Unafraid to break international laws, Greenpeace is the largest and one of the most radical environmental activist groups in the world.
At A GlanceGreenpeace is the largest environmental activist organization in the world with offices in 40 countries and annual revenue topping $368 million. Learn more about Greenpeace’s radical work:
- Questionable Financials
- Agenda of Alarmism
- Vandalism for Environmentalism
- Fear-Mongering for Profit
- Anti-Science Activism
Founded in 1970 in Vancouver, Greenpeace started out as a collection of individuals concerned with U.S. nuclear testing in Alaska and frustrated with the Sierra Club’s lack of action on the issue. Originally called the “Don’t Make a Wave Committee” and backed by Quakers and peaceniks, the group gained recognition and success for its anti-nuclear campaign.
By the 1980s, Greenpeace had established itself as a major non-governmental organization (NGO) with a vast funding network that paralleled a multi-national corporation. As its funding grew, so did its radicalism, to the point where it now campaigns against all coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear, and hydroelectric power – together making up 95 percent of U.S. energy use. [MS1]
Greenpeace is now the largest environmental organization in the world with annual revenues of $368 million, an international supporter base of some 24 million, and what Forbes magazine describes as “a skillfully managed business” with full command of “the tools of direct mail and image manipulation – and tactics that would bring instant condemnation if practiced by a for-profit corporation.”
Greenpeace’s transformation from a loose group of anti-nuclear peaceniks into a big-moneyed organization has centered on using junk science to try to fundamentally change our way of life. It has alienated many of its original founders leading to numerous high level defections, most notably co-founder Patrick Moore: “Ultimately, a trend toward abandoning scientific objectivity in favor of political agendas forced me to leave Greenpeace in 1986.”
Putting the “Green” in GreenpeaceAccording to Greenpeace’s 2012 annual report, it raised $368 million from fundraising alone, largely from international sources:
- German donors gave $70 million;
- U.S. donors gave $40 million; and
- Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the Nordic countries as a whole round out the top five largest sources of donations.
Greenpeace spent approximately one-third of this revenue on fundraising expenditures. It spent a further one-sixth of income on administrative expenses, leaving approximately half of its total revenue to dedicate to its campaigns and campaign support. Greenpeace earns a “C” grade from the independent charity watchdog CharityWatch. However, investigative reporting has challenged this official financial breakdown (see next section).
Though it likes to portray itself as a scrappy environmentalist organization against wealthy corporations, in reality Greenpeace’s operation is bigger than many of the world’s biggest multi-national corporations. For example, Greenpeace’s revenue is greater than some of the world’s richest sport franchises including the Arsenal soccer club ($336 million), Boston Red Sox ($272 million), and L.A. Lakers ($212 million). It is also bigger than what are thought to be the biggest trade associations including the American Petroleum Institute ($203 million) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ($214 million).
Only 6% of Revenue to Field Operations, 60% to SalariesUndercover reporting by a French journalist under the pen name Olivier Vermont uncovered numerous revealing facts when secretly working at Greenpeace. Vermont spent 10 months working at Greenpeace after presenting himself as an unemployed photographer willing to serve as a volunteer. He ended up serving as an unpaid secretary giving him widespread access to confidential information.
In addition to uncovering Greenpeace’s collusion with government and industry, his access to secret financial accounts found that a meager six percent of revenue went to field operations while 11 percent went to legal expenses to attack the organization’s critics and defend members who had run afoul with the law.
According to classified documents he obtained, an astounding 60 percent of the organization’s revenue went to salaries. And, when Greenpeace France had a deficit of roughly $400,000 in the mid-1990s, the leaders nevertheless decided to raise their salaries from $300,000 to $500,000 in one year.
Vermont also found huge golden parachutes offered to recently departing employees on the condition they never speak to the press.
Australian Paul Gilding, the former director of Greenpeace Sydney and former executive director of Greenpeace International, received $160,000 when he left.
Doug Faulkner, fundraising leader for 13 years, got $200,000 when he was let go and signed the “confidentiality clause.”
