Why would Channel 4 attempt to discredit the environmental movement?

Last edited 4 November 2010 at 3:32pm

Channel 4 has broadcast other films criticising the green movement in the past, complaints about which have been upheld by regulators (Image © Roo Reynolds)

What the Green Movement Got Wrong is a documentary film that claims "that by clinging to an ideology formed more than 40 years ago, the traditional green lobby has failed in its aims and is ultimately harming its own environmental cause."

It is a one sided programme that makes claims that are completely wrong or misleading. The programme makers didn't allow us to be interviewed for the film. They'd only let us make responses in writing, pretty much all of which they refused to include.

Channel 4 has a history of broadcasting superficial documentaries that attempt to discredit the environmental movement. It creates controversial television and boosts ratings.

What the Green Movement Got Wrong is the third film commissioned by the channel to try and discredit environmentalists. In 1997, Channel 4 was forced to issue a public apology on prime time television for its broadcast of Martin Durkin's documentary series Against Nature, which criticised the environmental movement for being anti-science. The Independent Television Commission upheld complaints by interviewees who appeared in Against Nature for breaching "the Programme Code in respect of the failure to make the four interviewees adequately aware of the nature of the programmes, and the way their contributions were edited."

Ten years later, Channel 4 commissioned The Great Global Warming Swindle. Also made by Durkin, the film maintained that man-made global warming was "a lie" and "the biggest scam of modern times." The greater scam was that the director had misused and fabricated data, interviewed paid lobbyists, and distorted the comments of leading scientists. Soon after it aired, the filmmaker was forced to re-edit the film, remove factual errors and delete an entire interview by Professor Carl Wunsch. Wunsch said he was "completely misrepresented" in the film and had been "totally misled" when he agreed to be interviewed. Dr. Wunch complained to the independent regulator, Ofcom, and his interview in the film was removed.

What the Green Movement Got Wrong to already being accused of misleading its contributors.

Earlier this week, one of the contributors to the progamme, Adam Werbach, told the Guardian that he was not informed him about the programme's polemical nature and that the programme does not accurately represent his opinions. He is now considering making a formal complaint to Ofcom, the UK's media regulator.

Adam Werbach is a California-based sustainability consultant and former president of the Sierra Club conservation group and told the Guardian that the film "misrepresents who is to blame for many of our social and environmental problems. Blaming environmentalists for starvation and lack of energy [in developing nations] is like blaming weathermen for the weather."

We were also informed by opinion pollster MORI that they forced the film to remove some material in the film because it misrepresented their research.

Including Adam, six people are interviewed in the film. Two of the contributors are paid lobbyists for the nuclear power and genetically modified food industries. Another contributor is the co-founder of a business network with ties to both nuclear and biotech companies.

The real stories behind the contributors

Adam Werbach

  • Adam Werbach is currently taking legal action against Channel 4 and the producers of ‘What the Green Movement Got Wrong' for misleading him about the content of the film.
  • Adam was the youngest ever president of the Sierra Club in the United States.
  • Adam was a member of the Greenpeace International board of directors until 2006. He left when he accepted a contract with the advertising firm, Saatchi and Saatchi, and decided to step down in respect of Greenpeace's policy of independence. He left on amicable terms.
  • Adam is well-known for making public and productive challenges to the environment movement, which he also did as part of his role on the Greenpeace board.
  • Adam feels he has been misrepresented in this film and that his comments are being used to support a thesis he does not agree with.

Patrick Moore

  • Patrick Moore is a paid spokesperson for the nuclear and logging industries in Canada and the United States.
  • Moore was an early member of Greenpeace until he joined the logging and nuclear industry to lobby on their behalf.
  • Since then Moore has been touting nuclear energy at the behest of the Nuclear Energy Institute's (NEI) front group, and the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition. The (NEI) is bankrolled by the nuclear industry. The Clean and Safe Energy Coalition was part of a $8 million public relations contract with PR giant Hill & Knowlton. Hill & Knowlton are better known for their work defending the tobacco industry.
  • From 1991 Moore was paid to represent the British Columbia Forest Alliance - a logging industry-front group set up by the public relations firm Burson-Marsteller. Burson-Marsteller is the same PR firm that represented Exxon after the Valdez oil spill and Union Carbide after the Bhopal chemical disaster. Moore now promotes clear-cutting of native forests.

Florence Wambugu

  • Florence Wambugu is a paid lobbyist for biotech corporations. Most recently she is the head of a lobby foundation that seeks to persuade African governments to approve the production of genetically modified food in their countries.
  • Wambugu has worked directly for the biotechnology companies, Monsanto and DuPont.
  • Florence Wambugu was involved in a project to develop a genetically modified (GM) sweet potato. In February 2004 the science magazine, New Scientist, reported that the project had failed.
  • Wambugu now heads up Africa Harvest Biotech Foundation International (AHBFI) Biotechnology Outreach Strategy, which is supported by CropLife International - an organisation led by biotechnology companies such as BASF, Bayer, Dow, DuPont, Monsanto, and Syngenta.

Stewart Brand

  • Stewart Brand has links to both the nuclear and biotech industry through the Global Business Network.
  • Brand is a co-founder of Global Business Network. Among the 192 clients named on its website (www.gbn.com), more than a dozen corporations and governmental agencies are involved in the production or promotion of nuclear energy: General Electric, Bechtel, Duke Power, Siemens-Westinghouse, Fluor, Electric Power Research Institute, Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, Électricité de France, Iberdrola, Vattenfall, Sydkraft (now E.ON Sweden) and Sandia National Labratories. Some of these, including GE, Bechtel, Duke Power and Westinghouse, are receiving government subsidies to develop the next generation of nuclear power plants.
  • Dupont - a company that sells genetically engineered seed and chemicals - is also listed as a client.

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