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Apparently Greenpeace's annual budget of 110 million dollars isn't enough,
so they'll have to find a new head to trick people into funding them.
Bode to Step Down as Head of Greenpeace International, Significant
Greenpeace USA struggles to raise funds to pay debt placing hopes in
18 JULY 2000
FSN and wire service reports
(AMSTERDAM) Thilo Bode has announced he will resign as executive
director of Greenpeace International in a matter of months following
several high-level members of the organization leaving the organization.
Bode led the organization for more than five years, and guided the group
into a host of new issues without significantly sacrificing Greenpeace's
general membership base or reputation. However, fundraising has suffered
with annual budgets lowering until their recent success in generating
European outcries over biotechnology. Bode will leave the organization
once a successor has been found. There is no current favorite noted to
The executive director is hired by the Greenpeace board of
directors to run the day-to-day operations of the $110 million per year
organization. He manages the staff, organizes campaigns, monitors and
guides expansion, and oversees Greenpeace USA, a financially-indebted ward
of Greenpeace International.
The executive director of Greenpeace is naturally in a difficult
position. With the legitimacy of Green politics in Europe, there is a pull
from European affiliates to act professionally, as if the organization
belongs in the power structure. In North America and Australia, however,
Greenpeace's traditional policies are deemed far too radical for the
organization to be politically viable, therefore the group relies on
confrontational direct action. In developing countries, Greenpeace's
strict hierarchy makes it quite vulnerable to claims that it is as much a
"neo-Colonial" force as corporations are. The challenge to the executive
director is to develop policies and activities for an organization with
such different roles in various societies and for Greenpeace in all of
these activities to appear a seamless consistent organization.
The Brent Spar incident defines Bode's term in office and provides
an example of the tension between the activist and the professional sides
of Greenpeace. In 1995, the organization deemed Royal Dutch Shell's
offshore platform, Brent Spar, to be unfit for deep sea disposal due to
the radioactive drilling waste stored inside. Activists raided the
platform and held out against authorities until Shell agreed to
disassemble the platform on land. By almost all accounts, including ex
post facto analyses by Greenpeace, the platform was not an unusual danger
to the environment, it did not contain radioactive wastes, and the
environment perhaps only minimally benefitted by it being disassembled on
The platform takeover, however, placed Greenpeace's name on the
front pages of newspapers around the world. Revenue poured into the
organization and its national affiliates. Royal Dutch Shell dramatically
changed its environmental policies. Offshore oil drilling became more
expensive for all oil companies. It was a true victory, except for
growing awareness of the scientific fallacies that rested at the root of
the campaign. Bode's reaction was to apologize to the world community and
demand that all Greenpeace affiliates use greater discipline in making
In apologizing, Bode maintained Greenpeace's credibility in
Europe. To this day Bode is fighting an entrenched bureaucracy resistant
to change, and while he continues to emphasize greater discipline and
accountability, some of Greenpeace's recent "science" on biotechnology,
phthalates and other issues has continued to build on misrepresentations
and blatant falsehoods.
Responding to such allegations, one Greenpeace organizer stated,
"Our purpose is not to be scientifically correct, that's the corporation
and robber-baron's job. Our job is to move the needle and affect radical
This was exemplified by actions of Greenpeace U.K. director Lord
Peter Melchett arrested last year for vandalism and property destruction
targeted at British farmers participating in government-sponsored field
trials of genetically modified crops. Melchett's arrest and continuing
calls for attacks on farmers embarrassed colleagues in the environmental
action movement to the point that he was condemned by Friends of the Earth
and others worried about negative public reaction to the illegal nature of
the acts. Similar actions in 1996 in the United States significantly
damaged Greenpeace's reputation there following broad public and farm
community condemnation for attacks on farmers property in Atlantic, Iowa.
The balancing act facing Bode's successor is even more difficult
due to an emerging concern about the growing power of the Dutch within the
group. Greenpeace Netherlands has had increasing power within the
international organization since the late 1980s, when the Dutch government
began a policy of funding environmental groups (through the 1989 National
Environmental Policy Plan or NEPP). The amount of money given to
Greenpeace Netherlands increased dramatically in the wake of the Dutch
environmental bureaucracy's latest quadrennial review. According to one
knowledgeable source, Greenpeace International has become "dominated" by
the Dutch since the money started "pouring in" from the Dutch government.