Since 1993, Greenpeace has paid over $600,000 in four confidentiality clauses – indicating at best, blatant disregard of donor intent, and at worst, a calculated campaign to keep damning information out of public hands.
Conflicts of InterestGreenpeace receives yearly mid-six figure donations from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation (the Packard from computer giant Hewlett-Packard), according to Foundation Search. Given Greenpeace’s campaign against the electronics industry, accepting this donation appears rather hypocritical. Considering that the campaign savagely went after Apple, a top competitor of HP, while calling HP a “green leader,” accepting this donation raises ethical questions.
Tech consultant Daniel Eran claims that Greenpeace’s ranking of HP first and Apple worst is questionable:
If Greenpeace were at all interested in anything other than getting donations to maintain its status quo, it would challenge cheap PC dumpers on their efforts to shoot out disposable, garbage PCs that have a two year lifespan, not grandstand for the two biggest companies that produce the majority of the world’s cheap PCs while they vilify Apple.
Tax Fraud AllegationsGreenpeace has also been accused of tax fraud. It has been on the receiving end of complaints by Public Interest Watch (PIW) which complained to the Internal Revenue Service that Greenpeace USA tax returns were inaccurate and in violation of the law. Though the IRS conducted an extensive review and concluded in December 2005 that Greenpeace USA continued to qualify for its tax-exempt status, the Canadian and New Zealand offshoots have not been so lucky–both lost their protected statuses. Revenue Canada, the Canadian IRS, said Greenpeace’s activities have “no public benefit” and that its lobbying to shut down industries could send people “into poverty.”
Agenda of Alarmism
Press Release GaffeGreenpeace tries to maintain the façade of a scientific organization, but its true intentions as an alarmist one were exposed when it accidentally preemptively released a press release in Philadelphia in 2006 that said, “In the twenty years since the Chernobyl tragedy, the world’s worst nuclear accident, there have been nearly [FILL IN ALARMIST AND ARMAGEDDONIST FACTOID HERE].” (No, really–that’s Greenpeace’s exact language.)
The final report warned of plane crashes and reactor meltdowns. Though Greenpeace tried to play this gaffe off as a joke, it was clear that it had accidentally revealed its modus operandi as an alarmist organization not concerned with a sober treatment of evidence and fact. This incidence epitomizes most of Greenpeace’s work as a fear-peddling, anti-science organization.
Staged Animal SlaughtersIcelandic journalist Magnus Gudmundsson’s documentary Survival in the High North highlights evidence from Danish journalist Leif Blaedel that Greenpeace staged an animal torture scene in one of its propaganda films. Blaedel highlights gruesome scenes of kangaroo slaughter, which Australian court records confirmed were faked by its producers, in the film Goodbye Joey. The records further show the film’s fraudulence was a matter of public record in 1983, but Greenpeace continued to send it out on request for at least another three years, the last known time being to Blaedel himself.
Similar accusations have also been made against Greenpeace’s Canadian seal hunt videos that graphically show baby seals killed and skinned alive. Inuit leaders have testified that the method in which the seals in the video were slaughtered is not consistent with how the animals are traditionally killed nor is the implication that they are skinned alive in the process. Canadian Gustave Poirier was the film crew’s guide across the ice. Under oath, he later testified before a Canadian Parliamentary Commission that he had been paid by the Greenpeace film crew to torture and flay the seal alive in front of the camera. According to 60 Minutes, such fake footage ultimately destroyed the sealing industry and thousands of livelihoods in the process..
Admission of Wildly Overstated ClaimsGreenpeace’s alarmism was also exposed live on the BBC in 2009 when its outgoing leader Gerd Leipold was forced to admit that Greenpeace’s wild claim that Arctic ice would completely melt by 2030 was a mistake. Pressed on the physical impossibility of such a development, Leipold admitted that his organization’s claim that the Arctic will be ice-free by 2030 is mistaken: “I don’t think it will be melting by 2030… That may have been a mistake.”
