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Today on FoodFirst.org, my close reading of Big Six agribusiness social media strategy:
Big Ag’s Fight for Twitter Credibility

industrial-agriculture-farming-89168_1280_Pixabay_creative-commons-700x320There are common interests across corporate enterprises, so it makes sense that agribusiness, tobacco, and oil companies are linked to some of the same PR firms, lobbyist “think tanks,” and other front organizations. How can we become more critical consumers of information so that we don’t inadvertently buy into corporate spin that sells out our future?

I’ve written previously about The Heartland Institute and climate change denial, and Heartland came up again in my research about biotech and GMOs. Now seems as good a time as any to add a quick follow-up to that original piece: I mentioned carbon offsets, which need a closer look. Compared to Comcast or AT&T donating to Heartland, I felt that WebPass’s efforts to be “carbon neutral” made its service a no-brainer. I still think it’s a comparatively good choice if available in your area. By contacting WebPass directly, I learned that the company purchases BEF offsets, whose portfolio includes new domestic clean energy projects.

But offsets—as a general concept and in specific practice—are deeply problematic. They are not necessarily better than nothing; sometimes they’re much worse than nothing. As Naomi Klein explains in This Changes Everything:

Indeed the offset market has created a new class of “green” human rights abuses, wherein peasants and Indigenous people who venture into their traditional territories (reclassified as carbon sinks) in order to harvest plants, wood, or fish are harassed or worse…Near Guaraqueçaba, Brazil, locals have reported being shot at by park rangers while they searched the forest for food and plants inside the Parana offset project hosted by The Nature Conservancy. (222)

Hence there are organizations like REDD-monitor, which investigates the implications of proposals to reward governments, businesses, and landowners for reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

Even when they don’t cause human rights abuses, offsets have the potential to lull people into thinking we don’t need to make drastic changes to our relationship with the environment. Legitimate offset projects might help us tread water for a while, but they don’t erase our fossil fuel usage.

As with the Big Ag debate, differentiating among real, false, and partial solutions remains key.

 
 
 
 
 
 

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