge a path towards a sustainable future like other less myopic environmental organizations, Greenpeace’s dogmatic adherence to the precautionary principle causes them to overlook the fatal flaws inherent in their own radical policies.

Current Campaigns

Today, Greenpeace is runninging active campaigns against both their old foes — the nuclear, logging, and whaling industries — and several newer, even more preposterous targets including the fishing industry, GE agriculture, and companies producing “toxic” consumer electronics.

Fish Tales

Most recently, Greenpeace USA has raised a false alarm regarding the growth of the biotech fisheries industry. A handful of innovative businesses have learned how to genetically improve certain salmon species to make them grow faster, and Greenpeace will have none of it. The group is doing all it can to frighten consumers of this new product, and is working behind the scenes to have it banned before it can even reach the marketplace.

To this day, Greenpeace remains bent on destroying aquaculture industry even as they continue to raise alarm about the status of wild fish stocks. Farmed fish, such as salmon, actually take pressure off wild stocks, while providing consumers with an affordable source of heart-healthy, omega-3-rich protein. But Greenpeace wants to make farmed salmon the enemy of wild salmon. To this end, the group concocted an alarmist campaign focusing on the threat of sea lice. Unfortunately for Greenpeace, a direct causal link between sea lice and declining wild salmon populations has yet to be proven, and in the meantime the aquaculture industry is hard at work finding new, better, and even more sustainable methods to ensure that their product can continue to help both human and wild fish populations.

But along with targeting aquaculture, Greenpeace wants to make it all but impossible to harvest wild populations of any fish species regardless of sustainability. In 2008, Greenpeace released its seafood sustainability “report” designed to pressure American supermarkets into removing almost half of all currently available seafood. On page one of the alarmist diatribe, Greenpeace claims that world’s commercial fisheries could collapse within the next 40 years and that “90 percent of stocks of large predatory fish have already been lost.” Unfortunately for the alarmists at Greenpeace, these numbers are based on a long-since debunked study that has been described by a number of independent researchers (and even the original author of the study!) as “flawed and full of errors.”

In response to this report, The National Fisheries Institute decided to offer their own, slightly more in-depth look at some of the fish that made Greenpeace’s “Red List”:

  • HokiGreenpeace says hoki is one of the highest priority species for removal from stores. What they don’t’ say is that the New Zealand government recently reduced the catch levels for hoki, based on scientific estimates of its status. This action is the kind of scientifically based decision-making that good fishery managers use — when stocks go up, more fishing can be allowed and when stocks go down, good government managers reduce the fishing. Marine Stewardship Council principles recognize these fluctuations in stock and reward fisheries that have such good management systems in place. Greenpeace’s failure to recognize this important aspect of sustainable management exposes a real weakness in their own sustainability efforts.
  • Alaska PollockApparently Greenpeace is truly in the dark about this fishery. Alaska Pollock is considered by many NGOs, government fisheries experts, and industry insiders to be a model of fisheries management and meets all of the requirements of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries developed by the Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The Alaska Pollock stock is plentiful and the fishery is sustainably managed. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) puts it this way, “Alaska pollock population levels are high, and no overfishing is occurring.” It’s pretty straightforward.
  • Tropical ShrimpShrimp is America’s favorite seafood. About 92% of the shrimp consumed by Americans is imported, and of that about 86% is farmed. About one third (32% and growing) of the imported, farmed shrimp comes from processing plants that are certified by the Aquaculture Certification Council (ACC) for implementation of their Best Aquaculture Practices. The ACC is currently concentrating on efforts to increase the number of farms participating in the certification program.

Because retailers have no interest in seeing fish that make them a profit suddenly become unavailable, many grocery chains have recently changed their stance on carrying unsustainably sourced seafood. Of course, Greenpeace is more than willing to take credit for this development, despite the fact that several supermarkets have specifically noted that these decisions were made as a result of advice given not by Greenpeace, but by the New England Aquarium and other, less fanatical organizations.

