Cost recovery for consular support

January 5, 2014

Australia is considering asking Greenpeace to pay the costs for consular support provided to the Arctic 30.

. . . Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Australian taxpayers were entitled to ask why they should be covering the cost of assisting Australian activist Colin Russell to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars.

“It took a huge effort and a lot of money to get this guy out and the Australian taxpayer paid for it,” Ms Bishop said yesterday.

“If it is a deliberate strategy designed to provoke a response and potentially to risk breaking the laws of another country, the question of cost recovery does arise.” . .

There is a big difference between people requiring consular support through no fault of their own and those who deliberately court trouble.

It isn’t unreasonable to expect the latter to contribute to the costs incurred.

Definitely not a charity

July 17, 2013

Greenpeace has started a billboard campaign attacking Energy Minister Simon Bridges.

This is the organisation which complained about losing its charitable status for tax purposes because it was really a political organisation.

This is the organisation which spent more on national campaigns and lifted its contribution to head office in Amsterdam after a jump in its fundraising surplus.

The group’s 2012 annual report shows it raised $5.4 million in calendar 2012, from $4.87 million a year earlier. That’s the second-best year for fund raising in at least a decade after the group raised $5.76 million in 2010. . . .

The net surplus for the year slipped to $541,094 from $549,009 as Greenpeace NZ lifted campaign spending by 5.7 percent to $1.78 million and raised its contribution to Greenpeace International by 12 percent to $2.15 million. That’s expected to fall back to $1.8 million, or around 20 percent of 2011 gross revenue. . . .

The organisation can do what it likes with the money it raises, but it can’t pretend a significant amount of its activities aren’t political rather than being largely charitable.


There’s charity and there’s lobbying

May 8, 2013

Family First is unhappy it has lost its charitable status which means donations to it won’t be tax deductible.

The Charities Registration Board has ruled that Family First’s main purpose is political, rather than charitable, and that it will lose its charitable status unless it appeals to the High Court by May 27.

Family First director Bob McCoskrie said the organisation was being penalised for its leading role in the campaign against legalising gay marriage, which was passed by Parliament on April 17. . . .

I don’t think that’s the case. Greenpeace lost its charitable status for the same reason – its primary focus is political.

But I do think there is a question over why some groups qualify and some don’t:

Deemed to be charitable
Amnesty International
Child Poverty Action Group
National Council of Women
Society for Promotion of Community Standards

Deemed to be political
Family First
NZ Council for Civil Liberties
Save Our Arts Centre Society (Christchurch)
Sensible Sentencing Trust

There’s little difference in what the public see of the Child Poverty Action Group and Family First.

Both appear to put most if not all of their efforts into lobbying and advocacy which is by its nature is political.

Political parties can’t get charitable status and nor should political lobby groups.

They will still be free to lobby on behalf of their supporters but they’ll be doing it without support from the public purse by way of tax deductions on donations.

The cost of renewable energy

February 12, 2013

Greenpeace doesn’t think its important to address the costs in its report on on renewable energy.

In answer to a question from Nikki Kaye on advice he’d received on the proposition of a 40 percent reduction in emissions by 2020 and whether a 100 percent renewable electricity supply would be achievable then-Minister for Climate Change Issues, Nick Smith, said:

. . . I am advised that that would require, first, the writing-off of $4.5 billion of thermal generation assets. It would also require $11 billion for the replacement capacity of 2,500 megawatts, and $2 billion for additional renewable peaking stations needed to ensure security of supply in a dry year. This amounts to a total capital cost of $17.5 billion, excluding the additional transmission investment that would be required, and this would amount to a 30 percent increase in the power price for all consumers. Going 100 percent renewable would also require the equivalent of another seven Clyde Dams to be built by 2020. I do not describe $17.5 billion, a 30 percent power price increase, and seven Clyde Dams as being easy.

New Zealand is blessed with plentiful supplies of water and already have a high proportion of hydro electricity.

But many of the people who want more renewable energy are also opposed to more hydro generation and it would be difficult to find anyone who thought a 30% increase in power charges for everyone was acceptable.

At what cost?

February 11, 2013

Around 10,000 jobs could be created if New Zealand boosted its use of renewable energy.

. . . Chief policy advisor Nathan Argent said key findings show that the clean energy sector could give the country a much needed boost in the economy and create 10,000 jobs.

He said the findings estimate that the geothermal industry could be worth $4 billion per year to the economy by 2030 and the use of bio-energy – rather than importing oil – could save almost $7 billion per year. . .

That’s the good news in a report commissioned by Greenpeace – but there aredoubts over the figures:

Energy News editor Gavin Evans said although the research is good at highlighting what needs to be done, the job creation numbers were not reliable.

Energy analyst, Bryan Leyland was also sceptical about the findings and said they were completely unrealistic.

Jason Krupp at Stuff notes:

. . .  Where the report stumbles is on the financial side, giving no detail on the level of investment required or the economic tradeoffs, making it impossible to judge if the transformation would be worthwhile or simply a pyrrhic environmental victory.

Argent said this was a deliberate choice, with the aim of the report to spark a discussion rather than getting too bogged down in the numbers.

About  which Agnito at The Visible Hand in Economics says:

Which basically means this report tells us nothing….

As a side note, as an economist I would replace “financial side” with “opportunity cost”  as it it’s not just “money” trade offs that need to be considered…social, environmental, and any other metric that will be part of the cost need to be considered. You can’t just look at non-monetary gains on the benefit side and ignore them on the cost side.


