Why Greens are invisible
David Cromwell & David Edwards
New Statesman, 28 February 2005
As evidence of a growing climate catastrophe has mounted over the past
two decades - indeed, the American Association for the Advancement of
Science learned this month of a "stunning" correlation between
a rise in ocean temperature and man-made atmospheric pollution - so the
visibility of the green movement has collapsed.
In the late 1980s, public outrage at environmental degradation propelled
Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and the Green Party on to the media stage.
The BBC presenter John Humphrys declared that he would flush his toilet
less often, to save water, while Marks & Spencer hung out green placards
that read: "Please return your trolley - protect your environment."
Behind the scenes, executives such as Bob Williams, a consultant on the
oil and gas industry, were clarifying industry's real priority: "To
put the environmental lobby out of business . . . There is no greater
imperative . . . If the petroleum industry is to survive, it must render
the environmental lobby superfluous, an anachronism.
Since then, consumption has rocketed as the western monoculture has engulfed
China, India and elsewhere. The partial ratification of the Kyoto Protocol
on climate change - representing a 5 per cent reduction in greenhouse-gas
emissions when 80 per cent cuts are needed - is an essentially trivial
gesture in the right direction.
The mass media have been crucial to this disaster. We asked senior Greens
why they ignore the obvious problem that the "free press" involves
big business reporting on the activities of big business. Stephen Tindale,
executive director of Greenpeace UK, did not address that issue, but told
us that the media are "not one-dimensional nor are they the same
in every country". For example, how climate change "is reported
(or not!) in the US, is very different from how it is reported in the
In similar vein, Tony Juniper, chief executive of Friends of the Earth
UK, has argued: "The Guardian is certainly considered the voice of
progressive and sound environmental thinking." This of a newspaper
that endlessly promotes mass consumer advertising of the most destructive
kind - "two-for-one" transatlantic flight offers being a particular
favourite. The Guardian Media Group owns publications such as Auto Trader,
Bike Trader, Truck Trader and the UK's busiest automotive website, [http://www.autotrader.co.uk.]
Juniper told us that "the corporate-controlled media are reluctant
to engage with an agenda that apparently speaks against their interests".
In reality, the media are not controlled by corporations, they consist
of corporations - all focused on the bottom line, all owned by moguls
or parent companies, all tied into stock markets.
Don Redding, co-ordinator of 3WE, told us that Britain was fortunate
to be blessed with "a strong tradition of independence and objectivity
[that] has been maintained across mainstream television news" - staggering
nonsense from this flagship coalition of environment and social justice
NGOs. Redding insisted that "factual evidence (not polemic)"
was required if we were to establish a lack of media objectivity. Only
he knows how he has missed evidence that is, by now, overwhelming.
But why are green NGOs apeing the mainstream by refusing to challenge
powerful interests in this way? Spencer Fitz-Gibbon, climate-change spokesman
for the Green Party of England and Wales, explains all: "If we made
general sweeping criticisms of the media, we'd just piss off journalists
who would then be less likely to write about us." Alas, Fitz-Gibbon
has missed one point: the media are opposed in every fibre of their corporate
being to what he and his party are trying to achieve.
It can't be converted or won over. It can only be challenged and replaced
by media and politics rooted in reason and compassion rather than bottom-line
greed. Or, to use the technical term, people power.
David Cromwell and David Edwards are the editors of MediaLens
last updated 24 February, 2005