Nobel Prize winner, anti-poverty group, scientists fire back at logging lobbyist

Rhett A. Bulter, mongabay.com
November 01, 2010



Nobel Prize winner condemns lobbyist for using her name in support of his pro-logging agenda.

An industrial lobbyist is facing mounting criticism for his campaign to reduce social and environmental safeguards in Indonesia.

Wangari Maathai, the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner for her tree-planting campaign in Africa, blasted lobbyist Alan Oxley for using her name to imply that she supports the large-scale conversion of tropical forests for industrial plantations. Francesca de Gasparis, Director of Maathai's Green Belt Movement International, told mongabay.com "Maathai emphatically does not support Oxley's assertion."

"African countries should seriously focus on climate change and embrace mitigation strategies like protecting indigenous forests," states the Green Belt Movement's web site. "While there are no quick fixes, governments must shield citizens from the unavoidable negative impact. One of the strategies is to protect, conserve and restore forests."


Deforestation in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia
Meanwhile a group of prominent scientists castigated Oxley, who heads World Growth International, an NGO, and ITS Global, a marketing firm, for his response to their criticism that he is distorting the facts about deforestation in Indonesia. The scientists, led by William F. Laurance of James Cook University, say Oxley has failed to address their specific assertions that his campaigns against environmental protection contain "important inaccuracies or misperceptions". They suggest Oxley is instead trying to further "muddy the waters" and use the criticism as a platform for his messaging in support of palm oil, timber, and wood-pulp industries.
    We wrote a serious critique of Alan Oxley and his affiliated organizations, World Growth International and ITS Global. In his reply, Mr Oxley has countered virtually none of our specific, documented assertions. Instead, he has muddied the waters–focusing not on our assertions but on the views of environmental groups such as WWF and Greenpeace.

    Mr Oxley’s reply contains some important inaccuracies or misperceptions. Most notably, he understates the environmental impacts of oil palm expansion while ignoring its close linkages with the timber and wood-pulp industries and their collective roles in promoting tropical deforestation and frontier-road expansion. And he ignores entirely a vast body of scientific literature revealing the serious impacts of these industries on tropical biodiversity and greenhouse-gas emissions.

    We stand by our original assertions. Alan Oxley, WGI, and ITS rely on the direct financial support of major timber, oil palm, and wood-pulp corporations. Over the past two decades, some of these corporations, such as Rimbunan Hijau and Asian Pulp & Paper, have been among the most chronic environmental offenders in the tropical world.

    We assert that Mr Oxley, WGI, and ITS should be regarded as paid lobbyists, not as independent think thanks or NGOs. Mr Oxley refuses to disclose the funders of WGI—a striking lack of transparency. Two environmental groups that Mr Oxley frequently criticizes, WWF and Greenpeace, are open about their funders. Why not do the same?

    The twelve scientists who drafted our letter did so without communicating with any environmental organization. Each of us is regarded as a leader in our respective field, and as such we felt a responsibility to take a stand. Alan Oxley, WGI, and ITS seemingly attempt to cast all who disagree with them, no matter their professional background or the seriousness of their arguments, as extremists. In the realm of public discourse, this is not ‘fair play’.



Greenpeace says the lower picture shows misconduct by PT Bangun Nusa Mandiri, a Sinar Mas company. Photo taken on July 5, 2010 by Rante (© Rante/Greenpeace).
Oxley maintains he is working on behalf of the rural poor, yet he is quick to attack anyone who criticizes any of his corporate clients as rabid environmentalists with an anti-development agenda. Lately he's been particularly active on behalf of Sinar Mas holding companies, including PT SMART, a palm oil company, and Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), which have been under pressure from NGOs for conflict with communities and deforestation in Sumatra and Kalimantan. Asia Pulp & Paper, last week admitted to supporting the sorts of "front groups" cited by the scientists in their letter.

"We will use groups like Greenspirit to independently assess our business just as we will use different groups to monitor our continued improvement against our carbon footprint baseline, our certification performance, our social responsibility programs and our chain of custody policies," Ian Lifshitz, Sustainability & Public Outreach Manager for APP's Americas division, told mongabay.com. "At the same time we will support groups like the Consumer Alliance for Global Prosperity that respect the right and need for emerging economies to have the opportunity to develop their economies."






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CITATION:
Rhett A. Bulter, mongabay.com (November 01, 2010).

Nobel Prize winner, anti-poverty group, scientists fire back at logging lobbyist.

http://news.mongabay.com/2010/1101-oxley_maathai.html