Jump to Navigation

There has been much controversy over the Harper government’s complaints about U.S. foundation-funded environmental “radicals.”

I suggested here last week that it was at least as important to emphasize green NGOs’ use of misinformation and bully-boy tactics as their funding. It is also crucial to recognize that their actions are part of a broader plan — allegedly justified by the existential threat of environmental problems — to outflank national governments and control corporations.

Arguably, some of the greatest successes of the prospective global governors have come in Canada, due to its role as the leading exporter of forest products, and because forestry has long been a focus for promoters of that noble-sounding, but dangerously nebulous, concept of sustainable development.

This space has featured a good deal about the extraordinary 2010 Boreal Forest Agreement, under which a group of environmental NGOs, led by the Pew Charitable Trusts, ostensibly determined a chunk of Canadian forest policy without consulting governments at any level. That agreement was part of an ongoing campaign of alarmism and coercion in the name of saving the planet.

For 40 years, the environmental movement has been making hysterical claims about the state of the world’s forests. In the 1980s, the UN promoted deforestation as a serious side effect of growing populations and economic growth. The Amazon — the “lungs of the Earth” — was disappearing. In the early 1990s, doomster Norman Myers (recipient of one of the Post’s 2011 Junk Science Rubber Duckies for manufacturing millions of non-existent “climate refugees”) projected the disappearance of tropical forests within decades. In fact, according to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization, there has been a loss of less than 3% of global forest cover over the past 20 years. Canada is subject to no net deforestation.

Despite all the forests-in-crisis rhetoric, no agreement emerged from the UN’s 1992 Rio conference to go with those on climate and biodiversity. This was largely due to opposition from developing nations, who saw any forestry agreement as an attempt to control their economic development (which it was).

Professional environmentalists decided to fill the alleged “gap” by creating a “certification” system to impose standards of sustainable forest management. Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, the National Resources Defense Council (which was recently front and centre in delaying/killing the Keystone XL pipeline) and the World Wildlife Fund set up the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

Private industry — concerned at the implications — responded with its own alternative, the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), which today embraces the sustainable forestry management policies of both the Canadian Standards Association and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative in the U.S.

If the FSC had just been about sustainable forest management, you would think its promoters would have been delighted to see other committed standard-setting bodies. However, the FSC wasn’t just — or perhaps even — about forestry management. It was about political power, ideology and “institutional entrepreneurship.” It aspired to control not merely global forestry, but to impose principles of “social justice,” such as the “equitable distribution of benefits.”

The FSC’s promoters set about organizing corporate “Buyers’ Groups” that were bullied into using only FSC-certified wood. If the corporations balked, they soon found activists with placards in their parking lots. Thus was the choke chain applied to companies such as the Home Depot, Kimberly-Clark and Victoria’s Secret.

Academic Tim Bartley of Indiana University produced an exhaustive study of the emergence of “transnational private regulation” in 2007, and recorded that foundations — including McArthur, Ford, Rockefeller and Pew — had kicked no less than US$40-million into the FSC between 1993 and 2001. He also acknowledged, somewhat obliquely, that this was part of a “broader political and cultural project.” (Independent research Vivian Krause has since done much valuable further work — some of which has appeared on these pages — about U.S. foundations’ input into Canadian environmental policy).

One good thing about the Boreal Forest Agreement was that the members of the Forest Products Association of Canada refused to be corralled into blanket FSC certification, to which their ENGO “partners” were pressuring them. Nevertheless, all members of the FPAC now have to be “certified” under one of the approved schemes.

If there are ongoing concerns about deforestation and biodiversity, they are certainly not in North America and Europe, which have both the highest standards, and the highest penetrations of certification. By contrast, less than 2% of either African or South American forest is certified. It seems that the NGO certifiers concentrate on forestry in countries such as Canada on a similar rationale to that offered by Willie Sutton for robbing banks: because that’s where the money is — or, in the case of ENGOs, because that’s where they can find big foreign funding. Meanwhile, there have been questions raised about the transparency of the FSC certification process, particularly potential conflicts of interest in countries where the FSC’s own auditors set “interim” standards.

The University of Indiana’s Tim Bartley suggested that deals such as those between corporations and the FSC represent a possible “Faustian bargain.” Many have pointed out that corporations have “no body to kick nor soul to damn.” However, perhaps the rest of us should be concerned about the details of any “devil” that aspires to control our lives via environmental policies, particularly since nobody seems to have certified him.


Extpub | by Dr. Radut