Swans Commentary » swans.com June 1, 2009  



Greenwashing Eden: The Uses And Abuses Of Biodiversity


by Michael Barker





"[C]apitalist policies and values, and often neoliberal policies and values, pervade conservation practice; indeed in some parts of the world they infest it."
— Dan Brockington, Rosaleen Duffy and Jim Igoe, 2008. (1)
" Mainstream environmental leaders generally deny that money influences their decisions or priorities, or that they are in any way beholden to their funding sources. It's a claim similar to the media's denial of influence from Madison Avenue. It isn't true, but it has to be said to preserve an aura of independence and objectivity."
— Mark Dowie, 1995. (2)


(Swans - June 1, 2009 )   Diversity and more specifically, biodiversity is the life blood of our planet. Thus the clarion call of environmentalists to combat what appears to be a disastrous decline in global biodiversity rarely falls on deaf ears. However, the propagation of such important messages does not guarantee that the solutions subsequently adopted (to restrict falling biodiversity levels) will necessarily prove effective. This is especially true when the most influential groups promoting such remedies fail to question the sustainability of our current capitalist world order. Consequently this article sets out to question the effectiveness of the free-market biodiversity work that is currently being undertaken by a number of leading environmental groups ostensibly managing global conservation efforts.

The word biodiversity was first coined in the 1960s by Professor Raymond Dasmann in his book A Different Kind of Country (MacMillan Company, 1968), and fittingly -- given the present-day pro-corporate thrust of biodiversity conservation activities -- during the 1960s Dasmann worked as the director of international programs at Laurance Rockefeller's capitalist-friendly Conservation Foundation (a group which later morphed into the Worldwide Fund for Nature, WWF). Earlier still, Dasmann had been trained by the famous elite wildlife biologist, Starker Leopold, who like his protégé had worked with the Conservation Foundation throughout the 1960s. Since then Professor Edward O. Wilson, perhaps more than any other individual, has worked the hardest to popularize the idea of biodiversity. (3) Yet, like his predecessors, Wilson's elite background does not bode well for the environment, and it does not exemplify the diversity of political opinion, which is needed to maintain a diverse range of biological organisms. (4) For example, in 1990 Wilson was honoured with the WWF's conservation Gold Medal, while he concurrently sits on the board of directors of the controversial "environmental group," Conservation International. Given Wilson's umbilical connection to the world of corporate environmentalism, this article begins by critically examining the other people involved with Conservation International's world-renowned Center for Applied Biodiversity Science.

Preserving Corporate Biodiversity

The Center for Applied Biodiversity Science was founded by Conservation International in 1999 with "generous support" from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and their website continues, that it "brings together a staff of more than 70 research scientists" to preserve biodiversity. As demonstrated elsewhere, Conservation International is a leading promoter of free-market environmentalism (see "When Environmentalists Legitimize Plunder"), and so it is unsurprising that one of their major benefactors, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, has a boardroom befitting such "environmentalism." Indeed, the foundation's founder, Gordon Moore, is a board member of Donald Rumsfeld's old haunting ground, the pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences (of Tamiflu fame); while former Moore Foundation president Lewis Coleman simultaneously used to serve as a board member of Northrop Grumman -- the "company [that] has helped shape ballistic missile technology for five decades" -- while leading the foundation's philanthropic activities.

Moving on, the founder and former executive director of the Center for Applied Biodiversity Science, Gustavo Fonseca, had, prior to setting up the Center in 1999, headed Conservation International's Brazil program. Importantly, the utility of Fonseca's work at the Center for Applied Biodiversity Science has not gone unrewarded by fellow corporate environmentalists, and in 2001 he received the prestigious Golden Ark Prize from the Dutch Government for his "accomplishment in the science of biodiversity conservation." (This award was founded by the late HRH Prince Bernhard, the original founder of WWF; and notably in 1978 biodiversity pioneer, Raymond Dasmann, also received the award.) More recently Fonseca retired from active service at Conservation International to become the head of the Global Environmental Facility's (GEF) Natural Resources Team. This move is particularly significant as the GEF is positioned as the key institution that manages global efforts at biodiversity conservation. In fact, since its establishment in 1991 as a "pilot program in the World Bank," the now independent Facility has provided "$8.26 billion in grants and leveraging $33.7 billion in co-financing for over 2,200 projects in over 165 countries." (5) Considering the Global Environmental Facility's roots in the bowels of the World Bank, it is appropriate, as Kate Ervine observes, that "the U.S. has chosen to use the GEF as a mechanism to transform environmental crises into accumulation opportunities." Moreover, Ervine continues, rather than provide any meaningful solutions to the world environmental problems...

...the GEF serves to re-create the conditions under which such crises emerge and multiply. Indeed, GEF policy and practice supports a dialectical relationship, where its current policy frames reproduce the conditions of environmental crisis that justify its very existence. (6)

Similarly Zoe Young writes:

The GEF was planned by donor governments to help the Bank respond to Northern environmental uprisings of the late 1980s, which focused on consequences of Bank-funded dam, road and other development projects in the South. The GEF has been successful insofar as many environmentalists are now keener to improve and gain access to GEF funding than to publicly challenge it, let alone to ally themselves with grassroots movements for ecological justice that doubt the value of a mission to "green" the World Bank. GEF has thus divided activists willing to play along with the US and Bank's strategic agenda from those who will not; the latter can be dismissed as extreme and unconstructive, while the former's skills and passion can be channelled through GEF processes to extend the reach of corporate capital and culture.(7)

As far as elite conservationists are concerned, such critical analyses must be kept out of the mainstream media. Therefore, to facilitate public misunderstanding of GEF's and the Center for Applied Biodiversity Science's role in promoting neoliberal environmentalism, both are dedicated members of the Alliance of Communicators for Sustainable Development. In addition to being home to key democracy manipulators like the World Bank, other notable media groups that are part of this Alliance include the BBC World Service Trust and the Inter Press Service. With the Center for Applied Biodiversity Science maintaining such functional ties to prestigious media outlets, corporate elites can rest assured that few people would not explore the role that Fonseca played as a board member of an interesting (but now defunct) group called the All Species Foundation.

Formed in 2000, the All Species Foundation aimed to catalogue every living species on earth by the year 2025. This short-lived project was in turn a spin-off from the work of the Long Now Foundation -- a foundation that was created in 1996 by Stewart Brand and Danny Hillis to "creatively foster long-term thinking and responsibility in the framework of the next 10,000 years." However, bearing in mind the professed long-term view taken by the Long Now Foundation, several of their leading board members promote the use of the one energy source that has the most potential for causing rapid extinctions, that is, nuclear power. Here, Long Now Foundation cofounder Stewart Brand best exemplifies the unlikely mix of ideas that is nuclear-powered-biodiversity "protection."

Although best known as the founder, editor, and publisher of The Whole Earth Catalog (from 1968 until 1985), Brand's environmental views seemed to have matured (read: corporatized) with time and in 1987 he helped co-found the corporate consulting group Global Business Network. It is interesting to note that a critical study published in 2007 determined that among 192 clients named on the Global Business Network's Web site, were "more than a dozen corporations and governmental agencies involved in the production or promotion of nuclear energy"; consequently it is fitting that another Long Now Foundation board member, Peter Schwartz, is a fellow nuclear booster. Likewise moving to the foundation's abortive spin-off project, the All Species Foundation, (8) another controversial former board member is Sir Ghillean Prance, who amongst his other duties serves as the scientific director of the Eden Project in Cornwall, UK. This is significant because the Eden Project, which is touted as the "eighth wonder of the world," appears to lay at the metaphorical heart of the corporate "biodiversity" protection agenda.

