How environmental groups gone bad greenwash logging Earth’s last primary old forests
Dr. Glen Barry
The world’s pre-eminent environmental organizations, widely perceived as the leading advocates for rainforests and old growth, have for decades been actively promoting primary forest logging [search]. Groups like Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network (RAN), The Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, World Wide Fund for Nature/World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Environmental Defense Fund actively promote industrially logging Earth’s last old forests. Through their support of the existing “Forest Stewardship Council” (FSC), and/or planned compromised “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation” (REDD), they are at the forefront of destroying ancient forests for disposable consumer items – claiming it is “sustainable forest management” and “carbon forestry”.
Rainforest movement corruption is rampant as these big bureaucratic, corporatist NGOs conspire to log Earth’s last primary rainforests and other old growth forests. Collectively the “NGO Old Forest Sell-Outs” are greenwashing FSC’s destruction of over 300,000,000 acres of old forests, destroying an area of primary rainforests and other old forests the size of South Africa (two times the size of Texas)! FSC and its members have built a massive market for continued business as usual industrially harvested primary forest timbers – with minor, cosmetic changes – certifying as acceptable murdering old forests and their life for consumption of products ranging from toilet paper to lawn furniture. Some 70% of FSC products contain primary forest timbers, and as little as 10% of any product must be from certified sources.
FSC has become a major driver of primary forest destruction and forest ecological diminishment. Despite certifying less than 10% of the world’s forest lands, their rhetoric and marketing legitimizes the entire tropical and old growth timber trade, and a host of even worse certifiers of old forest logging. It is expecting far too much for consumers to differentiate between the variety of competing and false claims that old growth timbers are green and environmentally sustainable – when in fact none are. While other certification schemes may be even worse, this is not the issue, as industrial first-time primary forest logging cannot be done ecologically sustainably and should not be happening at all. FSC’s claims to being the best destroyer of primary forests is like murdering someone most humanely, treating your slaves the best while rejecting emancipation, or being half pregnant.
To varying degrees, most of the NGO Old Forest Sell-Outs also support the United Nations’ new “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation” program (UNREDD, REDD, or REDD+), originally intended to protect Earth’s remaining and rapidly diminishing primary rainforests and other old forests, by making “avoided deforestation” payments to local forest peoples as an international climate and deforestation solution. Large areas of primary and old-growth forests were to be fully protected from industrial development, local communities were to both receive cash payments while continuing to benefit from standing old forests, and existing and new carbon was to be sequestered.
After years of industry, government and NGO forest sell-out pressure, REDD+ will now fund first time industrial primary rainforest logging and destruction under the veil of “sustainable forest management” and “carbon forestry”. REDD+ is trying to be all things to everybody – forest logging, protection, plantations, carbon, growth – when all we need is local funding to preserve standing forests for local advancement, and local and global ecology; and assurances provided REDD+ would not steal indigenous lands, or be funded by carbon markets, allowing the rich to shirk their own emissions reductions.
Sustainable forest management in old forests is a myth and meaningless catchphrase to allow continued western market access to primary rainforest logs. Both FSC and now REDD+ enable destruction of ancient naturally evolved ecosystems – that are priceless and sacred – for throw away consumption. Increasingly both FSC and REDD+ are moving towards certifying and funding the conversion of natural primary forests to be cleared and replanted as plantations. They call it carbon forestry and claim it is a climate good. Even selective logging destroys primary forests, and what remains is so greatly ecologically reduced from first time industrial logging, that they are on their way to being plantations.
Naturally evolved ancient forests are sacred and primeval life giving shrines, and standing and intact, large and contiguous primary rainforest and other old forests are a requirement for sustaining global ecology and achieving local advancement. Old forests are a vital part of the biosphere’s ecological infrastructure – and have a prominent, central role in making the Earth habitable through their cycling of carbon, energy, water, and nutrients. Planetary boundaries have been exceeded, we have already lost too many intact terrestrial ecosystems, and what remains is inadequate to sustain global ecology.
Primary rainforests cannot be logged in an ecologically sustainable manner; once logged – selectively, certified, legally or not – for throw-away consumer crap, their primary nature is destroyed, and ecological composition and dynamics are lost forever. What remains is permanently ecologically diminished in terms of composition, structure, function, dynamics, and evolutionary potential. Logged primary forests’ carbon stores, biodiversity and ecosystems will never be the same in any reasonable time-span. Selective, industrially logged primary rainforests become fragmented, burn more and are prone to outright deforestation.
Primary forest logging is a crime against Earth, the human family and all life – and those doing the logging, profiting and greenwashing the ecocide are dangerous criminals – who must be stopped and brought to justice. There is a zero chance of protecting and ending first time industrial logging of primary rainforests when the NGO Old Forest Sell-Outs say it is sustainable, even desirable, and continue to greenwash FSC old growth timber markets – now to be expanded with potential REDD funding – providing crucial political cover and PR for forest ecocide through their presence in the organizations.
Each of the named organizations’ forest campaigns are a corrupt shell of their former selves – acting unethically and corruptly – destroying global ecology and local options for advancement, for their own benefit. The rainforest logging apologists have chosen power, prestige and money coming from sitting at the old forest logging mafia’s table, gathering the crumbs fallen from the table to enrich their empires, rather than the difficult yet necessary job of working to fully protect rainforests and other primary forests from industrial development.