It’s not hard to create jobs but creating jobs which justify all the costs is a far more difficult and complex matter.

The report mentions geothermal and bio-energy. Jobs would also be created by the development of hydro or wind generation, which are renewable but they always attract opposition  from people who don’t think the gains outweigh the costs.

The deliberate absence of financial or economic considerations merely confirms the fears of those who are sceptical of green, and often Green, campaigns which concentrate on the environment in isolation without taking into account economic and social concerns.

Science converts environmental activist to GM

January 21, 2013

British environmental activist Mark Lynas began his speech to the Oxford Farmers’ Conference with an apology:

I want to start with some apologies. For the record, here and upfront, I apologise for having spent several years ripping up GM crops. I am also sorry that I helped to start the anti-GM movement back in the mid 1990s, and that I thereby assisted in demonising an important technological option which can be used to benefit the environment.

As an environmentalist, and someone who believes that everyone in this world has a right to a healthy and nutritious diet of their choosing, I could not have chosen a more counter-productive path. I now regret it completely.

So I guess you’ll be wondering – what happened between 1995 and now that made me not only change my mind but come here and admit it? Well, the answer is fairly simple: I discovered science, and in the process I hope I became a better environmentalist. . .

It’s hard to argue against good science but some people don’t let it get in the way of their emotional stories.

When I first heard about Monsanto’s GM soya I knew exactly what I thought. Here was a big American corporation with a nasty track record, putting something new and experimental into our food without telling us. Mixing genes between species seemed to be about as unnatural as you can get – here was humankind acquiring too much technological power; something was bound to go horribly wrong. These genes would spread like some kind of living pollution. It was the stuff of nightmares.

These fears spread like wildfire, and within a few years GM was essentially banned in Europe, and our worries were exported by NGOs like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth to Africa, India and the rest of Asia, where GM is still banned today. This was the most successful campaign I have ever been involved with.

This was also explicitly an anti-science movement. We employed a lot of imagery about scientists in their labs cackling demonically as they tinkered with the very building blocks of life. Hence the Frankenstein food tag – this absolutely was about deep-seated fears of scientific powers being used secretly for unnatural ends. What we didn’t realise at the time was that the real Frankenstein’s monster was not GM technology, but our reaction against it. . . .

He isn’t the first former insider to criticise the anti-science approach by some environmental groups.

For me this anti-science environmentalism became increasingly inconsistent with my pro-science environmentalism with regard to climate change. . .

I found myself arguing constantly with people who I considered to be incorrigibly anti-science, because they wouldn’t listen to the climatologists and denied the scientific reality of climate change. So I lectured them about the value of peer-review, about the importance of scientific consensus and how the only facts that mattered were the ones published in the most distinguished scholarly journals. . .

And yet, incredibly, at this time in 2008 I was still penning screeds in the Guardian attacking the science of GM – even though I had done no academic research on the topic, and had a pretty limited personal understanding. I don’t think I’d ever read a peer-reviewed paper on biotechnology or plant science even at this late stage.

Obviously this contradiction was untenable. What really threw me were some of the comments underneath my final anti-GM Guardian article. In particular one critic said to me: so you’re opposed to GM on the basis that it is marketed by big corporations. Are you also opposed to the wheel because because it is marketed by the big auto companies?

So I did some reading. And I discovered that one by one my cherished beliefs about GM turned out to be little more than green urban myths.

I’d assumed that it would increase the use of chemicals. It turned out that pest-resistant cotton and maize needed less insecticide.

I’d assumed that GM benefited only the big companies. It turned out that billions of dollars of benefits were accruing to farmers needing fewer inputs.

I’d assumed that Terminator Technology was robbing farmers of the right to save seed. It turned out that hybrids did that long ago, and that Terminator never happened.

I’d assumed that no-one wanted GM. Actually what happened was that Bt cotton was pirated into India and roundup ready soya into Brazil because farmers were so eager to use them.

I’d assumed that GM was dangerous. It turned out that it was safer and more precise than conventional breeding using mutagenesis for example; GM just moves a couple of genes, whereas conventional breeding mucks about with the entire genome in a trial and error way.

But what about mixing genes between unrelated species? The fish and the tomato? Turns out viruses do that all the time, as do plants and insects and even us – it’s called gene flow. . .

He then goes on to talk about the population growth, increasing GDP in developing countries, the need to produce more food and the environmental challenges from that.

But as a result of this growth we have very serious environmental challenges to tackle. Land conversion is a large source of greenhouse gases, and perhaps the greatest source of biodiversity loss. This is another reason why intensification is essential – we have to grow more on limited land in order to save the rainforests and remaining natural habitats from the plough.

We also have to deal with limited water – not just depleting aquifers but also droughts that are expected to strike with increasing intensity in the agricultural heartlands of continents thanks to climate change. If we take more water from rivers we accelerate biodiversity loss in these fragile habitats.

We also need to better manage nitrogen use: artificial fertiliser is essential to feed humanity, but its inefficient use means dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico and many coastal areas around the world, as well as eutrophication in fresh water ecosystems. . .

He says the solution is technological innovation, moving rapidly and in the right direction for those who need it most.

 . . . So what did Norman Borlaug do? He turned to science and technology. Humans are a tool-making species – from clothes to ploughs, technology is primarily what distinguishes us from other apes. And much of this work was focused on the genome of major domesticated crops – if wheat, for example, could be shorter and put more effort into seed-making rather than stalks, then yields would improve and grain loss due to lodging would be minimised.