Indeed, the news regarding sustainable fishing practices is much less dire than Greenpeace would have you believe. While Greenpeace spends its time digging up old, debunked studies to compile into alarmist reports designed to elicit an “emotional response” about the grim state of our fisheries, independent government scientists have gone about their work assessing the actual sustainability of American fish stocks. And, wouldn’t you know it, the headline for NOAA’s 2008 Status of U.S. Fisheries Report is “Seven Stocks Removed from Overfishing List, None Added.” Good news, right? Compare that to the subhead for Greenpeace’s “Carting Away the Oceans” report: “Grocery Stores are Emptying the Seas.”

Incidentally, according to the NOAA report, among those fish stocks not listed as subject to overfishing are the Central Western Pacific yellowfin tuna, Atlantic bigeye tuna, and both the north and south stocks of monkfish — all species featured on Greenpeace’s Red List. For the most up-to-date statistics on the real status of which species of fish are subject to overfishing, click here.

Talking Tuna

Not content to limit their propaganda to the fishing business as a whole, Greenpeace has recently singled out the tuna industry for an even more targeted and intensive attack. In keeping with its usual modus operandi, Greenpeace launched a national campaign that vilifies tuna companies through grossly hyperbolic videos, accompanied by urgent fundraising letters.

Ignoring the fact that canned tuna is one of the best and least expensive sources of such essential nutrients as protein, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids, Greenpeace appears determined to coerce retailers into clearing their shelves of this nutritious food.

“Rather than working on real sustainability initiatives, Greenpeace continues to try to bully U.S. tuna canners,” said Gavin Gibbons, a spokesman for the National Fisheries Institute, an industry-backed non-profit group. “Its efforts consist of childish stunts as opposed to real science and meaningful collaboration. Greenpeace marginalizes itself in the conversation about tuna sustainability by choosing to be a side show.”

While Greenpeace strives to shock and awe the public into donating to their misguided crusade, other high-powered conservation groups, such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), have decided to abandon stunts in favor of working hand-in-hand with the tuna companies through the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF). Founded in 2008 by tuna industry leaders, marine scientists, and the WWF, the ISSSF brings together companies, governments, scientists and conservation activists to identify best practices and ecologically sustainable solutions to ensure the long term health of all tuna stocks, while protecting oceans and minimizing the impact of fishing on other marine animals.

Greenpeace argues that the siren song of the almighty dollar is the only thing driving the tuna industry’s decisions regarding its fishing practices. But the truth is that if tuna disappear from the oceans, the tuna industry would cease to exist. If tuna companies are as greedy as Greenpeace would have us believe, it’s hard to imagine they would be gunning for a future that robbed them of the single factor ensuring their continued economic success.

Thankfully, like many of the other fish species Greenpeace has red-listed, evidence shows that the species used in canned tuna are nearly as plentiful as they were 60 years ago. Ray Hilborn, professor of aquatic and fishery sciences at the University of Washington and former member of the President’s Commission on Ocean Policy, notes that “On average, the tuna and billfish of the world are fished at levels that will produce maximum sustainable yield and are at the abundance that will produce maximum sustainable yield. The U.S. fisheries are doing extremely well.”

And while Greenpeace continues to raise money by promoting an apocalyptic vision of a world with oceans devoid of all living things, Hilborn says that this message of fear is far from the truth.

The oceans are not picked clean at all. There are lots of fish in the ocean, but not as many as there would be if we did not rely on the oceans for food. If you want to feed the world from capture fisheries you have to accept that the oceans will be different. … But if you compare wild capture fishing to producing food in other ways, fishing looks pretty good. In fact, it looks much better. No matter how you measure environmental impact: carbon footprints, amount of water used, (you can catch fish in the ocean without fresh water!), antibiotics, biodiversity loss fishing has a lower environmental footprint than producing animal protein on the land. In order to produce the crops to feed chicken, pigs or cows you rip out native ecosystems and replace them with exotic species. Fishing maintains ecosystems that are largely natural — different but much less different than agricultural systems.

