Greens Squeeze Impoverished Out of Jobs

It may sound absurd, but several environmental NGOs – notably Greenpeace, Rainforest Action, and WWF – are now involved in a concerted attempt to stymie investment in the developing world.349px-Palm_oil_Ghana

At the root of the insidious campaign is a fundamental opposition to capitalism, rather than concern for indigenous communities, or the balance that can be achieved between development and conservation.

Western environmental activists have long placed their narrow and unscientific agenda ahead of the basic human right of allowing indigenous people to live off the land to feed their families and raise the quality of life for them, their families, their communities, not only to eat today, but to build a better life for tomorrow.

This type of campaign was recently highlighted in the Mine Your Own Business documentary where the Greens sought to block impoverished Romanians from mining the natural resources in their own country. The movie explicitly illustrates how Western U.S. based activist groups campaign to block development where it is needed most. Now, sadly, the same phenomenon is playing out in the campaign to, in essence, put warning labels on any products containing palm oil , a commonly used vegetable oil derived from oil palm trees.

The latest tactic of these radical organizations in Europe and Australia is to slap discriminatory labels on certain food ingredients and agricultural goods produced by developing nations.  The fact that palm oil is only produced in developing countries is politically convenient for their scare tactics in industrialized countries, far removed from the ramifications of their actions.

These organizations are also playing a dangerous game with both developing nations and the well-being of consumers. By demanding labeling requirements not only has the effect of a warning label, it also prevents developing countries from entering and competing in the global marketplace.

It seems the activists haven’t learned the lesson of history. It is poverty, not employment, which is causally linked with environmental destruction. History shows that over time, raising living standards through harnessing natural resources is tied to improvements not only in health outcomes, but in environmental protection. This anti-palm oil campaign fails to recognize this critical lesson. Until governing bodies get on the right side of this issue, people, as well as the environment, will continue to suffer. Only when societies are able to meet their basic human needs are they able to use resources to protect the nature in their own backyards.

And despite disingenuous claims by activists, consumer health will not benefit from such a requirement. Through these arbitrary calls for labeling, the Green extremists have declared war on the poorest people in developing nation as well as  consumers. “Sustainability” activists are trying to dictate to producers the conditions that they must meet if they want to participate in global trade, and, as a result, what people are allowed to consume.  Their demands are not backed by facts or science, but pure ideology.

Because producers in developing nations are unable to afford some of the expensive aspects that will come along with the  strict labeling requirements, supply will plummet and prices for consumers will skyrocket. In a world currently seeking a solution to rising prices and combating food insecurity, exacerbating the problem is the wrong way to go.

And preventing consumers from accessing goods that contain palm oil represents yet another effort to obscure and muddy market forces and individual choice. Just as the nanny-statists have been hell bent on banning Trans fats, radical environmentalists want yet more government intervention that would distort the market and prevent people from consuming palm oil products, a popular alternative to Trans fats.  Following government mandates is one thing, but implementing regulations through embracing the deceptive rhetoric from unelected radicals is truly another.

As Congress for Racial Equality spokesman, Niger Innis, recently pointed out, Western businesses have decided to opt out of market competition in favor of colluding with these radical groups and pursue “corporate social responsibility” to avoid healthy competition.

The so-called sustainability campaigns under the guise of “corporate social responsibility” is what needs better labeling.  There’s nothing sustainable about it.  As my National Center for Public Policy Research colleague, Thompson Ayodele pointed out in a New York Times op-ed, the growth of the palm oil industry in impoverished countries will not only helps poor nationals feed themselves, but generates “goods that can be traded in global markets, thus linking the developing world economically with the wealthy world.”

These sustainability campaigns by radical green groups are anti-trade, anti-consumer, poor health policy and fundamentally immoral.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.