That Other Apple: Corporations in the Garden of Eden

After securing an initial £43 million grant from Britain's Millennium Commission in May 1997, the creation of the modern day Eden began. Designed around the idea of futurist Buckminster Fuller's geodesic dome, and located in an abandoned china clay quarry, the Eden Project is a series of plastic enclosures made of hexagonal cells that serve as mammoth greenhouses (each representing different climatic biomes) that are home for a diverse assortment of plants from all over the world.

Opening in March 2001 and now widely recognized as one of Britain's top gardens and conservation tourist attractions, the Eden Project takes pride in its educational exhibits, and its mission is to "promote the understanding and responsible management of the vital relationship between plants and people and resources leading to a sustainable future for all." Yet despite maintaining such laudable ambitions, the Eden Project has come under criticism for providing a green sheen for some of the world's most persistent environmental offenders. For example, in 2007 British activists took the Project to task labelling it a "Corporate Con" owing to their receipt of funding from environmental polluters like "Sita, a subsidiary of privatized water nasties Suez," and the Syngenta Foundation, whose parent company is the well-known procurer of genetically modified food. Sadly, like most other free-market environmental groups, the Eden Project's ties to the corporate world are much stronger than these dubious funding connections suggest, which can be most clearly seen by scrutinizing the board of trustees of their governing structure, the Eden Trust.

Of the five people presently sitting on the Eden Trust's board of trustees, perhaps the most conspicuous member is Sir John Rose, the CEO of the well-known defence contractor Rolls-Royce. (9) Yet Sir Rose is not the only defence contractor executive on the Eden Trust's board as he joined by fellow Rolls-Royce board chair and HSBC Group board member, Simon Robertson. The HSBC Group happens to be one of the largest banking and financial services organizations in the world, so it is equally fitting that the chair of the Eden Trust, Anthony Salz, is a board member of NM Rothschild & Sons -- one of the world's leading investment banking groups. Furthermore, until recently Salz served as the chair of the British Broadcasting Corporation's board of governors, while fellow Eden trustee Lucy Parker (who in 2007 was selected as chair of the Prime Minister Tony Blair's Talent and Enterprise Taskforce) spent fifteen years at the BBC as a documentary producer and director.

Notably such elite and military connections have formed a critical part of the Eden Trust's evolution, and some of their former trustees display similar if not better environmentally destructive resumes. For instance, former Eden Trust chair, Sir Ronnie Hampel, is the former chief operating officer of Imperial Chemical Industries, and had served as a board member of leading British defence manufacturer BAE Systems from 1989 until 2002. (10) Moreover, while acting as Eden's chair, Sir Hampel simultaneously sat on the board of the Aluminium Company of America (Alcoa) where he served as board member from 1995 until 2005. (11) In addition to Sir Hampel, another bygone Eden trustee was the former Governor of the Bank of England (1993-2003), the late Lord George of St Tudy, who while representing the Eden Trust served as a board member of the multinational food giant Nestle and as an advisor to NM Rothschild & Sons.

While these connections are intriguing given the Eden Project's interest in alerting the public to man's unsustainable relations with the environment, the Project's ties to such influential elites is easily understood. This is because such elite power brokers have always recognized the need to physically protect some areas of greenery from capitalism's rapacious grasp. For example, famed robber baron and founder of Standard Oil, John D. Rockefeller, took great pride in his beautiful countryside estate and organic garden, and his family has a long history of involvement in promoting capitalist conservation efforts (see "The Philanthropic Roots of Corporate Environmentalism"). Thus it is little surprise that Tim Smit, the founder and chief executive of the Eden Project, was voted Great Briton of 2007 in the Environment category of Morgan Stanley's Great Britons Awards.

In light of the Eden Project's evident obsession with polluting corporations (be they via financial backers or trustees), it is appropriate that they have heavily promoted the misleading idea of corporate social responsibility. (For a general critique of such activities see forthcoming article "Corporate Social Responsibility or Constraining Social Revolutions?") The extent of the Eden Project's diverse corporate greenwashing interests has meant that since March 2002 the Project has worked in partnership with mining giant Rio Tinto -- a company described (in 1997) by James Vassilopoulos as "the quintessential capitalist corporation, skilled at maximising profits irrespective of environmental and human rights concerns." (12) One of the most publicized results of the Eden Project's partnership with this irresponsible mining behemoth (13) is the creation of the not-for-profit Post-Mining Alliance, which is "staffed by a small secretariat based at the Eden Project." This begs the question: what exactly is the Post-Mining Alliance?

The Post-Mining Alliance states that their mission is to "encourage and promote the regeneration of old mine sites for the sustainable benefit of the local community and natural environment." Thus as in the case of the Eden Project, which is itself built on the remnants of a former quarry, the Post-Mining Alliance appears to strictly limit its operations to rehabilitating already mined areas (that is, destroyed) for the benefit of community members who have not already been displaced. It stands to reason that the Alliance's primary function is not to benefit the environment but rather to sustain corporate profits for mining corporations like Anglo American (see "Anglo American: The Alternative Report," pdf).

Tellingly, prior to helping set up the Post-Mining Alliance in late 2004, the current Director of the Alliance, Caroline Digby, was a programme director for the "CEO-led industry group" the International Council on Mining and Metals. (14) Here Digby implemented the Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development project that was developed during her work for the International Institute for Environment and Development (from 2000 until 2002). However, to gain a better understanding of the type of neoliberal environmentalism promoted by the Eden Project and their Post-Mining Alliance, it is important to briefly explore the background of the highly influential International Institute for Environment and Development.

Founded in 1971 by Barbara Ward and David Runnalls, the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) is a "policy research institute focused on climate change, natural resources, sustainable markets, human settlements, law and governance." The IIED is a central plank of the conservation establishment, and before her death in 1981, IIED cofounder Barbara Ward had served as a trustee of the Rockefeller-backed Conservation Foundation. The Institute's other cofounder, David Runnalls, likewise has a long history of working in the upper echelons of the conservation establishment and he currently serves as the president of the International Institute for Sustainable Development. Again the latter organization is a key neoliberal operation, and their board of directors is chaired by Dan Gagnier (formerly Alcan Inc.'s senior vice president for corporate and external affairs), while another particularly notable board member is Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, who is chairman of Anglo American, and past chairman of Shell. (15)

The current Director of the IIED, Camilla Toulmin -- like many of the other members of the IIED's board of trustees (16) -- is well enmeshed in neoliberal conservation networks, and perhaps most notably she is a board member of WWF-UK. In recent years, working alongside other individuals like the Eden Project's Tim Smit, Toulmin has been involved in setting up the Richard Sandbrook Trust to commemorate the life of the recently deceased (2005) British environmentalist of the same name. Her involvement in creating this charitable trust is particularly relevant to this article, because from 1999 until 2003 Sandbrook had been a board member of the Eden Trust. (Sandbrook had first served as the managing director of Friends of the Earth UK (1974-76), before moving on to join the IIED -- where he eventually served as their executive director from 1989 until 1999.) Therefore, taking into account that the Eden Project already works with Rio Tinto, it is significant that former Friends of the Earth executive director-turned Rio Tinto advisor, Tom Burke, sits on the advisory board of the germinal Richard Sandbrook Trust; moreover, Burke complements his corporate advocacy efforts by serving on the advisory board of Conservation International's Centre for Environmental Leadership in Business. (17)

