Greenpeace greenwash lecture guerilla-ed

Greenpeace Greenwash 1
The 4th Greenpeace Business Lecture took place on Tuesday 25th January 2005 at the Royal Society of Arts and was delivered by Lord Oxburgh, Chairman of Shell. Greenpeace Business said in advance that ‘The lecture will focus on the future of oil companies in the light of growing evidence on the dangers of climate change.’

Wearing protective radiation suits and wielding top-of-the-range (home-made more like) greenwash detection and clean-up equipment, The Greenwash Guerrillas were on site to declare the event a 'Toxic Greenwash Hazard'. Passers-by and would-be attendees were advised to move away from the building, while those insisting on entry were warned that direct physical contact with the levels of ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ (CSR) anticipated could cause long-term damage to spiritual health. Not to mention the likelihood of becoming a bit-player in a Shell-choreographed CSR soap opera. Sadly, none took this advice - perhaps the gas masks made it too hard to decipher.

A banner reading ‘TOXIC GREENWASH HAZARD’ (with the ‘A’ of ‘GREENWASH’ an oil derrick pumping out flames and clouds of CO2) was tied to the railings of the very fancy Royal Society of Arts. One operative detected high levels of greenwash below street level. ‘They’re smuggling Oxburgh in through the sewer!’ cried another, a theory which could not be verified at time of writing.

At one point, who should be seen stepping from a black cab but Dr. Robin Bidwell, Chairman of Environmental Resources Management (about whom, see our spoof website of a few years back at www.erm-concerns.com) He expressed no regrets for his company’s complicity in laundering BP’s Baku-Ceyhan pipeline, and wouldn’t be drawn about the number of contracts with BP had been lost since his offices were occupied in 2002/3.

Soon after, the freezing Guerrillas were thrilled to feel the heat of righteous indignation coursing through their veins as a Shell public relations representative emerged onto the steps and began to instigate a little dialogue. ‘Oil companies can save the planet, (if their shareholders will let them)’, he declared, before being wrapped in hazard tape…through which he kept spouting top-drawer corp-speak, swearing on his mother’s SUV that Shell was ‘trying really hard’, and ‘really, really cared’ about the climate. The GG’s were stunned into silence by this bare-faced display – either that or they were smart enough not to be lulled by the prospect of ‘having their say’ at the big mahogany boardroom table of power. (One who was tempted had to be disinfected by a less credulous colleague.)

Rumours that this Shell rep was a plant to create a little frisson of a full and frank exchange of views are a shocking barrel of lies.

Most attendees were drawn from the world of oil companies, renewables companies, big NGOs, media and politics. Almost all accepted a non-toxic leaflet while some stopped to talk through the issues, often implacably opposed to Shell and determined to throw Oxburgh a tough question. One asked if we were Greenpeace picketing Shell, as did an Independent reporter; there’s nothing like a little confusion to get the issues to show up in a clearer light.

As the punters queued to enter the lecture, a few GGs took advantage of their protective clothing to accept a Greenpeace Business offer to come inside and watch the lecture on the live video feed. At first they just checked the room for high but manageable levels of greenwash. But once Oxburgh came on screen, the equipment was under too much pressure, so they beat a swift retreat. This equipment is cutting edge, high-tech prototype stuff on its first outing, and we need it to be in good order for the doubtless large numbers of events which we will have to attend and contribute our unpaid, unsung public service. This is the year of the G8 in the UK after all, so unprecedented levels of climate-related greenwash will be sticking to our shoes all the way to July at least.

For that reason, (nothing at all to do with the biting January wind), we decided to retreat tactically to a nearby hostelry to wash away dangerous internal traces of Shell greenwash that might have evaded our anti-Shell suits earlier on.

MESSAGE FROM THE GREENWASH GUERRILLAS (distributed outside lecture)

Shell vs. planet
WARNING! - you are within choking distance of a serious spillage of ultra-powerful super-sophisticated extra-toxic Shell greenwash. (Greenwash = environmental whitewash.) Tonight, Lord Ron Oxburgh, Shell Chairman, delivers the Greenpeace Business Lecture on ‘People, Climate and Natural Resources’. We trust you have brought your gas mask & sick bag.

In terms of climate chaos, the solution is simple: LPG (Leave Petroleum in the Ground). And in the battle against greenwash, here’s another simple acronym: DBI – Don’t Buy It. If not, then we will see the gradual selling out of all meaningful opposition to industry and government-peddled fossil fuel madness. You can’t put a price on the atmosphere, and market environmentalism will not prevent market-driven catastrophes.

FOUR EXAMPLES FROM OVER A CENTURY OF PLUNDER:
* Growth at all costs? Shell ‘has promised to close the growing gap with rivals such as BP and ExxonMobil by finding new reserves equal to 100 per cent of the oil and gas it pulls from the ground on average for the next four years.’
Action aims to restore reserves, FT, 19.1.05.
* Nigerian destruction: 2005 is the 10th anniversary of the Shell-sanctioned murder of Ken Saro-Wiwa; ‘Shell’s commitment to corporate social responsibility looks shallow in the light of the sustained misery of the people of the Niger Delta.’
Sustained misery - Shell in the Niger Delta; www.christian-aid.org.uk
* Iraqi sell-off: ‘Oil majors, including Shell and BP, are moving closer to establishing a long-term presence in Iraq…it emerged yesterday.’
Shell advert seeks 'our man in Iraq', Gdn 11.8.04.
* Sakhalin sacrificed: ‘Clean up the oil spill, not just your image, campaigners tell Shell’; www.sakhalin.environment.ru/en/sakhalin2/msakhalin.html

With many civil society groups climbing into bed with rapacious, PR-savvy corporations, it’s a relief to know that Greenpeace will never take corporate cash. But Shell has pulled off an invaluable coup in appearing to have tamed the group best known for anti-oil direct action.
Since Big Oil’s triple bottom line is profit, profit & profit, since it is trained to lie to protect that profit, and since it has no place in a sustainable, socially just future, we look forward eagerly to news of Greenpeace and other direct actions on Shell, (not to mention BP, Exxon, SustainAbility et al) in the future. After all, there’s no such thing as a good oil company.

Let The Greenwash Guerrillas know what you think, c/o
Mal Branded or Jude Boynton from London Rising Tide:
london@risingtide.org.uk c/o 62 Fieldgate Street, London E1 1ES
Tel: 07708 794665 londonrisingtide.org.uk See also risingtide.org.uk

Greenpeace Greenwash 2
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