This one's probably a bit insider-info for most TreeHugger readers, and I admit I'm partially to blame for it, but bear with me because it's if you care about rampant greenwashing and deforestation it's important: A group of prominent scientists has issued an open letter challenging the objectivity of World Growth International, challenging the group's and its leader Alan Oxley's, objectivity in addressing the environmental and social impact of Southeast Asia's palm oil plantations. In short, the scientists say that WGI is just a front group for the big timber companies.Which is why I say I'm partially to blame for keeping TreeHugger readers out of the loop. In fact I get nearly a daily email (sometimes more it seems) from either Alan Oxley or World Growth which nearly have all the same plot line: Green groups really just have it in for the poor people of Southeast Asia who are benefiting immensely from conversion of forests to palm oil plantations, and all the environmental concerns about them are just overblown. One could make a prolific blog career just debunking every missive that comes out of World Growth purporting to debunk some eco-imperialist plot against poor people.
The fact that WGI isn't a source to be trusted on this issue seemed evident to me from the first email I received so I promptly hit delete each time one reaches my inbox. But I digress...
Oxley Misrepresents Deforestation, Ignores Massive Social Costs
Mongabay has a complete breakdown of the lack of objectivity and bias surrounding World Growth, with lots of good quotes and analysis, but here's the gist of the argument:
Citing academic research, the scientists call out Oxley and his groups for misrepresenting drivers of deforestation in Indonesia, understating the impact of forest conversion on biodiversity and climate, and ignoring the social costs of large-scale plantation agriculture.
More specifically, the scientists say,
WGI, [ITS Global] and Alan Oxley frequently invoke "poverty alleviation" as a key justification for the advocacy of oil palm expansion and forest exploitation in developing nations, and it is true that these sectors do offer significant local employment. Yet forest loss and degradation also have important societal costs. There are many examples in which local or indigenous communities in the tropics have suffered from large-scale forest loss and disruption, have had their traditional land rights compromised, or have gained minimal economic benefits from the exploitation of their land and timber resources. Such costs are frequently ignored in the arguments by WGI, ITS and Alan Oxley
And the letter just goes on and on like that, poking holes in the World Growth argument.
Which is all to say that if you see a quote from World Growth or Alan Oxley reprinted, know that the expressed motives of poverty alleviation are suspect at best.
Read the letter: An Open Letter about Scientific Credibility and the Conservation of Tropical Forests
Oxley is Known Climate Skeptic, Free-Trade Globalization Advocate
Oh, and here's what SourceWatch has to say about Alan Oxley personally:
Alan Oxley is an Australian academic, a lobbyist for free trade agreements, a climate change skeptic and trenchant critic of the Kyoto protocol on greenhouse gas emissions.
Oxley is the founder and director of Melbourne-based company ITS Global and is chairman of the Australian APEC Study Centre at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. He is also the director of the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement Business Group, a corporate lobby group which he established to lobby in favour of the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement. He also consults to the Australian forest sector and Malaysian logging giant Rimbunan Hijau.
Oxley is a regular participant in Lavoisier Group events, and is the host of the Asia-Pacific pages of Tech Central Station - a conservative website funded by ExxonMobil and General Motors Corporation among others.
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More on Palm Oil:
Greenpeace Activists Detain Palm Oil Tanker: Where Do Readers Stand on Direct Action?
Palm Oil Biodiesel, Now With 2000% the Emissions of Fossil Fuels
Palm Oil Plantations No Longer Qualify for Clean Development Mechanism Carbon Credits
Commercial Palm Oil Productions in Southeast Asia Violating Indigenous People's Rights