Returning to the Post-Mining Alliance, their steering committee is home to both "environmentalists" and mining executives, and individuals who display a mix of both characteristics. One representative who falls into the latter category is Rio Tinto's principal environmental scientist, David Richards. Richards, in addition to developing Rio Tinto's Biodiversity Strategy, helped promote the Business and Biodiversity Offset Program, which was jointly set up by Conservation International and (unlikely tree protectors) Forest Trends. More recently, Richards acted as a member of the five-person strong "Independent Expert Panel" of a new partnership between the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and the cement giant, the Holcim Group. (18) Given the urgency of protecting biodiversity in Brazil, it is fitting that two members of this expert panel have research ties to Brazil (one directly and the second indirectly): former World Bank biodiversity specialist, Daniel Gross (who retired from the Bank in 2004 as their lead anthropologist) has to date focused "[m]ost of his research and writing" on the indigenous peoples of Brazil; while the expert panels' chair, Christoph Imboden, formerly served as the Director of BirdLife International (from 1980 until 1996), and before joining the panel had spent a number of years working for WWF and the international glass cutting corporation, Swarovski Crystals. Imboden's role in heading BirdLife International is particularly significant because at present two of BirdLife's four honorary vice presidents (Gerard Bertrand and Anastasios Leventis) are trustees of the Eden Project-connected Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest Trust, as is BirdLife's treasurer, Stephen Rumsey. (19)

Although Christoph Imboden's personal association with Brazilian biodiversity protection schemes is tenuous, one of the most prominent trustees of the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest Trust is Sir Ghillean Prance (the scientific director of the Eden Project). In turn, one of the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest Trust's largest funders is the World Land Trust, which is another British conservation charity that "has been working to preserve the world's most biologically important and threatened lands... help[ing] purchase and protect over 375,000 acres of habitats rich in wildlife, in Asia, Central and South America and the UK." (20) Again, the Malthusian-inspired World Land Trust appears to be yet another neoliberal conservation operation (21) whose elitist pedigree is best summed up by their choice of one the world's best recognized television environmentalists, Sir David Attenborough, as their organization's patron. (22)

As demonstrated above, the Eden Project has many close connections to neoliberal conservation groups, yet it is their scientific director, the Christian botanist Sir Ghillean Prance, who is perhaps the best networked person in this regard. As suggested by Clive Langmead's celebratory biography of Sir Ghillean's life, entitled A Passion for Plants: The Story of Ghillean Prance's Life from the Brazilian Forests of Brazil to Kew Gardens (Kew Publishing, 2001), Sir Ghillean has worked all over the world, but has a particular fondness for Brazil's rainforests. Having formerly served as the Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew (1988-99), (23) Sir Ghillean was a former board member of the aforementioned All Species Foundation; and in addition to being a trustee of the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest Trust he resides on the advisory board of a British non-profit called Rainforest Concern (whose affiliate members include the likes of British Airways and the Eden Project).

Rainforest Concern appears to be a Royal-capitalist project devised to protect rainforests worldwide, as another prominent member of Rainforest Concern's four-person-strong advisory board is Andrew Mitchell, who is a special adviser to The Prince's Rainforests Project and executive director of the recently formed Canopy Capital (which boasts of having "created an investment template for first-movers in an emerging market for Ecosystem Services"). Likewise, Rainforest Concern trustee and former CEO of the New York investment bank Henry Ansbacher, Hylton Philipson, is a special adviser to The Prince's Rainforests Project. (24) (Tony Juniper, the vice chair of Friends of the Earth International is the only other listed special adviser to the Prince's Project.) Finally, Rainforest Concern appears to have much in common with another group that Sir Ghillean serves as a trustee of; that is, the Global Diversity Foundation. This is because yet another member of Rainforest Concern's advisory board (John Hemming) is a trustee of this Foundation. Below is an attempt to determine the type of biodiversity that the Global Diversity Foundation is likely to be protecting.

Saving Biodiversity by "Helping" Conservation Refugees

Formed in 1999, the Global Diversity Foundation describes its mission as "promot[ing] agricultural, biological and cultural diversity around the world through research, training and social action." Since its founding, the foundation's activities have been directed by Gary Martin, who prior to taking on this role had been a "field coordinator for the People and Plants Initiative on ethnobotany and sustainable use of plant resources, [which was] a joint effort of WWF-UK, UNESCO and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew." Importantly, Martin's former employer, the People and Plants Initiative (now known as People and Plants International) works closely with the Indonesian-based Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), which is a member of the controversial Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (see footnote 16). (25) This is problematic as CIFOR's work is directly connected to agribusiness giant Syngenta through Andrew Bennett, who serves on their board of trustees, and to the elite planning group, the Council on Foreign Relations through their director general, Frances Seymour (for further criticisms of CIFOR see "Bill Gates Engineers Another Green Revolution"). Given these ties it is appropriate that Gary Martin is a staff member of the Centre for Biocultural Diversity, a British research center whose managing director, Rajindra Puri, formerly worked for CIFOR, and still works on CIFOR related projects, like for example the Multipurpose Landscape Assessment project.

In addition to Sir Ghillean, two other Global Diversity Foundation trustees with backgrounds worth consideration are Michel Pimbert, who is currently director of the Sustainable Agriculture, Biodiversity and Livelihoods Program at the International Institute for Environment and Development -- see earlier, (26) and the aforementioned John Hemming. Hemming, like Sir Ghillean, is an archetypal elite conservationist, who had served for over two decades as the director of the imperialist Royal Geographical Society (1975-96). (27) His online biography notes that he is considered to be "one of the world's experts on Brazilian Indians, the Amazon environment, the Incas, Peruvian archaeology... and the history of exploration generally," and last year he published his most recent book on the Amazon entitled Tree of Rivers: The Story of the Amazon (Thames & Hudson, 2008). Furthermore, in addition to serving on the advisory board of the free-market orientated Rainforest Concern, Hemming is a patron of Wilderness Foundation UK, a group whose sister organisation is the military-linked WILD Foundation; and he is a European trustee of the Rio Tinto-funded Earthwatch Institute -- which happens to include Edward O. Wilson on their international advisory board. (28) In addition, Hemming formerly acted as a trustee of Pro-Natura International, a group that was founded by Marcelo Carvalho de Andrade in 1985 as the "first international, nongovernmental organization based in the Southern Hemisphere to specialize in sustainable development." This group's commitment to neoliberal conservation is illustrated by the fact that Marcelo now serves on the board of the democracy-manipulating "environmental" outfit, Counterpart International, and is the president of Maurice Strong's Earth Council Alliance. (29)

As noted elsewhere, one of the major problems associated with the conservation measures being promoted by neoliberal conservation groups that people like John Hemming and Sir Ghillean work for is that:

From a distance, these arrangements make it possible to believe that "the rainforest" or "the Kayapo" [Brazilian Indians] can be saved by the push of virtual button, after typing one's credit card information into the funding Web site of a conservation BINGO [Big International NGO]. As we will discuss in detail in our concluding chapter, the belief that only distant and exotic landscapes and people are worth saving externalizes both the problems and the solutions. Most fundamentally, it spares people in the global north the discomforts of the social and environmental impacts of their most mundane activities. It also conceals on a day-to-day basis the types of social and environmental problems that are closest at hand. (30)

Bearing this statement in mind it is fitting that one of the many projects that the Global Diversity Foundation currently supports around the world revolves around helping the internally displaced San peoples of Namibia, in Omaheke, to develop subsistence gardens. This so-called Kalahari Garden Project works with the former hunter-gatherer San people in an area known as the Aminuis Corridor on the border of Botswana. Written material relating to this project acknowledges that the gardens are necessary because the San people have been forced off their land owing to land tenure issues, but this literature purposely fails to draw attention to the fact that it is the predatory activities of Western mining corporations that have created such indigenous conservation refugees in the first place (for further details see my forthcoming article on mining in Namibia).