WWF, Greenpeace, and RAN are particularly culpable. With rainforests threatened as never before, RAN targets the Girl Scouts, Greenpeace supports Kleenex’s clearcut of Canadian old growth boreal forests for toilet paper, and WWF runs a bad-boy logger club who pay $50,000 to use the panda logo while continuing to destroy primary forests.
The only way this NGO old forest greenwash logging machine will be stopped is to make doing so too expensive to their corporate bureaucracies in terms of lost donations, grants, and other support – whose sources are usually unaware of the great rainforest heist. Ecological Internet – the rainforest campaign organization I head – and others feel strongly, based upon the urgency of emerging ecological science, and our closeness to global ecological collapse, that it is better to fight like hell in any way we can to fully protect and restore standing old forests as the most desirable forest protection outcome. Greenwash of first time industrial primary forest logging must be called out wherever it is occurring, and resisted by those in the global ecology movement committed to sustaining local advancement and ecosystems from standing old forests. There is no value in unity around such dangerous, ecocidal policy.
Despite tens of thousands of people from around the world asking these pro-logging NGOs to stop their old forest logging greenwash, none of the organizations (who routinely campaign against other forest destroyers, making similar demands for transparency and accountability) feel obligated to explain in detail – including based upon ecological-science – how logging primary forests protects them. Nor can they provide any detailed justification – or otherwise defend – the ecology, strategy and tactics of continued prominent involvement in FSC and REDD primary forest logging. They clearly have not been following ecological science over the past few years, which has made it clear there is no such thing as ecologically sustainable primary forest logging, and that large, old, contiguous, un-fragmented and fully ecologically intact natural forests are critical to biodiversity, ecosystems, and environmental sustainability.
We must end primary and other old forest logging for full community protection and restoration. The human family must protect and restore old forests – starting by ending industrial-scale primary forest logging – as a keystone response to biodiversity, ecosystem, climate, food, water, poverty and rights crises that are pounding humanity, ecosystems, plants and animals. There is no such thing as well-managed, sustainable primary forest logging – first time industrial harvest always destroys naturally evolved and intact ecosystems.
Humanity can, must and will – if it wishes to survive – meet wood product demand from certified regenerating and aging secondary growth and non-toxic, native species plantations. Humanity must meet market demand for well-managed forest timbers by certifying only 1) small-scale community eco-forestry practiced by local peoples in their primary forests (at very low volumes for special purposes and mostly local consumption), 2) regenerating and aging secondary forests regaining old-growth characteristics, and 3) non-toxic and mixed species plantations under local control. Further, reducing demand for all timber and paper products is key to living ecologically sustainably with old forests.
Local community development based upon standing old forests including small scale eco-forestry is fine. Small scale community eco-forestry has intact primary forests as its context for seed and animal sources, and management that mimics natural disturbance and gap species establishment. It is the industrial first time logging – selective logging, defined as selecting all merchantable, mature trees and logging them– turning primary forests into plantations, that is problematic. The goal must remain to maximize the extent, size, and connectivity of core primary forest ecosystems, to maximize global and local ecosystem processes, and local advancement and maintained well-being from standing old forests.
By dragging out the forest protection fight on a forest by forest basis, until ecological collapse becomes publicly acknowledged and society mobilizes, we can hold onto more ecosystems, biodiversity, and carbon than logging them a tiny bit better now. Soon – as abrupt climate change and global ecosystem collapse become even more self-evident – the human family will catch up with the ecological science and realize old forest destruction and diminishment must end as we ramp up natural regeneration and ecological restoration of large, connected natural forests adequate to power the global ecosystem. As society awakens to the need to sustain the biosphere, having as many intact ecosystems for models and seed sources for restoration as possible will be key to any sort of ecology and human recovery.
Rainforest protection groups engaged in greenwashing primary forest logging (an oxymoron misnomer if ever there was one), particularly while offering no defense of doing so, while raising enormous sums for rainforest “protection”, must be stopped. We must continue to call upon all big NGOs to resign from FSC and REDD, and join us in consistently working to end primary forest logging, and protect and restore old forests. Until they do, they must be boycotted and their funding cut off – even if this impacts other good works they may do, as old forests are such a fundamental ecological issue – until they stop greenwashing the final destruction of primary forests. And it is past time for their supporters to end their memberships as ultimately these big NGO businesses are more concerned with their image and money than achieving global forest policy that is ecologically sufficient, truthful, and successful.
As a rainforest movement, we must return to the goal of a ban on industrially harvested primary forest timbers. This means continuing to resist and obstruct old forest harvest, businesses (including NGO corporate sell-outs) involved, timber marketing, transportation, storage, milling, product construction, product marketing, and consumption. The entire supply chain for ecocidal primary forest timbers must be destroyed. More of us must return to the forests to work with local communities to build on-the-ground desire and capacity for ecologically inspired advancement from standing old forests, and physically obstructing old forest logging. We must make stolen, ill-gotten old wood from life-giving ecosystems an unacceptable taboo, like gorilla hand ash-trays, only worse. Together we must make old forest revolution.