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Greenpeace Executive Flies 250 Miles to Work

Jun 23, 2014

By Emily Gosden

Environmental group campaigns to curb growth in air travel but defends paying a senior executive to commute 250 miles to work by plane

Greenpeace argues for curbs on “the growth in aviation” which it says “is ruining our chances of stopping dangerous climate change”. Photo: PA

One of Greenpeace’s most senior executives commutes 250 miles to work by plane, despite the environmental group’s campaign to curb air travel, it has emerged.

Pascal Husting, Greenpeace International’s international programme director, said he began “commuting between Luxembourg and Amsterdam” when he took the job in 2012 and currently made the round trip about twice a month.

The flights, at 250 euros for a round trip, are funded by Greenpeace, despite its campaign to curb “the growth in aviation”, which it says “is ruining our chances of stopping dangerous climate change”.

One Greenpeace volunteer on Monday described Mr Husting’s travel arrangements as “almost unbelievable”.

Another said they were cancelling their payments to support Greenpeace in the wake of the disclosure and series of other damaging revelations of of disarray and financial mismanagement at the organisation, in documents leaked to the Guardian newspaper.

Greenpeace was last week forced to apologise for a “serious error of judgment” after it emerged that it had lost £3m of public donations when a member of staff took part in unauthorised currency dealing.

Each round-trip commute Mr Husting makes would generate 142kg of carbon dioxide emissions, according to airline KLM.

That implies that over the past two years his commuting may have been responsible for 7.4 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions – the equivalent of consuming 17 barrels of oil, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.

But Mr Husting defended the arrangement, telling the Telegraph that while he would “rather not take” the journey it was necessary as it would otherwise be “a twelve hour round trip by train”.

“I spend half my life on skype and video conference calls,” he said. “But as a senior manager, the people who work in my team sometimes need to meet me in the flesh, that’s why I’ve been going to Amsterdam twice a month while my team was being restructured.”

He said that from September he would switch to making the trip once a month by train due to “the work of restructuring my team coming to an end, and with my kids a little older”.

The head of Greenpeace in the UK on Monday denied that funding Mr Husting’s commute showed a lack of integrity.

Writing in a blog, John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, said: “As for Pascal’s air travel. Well it’s a really tough one. Was it the right decision to allow him to use air travel to try to balance his job with the needs of his family for a while?

“For me, it feels like it gets to the heart of a really big question. What kind of compromises do you make in your efforts to try to make the world a better place?

“I think there is a line there. Honesty and integrity to the values that are at the heart of the good you’re trying to do in the world cannot be allowed to slip away. For what it’s worth, I don’t think we’ve crossed that line here at Greenpeace.”

But Richard Lancaster, who said he had been volunteering with Greenpeace since the 1980s, responded: “I volunteer with Greenpeace but work in the commercial world and if I took a job in another country I’d expect to move to where the job is and if I couldn’t for family reasons I wouldn’t take the job – so I find Pascal’s travel arrangements almost unbelievable.”

Another respondent to Mr Sauven’s blog – which also addresses concerns over Greenpeace’s management – wrote: “So disappointed. Hardly had 2 pennies to rub together but have supported GP [Greenpeace] for 35+ years. Cancelling dd [direct debit] for while.”

Greenpeace campaigns to curb the growth in polluting air travel and end “needless” domestic flights. In a briefing on “the problem with aviation”, the group says: “In terms of damage to the climate, flying is 10 times worse than taking the train.”

Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace’s top executive director, told the Guardian that while Mr Husting “wishes there was an express train between his home and his office… it would currently be a 12-hour round trip by train”.

“Pascal has a young family in Luxembourg. When he was offered the new role he couldn’t move his family to Amsterdam straight away. He’d be the first to say he hates the commute, hates having to fly, but right now he hasn’t got much of an option until he can move.”

Greenpeace argues that it does not want to “stop people from flying” but does “want to prevent the number of flights from growing to dangerous levels”.

It alleges that flying remains largely the preserve of the wealthy, citing a study showing “cheap flights haven’t created better access to air travel for the poor; they’ve just allowed people with more money to fly more often”.

