Going for the jugular.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's Paul Watson (see sidebar) is perhaps the most vociferous of the Greenpeace's environmental critics. The Canadian Watson was involved in some of Greenpeace's earliest confrontations with whalers and sealers. It was his influence that helped push Greenpeace to more physical engagement with its adversaries. He took part in confrontations with Soviet whalers, put his body in the path of sealing boats and -- illegally -- carried baby seals to safety. But when he grabbed a sealer's club and threw it in the water in 1977, Greenpeace acted by removing him from the board of directors.
Watson's response was to form the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which has never had any qualms about damaging property. The Sea Shepherd, captained by Watson, has become a roving environmental pirate, regularly ramming and sometimes sinking the vessels of whalers and drift netters.
"His idea of warrior environmentalism is more confrontational and more physical than Greenpeace's," says Losing Ground author Mark Dowie. "When there are people willing to use physical destruction as an environmental tool, it makes groups like Greenpeace look more moderate."
But if Watson's work has indirectly benefited Greenpeace, it was entirely inadvertent. Watson, who doesn't regret grabbing that sealer's club, calls Greenpeace "the Wal-Mart of the environmental movement. They suck up the energy and resources of the grassroots organizations and move on. They're a multi-national corporation, with a $200 million-a-year (sic) budget. They just built a $60 million office building in Hamburg, Germany. Through their direct mail campaign, Greenpeace has become a major destroyer of forests. They're run by lawyers, accountants, bookkeepers and bureaucrats."
Watson takes some decidedly unorthodox environmental positions. He calls sheep "meadow maggots" and would like to see the whole species exterminated. And he's not even supportive of Greenpeace's victory over the Shell oil rig. "All that energy over something so trivial," he says. "Rather than using all that energy to cut the rig up, they should just sink it and let it become a habitat for fish."
Watson sees this as constructive criticism. "Every movement has its critics," he says. "My constant barrage helps them get things done. We've guided Greenpeace in a lot of their campaigns. I do more good being their critic than I would do being involved with them."
Anti-environmental groups have, understandably, seized on Watson's comments: He was featured in two Forbes magazine broadsides against Greenpeace, in 1991 and 1994. But Watson denies he's being used. "I'm not a tool of the conservatives," he says. "If anybody's a tool of the conservatives, it's Greenpeace."
Still, it's sometimes hard to know which side Watson's on. The Sea Shepherd Society FAXed E a sheaf of anti-Greenpeace documents, including some sourced from a magazine called 21st Century Science and Technology, which Greenpeace says "was founded by [presidential candidate and U.S. Labor Party head] Lyndon LaRouche." (The ultra-conservative LaRouche, a former communist, reportedly believes in an international British-Jewish drug conspiracy, and regularly rails against environmental initiatives.) 21st Century's managing editor, Marjorie Mazel Hecht, says the magazine was not founded and is not funded by LaRouche, but she adds, "I personally have been affiliated with him since the 1960s, and our editor-in-chief also. Lyndon LaRouche contributes articles."
The LaRouche connection also figures in the credibility of one Magnus Gudmundsson, an Icelandic filmmaker who's almost as big a thorn in Greenpeace's side as Watson. Gudmundsson has made several films attacking Greenpeace. He claims that the organization has faked film footage in its own documentaries, that it controls secret bank accounts, and that it funnels money to groups that have not renounced violence (like Earth First!).
"You could easily say that Greenpeace has noble goals, but if the group has to falsify and fake evidence, then there's something wrong with the goals," said Gudmundsson on a recent visit to Washington. "This is a group that is a protest industry in itself."
But Gudmundsson's charges have not gone unchallenged. Greenpeace sued him in Norway in 1989 over his first film, Survival in the High North, which accuses Greenpeace of fabricating a sequence showing a sealer dragging a dead pup. In a mixed verdict, Gudmundsson was ordered to pay 30,000 Norwegian kroner (he didn't) and make changes to the film (he did). Greenpeace says it has also won retractions from Danish television, which produced Man of the Rainbow, another anti-Greenpeace documentary based on Gudmundsson's findings, and from The Irish Sunday Business Post, which published a Gudmundsson-based story in 1991.
Another Gudmundsson claim -- that Greenpeace staged footage about kangaroo torture in Australia -- has been convincingly debunked by Australian Greenpeace activist Trevor John Daly, who documents that the sequence in question actually appears in another, non-greenpeace film. The "secret" bank accounts appear to be nothing more than reserve funds, and the revelation that Greenpeace and Earth First! have occasionally worked together hardly seems Earth-shattering.
Gudmundsson is now going to court in Iceland, claiming that Greenpeace defamed him by citing ties to Lyndon Larouche and other right-wing groups. "I never received any money from Lyndon LaRouche," he claims. "It's totally bullshit. They even associate me with the Ku Klux Klan." What Greenpeace actually does say is that Gudmundsson's film Survival in the High North was screened at the National Press Club in Washington in 1989 by 21st Century Science and Technology, which was confirmed by Hecht. Greenpeace also says that in 1993 Gudmundsson "joined forces" with Putting People First (PPF), a group associated with the Wise Use movement, and has accepted sponsorship from the Icelandic government and the fishing industries of Norway and New Zealand.
Another charge made against Greenpeace -- by Forbes and Gudmundsson -- is that it "bought" votes on the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to enact the international ban of 1982. "That's partly true and you didn't get that from me," says a former high-ranking Greenpeace official. "In the early 80s, David McTaggart went on a diplomacy tour to get nations to join the IWC and vote against whaling. I don't know if any money changed hands, but the Japanese used the same tactics later, doling out no-interest loans to countries with five-figure populations. Japan never admitted it but there was pretty clearly a quid pro quo. So McTaggart did it first, and Japan did it later with far more money."
But, though Greenpeace says it "strenuously and consistently" worked to end commercial whaling, it denies it put cash in anyone's pocket. Uta Bellion, chairperson of the Greenpeace International board of directors, says Greenpeace "never bribed any country to join the IWC. I can categorically say this. There have been allegations made about that before, but they have all been refuted." The Danish television documentary, which purports to show Greenpeace consultant Francisco Palacio admitting he paid out "four or five million dollars" in such efforts, is, says Palacio, nothing more than a clever film editing job. "Greenpeace never paid the dues of any country to join the IWC as far as I know," he says.
While Greenpeace has made mistakes, it isn't particularly vulnerable on any of these charges. In a way it's surprising that the group's critics -- each with his own agenda -- didn't come up with anything more substantial.
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|Title Annotation:||Greenpeace critics|
|Date:||Nov 1, 1995|
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