Before Borlaug died in 2009 he spent many years campaigning against those who for political and ideological reasons oppose modern innovation in agriculture. To quote: “If the naysayers do manage to stop agricultural biotechnology, they might actually precipitate the famines and the crisis of global biodiversity they have been predicting for nearly 40 years.”

And, thanks to supposedly environmental campaigns spread from affluent countries, we are perilously close to this position now. Biotechnology has not been stopped, but it has been made prohibitively expensive to all but the very biggest corporations.

It now costs tens of millions to get a crop through the regulatory systems in different countries. In fact the latest figures I’ve just seen from CropLife suggest it costs $139 million to move from discovering a new crop trait to full commercialisation, so open-source or public sector biotech really does not stand a chance.

There is a depressing irony here that the anti-biotech campaigners complain about GM crops only being marketed by big corporations when this is a situation they have done more than anyone to help bring about. . . .

He gives examples of how the bureaucratic burden is increasing in around the world then says:

. . . We well-fed consumers are blinded by romantic nostalgia for the traditional farming of the past. Because we have enough to eat, we can afford to indulge our aesthetic illusions.

But at the same time the growth of yields worldwide has stagnated for many major food crops, as research published only last month by Jonathan Foley and others in the journal Nature Communications showed. If we don’t get yield growth back on track we are indeed going to have trouble keeping up with population growth and resulting demand, and prices will rise as well as more land being converted from nature to agriculture.

To quote Norman Borlaug again: “I now say that the world has the technology — either available or well advanced in the research pipeline — to feed on a sustainable basis a population of 10 billion people. The more pertinent question today is whether farmers and ranchers will be permitted to use this new technology? While the affluent nations can certainly afford to adopt ultra low-risk positions, and pay more for food produced by the so-called ‘organic’ methods, the one billion chronically undernourished people of the low income, food-deficit nations cannot.”

As Borlaug was saying, perhaps the most pernicious myth of all is that organic production is better, either for people or the environment. The idea that it is healthier has been repeatedly disproved in the scientific literature. We also know from many studies that organic is much less productive, with up to 40-50% lower yields in terms of land area. The Soil Association went to great lengths in a recent report on feeding the world with organic not to mention this productivity gap.

Nor did it mention that overall, if you take into account land displacement effects, organic is also likely worse for biodiversity. Instead they talk about an ideal world where people in the west eat less meat and fewer calories overall so that people in developing countries can have more. This is simplistic nonsense.

If you think about it, the organic movement is at its heart a rejectionist one. It doesn’t accept many modern technologies on principle. Like the Amish in Pennsylvania, who froze their technology with the horse and cart in 1850, the organic movement essentially freezes its technology in somewhere around 1950, and for no better reason.

It doesn’t even apply this idea consistently however. I was reading in a recent Soil Association magazine that it is OK to blast weeds with flamethrowers or fry them with electric currents, but benign herbicides like glyphosate are still a no-no because they are ‘artificial chemicals’.

In reality there is no reason at all why avoiding chemicals should be better for the environment – quite the opposite in fact. Recent research by Jesse Ausubel and colleagues at Rockefeller University looked at how much extra farmland Indian farmers would have had to cultivate today using the technologies of 1961 to get today’s overall yield. The answer is 65 million hectares, an area the size of France.

In China, maize farmers spared 120 million hectares, an area twice the size of France, thanks to modern technologies getting higher yields. On a global scale, between 1961 and 2010 the area farmed grew by only 12%, whilst kilocalories per person rose from 2200 to 2800. So even with three billion more people, everyone still had more to eat thanks to a production increase of 300% in the same period.

So how much land worldwide was spared in the process thanks to these dramatic yield improvements, for which chemical inputs played a crucial role? The answer is 3 billion hectares, or the equivalent of two South Americas. There would have been no Amazon rainforest left today without this improvement in yields. Nor would there be any tigers in India or orang utans in Indonesia. That is why I don’t know why so many of those opposing the use of technology in agriculture call themselves environmentalists. . . .

Lynas asks where the opposition comes from and says there seems to be a widespread assumption that modern technology equals more risk.

Actually there are many very natural and organic ways to face illness and early death, as the debacle with Germany’s organic beansprouts proved in 2011. This was a public health catastrophe, with the same number of deaths and injuries as were caused by Chernobyl, because E.-coli probably from animal manure infected organic beansprout seeds imported from Egypt.

In total 53 people died and 3,500 suffered serious kidney failure. And why were these consumers choosing organic? Because they thought it was safer and healthier, and they were more scared of entirely trivial risks from highly-regulated chemical pesticides and fertilisers.

If you look at the situation without prejudice, much of the debate, both in terms of anti-biotech and organic, is simply based on the naturalistic fallacy – the belief that natural is good, and artificial is bad. This is a fallacy because there are plenty of entirely natural poisons and ways to die, as the relatives of those who died from E.-coli poisoning would tell you.

For organic, the naturalistic fallacy is elevated into the central guiding principle for an entire movement. This is irrational and we owe it to the Earth and to our children to do better.

This is not to say that organic farming has nothing to offer – there are many good techniques which have been developed, such as intercropping and companion planting, which can be environmentally very effective, even it they do tend to be highly labour-intensive. Principles of agro-ecology such as recyling nutrients and promoting on-farm diversity should also be taken more seriously everywhere.

