Team Earth: Another Load Of Corporate Bullshit From Conservation International


Environmental groups used to be funded largely by their members and wealthy individual supporters. They had only one goal: to prevent environmental destruction. Their funds were small, but they played a crucial role in saving vast tracts of wilderness and in pushing into law strict rules forbidding air and water pollution. But Jay Hair–president of the National Wildlife Federation from 1981 to 1995–was dissatisfied. He identified a huge new source of revenue: the worst polluters.

Hair found that the big oil and gas companies were happy to give money to conservation groups. Yes, they were destroying many of the world’s pristine places. Yes, by the late 1980s it had become clear that they were dramatically destabilizing the climate–the very basis of life itself. But for Hair, that didn’t make them the enemy; he said they sincerely wanted to right their wrongs and pay to preserve the environment. He began to suck millions from them, and in return his organization and others, like The Nature Conservancy (TNC), gave them awards for “environmental stewardship.”

Companies like Shell and British Petroleum (BP) were delighted. They saw it as valuable “reputation insurance”: every time they were criticized for their massive emissions of warming gases, or for being involved in the killing of dissidents who wanted oil funds to go to the local population, or an oil spill that had caused irreparable damage, they wheeled out their shiny green awards, purchased with “charitable” donations, to ward off the prospect of government regulation. At first, this behavior scandalized the environmental community. Hair was vehemently condemned as a sellout and a charlatan. But slowly, the other groups saw themselves shrink while the corporate-fattened groups swelled–so they, too, started to take the checks.

Christine MacDonald, an idealistic young environmentalist, discovered how deeply this cash had transformed these institutions when she started to work for Conservation International in 2006. She told me, “About a week or two after I started, I went to the big planning meeting of all the organization’s media teams, and they started talking about this supposedly great new project they were running with BP. But I had read in the newspaper the day before that the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] had condemned BP for running the most polluting plant in the whole country…. But nobody in that meeting, or anywhere else in the organization, wanted to talk about it. It was a taboo. You weren’t supposed to ask if BP was really green. They were ‘helping’ us, and that was it.”

Looking at the summary above, one is tempted to abandon the idea that NGOs (Non-Governmental Organisations) have any part to play in the removal of destructive actions upon the natural world. I think that’s a fair assumption. None of the NGOs come out of this well, not even the apparently “radical” ones like Greenpeace and RAN who are still batting on the side of industrial civilization; but if you had to choose which ones to really steer clear of, and relentlessly attack and expose, a surefire way of choosing is to look for the names of “Corporate Partners”.

If an NGO partners, or receives money from a corporation, then thay are not to be trusted.

Here is one excellent example, that I found while trawling the web:

Team Earth is all of us, working together to make our world a place of clean air, fresh water, plentiful resources and a stable climate, today and far into the future. Team Earth is companies, schools, non-profits, you, your family and friends – everyone who wants to help make sure the Earth is healthy enough to support us all.

It’s about smart, sustainable actions (call it “S-squared”) that each of us can accomplish in our daily lives. Actions that, when multiplied by our social networks, and the cross-section of people that make up Team Earth, will have a huge impact on the health of the planet we call home.

We are setting out to tackle the big challenges of our planet and to our lives – climate change, clean water, healthy food, the ways we are using our resources, and more. Each of us can make a difference, and by working as a team, we will all live better, healthier lives.

This is straight out of the corporate style book; almost excruciating in its “Hey guys, let’s put on a show, right here!” mentality. Alarm bells! Scroll down a few lines and the rationale becomes clear:

Who’s on the Team?

You. Me. The neighbors down the block. Your boss. Parents and kids across the country. People in big cities and small towns.

We are companies like Starbucks and Wrigley. Students and teachers in thousands of classrooms and schools.

Team Earth is anyone and everyone who wants to do the right thing for our shared home, united by a joint commitment, so that when each of us makes a small, personal contribution, the cumulative impact is huge.

Nice bit of community togetherness, and then “WE are companies” – you might be “on the team” but “Team Earth” is a group of companies who are greenwashing as though their survival depends upon it.

Not their ecological survival – nothing as trivial as that, you understand – but their financial survival. They have to be seen to be doing good. And who better to get to run your Astroturf than Conservation International, who proudly display their logo at the top of each page. Mentioned above as a truly dishonourable stain on the reputation of NGOs everywhere, Conservation International are quite possibly the most corporate-friendly NGO around; and if you don’t believe the quotation, have a look at their roster of Corporate Partners which is have the extreme displeasure of reproducing here:

Alpargatas (Havaianas)
Bank of America
Barrick Gold
Bella Figura Letterpress
BG Group plc
Brunton Inc
Bunge Limited
Celebrity Cruises
Celestial Seasonings
Coach, Inc.
Compendium, Inc.
Daikin Industries Ltd
Daiwa Securities Co. Ltd.
Darden Restaurants
DreamWorks Animation
FIJI Water
Ford Motor Company
General Growth Properties
Gold Reserve Inc.
Goldman Sachs
Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc.
International Paper
JPMorgan Chase
Kraft Foods Inc.
Marriott International, Inc.
Matter Group
Newmont Mining Corporation
Office Depot
Organic Bouquet
Pearl Jam
Peter Gillham’s Natural Vitality
Rio Tinto
Royal Caribbean
Save Your World
SC Johnson
Seeds of Change
Shell Group
Sony Computer Entertainment America
Sotheby’s International Realty
Starbucks Coffee Company
Toyota Motor Corporation
United Airlines
United Technologies Corporation
Walt Disney Company
WhiteWave Foods
Wrigley Company
Yves Saint Laurent

That’s a pretty good rundown of all that is bad in Western commerce – they only need ExxonMobil and BHP Billiton for a full house, but I’m sure they’re working on it as I write.

As for Team Earth, well it’s just another lump of corporate bullshit masquerading as ordinary people who care. The really sad thing is, the people who fall under their spell are likely to think that Team Earth are getting down and doing good work on their behalf, when all the “Team” are doing is making a load of corporate Earth killers look slightly less murderous.

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“The Wrong Kind of Green – How Conservation Groups are Bargaining Away Our Future” by Johann Hari, in the March 22 issue of “The Nation” also describes what the polluting corporations’ influence over our conservation groups.