Many from outside the Netherlands resent the Dutch's inordinate power.
Finally, Bode's successor has three other significant problems
facing him: one problem is a result of success, two are born of failure.
First, the next executive director will be responsible for finding an
honorable resolution to the biotechnology debate. Greenpeace has profited
nicely and had success in opposing GM crops in Europe, but the widespread
opposition could end soon as growing scientific consensus in Europe and
North America coalesces around the conclusion that the crops are safe. In
fact, Greenpeace has suffered high-level resignations and embarrassing
attacks from the founder and former President of Greenpeace for their
"misguided" attack on a technology whose potential to decrease pollution
and pesticide which had been core issues for the organization.
"Activists concerned about the safety of GM foods often say that
they require more testing." noted former Greenpeace science advisory Barry
Palevitz. "If that's the case, why vandalize test plots that would
establish danger, or safety?"
Another former Greenpeace advisor, Dr. William Plaxton, professor
of biology and biochemistry at Queen's University in Ontario resigned from
the organization last year citing, "As a plant biochemist, I can no longer
back an organization that has recently undertaken such a blanket
condemnation, fear-mongering and non-scientific attack against the
production and use of genetically modified plants."
Pushing these points, one group of former Greenpeace members has
established a parody web site <http://www.greenpiece.org> to help and
encourage disaffected members to resign from the organization. The site
features include automated resignation letters sent to the organization
and even a take-off on the popular Harry Potter book series allowing the
disaffected to send a "howler" sound file to the organization replete with
screams and chastising words of shame.
And Greenpeace founder and former president Patrick Moore has
taken to the speakers circuit to condemn acts of violence and
misrepresentations of science. In one of many interviews he outlined his
concerns: "Greenpeace and the environmental movement abandoned science and
logic somewhere in the mid-1980s, just as mainstream society was adopting
all the more reasonable items on the environmental agenda. This was
because many environmentalists couldn't make the transition from
confrontation to consensus, and could not get out of adversarial politics.
This particularly applies to political activists who were using
environmental rhetoric to cover up agendas that had more to do with class
warfare and anti-corporatism than they did with the actual science of the
environment. To stay in an adversarial role, those people had to adopt
ever more extreme positions because all the reasonable ones were being
The other challenge is finding relevance for the organization in
what should be a natural strength: the climate change debate. Greenpeace
is not nearly as influential in the climate debate as it should be due to
a misguided strategy adopted in the wake of Brent Spar. The group assumed
that more success lay in high-profile, high-sea direct actions against oil
exploration. The third problem is that of the moribund Greenpeace USA,
which owes Greenpeace International millions but cannot hold staff and
does not make money.
Greenpeace USA has been a ward of Greenpeace International, but in the two
years of receivership the international office has made little progress.
Current hopes for financial solvency for Greenpeace USA are being placed
in aggressively engaging the biotechnology debate. Advertisements from
Greenpeace to hire canvassers and other organizers to help raise funds
using the biotechnology issue have appeared in newspapers across the U.S.
One such ad running in a Madison, Wisconsin newspaper reads in
part: "Agriculture Campaigner -- Greenpeace: the nation's most visible
environmental organization seeks campaigners to further our work against
genetically modified organisms (GMO) in the environment. Duties include
networking with the farm community (particularly with soy and corn
producers), working closely with Consumer Action Network Team & the
Greenpeace GMO team..." The ads have drawn critical response from
representatives from the National Corn and Soybean Growers Associations
noting the lack of enthusiasm of farmers for Greenpeace's attacks in the
U.S. and Europe on farmers property.
"Any Greenpeace organizer who thinks he can raise concerns and
funds from farmers on this issue is sorely misguided," said Randal Motts a
Nebraska corn grower. "Farm country is a long-way from the corporate
board rooms of Europe. American farming will not become the next Brent
Spar issue on which Greenpeace can make its living."
FILED: 02:07:00 GMT::19072000
SOURCE CODE: FSN