Media beat-ups

Disclosure: I work for WWF-Australia. The following views are mine alone, not those of my employer.

This morning the team at WWF awoke to find that, according to Amanda Hodge at the Australian, WWF-Australia support’s the government’s plans for uranium mines, and by inference, nuclear energy.

This was certainly news to us all – because, in short, this is total bollocks! WWF’s position is clear – nuclear is not the answer. This is not a new position – it’s been WWF’s position for some time, though we’ve perhaps not stated this plainly enough in the past.

Let’s dissect this piece of “journalism” shall we?

Hodge says in the article:

The move is likely to drive a wedge through the environment movement, which is fighting to make the Government’s planned uranium exports to China – and the nuclear power debate – a federal election issue next year.

There was no “move”, and there ain’t no wedge to drive – the “environment movement” is in broad agreement – nuclear is not the answer. Even though one environment group took the bait, others like Greenpeace saw this for what it is – a beat up.

Amanda then tries to play the “WWF is in bed with corporates” line – an oldie, but (not so) goodie:

[Paul Gilding, ex-Greenpeace] said WWF, formerly the World Wildlife Fund, had “always been the one closest to the corporate conservative side, and good luck to them. Someone needs to be.”

WWF is one of the few environmental organisations that actually works with the corporate sector to identify and implement solutions to environental issues. It’s one thing to “shout from the rooftops” – an important step to be sure – but quite another to actually develop a working relationship with business and industry that produces results. As Paul says – someone has to do it.

She then infers that WWF-Australia accepts nuclear power, when WWF International does not:

Mr Marr [The Wilderness Society] claimed Mr Bourne was out of step with WWF International’s anti-nuclear power policy and called for him to “either toe the line or leave”.

WWF International opposes nuclear power as a clean-energy alternative to greenhouse intensive coal-fired power, citing contamination risks, waste problems and security concerns.

Nice dodge there – she doesn’t say it plainly (because to do so would be demonstrably untrue), but the inference is clear. Let’s set this straight – WWF-Australia supports WWF International’s policy. The Australian organisation has consistently promoted renewable energy as the solution to Australia’s long-term energy needs.

The last “old chestnut” is that WWF is too close to the government:

Last year, the Australia Institute claimed the WWF’s federal funding had gone up in direct proportion to its increased support for commonwealth policy.

This is plainly false. WWF receives funding for a specific conservation program – the Threatened Species Network, that is then redistributed through a community grants scheme. It certainly is not a result of our “support for commonwealth policy”. The last point to make is that a majority of WWF’s funding comes from the public – people like you and me who want to care for the environment.

But decide for yourself if we’re too close to the government: read this release on the Asia Pacific Partnership for Development. Here’s the money quote:

“In my whole business career, I have never seen a more misleading public statement as that made by Prime Minister John Howard today,” said WWF-Australia CEO Greg Bourne.

Greg was splashed across news reports on national TV saying much the the same thing. Does that sound like an organisation that is too close?

To my mind this article is more editorial than reporting – and hardly a balanced piece. The only aim I can imagine is that Hodge is trying to get the environment movement to take the bait and attack each other to deflect attention from the real issue here – which is climate change (aka global warming) and clean, renewable energy sources.

Hodge tries very hard to twist Greg’s comments into the angle she wants to push. Every time something like this happens I immediately think about how blogs can help.

I’ve been reading Naked Conversations and just submitted draft 1 of my ideas for a blogging initiative at WWF. I’ll be pointing out the section on “Correcting the record” after today.

Anyways, just thought I’d “correct the record” for any of y’all that might see the article in the paper today. And remember: don’t believe everything you read/hear in the press. Yet another sad example of the mainstream media getting it wrong…