If Greenpeace succeeds in getting affordable, nutritious tuna removed from all supermarket shelves, consumers will be forced to turn to other inexpensive sources of protein and fat, namely beef, chicken, and pork. Surely Greenpeace knows the environmental costs involved in raising more livestock — lost habitat, increased water consumption, and increased use of pesticides, fertilizer, and antibiotics — and yet they seem to prefer this option to a future of sustainable fishing.

Genetic Engineering: Rise of the “FrankenFoods”

Another Greenpeace campaign deeply rooted in pseudo-science is the anti-GE (Genetically Engineered Food) campaign. It was Greenpeace campaign director Charles Margulis who is credited with coining the term “FrankenFood.” It was Greenpeace activists who conspired with other tax-exempt groups (like Friends of the Earth and the Organic Consumers Association) to “expose” the supposed dangers of StarLink corn. Among Greenpeace’s recent innovations has been the creation of a “citizen’s labeling brigade” — basically a group of hooligans who take the law into their own hands by forcibly adding home-made, propaganda-laden “warning labels” (some complete with skull-and-crossbones artwork) to consumer food products on grocery store shelves. And it was Greenpeace that intentionally inflated the urban legend that biotech corn would place the monarch butterfly population in harm’s way. When your local news carries footage of protesters railing against genetically improved foods, look hard for the slogan-shouting troublemakers wearing monarch butterfly costumes. That’s Greenpeace’s handiwork.

With each cry of “wolf,” Greenpeace seems to up the ante while ignoring the real-world consequences of its rhetoric. The group has warned that genetic crop engineering would cause new and horrible food allergies (it hasn’t), and that biotech corn would endanger monarch butterflies (whose numbers have increased substantially since the introduction of biotech corn). And completely forgotten by the “Frankenfood” protesters is the tremendous potential for biotech foods to solve many of the Third World’s famine-related problems. Tanzania’s Dr. Michael Mbwille (of the non-profit Food Security Network) said it best. “Greenpeace,” he wrote, “prints and circulates these lies faster than the Code Red virus infected the world’s computers. If we were to apply Greenpeace’s scientifically illiterate standards [for soybeans] universally, there would be nothing left on our tables.”

In Britain, France, and elsewhere, Greenpeace vandals have destroyed bio-engineered crops, wiping out millions of dollars in research to develop food plants that require fewer pesticides, are more nutritious, reduce dangerous mold toxins, withstand floods and droughts, and increase crop yields. The people who would benefit most from this research are the poorest, most malnourished on Earth. They could improve their lives, simply by planting different, better corn, cotton, or soybean seeds.

The best example of the harm caused by Greenpeace’s continued opposition to GE crops is the story of the Golden Rice Project. As opposed to soy or corn, rice is not a big money commodity crop — most of the world’s rice crops are eaten where they’re grown, and over 2 billion people worldwide depend on rice as their primary staple. But because it contains very few vitamins or minerals, rice alone cannot provide sufficient nutritional benefits to prevent the devastating effects of malnutrition, specifically vitamin A deficiency. The World Health Organization estimates that, around the world, 190 million children under the age of five may have a vitamin A deficiency. Of those, some 250,000 to 500,000 suffer blindness, and an equal number go on to meet an untimely end in miserable conditions in urban slums. By recent estimates, providing children and families easy access to vitamin A could save 600,000 lives a year in Africa, Asia, and other developing countries.

Golden Rice, a genetically engineered strain of rice that produces beta-carotene, which the human body processes into Vitamin A, was developed by German academics Ingo Potrykus and Peter Beyer with strictly humanitarian purposes in mind. This new, nutritionally fortified grain was created in 1988 could have been on market as early as 1999 or 2000 had Greenpeace not decided to intervene.

Citing the dangers of “unforeseen” health or environmental consequences, Greenpeace vowed to rip the golden grain out of the ground if and whenever it was planted. Surely the organization was aware of the WHO statistics for vitamin A deficiency, yet they still chose to oppose Golden Rice. To Greenpeace, the unknown risks associated with planting this GE crop were far more serious than the known consequences — the continued death and suffering of children around the world. Because of this, Golden Rice’s creator, Ingo Potrykus actually went so far as to accuse Greenpeace of crimes against humanity.

