Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Greenpeace’s 12th Century Technology

Greenpeace recently dismissed the Canadian Senate as a 19th-century institution. But it aggressively promotes wind power – a 12th-century technology. While it accuses the Senate of being undemocratic, Greenpeace itself scored only 42% when evaluated from an accountability perspective.

Click to enlarge; see photo credit at the bottom of this post.

Last week, the Canadian Senate killed a piece of climate change legislation that would have plunged this country into a Great Depression. Journalist Greg Weston was one of the few to do the math. He points out that the bill demanded “what no government could reasonably deliver.”

It’s all very nice to say that greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced by 40% over a 10-year period. But what does that mean? In Weston’s words:

The latest figures from Environment Canada show the government could send the country back to using the horse and buggy and still not satisfy the greenhouse gas reduction targets in the climate change bill axed by the Senate. In fact, eliminating all the cars, trucks, bulldozers, railways and airlines in the country wouldn’t get even halfway to meeting the requirements in the bill… [bold added]

Following the legislation’s defeat, a news article in the Toronto Star contained the following quote from Keith Stewart of Greenpeace Canada:

Using an undemocratic, 19th-century institution to avoid dealing with the 21st century’s most pressing environmental problem is both hypocritical and irresponsible. [bold added]

Greenpeace should talk. It aggressively promotes 12th-century technology. Windmills similar to contemporary designs were first used in Europe during the late 1100s. And Greenpeace’s connection to this energy “solution” is far from casual. In 2007 the Global Wind Energy Council – a lobby group that produces glossy marketing brochures full of overly optimistic predictions – hired its first Secretary General. That person was Steve Sawyer, who’d spent 30 years working for Greenpeace. Between 1986 and 1988, for example, he was the CEO of Greenpeace USA. Between 1998 and 1993 he served as the CEO of Greenpeace International.

One country after another abandoned windmills as soon as alternative power sources became available. They did so because the new energy sources were more cost-effective. It’s possible that advanced technological approaches may someday radically alter the economics of wind power, but we aren’t there yet. Wind power remains highly unreliable. It makes so little economic sense that only companies receiving massive government (read: taxpayer) subsidies go into that business in the first place.

Moreover, while Greenpeace likes to call this “clean energy,” wind turbines routinely kill birds and make the lungs of bats explode (see more here and here). We have no idea what the long-term effects of this wildlife mortality might be. For all we know, bats fill a crucial ecological niche. How many impact studies have examined the possible consequences should the bat population become endangered by the tens of thousands of wind turbines being rushed into operation? Is Greenpeace calling for the precautionary principle to be observed until such studies are complete? Fat chance.

People may not like or agree with the individuals who currently comprise the Canadian Senate. They may hold a critical opinion of the workings of Canada’s parliamentary system of government, which is based on the British model and stretches back to this country’s birth in 1867. But to call the Senate undemocratic demonstrates that Greenpeace spokespeople are just another brand of politician. They’ll make the silliest of pronouncements in an attempt to advance their position.

And since we’re on the subject of democracy: who elected Greenpeace? To whom, exactly, is Greenpeace accountable? In my view, it is Greenpeace that’s behaving hypocritically with respect to wind power and wildlife. In my view, it’s Greenpeace that is being irresponsible by advocating climate change measures that would impoverish millions of Canadians (whose livelihoods would vanish due to steep emissions cuts).

I believe people have an inalienable right to feed their families – and to keep them warm during bitter Canadian winters. I further believe that those rights are being threatened by Greenpeace campaigns. To whom should I address my concerns?

It’s worth noting that, in 2007, an organization called One World Trust evaluated Greenpeace from a public accountability perspective. Greenpeace’s overall score was a mere 42%. Greenpeace apparently handles internal and external complaints so poorly it earned a dismal 26% score in that regard.

Standing on the sidelines, Greenpeace sanctimoniously passes judgment on everyone else. It says other people are undemocratic, hypocritical, and irresponsible. But Greenpeace is itself guilty of these things.



Re: other responses to the demise of the climate change bill, see the latter half of this post by Hilary Ostrov.


Photo by Russell Lee, American Memory collection. Migrant mother and children. Texas, 1939.



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