making sense of change
Green movement is big business
« on: 2004-11-17 05:03:32 »
Green movement is big business
Johannesburg, Nov 16 Reuters
Funding statistics released prior to the annual meeting of the World
Some environmentalists slam big business for its polluting or tree-cutting ways
but a growing number of "greens" resemble and even act like Wall Street types
Reflecting growing public concern about the environment, the green
movement has grown into a multi-billion-dollar industry and its activists are
more likely to wear a suit than sandals as they take their message to the
And like corporations, they compete fiercely for "market share" - the cash they
get from donors ranging from the Canadian secretary worried about the fate of
pandas to big companies seeking to bolster their "compassionate credentials".
Many well-dressed greens will gather in the Thai capital from Wednesday for a
nine-day meeting of the World Conservation Union (IUCN), which will offer
assessments on a range of issues from the state of coral reefs to the majestic
"There is an increase in public perceptions about the environment, and in the
NGO movement we rely on the public for support," said Jason Bell-Leask,
southern African director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare
This means that hair is cut short, ties are draped around necks, and the annual
reports of many green groups read like those of publicly listed companies,
complete with income statements, balance sheets - and some very big figures.
"It is all about openness and transparency because we are using money raised
from the public and so financial records need to be made available," said Bell-
Conservation group WWF's 2003 annual review shows an income of $382
($NZ552) million for its network.
In its breakdown, it says that 46 percent came from individuals, 12 percent
from legacies and 20 percent from governments and aid agencies. Six percent
came from corporations.
In 2002, Greenpeace's income was around $213 million - the vast majority
from grants and donations.
IFAW'S "total public support and revenue" was over $64 million during the
2002-2003 financial year, up from almost $57 million in the previous year.
And the IUCN - which counts governments and NGOs among its members -
said that its total external operating income in 2003 was just over $87 million.
These are just a few examples from some of the biggest groups, but there are
countless national green NGOs or animal welfare groups out there - the IUCN
counts 730 national NGOs and 77 international NGOs among its members.
All go cap in hand to the public to fund their research and activism.
Just who you give cash to often depends on your political leanings or what you
regard as important.
Mainstream groups such as the WWF raise awareness about a range of issues
such as climate change and criticise governments for their failure to take
But they are not opposed to the "sustainable use" of wildlife - through
recreational hunting, for example - provided that it does not endanger a
There are entire non-profit groups dedicated to hunting, such as "Ducks
Unlimited," which raises funds to preserve wetlands - a vital habitat for a range
of creatures including the ducks that "wing-shooters" love to blast from the
Other groups such as IFAW or the more radical People for the Ethical
Treatment of Animals (PETA) oppose activities such as hunting on grounds of
Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals have roots going back to
the 19th century, although critics contend that their urban, middle-class
obsession with animals often takes precedence over the needs of poor Third
Many of these groups, for example, oppose the culling of African elephants -
which some wildlife officials and scientists say is needed in places like South
Africa to contain swelling numbers of the world's largest land mammal.
"It is easy to preach animal rights and oppose elephant culling when you live in
New York," snorts one senior official from South African National Parks.
Other critics take broader exception with the green movement and accuse it of
grossly exaggerating the threats to the planet to scare the public into filling its
"We are all familiar with the litany: the environment is in poor shape here on
Earth. Our resources are running out... the air and the water are becoming ever
more polluted," writes Bjorn Lomborg in his book "The Skeptical
"There is just one problem: it (the litany) does not seem to be backed up by the
available evidence," he says.
Green groups are also accused of latching on to cuddly "poster animals" such
as pandas that humans seem to relate to in a bid to push their cause.
In retort, most of the conservationists gathering in Bangkok this week would
reply that a growing number of respected scientists are sounding alarm bells on
everything from global warming to depleted fish stocks.
And judging from their income statements, they have clearly convinced a lot of
Reutersco 16/11/04 19-54NZ