Chemicals

The “Devel’s Element”

Greenpeace’s unwarranted mistrust of chemicals is nearly as old as the group itself. After mounting two largely successful campaigns against nuclear proliferation and whaling, Greenpeace turned its attention to what it saw as the next most clear and present danger: the chemical element chlorine.

Despite the fact that chlorine is responsible for providing much of the world with clean drinking water, and the earth’s population with some 85 percent of all pharmaceuticals and vitamins, Greenpeace maintains its fundamentalist position against the element. According to Greenpeace’s Joe Thornton:

“There are no uses of chlorine which we regard as safe.”

But what began as a campaign against 2,4,5-T (Agent Orange) and dioxins soon expanded to include all forms of this “devil’s element.” Though many forms of chlorine are undoubtedly bad for both humans and the environment, the wholesale rejection of “the use, export, and import of all organochlorines, elemental chlorine, and chlorinated oxidizing agents,” represented a major turning point for the organization.

Considering all chlorine gives us in terms of public heath and medicine (using chlorine to purify drinking water was one of the single biggest advances in the history of public health), this sort of hard-line stance must be considered both anti-science and anti-human.

This disdain for such a fundamental building block of life can be traced back to one of the founding tomes of the environmental movement: Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962). Widely credited with helping launch the environmental movement, Silent Spring documented detrimental effects of pesticides, namely dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) on the environment. Greenpeace immediately latched onto Carson’s central thesis, and soon the entire environmental community was fighting for a full-scale ban of the chemical. As it turns out, however, nowhere in her book did Carson call for the unilateral suspension of chemical insecticides; she simply questioned their arbitrary and unrestricted use. As Patrick Moore points out, “It was not Rachel Carson who was unreasonable, but rather the extremists who used her writings to further a zero tolerance agenda.”

DDT was, and remains to this day, one of the most important tools for fighting the deadly spread of malaria in the developing world. Surely in these situations, the minor risks associated with the chemical are vastly outweighed by the life-saving benefits. But even as late as 2000 Greenpeace continued lobbying the United Nations to rule out the use of DDT against malaria. Not until 2004 — under immense humanitarian pressure — did Greenpeace finally relent and decide to begrudgingly sanction the use of DDT as an insecticide. It is terrifying to think how many lives could have been saved had common sense, moderation, and science triumphed sooner over Greenpeace’s eco-dogma.

War against Electronics and Water Bottles

In 2006, Greenpeace released their “Guide to Greener Electronics,” which rated fourteen consumer electronics vendors including Nokia, Dell, and Apple. While Nokia and Dell received some of the better scores, Greenpeace condemned the entire industry, saying that no company was doing enough to keep toxic chemicals out of consumer electronics. Apple, generally considered one of the leaders in design and innovation, raked near the bottom, coming in 11th place out of 14. In a press release entitled “HP and Apple’s toxic laptops exposed” the organization claimed:

Apple has recently launched its new range of MacBooks, but what you also get with a new MacBook is the highest level of another type of toxic flame retardant, tetrabromobisphenol A.

What they fail to mention in the report is that along with preventing hundreds of deaths each year (by preventing electronics from bursting into flames) tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA) has never been shown to be harmful to humans.

In fact, in October of 2005, a panel of scientific experts from Europe, the EU Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER), reported to the European Commission that TBBPA presents no risk to human health and indicated no need for risk reduction measures.

Another chemical that has recently found its way into the Greenpeace crosshairs is bisphenol A, otherwise known as BPA. BPA is a building block of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins used in nearly every industry, including in the construction of plastic water bottles and food storage containers. According to anti-chemical activists, BPA is a “gender-bender” that mimics the female hormone estrogen and can be “linked” to a host of unpleasant medical conditions ranging from cancer to early onset puberty and dreaded “man boobs.” Once again, however, the hysteria failed to match reality. According to the FDA:

Consumers should know that, based on all available evidence, the present consensus among regulatory agencies in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Japan is that current levels of exposure to BPA through food packaging do not pose an immediate health risk to the general population, including infants and babies.