But organic is in the way of progress when it refuses to allow innovation. Again using GM as the most obvious example, many third-generation GM crops allow us not to use environmentally-damaging chemicals because the genome of the crop in question has been altered so the plant can protect itself from pests. Why is that not organic?

Organic is also in the way when it is used to take away choice from others. One of the commonest arguments against GM is that organic farmers will be ‘contaminated’ with GM pollen, and therefore no-one should be allowed to use it. So the rights of a well-heeled minority, which come down ultimately to a consumer preference based on aesthetics, trump the rights of everyone else to use improved crops which would benefit the environment.

I am all for a world of diversity, but that means one farming system cannot claim to have a monopoly of virtue and aim at excluding all other options. Why can’t we have peaceful co-existence? This is particularly the case when it shackles us to old technologies which have higher inherent risks than the new.

It seems like almost everyone has to pay homage to ‘organic’ and to question this orthodoxy is unthinkable. Well I am here to question it today.

The biggest risk of all is that we do not take advantage of all sorts of opportunities for innovation because of what is in reality little more than blind prejudice. Let me give you two examples, both regrettably involving Greenpeace.

Last year Greenpeace destroyed a GM wheat crop in Australia, for all the traditional reasons, which I am very familiar with having done it myself. This was publicly funded research carried out by the Commonwealth Scientific Research institute, but no matter. They were against it because it was GM and unnatural.

What few people have since heard is that one of the other trials being undertaken, which Greenpeace activists with their strimmers luckily did not manage to destroy, accidentally found a wheat yield increase of an extraordinary 30%. Just think. This knowledge might never have been produced at all, if Greenpeace had succeeded in destroying this innovation. As the president of the NFU Peter Kendall recently suggested, this is analogous to burning books in a library before anyone has been able to read them.

The second example comes from China, where Greenpeace managed to trigger a national media panic by claiming that two dozen children had been used as human guinea pigs in a trial of GM golden rice. They gave no consideration to the fact that this rice is healthier, and could save thousands of children from vitamin A deficiency-related blindness and death each year.

What happened was that the three Chinese scientists named in the Greenpeace press release were publicly hounded and have since lost their jobs, and in an autocratic country like China they are at serious personal risk. Internationally because of over-regulation golden rice has already been on the shelf for over a decade, and thanks to the activities of groups like Greenpeace it may never become available to vitamin-deficient poor people.

This to my mind is immoral and inhumane, depriving the needy of something that would help them and their children because of the aesthetic preferences of rich people far away who are in no danger from Vitamin A shortage. Greenpeace is a $100-million a year multinational, and as such it has moral responsibilities just like any other large company.

The fact that golden rice was developed in the public sector and for public benefit cuts no ice with the antis. Take Rothamsted Research, whose director Maurice Moloney is speaking tomorrow. Last year Rothamsted began a trial of an aphid-resistant GM wheat which would need no pesticides to combat this serious pest.

Because it is GM the antis were determined to destroy it. They failed because of the courage of Professor John Pickett and his team, who took to YouTube and the media to tell the important story of why their research mattered and why it should not be trashed. They gathered thousands of signatures on a petition when the antis could only manage a couple of hundred, and the attempted destruction was a damp squib.

One intruder did manage to scale the fence, however, who turned out to be the perfect stereotypical anti-GM protestor – an old Etonian aristocrat whose colourful past makes our Oxford local Marquess of Blandford look like the model of responsible citizenry.

This high-born activist scattered organic wheat seeds around the trial site in what was presumably a symbolic statement of naturalness. Professor Pickett’s team tell me they had a very low-tech solution to getting rid of it – they went round with a cordless portable hoover to clear it up.

This year, as well as repeating the wheat trial, Rothamsted is working on an omega 3 oilseed that could replace wild fish in food for farmed salmon. So this could help reduce overfishing by allowing land-based feedstocks to be used in aquaculture. Yes it’s GM, so expect the antis to oppose this one too, despite the obvious potential environmental benefits in terms of marine biodiversity.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough. So my conclusion here today is very clear: the GM debate is over. It is finished. We no longer need to discuss whether or not it is safe – over a decade and a half with three trillion GM meals eaten there has never been a single substantiated case of harm. You are more likely to get hit by an asteroid than to get hurt by GM food. More to the point, people have died from choosing organic, but no-one has died from eating GM.

Just as I did 10 years ago, Greenpeace and the Soil Association claim to be guided by consensus science, as on climate change. Yet on GM there is a rock-solid scientific consensus, backed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Royal Society, health institutes and national science academies around the world. Yet this inconvenient truth is ignored because it conflicts with their ideology.

One final example is the sad story of the GM blight-resistant potato. This was being developed by both the Sainsbury Lab and Teagasc, a publicly-funded institute in Ireland – but the Irish Green Party, whose leader often attends this very conference, was so opposed that they even took out a court case against it.

This is despite the fact that the blight-resistant potato would save farmers from doing 15 fungicide sprays per season, that pollen transfer is not an issue because potatoes are clonally propagated and that the offending gene came from a wild relative of the potato.

There would have been a nice historical resonance to having a blight-resistant potato developed in Ireland, given the million or more who died due to the potato famine in the mid 19th century. It would have been a wonderful thing for Ireland to be the country that defeated blight. But thanks to the Irish Green Party, this is not to be.

