When Greenpeace hires journalists, it’s a double-edged sword

Image courtesy of Robert Wilson

“…research, which focuses on humanitarian and human rights groups, suggests that this development of NGO journalism is a double-edged sword.”

Over at The Conversation Prof. Matthew Powers has a stimulating short piece on the growing volume of 'journalism' content produced by NGOs. Dr. Powers 2014 paper offers a deeper examination of this issue: The Structural Organization of NGO Publicity Work: Explaining Divergent Publicity Strategies at Humanitarian and Human Rights Organizations [Open Access PDF].

My reaction to “Greenpeace hires journalists” was alarm because Greenpeace is the leading example of the damage that powerful NGOs can do to public policy. On both Climate Change and Development I've learned that Greenpeace advocates for policies that cannot work and are distracting the dialogue from considering effective policies.

 

Mitigation of Climate Change: The central policy decision is how to eliminate fossil fuel burning. Optimal solutions depend very much on the local particulars (is it sunny?) but it's obvious to all serious scholars that the policy menu should be technology neutral. The objective is to eliminate fossil fuels, not to promote “renewables”. In many locales nuclear power will be a big component of the optimal mix of low carbon energy. Greenpeace is a powerful anti-science activist – they are extremely effective at engendering fear.

Development: Greenpeace is a poster-boy of the Big Green NGOs that are trying to prevent development. If in 2050 African women are still trapped in subsistence farming they can thank Greenpeace for preventing the agrarian to industrial transformation that has been enjoyed by every rich country. The most visible example of destructive Greenpeace activism is their fear-mongering about genetic engineering (GMO).

If you've read The Honest Broker by Roger Pielke Jr. you will appreciate that politicians need more options, not less. That's what an Honest Broker offers. Greenpeace is a science-free advocate who wants to prevent consideration of any option other than the ONE that's Greenpeace-approved. Greenpeace is the Dishonest Broker – it's difficult to think of any NGO more expert at fear-mongering.

Dozens of Greenpeace 'journalists' is a truly frightenting prospect. What the planet needs is more investigative journalism that exposes and defunds Greenpeace. We need more Will Saletan: The war against genetically modified organisms is full of fearmongering, errors, and fraud. We need more George Monbiot: The unpalatable truth is that the anti-nuclear lobby has misled us all

“A great wrong has been done by this movement. We must put it right.”

Image courtesy of Robert Wilson The Green Movement is not Pro-Science

 

4 thoughts on “When Greenpeace hires journalists, it’s a double-edged sword

  1. Thanks Prof. Powers for a stimulating piece. Readers who wish to dive a bit deeper should consider your paper: The Structural Organization of NGO Publicity Work: Explaining Divergent Publicity Strategies at Humanitarian and Human Rights Organizations [Open Access PDF]. As you outline there are a number of NGOs whose missions benefit from exposing topics that aren’t well-covered by traditional media.

    On Greenpeace in particular my reaction to “Greenpeace hires journalists” is alarm. Greenpeace is the leading example of the damage that powerful NGOs can do to public policy. On both Climate Change and Development I’ve learned that Greenpeace advocates for policies that cannot work and are distracting the dialogue from considering effective policies.

  2. I beg to differ on one point, specifically Africa.  Africans have been handed the keys to entire first-class countries with roads and electricity and clean drinking water and sewage treatment, and over and over they have let them fall to ruin or even actively destroyed them.  Zimbabwe is now at the point of begging its hated white farmers to come back so that the country, once the breadbasket of Africa, might be able to get off of food aid without starving.  People whose primary loyalty is to immediate family and none beyond the tribe cannot create the conditions of trust and rule of law required for an industrial society.  Subsistence farming is about all they can sustain, so the choices are either that or taking handouts.

    Truths are truths, however unpleasant.

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