This is hardly surprising news, especially considering that according to a 2009 Harris poll of full members of the Society of Toxicology, 96 percent of toxicologists believe that Greenpeace overstates chemical health risks. Something to consider next time you hear the Greenpeace Chemical Alarm Bells ringing off the hook.

Early Targets and Continuing Objectives

No Nukes Now. No Nukes Ever.

When Greenpeace was founded in 1969, the possibility of total nuclear annihilation seemed both real and imminent for citizens across the globe, and the organization spent its fledgling years as a vocal opponent of all things nuclear. In 1971, Greenpeace embarked on its first voyage, a trip to Amchitka in the Aleutian Islands, in an effort to stop what was destined to be the United States’ largest underground nuclear weapons test. While that particular mission failed, the Greenpeace founders felt their mission to Amchitka, and the attention it brought to the debate about nuclear testing, played a critical role in convincing President Nixon to cancel the remaining Hydrogen bomb tests. Eventually, Greenpeace was successful in getting their anti-nuclear weapons message heard — loud and clear — across the globe.

Despite the fact that the early 1970s marked the beginning of the end of the Cold War, and with it the slow dissipation of the anxiety surrounding the likelihood of full-blown nuclear holocaust, Greenpeace clung to their convictions regarding the evils of everything nuclear. To this day, Greenpeace maintains that nuclear power is neither safe nor clean. On the organization’s website, they argue:

1: If a meltdown were to occur, the accident could kill and injure tens of thousands of people, leaving large regions uninhabitable. And, more than 50 years after splitting the first atom, science has yet to devise a method for adequately handling long lived radioactive wastes.

The worst nuclear disaster in history occurred in 1986 when the Chernobyl nuclear plant in the Ukraine experienced a full core meltdown. This disaster is widely understood as stemming from a combination of a flawed reactor design and serious mistakes made by the plant’s inadequately trained personnel. To date, Chernobyl is the only accident in the history of commercial nuclear power where radiation-related fatalities occurred. So while dangers of nuclear power are serious indeed, Greenpeace’s fear-mongering surrounding this modality of energy production needs to be put in perspective.

Try this statistic on for size: According to the Caithness Windfarm Information Forum, there were 35 fatalities associated with wind turbines in the United States from 1970 through 2010. Nuclear energy, by contrast, did not kill a single American in that time. Indeed, the nuclear industry in the U.S. has maintained one of the best industrial safety records in the world. In 2008, workers in the U.S. nuclear industry experienced an accident rate of just 0.13 industrial accidents per 200,000 worker-hours. In comparison, the accident rate for all manufacturing industries combined, 3.5 per 200,000 worker hours. That’s 27 times the rate experienced in the nuclear industry.

And as for the storage issue, while the technology to safely store spent nuclear waste (and even to recycle it) has existed for quite some time, Greenpeace and the culture of fear its policies continually promote continue to stand in the way of viable long term solutions the storage and disposal of nuclear waste. The saga of theYucca Mountain site in Nevada is a perfect case in point.

2. For years nuclear plants have been leaking radioactive waste from underground pipes and radioactive waste pools into the ground water at sites across the nation.

This is another case of Cold War history being extrapolated to stand-in for the reality of present technology. Modern storage solutions for used nuclear
fuel are both safe and secure
. Used nuclear fuel takes the form of solid pellets that are not corrosive and can be safely contained in the steel and concrete casks that have been specifically designed to last for hundreds of years or even longer. What is more, all of this used fuel has the capacity to be recycled:

Over the last 50 years the principal reason for reprocessing used fuel has been to recover unused uranium and plutonium in the used fuel elements and thereby close the fuel cycle, gaining some 25% more energy from the original uranium in the process and thus contributing to energy security. A secondary reason is to reduce the volume of material to be disposed of as high-level waste to about one fifth. In addition, the level of radioactivity in the waste from reprocessing is much smaller and after about 100 years falls much more rapidly than in used fuel itself.