Mark Dowie, the author of the just-released book Conservation Refugees: The Hundred-Year Conflict between Global Conservation and Native Peoples (MIT Press, 2009), observes that a "common complaint" of indigenous peoples worldwide is that their forced relocation "often occurs with the tacit approval of one or more five largest conservation organizations [or BINGOs] -- Conservation International (CI), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the Worldwide Fund for Wildlife (WWF), the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)." Dowie notes:

The rationale for "internal displacements," as these evictions are officially called, usually involves a perceived threat to the biological diversity of a larger geographical area, variously designated by one or more BINGO as an "ecological hot spot," an "ecoregion," a "vulnerable ecosystem," a "biological corridor," or a "living landscape" -- alternatives for categorizing what each organization hopes will be designated a protected area by the government of its host country. (p.xxii)

Unsurprisingly, the creation of such national parks or nature reserves "occasionally involve a debt-for-nature swap... or similar financial incentive provided by the Global Environment Facility" or similar funding agency. (31) Dowie then traces the tragic history of indigenous "conservation" relocations all over the world, and in one chapter -- of special relevance to the Kalahari Garden Project -- he examines the plight of Botswana's indigenous peoples. Here, as one might predict, the Diamond mining industry (whose export generates about 70 percent of Botswana's foreign exchange) has played a critical role in creating so-called conservation refugees around the Kalahari region. In particular, Dowie highlights the activities of a mining company jointly owned by Anglo American subsidiary De Beers and the government of Botswana called Debswana Diamond Company, which in 2001 "sold $2.3 billion of diamonds (almost 30 percent of the world market)." Moreover given the close intimacy shared by leading neoliberal environmental outfits and mining corporations it is fitting that Debswana board member, Sheila Khama (who is also the CEO of De Beers Botswana), is the former wife of the cousin of Botswana's president Seretse Ian Khama, who happens to be a board member of Conservation International. Here the boardroom ties between Botswana's diamond miners and other mining corporations like Anglo American are excellent, as are the connections between corporate plunderers like Rio Tinto and other related uranium-mining corporations based in Namibia. Thus considering the already existing working relationships that join the Eden Project to both Anglo American and Rio Tinto, it is ironic that one of the Global Diversity Foundation's major project partners involved in setting up the Kalahari Garden Project is none other than the Eden Project.(32)

Empowering People and Not Mining Corporations

As Joni Seager wrote some years ago: "There appears to be little introspection within the environmental movement about the uses of science in society, and about the extent to which science is a prop for conservative political and social values." Little has changed since this comment was made and as Brian Tokar points out, this failure of critical faculty in the mainstream has helped ensure that many high-profile environmentalists...

...have adopted a limited agenda focusing on the efficient management of environmental problems within the limits imposed by present political and economic realities. Thus, they are unable to acknowledge a reality that is becoming more widely accepted by grassroots environmental activists -- that the protection of public health and the conservation of natural ecosystems may ultimately require more comprehensive changes in society. (33)

The industrious and misleading output of well-funded neoliberal conservation operations works to ensure that many rightfully concerned citizens end up working on non-solutions to the world's capitalist environmental catastrophe. This is not ideal; and it has meant that most environmentalists remain blissfully unaware of the exploitative capitalist logic that undergirds many of their primary assumptions about the environment. This is especially the case regarding the false, but widespread belief, that population growth is the primary environmental issue that needs to be tackled. On this score, even otherwise excellent journalist Chris Hedges recently succumbed to such misleading neo-Malthusian logic (see "Rebuttal to Chris Hedges: Stop the Tired Overpopulation Hysteria"). Unfortunately, many leading environmentalists, like the aforementioned Catley-Carlson and Sir David Attenborough, are dedicated neo-Malthusian campaigners, and so it is understandable why, as Katrina Brown writes, "some biologists assume simplistic neo-Malthusian explanations of global loss of biodiversity." She continues:

The neo-Malthusian analysis of the problem, which identifies the cause of biodiversity loss as being associated with increasing human numbers, leads to solutions which separate people and biodiversity; biodiversity needs to be protected from people. As a result the conventional conservationist perspective sees the designation, implementation and effective enforcement of protected areas as the primary means to conserve habitats and their associated species, backed up by legislation and regulation as means to protect rare species.(34)

Brown acknowledges that this neo-Malthusian approach to conservation has not been universally accepted and adopted, but nonetheless she notes that this approach has guided much conservation policy and "continues to underscore the conservation discourse, despite the rising tide of rhetoric to the contrary."

Evidently much needs to be done if the environmental movement is to effectively reclaim critically important environmental issues, like biodiversity, from the neoliberal conservation movement. Thus it is vital that more people develop a holistic understanding of the relationship between capitalism and the environment: a first step towards developing a more sustainable critical outlook might involve recognizing that rapacious mining corporations are not useful "partners" in the search for the necessary solutions to the environmental and human rights abuses that are the bread and butter of capitalist enterprises. There are, of course, numerous alternate solutions that can be implemented to negate the anti-humanist practices of some of the world's most polluting industries, but these are unlikely to eventuate by entering into unequal partnerships with the most powerful, destructive, and manipulative corporations that the earth has ever known. However, for such useful planet life-orientated solutions to eventuate, first and foremost people will need to recognize that it is the unregulated ever-growing capitalist economy that presents the real threat to the environment, not human population growth.




