Opinion

As Greenpeace sets sail, Indonesia stands its ground

Andrew Langer President, Institute for Liberty

The tides appear to be turning for the world’s largest environmental activist organization. Last Thursday, Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior flagship was denied entry into the Port of Jakarta, Indonesia’s largest seaport. This historic rebuke of Greenpeace’s anti-development agenda sends a clear shot across the bow: the organization’s bullying of developing nations will no longer be tolerated.

And now, even Greenpeace’s own leadership is backpedaling. As the Jakarta Globe reported Sunday, Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo stated that the Rainbow Warrior’s voyage was not intended to tarnish Indonesia’s commerce. Naidoo went on to say that his organization wanted to dock the Rainbow Warrior in Jakarta because “we are worried about what will happen to our children.” Whose children is Mr. Naidoo referring to? His organization’s radical, anti-growth scare tactics have kept millions of families and their children throughout the developing world in poverty.

This never-before-seen apologetic tone from Greenpeace’s leadership is a telling sign. Those who stand to lose the most from Indonesia’s decision, however, may be the various media outlets that basically re-print Greenpeace’s talking points instead of offering objective news coverage. For example, outfits like Mongabay.com claim to offer “environmental science news.” If you take a quick glance at the recent Rainbow Warrior coverage from the site’s lead author Rhett Butler, though, “news” does not really fit the description of what you are reading. Butler writes, with my emphasis added:

Environmental group Greenpeace suffered a setback late last week when its flagship, the Rainbow Warrior, was temporarily barred from entering Indonesian waters. The ship would have supported Greenpeace in its campaign against deforestation, which is Indonesia’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Butler then offers a friendly status report on what these rejected activists will be doing next: in this case, flying to Sumatra for more anti-development campaigning. This looks to me a lot more like a Greenpeace press release than an article on environmental science news.

But Web-based media outlets are not the only culprits. Greenpeace and other environmental groups have infiltrated some of the best-known publications in the world. In turn, they have recruited various allies behind these news desks who are all too willing to offer pro-poverty and anti-trade commentary masquerading as “science” or “environment” news.

Take, for instance, Ben Webster, the environment editor at The Times in London. He has been charged with fabricating his coverage of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) 2007 report. This scientific report, interestingly enough, cites Greenpeace literature eight different times. The list of Greenpeace-fed journalists goes on.


While the green movement’s media mouthpieces are being thrust into the spotlight, news of this major setback to Greenpeace’s global dominance of the environmental agenda is also forcing the group to shift blame onto other organizations. According to Mr. Naidoo, “It’s easy and cheap to blame international NGOs and not address the real issues because Greenpeace Indonesia is not working in isolation and you might have seen other organizations demands for a moratorium.” When you are caught up in your own spin, it is only natural to throw somebody else in the line of fire, right? What is actually easy and cheap — although Greenpeace does spend millions of dollars in media-savvy antics to halt the production and trade of commodities essential to economic growth in Southeast Asia — is using environmental preservation as a means to limit the developing world’s potential for economic prosperity.

If there is one lesson to be learned from Greenpeace’s reaction to the rejection of its Rainbow Warrior, it is that, in reality, the organization is not concerned about economic or human development. Hopefully more people will now see what we in the free trade community have known for a long time: Greenpeace, under the guise of a feel-good, environmentally-friendly non-profit, is little more than the “dirty tricks” conduit for elitist Westerners bent on keeping the developing world poor.

Andrew Langer is Spokesman of the Consumers Alliance for Global Prosperity and President of the Institute for Liberty.