Many countries, including France, Japan, the U.K. and Russia already have policies in place for the recycling of nuclear fuel, and, assuming we can get past the political posturing and culture of fear surrounding the concept of nuclear energy, there is no reason for the U.S. not to follow suit.

3: There is no such thing as a “safe” dose of radiation and just because nuclear pollution is invisible doesn’t mean it’s “clean.”

Greenpeace holds to the linear no-threshold hypothesis (LNT) theory of radioactivity. In short, the LNT hypothesis says that there is no safe level of radiation. However, another model, the hormetic dose response (RH), posits that low-dose radiation (at or somewhat above natural levels) is actually beneficial to health, perhaps because of stimulation of natural repair mechanisms in the body. Current scientific belief is that neither of these two models can be seen as definitive, and without much further study it is impossible to support Greenpeace’s conclusion.

4. In addition to being extremely dangerous, the continued greenwashing of nuclear power from industry-backed lobbyists diverts investments away from clean, renewable sources of energy. In contrast to nuclear power, renewable energy is both clean and safe. Technically accessible renewable energy sources are capable of producing six times more energy than current global demand.

To claim that the world’s energy needs can be met by renewables alone (that is to say, wind and solar, because Greenpeace does not consider hydroelectric or biomass renewable sources) is misleading at best, and at worst, an outright fiction devised by Greenpeace to convince the world that a clean-energy future is possible without nuclear power.

In 2011, the UK’s Independent reported on how Greenpeace plays fast and loose with the numbers in order to convince the public that a future fueled entirely by wind and solar is actually feasible:

The world’s foremost authority on climate change used a Greenpeace campaigner to help write one of its key reports, which critics say made misleading claims about renewable energy, The Independent has learnt.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), set up by the UN in 1988 to advise governments on the science behind global warming, issued a report last month suggesting renewable sources could provide 77 per cent of the world’s energy supply by 2050. But in supporting documents released this week, it emerged that the claim was based on a real-terms decline in worldwide energy consumption over the next 40 years — and that the lead author of the section concerned was an employee of Greenpeace. Not only that, but the modeling scenario used was the most optimistic of the 164 investigated by the IPCC.

Sun Microsystems co-founder turned venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, a man whose name has come to be synonymous with Clean Tech startups is also skeptical of organizations like Greenpeace’s continued insistence that the world’s energy problems can be solved by renewables alone:

For every nuclear plant that environmentalists avoided, they ended up causing two coal plants to be built. That’s the history of the last 20 years. Most new power plants in this country are coal, because the environmentalists opposed nuclear. When you ask someone like the NRDC, ‘Do you prefer nuclear or coal?’ They’ll say ‘We prefer nuclear to coal, but we don’t want either.’ It doesn’t work that way; we need power.

They’d like to see wind and solar photovoltaics. Well, it doesn’t work if it’s 40 cents a kilowatt hour, and it doesn’t work if you have to tell PG&E’s customers: ‘We’ll ship you power when the wind’s blowing and the sun’s shining, but otherwise, you gotta miss your favorite soap opera or NFL game.’

And therein lies the ultimate contradiction in Greenpeace’s antinuclear agenda. “On the one hand the movement demands reductions in fossil fuel consumption while on the other it presents the greatest obstacle to achieving that goal,” writes Patrick Moore in Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout. By campaigning diligently against our two best hopes for providing energy to our growing world population, Greenpeace is, in essence, sentencing us all to a dark, cold future — one that will be especially hard for those nations and populations who cannot afford the significant investment in wind or solar power.

Natural Disaster or Propaganda Prospect?

During the recent Fukushima nuclear power plant failures, which occurred in the aftermath of a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami, Greenpeace published this seemingly sympathetic statement on their website:

Our thoughts continue to be with the Japanese people as they face the threat of nuclear disaster.