1.  Dan Brockington, Rosaleen Duffy and Jim Igoe, Nature Unbound: Conservation, Capitalism and the Future of Protected Areas (Earthscan, 2008), p.3. They also write: "With respect to environmental problems, [Leslie Sklair] argues, following Gramsci, that corporations and what we call mainstream conservation have colluded to form a 'sustainable development historical bloc' (p.8). The historical bloc offers solutions to the environmental crises that are inherent to global consumer capitalism, while all the time maintaining and strengthening an accompanying 'consumerist ideology'. Indeed, increased consumption becomes central to the solutions (p.216). In this book we extend this perspective to argue that the global proliferation of protected areas and related conservation strategies reflect the emergence of this historical bloc. We argue that although these strategies may limit the growth of industry in some contexts, they simultaneously offer solutions to crises of the global growth strategy that makes the spread of industrial enterprise possible in the first place. Protected areas create new types of value that are essential to the global consumer economy." (p.5)  (back)

2.  Mark Dowie, Losing Ground: American Environmentalism at the Close of the Twentieth Century (MIT Press, 1995), p.41.  (back)

3.  "In 1988, Wilson edited the volume BioDiversity, based on the proceedings of the first United States national conference on the subject, which also introduced the term biodiversity to the language, now in universal usage. This work was very influential in creating the modern field of biodiversity studies. In 1992, Wilson published Diversity of Life, which synthesized the principles and most important practical issues of biodiversity; this, too, became a standard work."  (back)

4.  Earlier in his career Wilson published the influential book, Sociobiology: The New Synthesis (Harvard University Press, 1975) that effectively launched the controversial field of sociobiology. The late Murray Bookchin has mounted the most sustained offensive against socio-biology and its fascist tendencies. Of Wilson, Bookchin draws attention to the "vividness of his emphasis on aggression, hierarchy, domination, territoriality, and competition as genetically innate to all life-forms," although that said, Bookchin acknowledges that Wilson is at least "[m]ore cautious than such rabidly reactionary acolytes as Richard Dawkins" (see "Sociobiology or Social Ecology," pp.52-3).

In addition to Bookchin's attacks on sociobiology, Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin have been two of the foremost critics of what they referred to as Wilson's absurd biological determinism. Indeed, along with other "collaborators," they wrote a letter in 1975 to the New York Review of Books noting that: "The reason for the survival of these recurrent determinist theories is that they consistently tend to provide a genetic justification of the status quo and of existing privileges for certain groups according to class, race or sex. Historically, powerful countries or ruling groups within them have drawn support for the maintenance or extension of their power from these products of the scientific community." By way of an example, they then cited John D. Rockefeller, Sr. who they noted said that: "The growth of a large business is merely a survival of the fittest.... It is merely the working out of a law of nature and a law of God."

For further criticisms of socio-biology, see Stephen Jay Gould's The Mismeasure of Man (Norton, 1981); and for an example of what Louis Proyect refers to as a "defense of sociobiology of a kind that I've never seen in a left publication," see Proyect's 2002 article "Sociobiology in the Nation Magazine." By way of a contrast to Wilson's conservative vision of the environment, Brian Tokar in his excellent book Earth for Sale: Reclaiming Ecology in the Age of Corporate Greenwash (South End Press, 1997), writes that: "One of the most articulate precursors of a radical ecological vision was the Russian naturalist and geographer Peter Kropotkin, who renounced the prevailing interpretation of Charles Darwin's principle of evolution as a relentless 'struggle for existence,' and set out to examine cooperation and mutual aid as factors in both natural and social evolution." (p.113)  (back)

5.  According to the Global Environmental Facility: "Biodiversity conservation constitutes one of the GEF's greatest priorities. Since 1991, the GEF has invested nearly $4.2 billion in grants and cofinancing for biodiversity conservation in developing countries. As the financial mechanism for the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the GEF helps countries fulfill their obligations under the CBD."  (back)

6.  Kate Ervine, "The Greying of Green Governance: Power Politics and the Global Environment Facility," Capitalism Nature Socialism, 18 (4), 2007, p.138.

"The GEF was first proposed in 1989 by the French government during a World Bank meeting in Bangkok. The concept of creating an institution of global environmental governance came on the heels of the 1987 publication of the World Commission on Environment and Development report, 'Our Common Future,' in response to increasing recognition that the international community must find some mechanism to address the deteriorating global environmental conditions outlined in the report." (pp.130-1)

Elsewhere Ervine notes how: "Rather than providing a genuine opportunity for participatory conservation and development, many suspect the [Mexico-Mesoamerican Biological] Corridor simply represents another tool of power through which local elites, government officials, and foreign interests may benefit. While this may not be the case entirely, the pervasiveness of this belief surely necessitates more than passing reflection on the project itself. What's more, the MMBC has been used by some as a tool in the agrarian conflict in Chiapas, whereby they have sought the removal, with project funds, of local communities classified as 'invaders' within the Lacandon Jungle. Not surprisingly, such communities are frequently sympathetic with the Zapatista movement's call for justice in the resolution of land disputes in the region, and many have been awaiting official regularization of their lands for decades and should in no way be considered illegal invaders. Should we be surprised that with such intense conflict, projects that 'depoliticize the landscape' confront serious obstacles? Indeed, the project was stalled for a number of years due to inter-community conflict on the issue of land amongst other things, so that by September 2006 no projects were yet underway, despite initial project commencement in 2001."  (back)

7.  Zoe Young, "The Politics of GEF," (pdf) ECO: The Voice of the NGO Community in the International Environmental Conventions, 15 (7), March 2006.  (back)

8.  Ryan Phelan, the former CEO of the All Species Foundation, went on to serve as the vice chair of the Rockefeller Family Fund's now defunct non-profit technical assistance provider, TechRocks. Other notable board members of the All Species Foundation included Russell Mittermeier (the president of Conservation International), and Peter Warshall who formerly served as the editor-at-large for the Whole Earth Magazine (founded in 1974 by Stewart Brand). Warshall presently sits alongside David Rockefeller, Jr. on the council of the rainforest protection group Ecotrust -- an environmental group headed by the cofounder of Conservation International, Spencer Beebe. In addition, Warshall is the secretary of the Northern Jaguar Project, a binational nonprofit that formed in 2002 to protect jaguars and their habitat in southwestern U.S. and Mexico.  (back)

9.  Rose can boast of being a member of JP Morgan's international council, and he serves on the international advisory board of the UK business' most powerful lobbying organisation, the Confederation of British Industry.  (back)

10.  R. James Woolsey, Jr., the former director of the US CIA served alongside Hampel as a board member of BAE Systems (then known as British Aerospace) during the years 1992 and 1993.  (back)

11.  Alcoa is a leading mining corporation that works closely with Conservation International and maintains excellent connections to some of the world's most influential liberal philanthropists, most notably via its connections to the Ford Foundation. For instance, Alcoa's chairman and CEO, Alain Belda, is a former Ford Foundation trustee; while Alcoa board member, Kathryn Fuller, is chair of the Ford Foundation, and her fellow Alcoa board member, Franklin Thomas, served as president and CEO of the Ford Foundation from 1979 to 1996.  (back)

12.  Here it is worth noting that Ian Strachan, the former deputy chief executive of Rio Tinto (1991-95), presently serves alongside Eden Trust trustees (Sir John Rose and Simon Robertson) on the board of Rolls-Royce. In addition, current Rio Tinto board member Lord Kerr of Kinlochard has served as an advisory board member of BAE Systems since September 2008, and since 2005 Lord Kerr has acted as the deputy chairman of Royal Dutch Shell. Yet another Rio Tinto board member, Richard Sykes, is a member of LEAD International's advisory council, and between 2003 and 2005 served as a trustee of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

For further criticisms of Rio Tinto, see Gabriel Caplett, "Rio Tinto: Investing in Instability," Northwoods Wilderness Recovery, March 2008; and Roger Moody, PLUNDER!: The Story of Rio Tinto Zinc (Partizans, 1992).