BBC reporter Stephen Sackur accused Leipold and Greenpeace of releasing “misleading information” and using “exaggeration and alarmism,” to which Leipold defended Greenpeace’s record of “emotionalizing issues” in order to scare the public into Greenpeace’s way of thinking.
Lying to Generate PublicityIn 1995, Greenpeace held an exhibition in Austria and Germany displaying a tree trunk that was supposedly from a protected old-growth forest in Finland in order to further its incorrect campaign about the destruction of protected ancient forests. The Finnish Administration of Forests revealed that the tree was in fact from a normal forest, had not been cut but had crashed over a road during a storm, and accused Greenpeace of theft.
Greenpeace did not dispute these claims but sheepishly replied that the tree had fallen down because the protective forest around it had been clearcut, and that they wanted to highlight the fate of old forests in general, not the fate of one particular tree. This episode, like many other similar ones, highlights Greenpeace’s willingness to twist the truth in order to advance its agenda.
Unrealistic Energy Agenda
Greenpeace believes that the only energy sources we should include in our energy portfolio are renewable resources such as wind and solar. Rather than merely opposing just the use of fossil fuels, Greenpeace opposes nuclear power and large-scale hydropower. Currently, “Greenpeace-approved” energy sources contribute less than 5% of the power in the United States, and adoption of their unrealistic energy policy would mean disaster for family budgets and the economy.
If Greenpeace opposes all fossil fuels as “dirty,” it should favor nuclear energy as a way of producing reliable energy without producing carbon emissions. Yet the organization says, “Greenpeace has always fought – and will continue to fight – vigorously against nuclear power.”
The extreme position that wind and solar can produce all the energy the world needs is opposed by even the most fervent climate change scientists. Four of the world’s top climate change scientists sent a letter to politicians and environmental groups stating, “Realistically, they [renewable energy sources] cannot on their own solve the world’s energy problems.” Instead, the scientists call for an increased use of nuclear power to meet the worlds’ growing energy needs.
Greenpeace also opposes large-scale hydropower projects. Hydropower is the world’s largest source of renewable energy, providing roughly 16 percent of the world’s electricity. It is also the only renewable energy source that can produce electricity 24 hours per day—not just when it’s sunny or windy.
Fear-Mongering For Profit
“Save the Whales” as a Red HerringGreenpeace works very hard to maintain its romantic image as a group committed to saving the whales because its true atavistic, anti-growth goals turn off many potential donors. Greenpeace is happy to use the emotional impact of the slaughter of these noble creatures as a red herring to raise funds and recruit members that further its broader, more polarizing campaigns.
The irony here is that Greenpeace is not even opposed to whaling in the first place. In 2008, Paul Watson, an early member of Greenpeace and later Founder and President of the controversial Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, declared “pirates” by a federal court, penned a scathing commentary about the “fraud” of Greenpeace’s Save the Whales campaign:
Enough is enough, the Greenpeace fraud about saving the whales must be exposed. For years, I have been tolerating their pretense of action and watching them rake in tremendous profits from whaling… Greenpeace makes more money from anti-whaling than Norway and Iceland combined make from whaling. In both cases, the whales die and someone profits.
Greenpeace, he argues, uses the emotional tug of whales being slaughtered to pull in donations and recruit members. But while Greenpeace has used this tactic successfully to pull in hundreds of millions of dollars over the course of its more than 40 years in existence, it has not succeeded in stopping whalers from continuing their harvest.
In 1997, Watson had Greenpeace investigated by the National Marine Fisheries Service of the United States for participating in a whale hunt. Greenpeace crewmembers on the Arctic Sunrise actually towed a slaughtered bowhead whale to shore as a favor for the Inupiat whalers in the Bering Sea. In doing so, he claims they violated both U.S. and international law. The incident was reported widely in the Alaskan media and the whalers used the incident to ridicule Greenpeace at the 1997 International Whaling Commission meeting in Monaco. Such hypocrisy is evident in many of Greenpeace’s positions.
