Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Rare Moment Of Seriousness

I was in the middle of working on a more whimsical and light-hearted entry when I found myself distracted. There were a bunch of little things appearing on my facebook feed that seemed to be bagging out Nestlé. Obviously not up to date on my current affairs, I hit the streets. As the streets these days are paved with the internet, I started with google, entering the search term 'Why is everyone all up in Nestlé's mustard?". This returned little more than a bunch of questionable recipes. I adjusted my search terms and discovered that the controversy is centred around Nestlé using a product that's been pissing off a bunch of environmentalists (and orangutans, one would assume) for having an adverse effect on the native habitat of a certain species of orangutan. I thought it sounded like an interesting issue but when I saw that Greenpeace were at the helm of the campaign, I stopped reading. If my previous experiences with Greenpeace (as a former member and supporter) were anything to go by, I was about to be hit by a wave of stories that focused more on guilt-tripping the general public than providing any real, objective facts on the issue.

For the record, I do support taking actions to preserve the habitats of endangered species. Unfortunately I can never condone the actions of organisations such as Greenpeace, or even worse, PETA. As someone who gave a regular, monthly donation to Greenpeace for a number of years, I have been following their activities for some time. Eventually I decided that I can't put my support behind any organisation whose director has admitted to "emotionalising" the issues for which they campaign. Regardless of the way this is done, adding an unnecessarily emotional element to a public campaign is the easiest way of misleading people into agreeing with you. Just look at any piece of political propaganda from any point in history. While not always the intention of the creator, I completed enough media studies courses at uni to know that this tactic almost always leaves the viewer with a warped understanding of the issue. 

Some may say that the ends justifies the means. In my opinion, there is no end that justifies the use of emotional manipulation on a large scale. If your arguments are not convincing enough to get people's support without having to make them feel personally responsible for the destruction of the planet, maybe you should rethink your arguments.

Gerd Leipold, the aforementioned Greenpeace executive who made those statements, later lambasted the BBC for misunderstanding what he meant by the quote. However, as someone who has received Greenpeace newsletters and emails for a long time, it is clear to me that by "emotionalising" the campaigns Leipold meant distorting the issues, leaving out facts that don't serve their campaign and essentially guilting people into putting support behind them. These are not the actions of an organisation dedicated to the pursuit of objective, evidence-based environmental protection.

This idea is supported by the fact that Patrick Moore, a founding member of Greenpeace, now speaks out publicly against them. In that particular article, he was quoted as comparing one of Greenpeace's campaigns to a "Trojan horse", accusing them of using the issue "to deliver an activist agenda that is not in line with science or sustainability."

This is the reason Moore claims he left the organisation he helped create, and the same reason why I now take everything Greenpeace publishes with a grain of salt. They have stopped being about real environmental progress and have instead been overtaken by politics, to the point that finding out the real facts and figures of environmental issues is less important than promotion.

For the record, I would class myself as an environmentalist. People who know me will tell you that I don't eat meat due to my objections to large-scale factory farming and the environmental and social impact that it creates. However, while I will gladly argue in favour of a vegetarian or semi-vegetarian diet, I understand that this is a matter of personal choice. If someone disagrees with me, I'm not going to accuse them of murder and throw a bucket of red paint over them. Those kind of aggressive, immature tactics are not going to win any respect for the cause. 

I find myself in the difficult spot where I am a vegetarian and an environmentalist and yet, I cannot bring myself to support the main institutions that claim to represent me. For me to support such an organisation, they need to stop using these tactics. All they are doing is destroying the credibility of both themselves and, by association, the issues for which they campaign. I support a kind of environmentalism that makes sure to research their facts objectively before shouting their position from the rooftop and making blanket accusations. I support a kind of animal activism that doesn't take what I see as important issues and ensure that no government will take them seriously due to the sheer dodginess of their methods. I support any organisation that puts rationality over spin.

-Smackie Onassis

No comments:

Post a Comment