For details of the destructive role of the mining industry, see Mark Curtis, "Fanning the Flames: The Role of British Mining Companies in Conflict and the Violation of Human Rights," (pdf) War on Want, November 2007; Mark Curtis, The Great Deception: Anglo-American Power and World Order (Pluto Press, 1998); Al Gedicks (Editor), Resource Rebels: Native Challenges to Mining and Oil Corporations (South End Press, 2000); Roger Moody, Rocks and Hard Places: The Globalization of Mining (Zed Books, 2007); and Corporate Watch UK's report "Precious Things" (October/November 2006).  (back)

13.  Clive Hamilton, Scorcher: The Dirty Politics of Climate Change (Black Inc., 2007); Guy Pearse, Quarry Vision: Coal, Climate Change and the End of the Resources Boom (Black Inc., 2009).  (back)

14.  "The International Council on Mining and Metals' (ICMM) 'ten principles' were studiously framed so that miners could avoid being bound by their objectives. They include an ephemeral 'goal' to 'minimise involuntary resettlement', without defining the term; and to 'respect the culture and heritage of local communities, including Indigenous Peoples', while strenuously resisting implementation of community-controlled 'fully informed prior consent'. The ICMM also has signally failed to reject the practices of riverine and submarine tailings disposal (STD), despite their transparent violation of the precautionary principle. It is true that in 2003 the Council did frown upon encroachment within biosphere reserves and other protected sites. But by then some of its most influential members, including BHPBilliton, Into and Rio Tinto, had chipped away at Indonesia's 1999 Forestry Act." Roger Moody, Rocks and Hard Places, p.179.  (back)

15.  With regard to Sir Mark Moody-Stuart's alleged concern for the environment, even the prime democracy manipulator Human Rights Watch has drawn attention to his companies involvement with mercenaries and warlords in the Democratic Republic of Congo. For more information on related mining operations in the Congo see, Keith Harmon Snow and David Barouski, "Behind the Numbers: Untold Suffering in the Congo," Znet, March 1, 2006.  (back)

16.  The IIED's board of trustees is chaired by the former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997-2002), Mary Robinson, who is a member of many liberal elite democracy-manipulation projects including most notably the Club of Budapest. (Note: the former head of the UN Commission for Human Rights was recently appointed to head the "humanitarian" propaganda outlet, the International Crisis Group.) IIED vice chair, Alan Jenkins, simultaneously serves as vice chair of the Foundation for International Environmental Law and Development (an independent subsidiary of the IIED). The chair of the latter Foundation, Maureen O'Neil, is a former president of Rights and Democracy -- the Canadian version of the notorious democracy manipulator the National Endowment for Democracy.

A number of the IIED's trustees maintain strong ties to important democracy-manipulating groups. Thus Margaret Catley-Carlson, who formerly served as the president of the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations' Malthusian Population Council, presently chairs the Global Crop Diversity Trust -- a project that ostensibly aims to "ensure the conservation and availability of crop diversity for food security worldwide." However, as I have demonstrated elsewhere, the chief aim of this Trust appears to be "first and foremost to protect the profits of the agribusinesses that are forcing GM [genetically modified] crops upon the world" (see "Bill Gates Engineers Another Green Revolution"). Furthermore, another group that is critiqued within the aforementioned (Bill Gates) article is the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) -- a group that set up with the aid of the Rockefeller Foundation as an imperialist missionary of the agribusiness community. This is significant because IIED trustee, Teresa Fogelberg, formerly sat on CGIAR's oversight committee; while yet another IIED trustee, Julio Berdegue, is vice chair of the Rockefeller Foundation's International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, a group which is member of the CGIAR, and was a key promoter of the initial Malthusian Green Revolution. For a detailed critique of CGIAR and the Convention on Biodiversity, see Henk Hobbelink, "Biodiversity at Rio: Conservation or Access? ," Capitalism Nature Socialism, 3 (4), 1992.

Finally, given the IIED's role in presenting free-market solutions to environmental problems, it is appropriate that the IIED's former long-serving deputy chairman (1976-89), Abdalatif Al-Hamad, presently serves on the board of overseers of the International Center for Economic Growth, a group committed to providing a "market based solutions to economic reform problems."  (back)

17.  Tom Burke formerly headed Green Alliance from 1982 until 1991, and presently sits on their board of trustees. Green Alliance is a leading proponent of corporate social responsibility and their work is funded by all manner of corporations (e.g., GlaxoSmithKline, Shell, Rio Tinto), and even by the British government's Westminster Foundation for Democracy (which is the UK's equivalent of the US government's key democracy-manipulating body, the National Endowment for Democracy). The Green Alliance was cofounded in 1978 by Edward Goldsmith (the founder of The Ecologist magazine), Gordon Rattray Taylor, Gerard Morgan Grenville and Maurice Ash.  (back)

18.  Roger Moody in his book, Rocks and Hard Places writes that "Stephan Schmidheiny [a close friend of Maurice Strong] and his brother Thomas are the most prominent members of the Swiss family that founded (through their grandfather Ernst) the cement-asbestos company Eternit and later Holcim, now one of the world's two biggest cement producers. Holcim was controlled up until 2003 by Thomas Schmidheiny. Though giving up the chairmanship that year, he holds on to a directorship and a considerable number of Holcim shares." Moody continues that Stephan Schmidheiny "is best known as a 'philanthropist' and founder of the Business (later, World Business) Council for Sustainable Development," a group which according to some observers was part of "a strategy to dislodge the United Nations Center on Transnational Corporations as it moved towards enforceable rules governing the operations of multinational corporations." Moody points out that Schmidheiny also set up AVINA -- a charitable foundation that supports sustainable development initiatives -- writing that: "Ironically, AVINA's largest single tranche of funding goes to projects in Brazil. The irony is that, in 2004, a court in Sao Paulo indicted Eternit (the Schmidheinys) for causing massive damage to the health of workers in its asbestos operations. The court awarded the aggrieved and their dependants both compensation and the right to adequate medical care." (pp. 116-7)  (back)

19.  In 2001 "BirdLife International launche[d] the[ir] 'Birds and the Environment' programme with Rio Tinto, claiming that the partnership is 'fuelled by mutually held objectives of integrating biodiversity conservation into core business practices'. In 2004, the charity announce[d] that it has protected nearly 170,000 hectares of a new National Park on the Indonesian island of Halmahera. This is also home, however, to a major proposed nickel mine to be operated by Canadian-based Weda Bay Minerals in an area ostensibly protected by the nation's 1999 Forest Protection Act." Roger Moody, Rocks and Hard Places, pp.165-6.  (back)

20.  The Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest Trust's secretary, Alan Martin, also serves on the council of the World Land Trust. Additionally, the former director general of the Wildlife Trusts and current CEO of LEAD International, Simon Lyster, is a World Land Trust trustee, and his wife, Sandra Charity Lyster, runs conservation programs for WWF-UK in Brazil.  (back)

21.  "The real problem behind all the crises facing the world is not a shortage of oil. It is not the credit crunch, it is not global warming. It is the thing that fuels all of these, it is the ever expanding human population and its ever increasing greed." -- John Burton, CEO of the World Land Trust, 2008.

Since its founding in 1989, John Burton has been the CEO of the World Land Trust. From 1975 until 1987 Burton was CEO of Fauna and Flora International (a group whose current president is a trustee of the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest Trust), but more recently (from 2007-08) he served as a trustee of the newly formed BBC Wildlife Fund. The latter group's trustees include the likes of Shyam Parekh (who is a managing director of Morgan Stanley), and Toby Aykroyd, who is co-chair of the Malthusian-inspired Population and Sustainability Network, and vice-chair of Wilderness Foundation UK, a group whose sister organisation is the military-linked WILD Foundation.