And unfortunately the antis now have the bureaucrats on their side. Wales and Scotland are officially GM free, taking medieval superstition as a strategic imperative for devolved governments supposedly guided by science.

It is unfortunately much the same in much of Africa and Asia. India has rejected Bt brinjal, even though it would reduce insecticide applications in the field, and residues on the fruit. The government in India is increasingly in thrall to backward-looking ideologues like Vandana Shiva, who idealise pre-industrial village agriculture despite the historical fact that it was an age of repeated famines and structural insecurity.

In Africa, ‘no GM’ is still the motto for many governments. Kenya for example has actually banned GM foods because of the supposed “health risks” despite the fact that they could help reduce the malnutrition that is still rampant in the country – and malnutrition is by the way a proven health risk, with no further evidence needed. In Kenya if you develop a GM crop which has better nutrition or a higher yield to help poorer farmers then you will go to jail for 10 years.

Thus desperately-needed agricultural innovation is being strangled by a suffocating avalanche of regulations which are not based on any rational scientific assessment of risk. The risk today is not that anyone will be harmed by GM food, but that millions will be harmed by not having enough food, because a vocal minority of people in rich countries want their meals to be what they consider natural.

I hope now things are changing. The wonderful Bill and Melinda Gates foundation recently gave $10 million to the John Innes Centre to begin efforts to integrate nitrogen fixing capabilities into major food crops, starting with maize. Yes, Greenpeace, this will be GM. Get over it. If we are going to reduce the global-scale problem of nitrogen pollution then having major crop plants fixing their own nitrogen is a worthy goal.

I know it is politically incorrect to say all this, but we need a a major dose of both international myth-busting and de-regulation. The plant scientists I know hold their heads in their hands when I talk about this with them because governments and so many people have got their sense of risk so utterly wrong, and are foreclosing a vitally necessary technology.

Norman Borlaug is dead now, but I think we honour his memory and his vision when we refuse to give in to politically correct orthodoxies when we know they are incorrect. The stakes are high. If we continue to get this wrong, the life prospects of billions of people will be harmed.

So I challenge all of you today to question your beliefs in this area and to see whether they stand up to rational examination. Always ask for evidence, as the campaigning group Sense About Science advises, and make sure you go beyond the self-referential reports of campaigning NGOs.

But most important of all, farmers should be free to choose what kind of technologies they want to adopt. If you think the old ways are the best, that’s fine. You have that right.

What you don’t have the right to do is to stand in the way of others who hope and strive for ways of doing things differently, and hopefully better. Farmers who understand the pressures of a growing population and a warming world. Who understand that yields per hectare are the most important environmental metric. And who understand that technology never stops developing, and that even the fridge and the humble potato were new and scary once.

So my message to the anti-GM lobby, from the ranks of the British aristocrats and celebrity chefs to the US foodies to the peasant groups of India is this. You are entitled to your views. But you must know by now that they are not supported by science. We are coming to a crunch point, and for the sake of both people and the planet, now is the time for you to get out of the way and let the rest of us get on with feeding the world sustainably.

No-one is forcing anyone to consume genetically modified food.

Those who wish to get non-GM and/or organic food are free to do so. But when science finds no danger in GM then they have no right to prevent others benefiting from it.

They might argue, correctly, that the absence of proof of danger is not the same as proof of safety.

But life is a risky business and if we waited for 100% proof of safety before doing anything we’d do nothing.

Radical green agenda politics not charity

December 15, 2012

Quite how an organisation which spends so much of its time, and supporters’ money, on politically motivated campaigns can claim to be a charity rather than a political organisation is beyond me.

One of Greenpeace’s founders has no doubts about its agenda:

Canadian ecologist Patrick Moore, a former Greenpeace International director who helped found and lead the group, says it appears Greenpeace’s major aim these days is to confuse the public about the nature of the environment and the place of humans in it “by spreading falsehoods and innuendo”.

“Since I left Greenpeace, its members, and the majority of the movement, have adopted policy after policy that reflects their anti-human bias, illustrates their rejection of science and technology and actually increases the risk of harm to people and the environment,” he says. . .

The distinction between charitable and political purpose matters because the former allows an organisation special tax status.

The Charities Commission ruled that Greenpeace’s primary purpose was political. The Court of Appeal decided that the organisation could appeal that ruling.

Greenpeace does do some practical work which might qualify as charitable but most of what we see of its public face is blatantly political.

Political activism isn’t charity

September 5, 2012

Greenpeace is in the Court of Appeal trying to overturn a ruling that it doesn’t qualify for charitable status:

Greenpeace of New Zealand, the environmental lobby group, is too big to miss out on charitable status just because the actions of a few members may be deemed illegal, the Court of Appeal heard today.

Counsel for the non-profit organisation , Davey Salmon, told Justices Rhys Harrison, Lynton Stevens and Douglas White, there was no evidence Greenpeace was engaged in illegal activities that would block it from registering as a charity. Even if some members were found to have trespassed in their non-violent action in support of Greenpeace’s goals, it was a side-issue to the organisation’s primary goals. . .

They’re arguing it’s only a few members whose actions are illegal. But look at the organisation’s core values:

. . . We take non-violent direct action to raise the level and quality of public debate and end environmental problems. Whether it’s a sit-in in front of a local government, or the scaling of an oil rig – peaceful direct action is our way to get us all talking and demonstrate solutions. . .

Scaling an oil rig isn’t very different from a sit-in on an oil drilling ship for which Greenpeace activists were charged and pleaded guilty earlier this year.