Tuna HyperboleBuilding off its “successful” whale campaign, Greenpeace has followed a similar strategy with tuna, twisting the truth to frighten retailers and shoppers about the tuna industry. For example, it claims that the tuna industry has massively overfished the bluefin tuna; however, bluefin is not used in U.S. canned tuna. Greenpeace also hits out at the industry for what it claims is the vast amount of by-catch that occurs in the course of fishing, yet scientific evidence shows that by-catch only makes up 1-2% of total catch.
Vandalism for Climate ChangeIn 2007, six Greenpeace protesters were arrested for breaking into a power station in the UK, climbing the 200 meter smokestack, painting the name Gordon on the chimney, and causing an estimated $50,000 in damage. At the trial, the Greenpeace protesters admitted to trying to shut the station down, but argued that they were legally justified because they were trying to prevent climate change from causing greater damage to property elsewhere around the world. Almost as incredible as the argument was the fact that the court bought it and acquitted the protestors.[MS2]
Such a judgment sets a dangerous precedent giving Greenpeace carte blanche to continue its illegal and destructive fear-peddling. Both The Daily Telegraph and The Guardian described the acquittal as embarrassment to country.
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)GMOs, or genetically improved foods, are foods such as corn or soy that have been modified with modern technology to have a certain trait, such as drought resistance or beta carotene (the precursor to Vitamin A). Despite the promise and safety of this technology, Greenpeace has been a leading NGO calling for the rejection of GMOs, going so far as to coin the term “FrankenFood.”
The scientific community is united in its consensus regarding the safety of GMOs with the premier scientific body in the U.S., the National Academy of Sciences, calling them safe, noting that after billions of meal served, “no adverse health effects attributed to genetic engineering have been documented in the human population.”
More relevant to Greenpeace’s supposed environmental mission, the Academy has also found GMOs to be better for the environment, noting that such crops had reduced insecticide use, reduced use of the most dangerous herbicides, increased the frequency of conservation tillage and no-till farming, reduced carbon emissions, reduced soil runoffs, and improved soil quality: “Generally, [GMOs] have had fewer adverse effects on the environment than [non-GMOs].”
Greenpeace has taken its opposition to GMOs to extreme levels, committing illegal acts to thwart their progress. Greenpeace members broke into the Australian scientific research organization CSIRO and destroyed a GMO wheat plot specially designed to have a low glycemic index, potentially benefitting millions of diabetics. The sentencing judge, Justice Hilary Penfold, accused Greenpeace of exploiting junior members to avoid potential punishments themselves.
According to Dr. Michael Mbwille of the Food Security Network, “Greenpeace prints and circulates these lies faster than the Code Red virus infected the world’s computers. If we were to apply Greenpeace’s scientifically illiterate standards universally, there would be nothing left on our tables.”
While Greenpeace’s alarmism and fear-peddling may be immoral, its opposition to GMOs is also dangerous. GMOs such as Golden Rice – rice engineered with high levels of beta carotene – have the power to reverse malnutrition in the developing world, where each year 2 million children die and 500,000 go blind from Vitamin A deficiencies. Scientists are excited about the potential of GMOs like golden rice to ameliorate these problems.
But Greenpeace has consistently sought to end GMO use in developing countries. For example, in famine-stricken Zambia it contends that the U.S. “should follow in the European Union’s footsteps and allow aid recipients to choose their food aid, buying it locally if they wish.” According to Greenpeace, “This practice can stimulate developing economies and creates more robust food security.”
Dr. C.S. Prakash, who is the director of the Center for Plant Biotechnology Research, articulates the threat that Golden Rice and GMOs in general pose for Greenpeace: “Critics condemned biotechnology as something that is purely for profit, that is being pursued only in the West, and with no benefits to the consumer. Golden Rice proves them wrong, so they need to discredit it any way they can.”
DDTGreenpeace also maintains a dangerous opposition to DDT, which is one of the most important tools for fighting the deadly spread of malaria in the developing world. Malaria is estimated to kill 1.2 million people each year despite the fact that DDT had almost eliminated it, as it had previously done in the U.S. and other developed countries, before its use was banned.