Burton's wife, Vivien, presently serves as the World Land Trust's Head of Communications, and she previously worked as a Conservation Assistant for WWF cofounder Sir Peter Scott in his capacity as Chairman of IUCN's Species Survival Commission. Thus, given the Burton duo's background in elite conservation, it is fitting that Hugh Somerville, the former Head of Environment for British Airways, should note on the Trust's testimonial page that the Trust is an "excellent role model for other groups," whose work British Airways have been "long term supporters of." With regard to British Airways' own contradictory commitment to conservation, in late 2005, Corporate Watch UK observed how British Airways announced "that customers booking through its website would be invited to make their flights 'climate neutral' with Climate Care." Corporate Watch UK continued that: "By putting the onus on the consumer, BA neatly avoids any obligation or cost for the emissions from its flights, yet gains PR benefits. At the same time the aviation industry in the UK receives a £9 billion a year tax break, and continues to lobby against tax on aviation fuel, and for airport expansion."

It should be no surprise that John Burton in his capacity as the head of an international conservation group should jet-set all over the world; however, what is more controversial are his justifications for his weekend soirées. Thus, on April 29, 2009, Burton reported on his blog that he had just flown to Sicily for a long weekend break, commenting that while such a journey does have a carbon footprint, he thinks that "since on the whole I lead a relatively low-carbon life, I suppose I feel, a little bit of indulgence is justified." His logic beggars belief for an individual who is supposed to be a leading environmentalist, but all the same, it is consistent much hegemonic neoliberal environmental reasoning on such matters. With regard to Burton's imaginary "relatively low-carbon life" one should consider that earlier this year on his own blog he wrote "I have just returned from Africa [Kenya] for a series of meetings with local conservation groups," and in September 2008 Burton wrote: "I have just returned from an extensive visit to South America," which taken together clearly indicates that John maintains a high, not low, carbon life (unless of course he is referring to his recycling of food containers and use of energy efficient light bulbs at home).

For a committed corporate environmentalist, Burton holds strangely contradictory views, as earlier this year he wrote on his blog how "the idea that a totally free market is a good way of letting the world run its affairs is probably daft." Perhaps unaware of what his own organization does, he added that "stopping it [the World Land Trust] becoming another 'corporate conservation organisation' is the challenge ahead." Indeed, despite his group being a bastion of the principles undergirding free-market environmentalism -- that, is purchasing land to save the planet -- on his blog Burton has had the temerity to highlight the problems of IUCN's many meetings but little action (especially, he says, on the problem of the population bomb), the issue of WWF "going corporate," and the greenwashing effect (true) of the Green Awards (that are organised in partnership with the UN Environment Programme).

For a critique of the colonial history of Burton's former employer, Fauna and Flora International (an organisation formerly known as the Society for the Preservation of the Fauna of the Empire), see Roderick Neumann, Imposing Wilderness: Struggles over Livelihood and Nature Preservation in Africa (University of California Press, 1998).  (back)

22.  Brother of Lord Richard Attenborough -- the actor, film director, and patron of the one-world-government advocate, One World Action -- Sir David Attenborough (who was recently voted the most trusted celebrity in Britain) lends his support to many elitist environmental groups. For starters, Sir David is a vice president of Interact Worldwide (a group better described by its former name Population Concern), and just last month he became a patron of another Malthusian group called Optimum Population Trust (for a brief introduction of this Trust see "Sustainable Population Australia and the Population-National Security Complex"). Furthermore, his commitment to imperial conservation has meant that Sir David is a vice president of another group that was formerly known as the Society for the Preservation of the Fauna of the Empire (and is now called Fauna and Flora International), and he is an ambassador of the better-known global neoliberal conservation outfit, WWF-UK.  (back)

23.  From 2003 until 2005, Rio Tinto board member Richard Sykes served as a trustee of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.  (back)

24.  In 1990, Hylton Philipson formed Wingate Ventures, which according to his online biography provides "corporate finance services to businesses making a positive contribution to the environment, including Carbon Conservation and Canopy Capital." Formed in 2001, the latter group, Carbon Conservation, is particularly controversial despite having a fairly innocuous neoliberal-styled mission statement to: "maximise the contribution of land and vegetation-based carbon storage to reducing and absorbing greenhouse gas emissions, while being guided by the principles of biodiversity conservation and sustainable development." Indeed, just last December it was reported that a deal "brokered by Australia-based Carbon Conservation between Merrill Lynch, Flora and Fauna International, the provincial government of Aceh and others, [that] could generate up to $432 million in gross carbon financing over the next 30 years by preventing logging and conversion of Ulu Masen forest in Aceh province for oil palm plantations." This news is particularly noteworthy because Carbon Conservation's "Strategic Investor" is Phillip Scanlan, an individual who formerly served as the inaugural chairman of the neoliberal think tank, the Sydney Institute (1989-93), and prior to that had been associated with the secretive neoliberal Crossroads group.

While Hylton Philipson does not serve in any management capacity at Carbon Conservation, he is the managing director of Canopy Capital; however, as mentioned earlier, Philipson also acts as a special adviser to The Prince's Rainforests Project, as do the two other managing members of Canopy Capital (Andrew Mitchell and Michael Naylor). Here it is worth noting that Canopy Capital's Web site points out how: "In March 2008, Canopy Capital entered into a partnership with the Iwokrama International Centre (IIC) in Guyana to measure and place a financial value on the Ecosystem Services (ESS) of Iwokrama's tropical forest." They go on to observe this is the "first ever deal to put a market value on the services provided by a rainforest, which include rainfall production, water storage, and weather moderation." Here it is critical to observe that the patron of the Iwokrama Centre is the Prince of Wales, while the Center itself has been supported by many of the neoliberal environmental groups mentioned so far in this article. Thus in 1993 the Center obtained a $3 million grant from the Global Environment Facility, while other funders of their work have included the Darwin Initiative (UK Government), WWF, and Conservation International's Center for Applied Biodiversity Science -- a group whose former executive director, Thomas Lacher, Jr., is currently co-supervising (with Douglas Slack), Laura Weber's doctoral thesis examining cultural values and conservation around Iwokrama Forest (Guyana).

Finally, it is important to scrutinize The Prince's Rainforests Project as it was set up in late 2007 by the Prince of Wales "with the support of sixteen major companies" (including the likes of Morgan Stanley, Rio Tinto, and Shell) to get the private sector more involved in rainforest protection. Incidentally, The Prince's Rainforests Project's communications manager, Briony Mathieson, used to work "for USAID in Uganda in a primate project on the marketing side of eco-tourism," and just before joining The Prince's Rainforests Project she was responsible for corporate fundraising and marketing at Rainforest Concern.  (back)

25.  Links between People and Plants International and the Centre for International Forestry Research are evident via two of People and Plants International's six steering committee members (Miguel Alexiades and Patricia Shanley), and through one of their associates, Citlalli Lopez.  (back)

26.  Previously Michel Pimbert worked as principal staff at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi Arid Tropics in India (an institute that is a member of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research), and he then became head of the Biodiversity Program of the International Secretariat of WWF in 1992. Importantly, Mangala Rai, who presently serves on the governing board of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi Arid Tropics, simultaneously acts as a board member of the controversial Global Crop Diversity Trust (see "Bill Gates Engineers Another Green Revolution"). On top of this, the former executive secretary of the Global Crop Diversity Trust (until 2005), Geoffrey Hawtin, serves on the international advisory committee of the Eden Project managed endeavour Gardens for Life project -- which in turn obtains support from the Syngenta Foundation.  (back)

27.  Robert Stafford, "Annexing the Landscapes of the Past: British Imperial Geology in the Nineteenth Century," in John MacKenzie (ed), Imperialism and the Natural World (Manchester University Press, 1990), p.78.

