When a chord is struck close to home, maybe it’s the sad eyes of a child who isn’t white, the pleading cries of a kitten, or the recognised menace behind polar bear cubs playing with a piece of abandoned plastic, most people are hit with the heartrending need to offer what they have to stop the torment mostly caused by our species wrongdoings. That’s where the charities step in, the intermediaries between our guilt and the solution to suffering, they selflessly put your money where it is best spent to improve the conditions so that you can rest easy, knowing that at least you’ve helped. But with charity scandals being the juiciest mainstream gossip beside political blunders, these saintly organisations are often swathed with injustices. Somewhere between their mission statement of protection and the massive amounts of money pouring into their hands, a disconnect occurs, making way for corruption and hypocrisy.
Greenpeace, one of the most iconic activist environmental charity is known for participatory members daring stunts in the name of all things not human. They’ve scaled the heights of the Shard, the Treasury building, and Big Ben, boarded Shell’s oil rig in the middle of the Arctic Ocean, and even trespassed and vandalised ancient Peruvian Nazca lines from over 1,500 years ago. These stunts, Greenpeace promises, are all in the name of anarchistic protest, designed to bring attention to environmental injustices around the world. But it’s recent sanctions against genetically modified crops (GMOs) fail to recognise the, though contentious, positive ecological imperative for such scientific feats. By engineering crops capable of withstanding higher temperatures and soils with fewer nutrients than what nature has evolved, we can assure food security for the future when vast swathes of our agricultural land are made infertile as it becomes too hot. Despite this, Greenpeace has deemed the GMOs as “environmentally irresponsible, poses risks to human health, and could compromise food, nutrition and financial security”. Instead of making a line of communication between the two standpoints, Greenpeace instead has taken it upon themselves to generally become a nuisance rather than an authoritative voice on the debate. Over the past decade, their contribution to the scientific conundrum has been to drop papayas in front of the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry in Bangkok, put protest banners in the arms of the angels on the Angel of Independence, a victory column on one of Mexico City’s major roads, and wrapping baby foods with hazard tape in a supermarket in Melbourne. Similar stunts have been held in objection to chlorine and nuclear power, despite limited scientific reasoning. Their protests are little more than teenage angst and tantrums that are thrown before the real situation is fully understood. Perhaps if Greenpeace with a little less ADHD and sat down and spoke, petitioned and lobbied against companies and governments rather than dramatic stunts, they would have a little more impact.
Despite being the other environmental charity heavyweight, the WWF doesn’t have a much cleaner track record either. With an almost 60 year legacy, the charity has been embellished with its own sordid track record. When an organisation grows as large as they have, much of the charitable donations towards the cause end up straight in the administration department just to sustain itself. And despite their mission to protect animals from the dastardly activities of our species, they have consistently enjoyed close ties with the same corporations they chastise, including Coca-Cola, Monsanto, and Cargill. In exchange for healthy donations, the WWF award them their iconic panda stamp of approval. The WWF’s habit of renting out the panda to the highest bidder is exemplified by Shell and BP’s payments to the organisation, to conduct studies on which forests south of the equator were available to be flogged for undoubtedly habitat destroying and local environment polluting industrial use. Since this, and various other discretions were uncovered in The Silence of the Pandas or Pandaleaks by Wilfried Huismann in 2014, the group have publicly culled their corporate ties. With 10% of funding 5 years ago coming from the public sector, last year just 0.3% came from its corporate allies. However, the 60% of the financing from the WWF’s personal network is not explained, despite the groups infamously secretive, The 1001 Club. Thought to be an elite club of the wealthiest people in the world, the list of members has never been revealed. Believed to be a schmoozy diners club of capitalist, conservative, blue-blooded old boys, its no stretch of the imagination to understand the influence a group like this at the helm of a major charity may have in regards to global and corporate policy-making.
This charitable corruption in the UK’s two most prominent not-for-profits may just be a consequence of their size. Having been around for the best part of a century, their scale inevitably leads to departments so far away from each other that mishaps are bound to occur. Mission statements become blurred, and the sheer amount of donations received makes it hard to do the thing they were set up to. Like most organisations in today’s society, corruption will inevitably find them. But there are many more environmental charities who have tenaciously stuck to their beliefs. Despite nearly 130 years since it’s founding, The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) still stays true to its core principles; to protect and conserve birds and their natural habitats. The vast majority of their money is spent on acquiring land that would otherwise be used for commercial and domestic development, and they offer grants to farmers to keep part of land intended to support endangered species. Similarly, The Marine Conservation Society (MCS), the UK’s leading aquatic environment charity, works directly with those involved in nautical industries to encourage and support more sustainable methods of fishing.
Charities are a fantastic way to help support a community that specialised in the environmental issues close to you. But like other charities like Oxfam that are only now being held accountable for questionable ethics, it’s crucial to check for trustworthy credentials before you donate to what could be, a seal of approval for one of the worlds most destructive companies.