Social Movements Need To Be Aware of Corporate Influence & Opportunists [#OWS]

BAWe have built our consultancy atop a dynamic for-profit contractor model designed to liberate activism from limitations to innovation. Our antecedents are commercial social change consultancies such as CANVAS, founded by the creative team behind Otpor!—the Serbian social movement that toppled Slobodon Milosovic—and Purpose, whose principals created Avaaz and GetUp!. – Boutique Activist Consultancy (BAC), Founder: Micah White

 

” And then there’s the boutique activism firm White’s started. The idea is to train activists and galvanize support for causes similar to online social and political movements like Avaaz.org and Purpose.com. But the difference is, his new venture is unabashedly for-profit.’“Occupy Wall Street generated tremendous money,’ says White. ‘This whole idea that activists should do it for free and all that bullshit is over. Like somehow I’m supposed to be a full-time activist and have zero income from it? It’s ridiculous.’” – April 28, 2014, Grist

 

truthout | Op-Ed

April 1, 2014 

By Anthony Scalise,

It’s been three years since the occupation of Zuccotti park and various other parks, city halls, and commons that were physically occupied by activists across the nation and around the globe. The central theme that has now become a part of national dialogue is the chant frequently repeated in street demonstrations, “We are the 99%” that brought to light the idea that a small wealthy elite, an immensely small fraction of the population, holds a share of wealth and power far out of proportion to their numbers. Occupy was seen as a reawaking of a largely immobile and apathetic public that was becoming more aware of the disconnect between public need and corporate political influence. As the camps began to grow and hold their ground for the initial few months, discussions about political endorsement were taking place. At around the same time as the Republican Party began their endorsement of the Tea Party, the idea was largely supported that Occupy should stay away from the “left” wing faction of the Business Party, otherwise known as corporate Democrats and be aware of its attempts to co-opt the movement.

It’s now 2014, the encampments are gone, but the activists’ message still remains, and issues of corruption and inequality are still being discussed. While there was no formal endorsement of the Obama Administration or the Democratic Party a new endorsement seems to have emerged from a small group of so called Occupy “founders.” In February of 2014, one of the few largely followed Occupy Wall St. Twitter accounts was “taken over” by one Justine Tunney – a software engineer for the Google Corporation. Tunney and others lay claim to being founders of Occupy, which one would assume is a bit late and serves little purpose other than to grant herself and her group of self-described “founders” some sort of legitimacy-yielding leadership role.

Revealing tweets also revealed their intentions to redefine the movement, stating that Occupy was not against any corporations, only against Wall Street – a significant departure considering the apparent anti-corporate stance in the “Deceleration of Occupation of New York city,” outlining the stance and positions of the movement.

As days pass and the tweets keep flowing, the spectacle is on continual display of Tunney and co. making themselves known figures to those watching. Tunney further displayed her true pro-corporate colors by setting up a White House petition calling for Google CEO Eric Schmidt to replace the seat of the president to be “CEO of America” and to turn over all authority to the tech industry.

The Occupywallst twitter account also promotes the links to the BAC or Boutique Activist Consultancy agency fronted by former AdBusters editor Micah White, also a fellow claimant to masterminding the Occupy movement. The BAC is self-described as a “social change consulting firm that serves a hand-picked international clientele of people’s parties, political celebrities, and emergent social movements.” They claim to “liberate” activism from limitations to innovation. One may ask how? Well, unsurprisingly, by providing workshops on how to use Google Glass in social movements.

It appears the forward thinking activists at GreenPeace were approached by Micah White to be the first activist group to use Google Glass, but ultimately denied the offer. Their conversation was apparently secretly recorded by White himself and is available to listen to here[https://soundcloud.com/micahwhitephd], although viewers should be aware White was kicked out of a Greenpeace training camp last week for refusing to stop filming private meetings with his GoogleGlass eyewear and this recording without consent could have been edited.

This brings to question the underlying players in this situation. We have now, three years since Occupy’s formation, a small group of people claiming to have founded a movement which was largely addressing the crisis of democracy in regard to immense corporate power and influence. Promoting a technology that will supposedly liberate the mass of the population from the clutches of the corporate elite and their political puppets, while also allowing a downloadable application that provides facial recognition, according to the creators of an upcoming app for Google Glass, “Utilizing some of the most accurate facial recognition software in the world, NameTag can spot a face using Google Glass’ camera, send it wirelessly to a server, compare it to millions of records and in seconds return a match complete with a name, additional photos and social media profiles.” The situation reeks not only of opportunism, but of Google’s long arm now attempting to embed a pro-corporate, pro-capitalist, and positive surveillance state narrative (with a first person point of view) into the Occupy movement – a narrative that suggests that multinational corporations like Google support peoples’ struggles against injustice and that we can have real social change alongside the profit motive of the capitalist system.

What will result if an active resurgence of the movement or one with a similar, hopefully more direct, perspective pours into the streets once again to challenge the powers that be? Will it be captured underneath Google technology? Allowing names and faces of participants and activists to be easily identified? Will it be more sympathetic to large multinational corporations and the endless quest to profit? Or was this a not so clever scheme of the newly claimed pro-corporate “founders” to divide and confuse those sympathetic away from the anti-corporate message the movement spread? The lesson here is to be aware of those who seek to exploit social movements of the future for their own personal gain and attempt to turn attention away from those who hold real wealth and power in society. This display has shown that not only political parties, but also private corporate power will also attempt to co-opt social justice movements, attempt to benefit from the hard work of activists and put profits over people.

 

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