Both  look a lot more like political activism than charitable service.

Should it be Redpeace?

February 20, 2012

A criticism of many green parties and organisations is that they are watermelons with a green shell covering a red heart.

Dr Patrick Moore, a founding member of Greenpeace, provides support for that contention in his book Confessions of  Greenpeace dropout: the making of a sensible environmentalist.

You could call me a Greenpeace dropout, but that is not an entirely  accurate description of how or why I left the organization 15 years  after I helped create it. I’d like to think Greenpeace left me, rather  than the other way around, but that too is not entirely correct.

The truth is Greenpeace and I underwent divergent evolutions. I  became a sensible environmentalist; Greenpeace became increasingly  senseless as it adopted an agenda that is antiscience, antibusiness, and downright antihuman. . .

While it might be anti-business, Greenpeace is not above exploiting people or using dubious commercial methods to raise money and lure new recruits.

Those people, usually young, who badger you to join up in the street are on commission and only get paid if and when those they sign up don’t pull out within the few day’s grace period in which they’re permitted to do so after joining.

. . . During the early 1980s two things happened that altered my  perspective on the direction in which environmentalism, in general, and  Greenpeace, in particular, were heading. The first was my introduction  to the concept of sustainable development at a global meeting of  environmentalists. The second was the adoption of policies by my fellow  Greenpeacers that I considered extremist and irrational. These two  developments would set the stage for my transformation from a radical  activist into a sensible environmentalist.

In 1982, the United Nations held a conference in Nairobi to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the first UN Environment Conference in  Stockholm, which I had also attended. I was one of 85 environmental  leaders from around the world who were invited to craft a statement of our  collective goals for environmental protection. It quickly became  apparent there were two nearly opposite perspectives in the room—the  antidevelopment  perspective of environmentalists from wealthy industrialized countries  and the prodevelopment perspective of environmentalists from the poor  developing countries.

As one developing country activist put it, taking a stand against  development in his woefully poor country would get him laughed out of  the room. It was hard to argue with his position. A well-fed person has  many problems, a hungry person has but one. The same is true for  development, or lack of it. We could see the tragic reality of poverty  on the outskirts of our Kenyan host city. Those of us from  industrialized countries recognized we had to be in favor of some kind  of development, preferably the kind that didn’t ruin the environment in  the process. Thus the concept of sustainable development was born.

This was when I first fully realized there was another step beyond  pure environmental activism. The real challenge was to figure out how to take the environmental values we had helped create and weave them into  the social and economic fabric of our culture. This had to be done in  ways that didn’t undermine the economy and were socially acceptable. It  was clearly a question of careful balance, not dogmatic adherence to a  single principle. . .

It is rank hypocrisy for people from developed countries with all the benefits of first world economies and the first world infrastructure and services that supports to tell people in poor countries development is bad.

Sustainable development is the balance between economic, environmental and social requirements. Its proponents aren’t anti-business or anti-people and they welcome science because it provides evidence-based information and solutions rather than greenwash which might look fine but might do no good and at times causes harm to the environment.

An example of this is recycling. It certainly reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills but the environmental cost of transporting and processing is sometimes greater than that of dumping.

. . .  By the early 1980s a  majority of the public, at least in the Western democracies, agreed with us that the environment should be taken into account in all our  activities. When most people agree with you it is probably time to stop  beating them over the head and sit down with them to seek solutions to  our environmental problems. 

At the same time I chose to become less militant and more diplomatic, my Greenpeace colleagues became more extreme and intolerant of  dissenting opinions from within.

In the early days we debated complex issues openly and often. It was a wonderful group to engage with in wide-ranging environmental policy  discussions. The intellectual energy in the organization was infectious. We frequently disagreed about specific issues, yet our ultimate vision  was largely shared. Importantly, we strove to be scientifically  accurate. For years this had been the topic of many of our internal  debates. I was the only Greenpeace activist with a PhD in ecology, and  because I wouldn’t allow exaggeration beyond reason I quickly earned the nickname “Dr. Truth.” It wasn’t always meant as a compliment. Despite  my efforts, the movement abandoned science and logic somewhere in the  mid-1980s, just as society was adopting the more reasonable items on our environmental agenda.

Ironically, this retreat from science and logic was partly a response to society’s growing acceptance of environmental values. Some activists simply couldn’t make the transition from confrontation to consensus; it was as if they needed a common enemy. When a majority of people decide  they agree with all your reasonable ideas the only way you can remain  confrontational and antiestablishment is to adopt ever more extreme  positions, eventually abandoning science and logic altogether in favor  of zero-tolerance policies. . .

We have only one world and most people agree on the importance of looking after it. There is however, disagreement on the how and finding a way to do it in a way which is not anti-business or anti-people is much more likely to succeed than the radical recipe promoted by red-greens.

To a  considerable extent the environmental movement was hijacked by political and social activists who learned to use green language to cloak agendas that had more to do with anticapitalism and antiglobalization than with science or ecology. I remember visiting our Toronto office in 1985 and  being surprised at how many of the new recruits were sporting army  fatigues and red berets in support of the Sandinistas.

I don’t blame them for seizing the opportunity. There was a lot of  power in our movement and they saw how it could be turned to serve their agendas of revolutionary change and class struggle. But I differed with them because they were extremists who confused the issues and the  public about the nature of our environment and our place in it. To this  day they use the word industry as if it were a swear word. The same goes for multinational, chemical, genetic, corporate, globalization, and a  host of other perfectly useful terms. Their propaganda campaign is aimed at promoting an ideology that I believe would be extremely damaging to  both civilization and the environment. . .