Instead of a message of condolence for the thousands who perished in collapsed buildings, under the giant wall of water that rushed across low-lying areas, or from subsequent lack of clean drinking water or access to healthcare, Greenpeace used this human calamity to rack up yet another anti-nuke propaganda point.

But despite claims of radiation contamination reaching as far away as California, contaminating the milk that millions of Americans drink every day with terrifyingly minuscule levels of radiation, no nuclear holocaust ensued. The plant at Fukushima weathered the most intense ordeal Mother Nature could imagine, and yet still managed to avoid becoming another Chernobyl. As George Monbiot wrote in the U.K.’s Guardian on March 21, 2011:

You will not be surprised to hear that the events in Japan have changed my view of nuclear power. You will be surprised to hear how they have changed it. As a result of the disaster at Fukushima, I am no longer nuclear-neutral. I now support the technology.

A crappy old plant with inadequate safety features was hit by a monster earthquake and a vast tsunami. The electricity supply failed, knocking out the cooling system. The reactors began to explode and melt down. The disaster exposed a familiar legacy of poor design and corner-cutting. Yet, as far as we know, no one has yet received a lethal dose of radiation.

The fact of the matter is that we are all bombarded by radiation from a wide array of sources every day, and even exposure to levels of radiation stemming from Fukushima Daiichi power plant disaster pale in comparison from the radiation from a single head or chest CT scan.

As Greenpeace continues to fight tooth and nail against energy generated by nuclear and hydroelectric plants and the burning of fossil fuels, it becomes harder and harder to ignore that the group is, in essence, rallying against a whopping 98 percent of the world’s energy supply. This is not the path to a sustainable future for civilization.

A Whale of a Tale

After bringing attention to the evils of nuclear testing, Greenpeace’s second oldest mission centered on saving a creature whose gentle nature, sheer size, and extraordinary intelligence made them a perfect icon for the fledgling environmental group. “A Save the Whales campaign seemed like a brilliant idea,” writes Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore. “Especially since whales were such huge symbolic creatures in their own right. Through magazines, movies and television, the public was gaining and appreciation for the complexity of whale behavior, social life, and intelligence. Whales were cool.”

Indeed, ever since their first mission to prevent Russian fishing fleets from harpooning endangered whales off the California coast in 1975, Greenpeace has milked the emotional impact of whale slaughter for all it’s worth. And while the group is content to let the plight of these gentle giants help them raise funds and recruit members, Greenpeace’s actual impact on the whaling industry over the past 35 years is highly suspect.

In 2008, Paul Watson, an early member of Greenpeace and later the Founder and President of the controversial Sea Shepherd Conservation Society penned a scathing commentary about the “fraud” of Greenpeace’s Save the Whales campaign:

“Enough is enough,” he writes. “The Greenpeace fraud about saving the whales must be exposed. For years, I have been tolerating their pretense of action and watching them rake in tremendous profits from whaling.”

“Greenpeace makes more money from anti-whaling than Norway and Iceland combined make from whaling. In both cases, the whales die and someone profits.”

Greenpeace, he argues, uses the emotional tug of whales being slaughtered to pull in donations and recruit members. But while Greenpeace has used this tactic successfully to pull in hundreds of millions of dollars over the course of their more than 40 years in existence, they have not succeeded in stopping Japanese whalers from continuing their harvest.

“This year’s [2008] annual appeal to save whales by Greenpeace is just the latest public relations strategy in a global campaign to fleece money from people of good conscience,” writes Watson. And according to Watson, Greenpeace does not even fundamentally oppose whaling. Consider these quotes from Greenpeace spokespersons:

“Greenpeace is not opposed to whaling in principle.”

“Greenpeace is not opposed to whaling in principle.”

John Frizell, Director of Greenpeace International. From the Greenpeace Policy Paper, 1994

“As a natural scientist I cannot accept that Greenpeace is opposed to whaling. One must be allowed to harvest a renewable resource. To me, this is an important principle.”

