When pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock to civilise the savages, when Europeans taught Africans how to be and act, well, like Europeans, when Christian missionaries came to South America to show them the light, humanity took a great leap backwards. Colonisation, societal conquest and political enculturation have masked great global interests, greed and plunder while demonstrating the audacity of idealism to defy reality. History has never been kind to colonisers.
Why then has Greenpeace become the great new coloniser?
The NGO has been investing heavily in exporting its brand of civil disobedience and loopy anti-industrialisation philosophy on unsuspecting natives. Their 2012 Annual Report shows €45.3 million spent for “organisational support” of Greenpeace offices in developing countries for “capacity boosting initiatives in the Global South” (an increase of 21% from 2011). That is 45 million to spread a chocolate-covered Western environmental utopianism on people facing hard decisions in imperfect realities. Like other colonial powers of yore, they are masking their decline at home with a vain attempt at global influence and power.
But this money is not only creating local jobs in poor countries, it is also interfering with local development aspirations around the globe.
The Golden “Fleece”
On August 8, after several years of local campaigning against GMOs, 400 activists posing as farmers broke into the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines and destroyed one of the Golden Rice trials ongoing (as the Risk-Monger had predicted in an earlier blog).
Golden Rice is rice modified with beta carotene, providing up to 60 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A, addressing a deficiency that kills almost 700,000 children under five each year and causes up to 500,000 children to go blind annually (source: WHO). This innovation was given to IRRI freely and free from patent by Syngenta with the goal of improving global health, but Greenpeace still campaigns against Golden Rice as a symbol of corporate greed and environmental destruction which we don’t need. The Greenpeace solution to Vitamin A deficiency, I wish I were joking, is to give everyone a pill.
The images of activists destroying the site are disgusting and the absence of reason in this debate is tragic (see local Philippine TV footage and a Filipino scientist’s response to the anti-GMO myths). Greenpeace however did not gloat over the attacks on the Golden Rice trials, recognising the shamefulness of the action and the messiness of its colonial meddling. This silence is interesting given their often stated ambition to stop the Golden Rice trials at the International Rice Research Institute. There is evidence that the activists posing as farmers were paid to destroy the crops and the Philippine government will soon levy charges on the culprits. Curious.
In the Philippines, there have been discussions on what Greenpeace is trying to do to their country. Mainstream media refer to the NGO members as operatives from a European pressure group. In response to the local hostility, the Greenpeace South-East Asia head has had to justify their presence in the Philippines in a recent blog which shows how shallow their position has become and indicates how strongly the local Philippine population wants them to go back to their imperial homeland. Quite simply, Greenpeace’s colonisation efforts are unwelcome; they should get out and stop meddling in the lives of those with bigger concerns than their myopic idealism.
In Japan, the ambulance chasers from Greenpeace saw an opportunity, post Fukushima, to try to install a culture of dissent and civil disobedience into an inherently respectful society. After months of anti-nuclear rhetoric in a nation devastated by a record-breaking earthquake and tsunami, they had managed to get a couple hundred people to walk down the streets with signs (by then they had realised that their audience was merely being polite).
In Turkey, Greenpeace thought they could organise a mass protest about a few trees being cut down in a park in Istanbul. After the local police felt that their activism methods were disrespectful and “un-Turkish” (and reacted strongly), the issue was soon hijacked by internal, religious-political debates that made Greenpeace look naïve and out of their depths. Sadly a lot of people died and property destroyed for nothing (and Greenpeace is still taking credit).
In Indonesia, Greenpeace is now using palm issues at the grassroots level in an attempt to destroy the global supply chain, with celebrated attacks against companies like Mattel and Nestlé, for using suppliers who don’t bow to their demands. Are they actually doing anything positive to help develop and improve the lives of the people in this region, or are they just using it as a base to attack Western companies and gain some quick wins? Like their Detox attack on the global textile supply chain, the big brands are more concerned about PR in their western markets and will simply close down cottage industries sustaining small villages in the “colonies” rather than fight the big dragon. Quick wins for Greenpeace – major losses for local populations.
Kumi the Conqueror
In 2009, Greenpeace recruited South African poverty campaigner, Kumi Naidoo, as its Executive Director. The organisation has hyped him as an anti-apartheid campaigner (although he was studying philosophy in Oxford when apartheid fell) and the Nelson Mandela of the environment movement. Essentially Kumi’s role is to spread Greenpeace’s influence across the developing world and present the NGO as a defender of social justice and victims of globalisation. While the hyperbole and delusions of grandeur suit Greenpeace’s image (at Rio+20, Kumi declared he was ready to die for the environment), the real task is to restore the tattered image of the NGO. So like conquistadors of past, Kumi can be seen posing heroically on the bow of one of the Greenpeace ships (their invasion fleet includes the Arctic Sunrise, Esperanza and Rainbow Warrior – which even looks like a pirate ship) as it calls in ports and lands of opportunity. Kumi is the icon for a colonial-moral expansionism.
This is a strange form of neo-colonialism, as it is more ideological than plunderous (although fundraising now consumes 34% of Greenpeace’s total expenses). It follows the tradition of missionary zeal (in keeping with their eco-religion) – and no one would ever argue that Greenpeace activists were not zealots. Greenpeace is acting globally in these countries to spread its anti-globalisation, anti-development message and feed it back towards the West, via a distorted messianic moral posturing (maybe with some idealic images of native tribes happy to live in a forest). They are pretending, at least for the photo-op, that they are trying to preserve indigenous lives from the onslaught of development (progress to them is a form of western colonisation). However it is hyped, they are trying to convert unsuspecting “natives” to their eco-religious idealism (forget aspirations about development, don’t move to a city) without allowing for an open debate or a clear understanding of the issues. It shows how sophisticated and rich their strategy has become.
All colonising activities are morally shameful, even if you call it: “capacity boosting initiatives in the Global South”. Should Greenpeace be shut down in a developing country for acting illegally or interfering with the rights of individuals to survive and prosper, there would, of course, be a public outcry (they are so good at playing the victim). But we have to understand that their colonial actions are not democratic and are not for the public good. Any corporate entity that behaved in such a manner (culturally disrespectful and promoting actions outside of local laws) would not only be shut down, but their executives would be tossed in prison cells. When innocent lives are lost, people suffering from increased malnutrition and development opportunities wasted by such myopic colonialists, I find the jail-time solution perfectly appropriate.
Postscript: It is not just citizens in developing countries offended by Greenpeace’s colonial meddling. The scientific community has started a petition to condemn the attacks on the Golden Rice trials. Please sign the petition and take the time to read some of the reasons for signing. It is reassuring that so many people see what they are up to.