Those perfectly useful terms are almost always used with negative connotations by radical environmentalists and their ideology is dangerous.

. . . The main purpose of this book is to establish a new approach to  environmentalism and to define sustainability as the key to achieving  environmental goals. This requires embracing humans as a positive  element in evolution rather than viewing us as some kind of mistake. The celebrated Canadian author Farley Mowat has described humans as a “fatally flawed species.” This kind of pessimism may be politically  correct today, but it is terribly self-defeating. Short of mass suicide  there doesn’t seem to be an appropriate response. I believe we should  celebrate our existence and constantly put our minds toward making the  world a better place for people and all the other species we share it  with. . .

Unlike those he criticise, Moore is optimistic about the future of the world and people’s place in it.

He also has some suggestions on what we could do to protect and enhance the environment at no great cost to the economy or people:

• We should be growing more trees and using more wood, not  cutting fewer trees and using less wood as Greenpeace and its allies  contend. Wood is the most important renewable material and  energy resource.

• Those countries that have reserves of potential hydroelectric  energy should build the dams required to deliver that energy. There is  nothing wrong with creating more lakes in this world.

• Nuclear energy is essential for our future energy supply,  especially if we wish to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. It has  proven to be clean safe, reliable, and cost-effective.

• Geothermal heat pumps, which too few people know about, are far  more important and cost-effective than either solar panels or wind mills as a source of renewable energy. They should be required in all new  buildings unless there is a good reason to use some other technology for heating, cooling, and making hot water.

• The most effective way to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels is  to encourage the development of technologies that require less or no  fossil fuels to operate. Electric cars, heat pumps, nuclear and  hydroelectric energy, and biofuels are the answer, not cumbersome  regulatory systems that stifle economic activity.

• Genetic science, including genetic engineering, will improve  nutrition and end malnutrition, improve crop yields, reduce the  environmental impact of farming, and make people and the environment  healthier.

• Many activist campaigns designed to make us fear useful chemicals are based on misinformation and unwarranted fear.

• Aquaculture, including salmon and shrimp farming, will be one of  our most important future sources of healthy food. It will also take  pressure off depleted wild fish stocks and will employ millions of  people productively.

• There is no cause for alarm about climate change. The climate is  always changing. Some of the proposed “solutions” would be far worse  than any imaginable consequence of global warming, which will likely be  mostly positive. Cooling is what we should fear.

• Poverty is the worst environmental problem. Wealth and urbanization will stabilize the human population. Agriculture should be mechanized  throughout the developing world. Disease and malnutrition can be largely eliminated by the application of modern technology. Health care,  sanitation, literacy, and electrification should be provided to  everyone.

• No whale or dolphin should be killed or captured anywhere, ever.  This is one of my few religious beliefs. They are the only species on  earth whose brains are larger than ours and it is impossible to kill or  capture them humanely.

Hat tip: Kiwiblog and NZ Conservative


Greenpeace back on PKE hobbyhorse

December 6, 2011

Greenpeace have resurrected their campaign against Palm Kernel Expeller.

Despite the many real issues facing the planet, Greenpeace New Zealand is back on its supplementary feed hobbyhorse. This time with a report written by a consultant who lives in the south of France.

“It must be summer because here comes Greenpeace again on Palm Kernel Expeller. You can almost set your watch by them,” says Willy Leferink, Federated Farmers Dairy chairperson.

“Wikipedia defines palm kernel expeller (PKE) as, “the leftovers after kernel oil is pressed out from the nut in the palm fruit. Palm kernel cake is commonly used as animal feed for dairy cattle because of its high protein content. If not, it is usually treated as biomass to fuel up boilers to generate electricity for use at palm oil mills and surrounding villages”.

“From a quick read of Greenpeace’s report I found a huge flaw in its logic. Their report wrongly treats PKE as a‘coproduct’ of palm oil, rather than it being a byproduct. It’s like saying orange peel is a coproduct of orange juice so must carry the same carbon footprint as orange juice. I think accountants call this type of error double counting.

“Greenpeace tries to use tonnage to talk up the issue, but that’s like saying a kilogram of feathers is the same as a kilogram of gold. According to publicly available statistics on the Malaysian industry, Palm Kernel Cake generates less than one percent of that industry’s export earnings. Being a byproduct, PKE is worth well less than one percent of palm oil’s value.

“Consumers deserve to know that 99 percent of the value derived from Palm Oil isn’t in animal feed. You can actually say some farmers are recycling a byproduct that would otherwise go up in smoke or be left to rot generating methane. Where’s the greenhouse gas sense in that?

If palm oil is such a problem, Green peace should be directing its efforts at the 99% of the industry which uses the product, not the 1% which makes good use of the by-product.

“Until we can get water storage infrastructure in place New Zealand’s farming system is subject to the vagaries of rainfall. The most cost effective supplemental feed is what is grown on-farm and thankfully, water storage is coming due to Federated Farmers’ lobbying.

“You are left with the impression Greenpeace’s questioning of our carbon footprint has an anti-trade dimension to it. This report could be seen as economic vandalism.

“The recent Caygill Report on the Emissions Trading Scheme said that since 1990, New Zealand agriculture has been cutting emissions in each unit of production by an average of 1.3 percent a year. That’s an environmental positive I would have thought.