Greenpeace has been a leading opponent of DDT, joining with 260 environmental groups “demanding action to eliminate” DDT and its sources. Like many environmentalist groups, Greenpeace was widely influenced by Rachel Carson’s 1962 book Silent Spring that illustrates the negative effects DDT can have on animal and plant life. As it turns out, however, nowhere in her book did Carson call for the unilateral suspension of chemical insecticides; she simply questioned their arbitrary and unrestricted use. As Greenpeace defector Dr. Patrick Moore points out, “It was not Rachel Carson who was unreasonable, but rather the extremists who used her writings to further a zero tolerance agenda.”
As late as 2000 Greenpeace continued lobbying the United Nations to rule out the use of DDT against malaria. Only under great humanitarian pressure has it walked back its dogmatic opposition to DDT in the case of malaria control, now claiming, “Greenpeace was never opposed to the use of malaria control.” Dr. Moore says this claim is “one of the most blatant examples of historical revisionism I have encountered.”
Chlorine in WaterChlorine in drinking water is widely considered to be one of the great public health achievements of the 20th century, killing the microorganisms within it, and making it drinkable. It is credited with virtually eradicating water-borne diseases such as cholera. Chlorine also provides the earth’s population with 85 percent of all pharmaceuticals and vitamins. Despite these facts, and broad support of water chlorination from the scientific community, Greenpeace maintains a fundamentalist opposition to its use. According to Greenpeace’s Joe Thornton, “There are no uses of chlorine which we regard as safe.” It maintains a wholesale rejection of “the use, export, and import of all organochlorines, elemental chlorine, and chlorinated oxidizing agents.”
Opposition to chlorine was the final straw for Greenpeace founding member Dr. Patrick Moore, who left the organization in 1986 when it decided to support a universal ban on chlorine in drinking water. Moore argues that Greenpeace today is motivated by politics rather than science and that none of his “fellow directors had any formal science education.” Nowhere is this better exemplified than with Greenpeace’s rejection of chlorine.
Flame RetardantsSeveral years ago, Greenpeace began going after electronics, specifically the chemicals used in their formation. Greenpeace condemned the entire industry, saying that no company was doing enough to keep toxic chemicals out of consumer electronics. It viscerally went after Apple for using a small amount of toxic flame retardant, tetrabromobisphenol A, a chemical widely credited with preventing hundreds of deaths each year from electric fires and that has never been shown to be harmful to humans.
In October of 2005, a panel of scientific experts from Europe, the EU Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER), reported to the European Commission that TBBPA presents no risk to human health and indicated no need for risk reduction measures.
According to Biochemical Pharmacology professor Alan Boobis, “The plastics used in TV and computer housings are hard and dense so that substances used in their construction have little opportunity to be released. [Fire Retardants] have essentially no tendency to move from the solid state into a gas form, and thus are unlikely to be released into the air around the computer or TV. Monitoring studies have confirmed that TVs and computers are not significant emission sources.”
Bisphenol AAnother chemical that has recently found its way into the Greenpeace crosshairs is bisphenol A, otherwise known as BPA. BPA is a building block of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins used in nearly every industry, including the construction of plastic water bottles and food storage containers. According to Greenpeace and anti-chemical activists, BPA is a “gender-bender” that mimics the female hormone estrogen and can be “linked” to a host of unpleasant medical conditions ranging from cancer to early onset puberty and dreaded “man boobs.” Once again, however, the hysteria failed to match reality. According to the FDA:
Consumers should know that, based on all available evidence, the present consensus among regulatory agencies in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Japan is that current levels of exposure to BPA through food packaging do not pose an immediate health risk to the general population, including infants and babies.
The FDA’s rejection of Greenpeace’s claims is consistent with the scientific community’s rejection of Greenpeace’s science in general: 96 percent of toxicologists believe that Greenpeace overstates chemical health risks.