Seeing the wood for the trees
A row has broken out between Greenpeace Canada and other environmentalists, including those who run the Forests.org website, over an agreement Greenpeace signed with paper products giant Kimberly-Clark.
Greenpeace hail the deal as a major breakthrough that will gradually reduce the cutting down of ancient forests to make toilet paper and tissues. The opposition denounce it as greenwash:
Greenpeace Canada claims victory, falsely stating that clearfelling old forests for paper products is "sustainable" when this is FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified. [They] fail to grasp the ecological necessity of ending consumption of all products made from old forest destruction, and generally reducing consumption of all paper products.
Greenpeace Canada responds:
We hope you understand that complete change does not happen overnight – neither for governments nor individuals, nor for multi-national corporations like Kimberly-Clark. But change has already taken place for the betterment of ancient forests under Kimberly-Clark's new policy. We are confident that change will continue to happen.
Kimberly-Clark is a major polluter with brands including Kleenex, Kotex toilet paper and Huggies disposable nappies. It operates in 80 countries and has just announced it expects earnings per share to rise from $4 to $4.25 this year.
Campaigners across the world reject the whole idea of giving global corporations certificates that permit them to go on clearing ancient forest. Governments in countries like Ghana are battling to keep big corporate loggers away from their virgin forests. And the rate of destruction goes on rising, in spite of FSC and other certification measures.
At the same time, communities across Canada relying on forestry and paper manufacture face disaster. The downturn in the world economy has reduced the demand for timber for the building trade and the development of web-based media has slashed demand for paper and newsprint.
Thousands of forestry and paper mill workers have lost their jobs. The Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada points out that 300,000 Canadians directly earn their living from forestry, and three times that number rely on these industries indirectly.
This apparently insoluble contradiction – the need to halt logging as a key contribution to halting climate change; Greenpeace’s method of working inside the system to get whatever reforms they can out of governments and corporations; and the need for workers to earn a living – is the Gordian knot that human society needs to unpick.
None of the interconnected crises of climate, eco-system and species survival, or mass unemployment, can be resolved within the profit-driven capitalist status quo. Whether declaring themselves bankrupt or grabbing increased profits while they can, the corporations bring nothing but destruction and misery in their wake.
In the ancient myth, the Gordian knot is undone not by timid negotiation but by a bold stroke. And that’s what is needed now – a global ‘bold stroke’ by all those who want to protect the climate and the right of people to earn a decent living.
We must unite to bring about political change, to foster a new system of democracy where the majority can end the rule of profit. The urgent need is to reverse the destruction that corporate global capitalism has wrought. And there will be plenty of work for everyone achieving that turnaround.
14 August 2009