“Individual farmers through their commodity levies are directly investing in greenhouse gas research and New Zealand is now a world leader in agricultural greenhouse gas research.

“If Greenpeace is truly about the environment, why aren’t they protesting against oil based carpets instead?

“Can you honestly say in a world of food scarcity that recycling PKE as animal feed is the number one environmental issue? Especially if the ‘high value’ product it claims it to be, is either left to rot on the ground or burnt as fuel,” Mr Leferink concluded.

A wet start to summer has enabled farms in most areas to make their own supplements.

But the weather can and will change and it’s possible some farmers will have to buy feed later int he season and PKE will be one of the options.

Even if they do, New Zealand dairy farming is among the most efficient in the world and the industry has been doing all it can to make it even better.

If supply drops off here it will be replaced by milk from other countries whose carbon footprints are much greater than ours. That will cost farmers, the wider economy and the environment.

Greenpeace protest all about publicity

April 15, 2011

An ODT editorial says that Greenpeace took the wrong option in its protest against the Petrobras seismic survey off the East Coast:

The target for protest action should be the promised legislation that, while it should not prevent oil and gas exploration, needs to be sufficiently robust to ensure the marine environment will be adequately protected and, should an accident occur, restored.

That is the challenge for Greenpeace and others. Raising fears when none are justified is tactically foolish – and most likely to backfire.

But influencing legislation wouldn’t get the publicity swimming in front of a ship did and publicity is what Greenpeace needs most.

It is a large international organisation that requires a lot of money to run.

That’s why they recruit, usually young, people to travel* round the country trying to recruit supporters. They’re set targets of the number to sign up each day and their pay is related to how well they do – just like other big businesses which use incentive payments.

It’s much easier to recruit workers and supporters when they’re in the headlines looking like they’re the little people against a big, evil corporation or government than it is formulating and presenting logical submissions to influence legislation.

*The vans they travel in aren’t usually self-contained, I hope they abide by the clean, green principles they preach and don’t freedom camp where there are no loos.

Greenpeace vs Fonterra again

May 19, 2010

First it was palm oil, now Greenpeace is protesting against Fonterra’s  use of coal.

Fonterra has done a lot to reduce its energy consumption and it encourages shareholders to do so too.

I wonder how far the protestors travelled and by what means to make the protest and what was the environmental impact of that?

They got the headlines they were seeking but will have achieved nothing else and will have wasted fuel doing it.

Will Greenpeace pay?

December 3, 2009

John Key will be attending the leaders’ meeting at the end of the United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen.

In a media release (not yet online) he says:

“The circumstances have changed in recent weeks.  While it’s unlikely a binding agreement will be reached at Copenhagen, political momentum is growing which is why in recent weeks a lot more leaders have indicated they will be attending.

 “By my absence I wouldn’t want to give the impression that New Zealand isn’t committed to playing its part in the fight against climate change.

Greenpeace raised $5000 to send the Prime Minister to the conference. Will they give it to him now he’s going?

Greenpeace gets wrong target again

October 11, 2009

Greenpeace activists have been arrested after painting an anti-Fonterra slogan on a ship in New Plymouth.

It was another protest against the importing of palm based animal feed.

There may be bio security issues with imported feed which could be a legitimate target for protest.

Whether palm plantations are the environmental problem Greenpeace believes they are is a moot point.

But if the protesters were really concerned about the environmental impacts they’d be targeting the companies and people who buy the many products which use palm oil rather than Fonterra which imports a small amount of the waste product, palm kernel extract.

Greenpeace has wrong target for wrong reasons

September 17, 2009

Greenpeace activists might have had a case if they were protesting about the biosecurity risks from importing palm kernel extract.

But in undertaking an act of piracy and attacking Fonterra they had the wrong target for the wrong reasons.

Federated Farmers president Don Nicolson was right to call it an act of piracy.

“I fully respect the freedom of Greenpeace to protest legally but they have crossed the line by interfering with legal commerce and free navigation on the high seas.

“That’s why the Police need to take this act of piracy, or sea-robbery, very seriously and prosecute those activists to the full extent of the law.  Those activists need to be sent a message that is unequivocal and clear.  They need to be made an example of.

“It’s also economic treason designed to damage New Zealand’s reputation abroad.  Greenpeace is actually anti-farming and these new tactics show how low they are prepared to go. 

Nicolson pointed out PKE is a waste by-product of a waste by-product, derived from producing palm oil we eat or consume daily. 

This point was made by Feds’ biosecurity spokesman John Hartnell in an earlier media release:

“Palm kernel extract is a waste by-product left over from the processing of palm oil for consumer products.  I can’t state that enough, palm kernel is a waste by-product.

“Palm kernel has so little commercial value that if it isn’t recycled into supplementary feed, it is burnt.  That doesn’t sound too great for either climate change or the environment. . .

“Palm plantations aren’t created just to generate a waste by-product, just as newspapers don’t exist solely to support recycling.

Farming is a much easier target than the people who buy potato chips and all the other food which contains palm oil and Nicolson correctly points out:

“Greenpeace knows it cannot win the argument on logic so has resorted to illegal means to express its lies.  It’s a despicable new tactic that has Greenpeace’s loathing of farming written all over that ship. 

Fonterra said the ship wasn’t carrying any feed bound for its stores and that it only uses pke from sustainable sources.

The 14 activists who illegally boarded the ship have been arrested.


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