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World Wildlife Fund (WWF)

WWF SHARES CULPABILITY FOR MASS KILLING OF ORANGUTANS

Panda Leaks

October 13, 2014

The WWF raises money across the globe to save the orangutan. The organization does, in fact, act to preserve existing national parks that are home to the likeable, funny-faced apes. But at the same time, the WWF – a strong proponent of plant-based energy production worldwide – is aiding its agribusiness partners in annihilating much larger areas of rainforest in the name of sustainability. A years’-long globe-spanning investigative journey took journalist and filmmaker Wilfried Huismann to the Indonesian part of Borneo. There he discovered that in Central Kalimantan alone the company Wilmar International, one of the world’s biggest palm oil players, had already cleared almost 200,000 hectares of rainforest using ruthless slash-and-burn methods. In 2007 the WWF concluded a “Memorandum of Understanding” with Wilmar, pledging support for the company’s Central Kalimantan palm oil operations, which the WWF deems “sustainable”.

Orangutan press

Hundreds of our “forest brethren” have been killed

Travelling by jeep through the Wilmar plantations Huismann bore witness to hundreds of kilometers of industrial monoculture – dead land offering no viable habitat for wildlife. According to surveys conducted by the Indonesian Greenomics Institute, six out of nine orangutan habitats in the new Wilmar plantation areas have already been destroyed. Hundreds of the photogenic great apes – our “forest brethren”, used to such great effect in WWF fundraising campaigns – have been killed as a by-product of forest clearance. The WWF bares partial responsibility for this crime.

In a filmed interview with Huismann WWF Palm Oil Officer Amalia Prameswari defended the collaboration with Wilmar. She said the aim was to encourage the agri-giant to produce “good bioenergy”. She pointed to the fact that the WWF had managed to enforce a measure by which 9,86% of the industrial land concessions would be designated as High Conservation Value (HCV) area and thus protected from deforestation.

Together with Indonesian conservationist Abah Nordin, author Wilfried Huismann drove to the newly laid out plantation Rimba Harapan Sakti, to evaluate the WWF claim. They did indeed find some patches of forest that had been saved from the flames. In one of them Nordin pointed to a treetop: there sat an emaciated orangutan, staring out across the barren land. Nordin summed up: “According to our last survey there are only two orangutans left living here. They’re caught in a trap and will die. There aren’t enough fruit trees in this forest for two apes.” This bit of token “forest” measured 80-hectares – about 900 by 900 meters –specialists say one orangutan family needs about 10,000 hectares to survive. When Huismann queried a group of local plantation laborers one of them said: “The company hires hunters to shoot them. The company protects its property.” It seems the orangutans, in their desperation, had been WWF shares culpability for the mass killing of orangutans “stealing” oil palm fruit.

According to Nordin the orangutans can expect no help from the WWF. A fact the organization affirmed to Wilfried Huismann: it does not have a single orangutan project in Indonesia and runs no rescue centers where the animals might find shelter.

Abah Nordin calls the sustainability label co-founded by the WWF and industrial interests under the banner of the RSPO (Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil) “fraudulent”. “There is no biodiversity in the plantations” He says “everything is dead. Rats are the only animals left there. The WWF greenwashes the environmental crimes of industry- and takes money for doing it.”

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NGOization: Depoliticizing Activism in Canada

New Socialist

May 25, 2014

By Dru Oja Jay

psf2

Across Canada, movement organizations are preparing for the People’s Social Forum, coming up in August. There’s a buzz of excitement and anticipation in the air as committees elect delegates, and strategies are debated. When hundreds of activists gather in Ottawa in a few months, we will be drawing from a rich, long-simmering cauldron of theoretical discussion and insight issuing from astute on-the-ground observations.

Members of a variety of organizations will gather to debate proposals and hear reports from paid organizers. Thousands will gather in major cities, and crowds ranging from dozens to hundreds are expected in smaller centres. In Kenora, a delegation of Indigenous activists are expected to present a proposal for a major change in the role of First Nations in Greenpeace campaigns. In Montreal, a left tendency within the membership is said to be preparing a resolution that would shift the Council of Canadians’ considerable campaigning clout to align more closely with the explicitly anti-capitalist student movement.

In BC, the Sierra Club will hold a series of general assemblies, bringing together its thousands of members for similar discussions. Canada World Youth, Engineers Without Borders, KAIROS and Amnesty International are holding local meetings to select delegates and discuss priorities. Southern Ontario is aflutter with activity as cross-sectoral workers’ committees meet independently of their unions to discuss strategies to proactively prevent the next plant closure and fight it with broad public support if it goes forward.

The question of which alliances to prioritize building when Canada’s still-nascent social movements gather in August is at the forefront of all these conversations. Which strategies will prevail? Which ideas will move to the fore? The anticipation is building.

Pure fiction?

With the exception of the People’s Social Forum, which is indeed planned for August 21 to 24 in Ottawa, the above scenario is pure fiction. The organizations listed above do have the membership and financial resources to open such spaces and expect people to take an interest, but few of them use that capacity. This is not an arbitrary fact of life; there are material and historical reasons why it is the case.

Decades of professionalization mean that if any of those organizations tried to hold assemblies like this, they would, at least initially, have trouble convincing people to come. Things would likely get off to an awkward start and require skilled and hands-on facilitation. A political culture of participation, collective decision-making and debate is all but missing. Decisions are made in offices and boardrooms, where professionalized staff preside over donors, petition signers and the occasional volunteer rather than a mobilized or empowered membership.

It wasn’t always like this. We don’t need to idealize the past to realize that there has been a concerted push to make what under other circumstance would be movement organizations into centrally-controlled bodies run by trained professionals. Exceptions to this trend are forever popping up: the environmental movement in the 1970s, the antiglobalization movement of the late 1990s, and most recently Occupy Wall Street are a few of the more prominent examples. But none of these exceptions has put an end to the process of bureaucratization and centralization. In fact, the process seems to accelerate when powerful grassroots movements enter onto the scene.

This process has been dubbed NGOization (after the increasingly-ubiquitous form, the Non-Governmental Organization, or NGO). While NGOization has been going on for decades, the concept is just starting to gain in currency beyond a few academics and grassroots organizers.

NGOization, write Dip Kapoor and Aziz Choudry in their edited collection by the same name, is a process of “professionalization and depolitization” which fragments and compartmentalizes the world into “issues and projects.” It works well, they add, “for neoliberal regimes.”

What NGOization precludes and inhibits is movement-building. Centralized control allows for an efficient mobilization of existing capacity, but it doesn’t provide the opportunities for masses of people to have new experiences, build their own ideas, do their own research, or start their own initiatives. It doesn’t provide the possibility of large numbers of people to decide, together, where to focus their energies or when to divide them.

The driving force behind the process of NGOization is not mysterious. Billions of dollars have been provided to Canadian NGOs to provide social services, dig wells in villages in African villages, support marginalized populations, campaign for environmental protection, and alleviate the effects of poverty. The money comes from government (the federal government spends close to a billion dollars per year on development NGOs alone) and private foundations (millions of tax-deductible dollars are spent annually to support environmental campaigns, for example).

But what do foundations and governments get for their money?

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