Leif Ryvarden, former Chairman of Greenpeace Norway. From an interview with Dagbladet, August 2, 1991

“The 1993 Minke whale harvest did not constitute a threat to the stock.”

Ingrid Bertinussen, Greenpeace Norway Director. From an interview on Norwegian radio (NRK), October 22, 1993

“The Norwegian catch is not a threat to the Minke whale stock.”

Kalle Hesstvedt of Greenpeace Norway from an interview with the Norwegian newspaper “Nordlys” on May 21, 2008. Hesstvedt does not rule out the possibility that Greenpeace might accept commercial whaling when catch quotas are allocated by the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

In 1997, Watson had Greenpeace investigated by the National Marine Fisheries Service of the United States for participating in a whale hunt. Greenpeace crewmembers on the Arctic Sunrise actually towed a slaughtered bowhead whale to shore as a favor for the Inupiat whalers in the Bering Sea. In doing so, he claims they violated both U.S. and international law. The incident was reported widely in the Alaskan media and the whalers used the incident to ridicule Greenpeace at the 1997 International Whaling Commission meeting in Monaco.

The Lorax Lore

Greenpeace has long been a foe of the forestry industry despite the fact that trees and their products are one of the world’s most important renewable resources. Wood products make up 47 percent of all industrial raw materials manufactured in the United States, yet consume only 4 percent of the total energy needed to manufacture all industrial raw materials. In addition, just one mature tree absorbs approximately 13 pounds of carbon dioxide a year. For every ton of wood a forest grows, it removes 1.47 tons of carbon dioxide and replaces it with 1.07 tons of oxygen.

So why hasn’t anyone asked Greenpeace why, if they are so much in favor of saving both trees and the environment, they continue to oppose sustainable forestry practices? Instead of trying to wean ourselves off wood products, we should be embracing the use of wood and, by extension, growing more trees.

Why?

  • Wood is a renewable material.
  • It requires less energy to produce than alternative building products and contributes far fewer greenhouse gas emissions than its non-renewable counterparts, steel and concrete.
  • Wood is the best insulator against heat and cold, which makes it the most energy-efficient material to help keep home energy bills in check. Unlike steel and concrete, wood doesn’t conduct heat and cold. Wood is 400 times less heat conductive than steel, so homes built with wood studs take less energy to heat and cool.
  • As the world’s only renewable building material, wood can not only be recycled, but also regenerated. What’s more, trees provide benefits to the environment while they grow, taking in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen.

Greenpeace doesn’t want us cutting trees or using wood (or paper products, and don’t even get them started on toilet paper). But if we stopped using wood and cutting down trees, we would automatically have to use more steel, concrete and plastic as the raw materials to support the world’s infrastructure.

And contrary to popular belief, we’re not running out of trees. In fact, forest growth in the U.S. has continually exceeded harvest since the 1940s. The geographic area that encompasses the United States today has a greater extent of forest cover — one-third of the landmass — than it did in 1920.

But in an effort to support their irrational position against forestry, Greenpeace has yet again stooped to bending the truth — this time misrepresenting the ever-credible IPCC’s position on forestry. According to Greenpeace, the IPCC shares its own goal of achieving zero deforestation, globally, by 2020. In reality, what the IPCC says is this:

In the long term, a sustainable forest management strategy aimed at maintaining or increasing forest carbon stocks, while producing an annual sustained yield of timber, fibre or energy from the forest, will generate the largest sustained mitigation benefit.

Greenpeace wants to blame loggers for deforestation, when in actuality more deforestation is caused by our continuing demand for agricultural products to feed the population. Sustainable forestry creates more trees than it destroys, but clearing virgin forests to grow food is undoubtedly bad for both the environment and the trees.

Strangely, though not surprisingly, one of the solutions to halting the continued conversion of virgin forest into agricultural land is yet another of Greenpeace’s biggest targets: genetically engineered (GE) crops. One of the goals of GE crops is to grow more food from a smaller agricultural footprint — and yet Greenpeace wants to ensure that the world never see the benefits of these technologies.