The current president of the Royal Geographical Society, Sir Gordon Conway, is the chief scientific advisor to the UK Department for International Development, and from 1998 until 2004 he served as the president of the Rockefeller Foundation. Honorary vice presidents of the Royal Geographical Society include Michael Palin (who is a trustee of the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest Trust) and Sir Crispin Tickell (who formerly served as a chairman of International Institute for Environment and Development, 1990-94; a trustee of WWF-UK, 1993-99; and as a senior advisor to the Global Environment Facility, 1994-2003).  (back)

28.  Founded in 1971 by Bob Citron, the Earthwatch Institute notes that it "brings science to life for people concerned about the Earth's future." For a self-styled environmentalist, Citron has a strange interest in space travel, as he "is the co-founder of Kistler Aerospace Corporation, a company that is developing the world's first reusable rocket launch systems that will place medium-class satellites into Earth orbit and provide logistic support for the International Space Station." Furthermore, Citron is the co-founder and executive director of the Foundation For the Future, which includes the controversial Libertarian "scholar" Charles Murray upon its board of trustees: Murray is most infamous for co-authoring the social Darwinist tract The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life (Basic Books, 1988). Edward O. Wilson is advisor emeriti of the Foundation For the Future, while another intriguing member of their current advisory board is Club of Budapest member Barbara Marx Hubbard (for a lengthy critical examination of Hubbard's work, see "Who Wants A One World Government?").  (back)

29.  On a slight aside, John Hemming served as a founding trustee of an indigenous rights group called Survival International, a group that initially started life in 1968 as the Primitive Peoples' Fund. Other notable cofounders included Robin Hanbury-Tenison (a famous explorer who is a trustee of Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest Trust, and who now acts as Survival International's president), and Edward Goldsmith (the aforementioned founder of The Ecologist). Another long-time trustee of Survival International is Nigel Sitwell, who was editor and publisher of the magazine Wildlife for 17 years and a former director of information for WWF-UK.  (back)

30.  Dan Brockington, Rosaleen Duffy and Jim Igoe, Nature Unbound: Conservation, Capitalism and the Future of Protected Areas (Earthscan, 2008), pp.129-30.

For further critical information about the use and abuse of the Brazilian Kayapo Indians, see Terence Turner, "Neoliberal Ecopolitics and Indigenous Peoples: The Kayapo, The Rainforest Harvest, and The Body Shop," (pdf) Yale F&ES Bulletin, 98, 1995.  (back)

31.  "In countries where evictions from ancestral homelands are illegal or otherwise unfeasible, the process is often sanitized by terms such as voluntary relocation, or veiled behind a so-called co-management project where a government imposes strict livelihood restrictions (e.g., no hunting, fishing, gathering of certain plants, agricultural practices) to be enforced by a BINGO. Inducements are offered to refugees, often involving promises of compensation that are all too frequently unfulfilled or inadequate." Mark Dowie, Conservation Refugees, p.xxiii.  (back)

32.  Another British charity that has recently begun working on the Kalahari Garden Project is a group called GardenAfrica, whose board of advisors includes the former editor of The Ecologist, Jeremy Smith. The Kalahari Garden Project works with three Namibian nonprofits, Komeho Namibia, the Centre for Research, Information and Action in Africa (CRIAA-SADC), and the Working Group of Indigenous Minorities in Southern Africa (WIMSA). The first of these organizations, Komeho Namibia, was "formed by ex-OXFAM Canada staff," and the second, CRIAA-SADC, is funded by various OXFAM offices (including OXFAM Canada) and various foreign development agencies including the UK's Department for International Development. Finally, in 2001 it is notable that WIMSA obtained a single grant from the democracy-manipulating Westminster Foundation to fund WIMSA and First Peoples Worldwide "to produce a Community Legal Education Booklet as part of a wider indigenous rights project." The grant was specifically aimed "to provide the San (Bushmen), with the knowledge and skills required to actively defend their rights, and to develop working relationships with government at local and national level."

For a liberal critique of the way in which nongovernmental organizations have "become an integral, and necessary, part of a system that sacrifices respect for justice and rights," see Firoze Manji and Carl O'Coill, " The Missionary Position: NGOs and Development in Africa," (pdf) International Affairs, 78 (3), 2002, p.13. Alternatively, James Petras provides the landmark Marxist critique of the nonprofit sector in his article " NGOs: In the Service of Imperialism," Journal of Contemporary Asia, 29(4), 1999. For other related criticisms of NGO, see Source Watch's resources.  (back)

33.  Joni Seager, Earth Follies: Coming to Feminist Terms with the Global Environmental Crisis (Routledge, 1993), p.197; Brian Tokar, Earth for Sale: Reclaiming Ecology in the Age of Corporate Greenwash (South End Press, 1997), pp.xi-xii.

With regards to solutions, Tokar cites Ivan Illich who once said: "The credibility of the professional expert, be he scientist, therapist or executive, is the Achilles heel of the industrial system. Therefore, only those citizen initiatives and radical technologies that directly challenge the insinuating dominance of disabling professions open the way to freedom for nonhierarchical, community based competence... The first step ... is a skeptical and nondeferential posture of the citizen toward the professional expert. Social reconstruction begins with a doubt raised among citizens." (p.213)  (back)

34.  Katrina Brown, "The Political Ecology of Biodiversity, Conservation and Development in Nepal's Terai: Confused Meanings, Means and Ends," Ecological Economics, 24, 1998, pp.73-87. Also see Brown's co-authored article "Valuing Biodiversity: The Scope and Limitations of Economic Analysis," (pdf) CSERGE GEC Working Paper, 1993.

In Dan Brockington's book Fortress Conservation: The Preservation of the Mkomazi Game Reserve (James Currey Publishers, 2002), he identifies "a number of problems with the concept of biodiversity that stem from its status as a boundary object." Thus Brockington writes: "First, it is quantitative, but unquantifiable. Species diversity can be counted, but biodiversity figures are usually estimates of the number of species to be found. It is always an extrapolation. Second, it is imprecise. Diverse forms of life -- birds, vegetation, animals and insects -- are lumped together. Meanwhile other aspects of biodiversity such as agrodiversity, the variety of species found on farmers' land, enjoys less attention. This points to a final difficulty. There is often conflict about which aspect of biodiversity, which type of habitat, what group of species is to be promoted. In savannas, grassland species may prosper at the expense of woodland, and agricultural species at the expense of both. It may not be possible to conserve all aspects of biodiversity." (p.74)  (back)


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Michael Barker is an independent researcher who currently resides in Australia. His other articles can be accessed at michaeljamesbarker.wordpress.com.



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Published June 1, 2009