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WATCH: WWF SILENCE OF THE PANDAS | A Journey into the Heart of the Green EmpireEstimated reading time: 6 minutes
Above: Three of many individuals creating mass-misery and ecological devastation via WWF. Clockwise: Dr Hector Laurence – WWF Argentina (also president of Agricultural Association AIMA and Director of two GMO companies (Morgan Seeds & Pioneer), Dörte Bieler – WWF spokesperson for Germany, Jason Clay – Senior Vice President, Market Transformation.
The WWF is the largest environmental protection organisation in the world. Trust in its “green projects” is almost limitless. Founded on September 11, 1961, it is the most influential lobby group for the environment in the world, thanks largely to its elitist contacts in both the political and industrial spheres and to its ability to walk a constant tightrope between commitment and venality.
This film will dispel the green image of the WWF however. Behind the organisation’s eco-façade, the documentary maker uncovered explosive stories from all around the world. This documentary reveals the secrets of the WWF. It is a journey into the heart of the green empire that will hopefully shatter public faith in such so-called conservation groups forever. [Synopsis below video.]
A film by Wilfried Huismann, Germany, 2011
The WWF, the most famous and powerful environmental organization worldwide, is facing accusations of working too closely with industries that destroy the environment and of ‘greenwashing’ dubious companies. The Fund allegedly collaborates with companies that deforest jungles, displace farmers, destroy the habitat of animals and contaminate the environment, German journalist and documentary maker Wilfried Huismann reveals.
The documentary “A Pact with the Panda – What the WWF doesn’t tell” made huge waves in Germany, alienating hundreds of thousands of supporters and donors, and calling into an investigation of the WWF. So far the documentary is only available in German. For the English-speaking world, here is the story of the dark side of the WWF.
The tiger campaign is one of the biggest projects of the WWF in an attempt to save the big cats from extinction. In India well-off tourist can book a tiger safari for US$ 10,000 to see one of the last remaining tigers in a WWF-sponsored tiger reserve. The reserve is run by a member of the Nepalese royal family. Nanda Sjb Rana proudly demonstrates photos of tiger hunts in the 1940s. One picture shows Queen Elisabeth II and her husband Prince Philip shooting a tiger. A couple of years later, Prince Philip co-founded the WWF to protect endangered species – the same ones he used to hunt.
Up to 152 jeeps speed through the forest at the same time, for 8 hours a day, trying to spot a tiger. The safari is highly controversial. Opponents argue that eco-tourism pollutes the forest and eventually destroys the home of the tigers. The reserve also threatens to resettle around 1 million indigenous people. The WWF accuses the tribe Adivasi of killing tigers and selling them to Chinese business man. The indigenous people deny these allegations arguing they worship the animals and the whole rain forest. The government offered the Adivasi 1 million rupees (around £14,000) to leave their home. “We don’t want to go. We have been living with the forest in harmony for generations. When we will be chased away, the forest will disappear,” says J.K. Thimma, one of the residents of the reserve. And with the forest, the tigers will disappear too. Huismann contacts the headquarters of the WWF in Switzerland but the Fund refuses to comment on its tiger policy in India.
The WWF is also active in Borneo where it runs campaigns to protect rain forests and the habitat of orang-utans. But again, it allegedly works with companies that destruct forests, contaminate ground-water and displace the local population. The WWF and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palmoil certified the company Wilmar for being green and sustainable. With this certificate the company will be able to receive EU subsidies. Wilmar, however, is responsible for the forced resettlement of hundreds of farmers. The displaced families who come back to their land and fight for their rights get chased away by the military or arrested by the police. The farmers have not given up on their land yet and organised the human rights group “Save our Borneo”. The leader Nordin receives regularly death threats via text messages but vows to continue for their struggle. The local WWF claims it hasn’t heard about this case and emphasizes Wilmar operates sustainable productions in other areas of Indonesia. In one of the certified plantations, the WWF accomplished to preserve 80 hectares of rainforest as an orang-utan reserve – 80 out of 14,500 hectares. The forest was once a significant orangutan habitat. Now only two orangutans are known to be alive.
Why does the biggest environmental organization cooperate with companies that destroy the environment? Huismann travelled to Geneva where the World Ethanol and Biofuels Congress took place. The WWF offers green certificates for sugar, maize, soy, tropical wood and palm oil. The WWF spokesperson for Germany, Dörte Bieler, is the only representative of a NGO at the congress. Asked whether the close connection with the industry is a potential risk for ‘greenwashing’, Bieler explains that the Fund is following a strict Code of Conduct. The WWF states in contracts that donations don’t obligate the Fund to do anything. “Money is a normal way of doing business,” she adds. Other NGOs that don’t accept big donations from companies don’t have the same impact as the WWF, continues Bieler. “We work science-based. We always conduct a study before we have an opinion … And with this science-based evidence we have been able to achieve some things.” Bieler, however, was unable to name examples of these achievements.
The WWF Argentina established cooperation with several soy companies thanks to Dr. Hector Laurence. Interestingly, Laurence did not only work for the WWF but was also the president of an agro association and the director of a genetic engineering company at that time. “I am independent and that is why I was able to establish cooperation between an environmental organisation and the industry,” explains Laurence. The soy business is huge in Argentina. The size of the soy desert is as big as Germany. Argentina and the company Monsanto plan to double the size of the plantation – with the support of WWF. The Fund claims that the forests are substandard and useless. Although jaguars, monkeys and many other species habitat that forest. People living in the soy desert are facing water shortage and illnesses due to the herbicide Roundup. Genetically modified seeds from Monsanto have to be sprayed with this herbicide. Roundup is a successor to Agent Orange. It is dangerous for humans; it can change genes, cause cancer and abnormalities. The house of family Rojas was once sprayed by accident. All of their food crops died, Mr Rojas got skin rash and his pregnant wife gave birth to a dead baby with strong abnormalities. Several doctors found that the abnormalities were due to changes in the baby’s genes, most likely caused by Roundup. Despite the dangerous herbicide and unproven risks of genetically modified food, Monsanto has been certified by the Round Table for Responsible Soy (RTRS) in 2010. The WWF is officially against genetic engineering but is a member of RTRS.