Does Destruction of Research Foster Science Communication?

By Keith Kloor | January 29, 2014 1:29 am

The upcoming Australian Science Communicators conference is featuring a talk by the CEO of Greenpeace Australia Pacific. Here’s the abstract (my emphasis):

Greenpeace is a science-based campaigning organization whose purpose is to stand up for the environment. We detect and understand the environmental problems we face through science, and depend on science and technology to provide solutions to environmental threats. Greenpeace is thus in the (not-for-profit) business of communicating science. In his presentation, CEO of Greenpeace Australia Pacific, David Ritter, will outline Greenpeace’s approach to science communication, drawing out some of the tensions and overlap between public science and public campaigning.

This is the same science-based organization that made headlines several years ago for destroying government sponsored wheat crops, which as Nature reported, “was part of research into developing genetically modified crop plants with enhanced nutritional value.”

This is the same science-based organization that has a section on agricultural biotechnology that starts off this way:

How harmful is Genetic Engineering? Is relying on toxic chemicals the only way forward?

Is this the approach to science communication the Greenpeace Australia CEO will outline in his talk?

  • Bjinse Dankert

    I’ve professionally experienced what ‘science-based’ can mean for Greenpeace when I was working on a Dutch newspaper publication on the topic of the EU stress test for European nuclear reactors. Greenpeace Netherlands had released a press release in 2011 that the company of the one Dutch reactor was flouting the EU-required tests, on the basis of a scientific report. The press released made a few headlines in some other papers and I called Greenpeace for a few additional questions.

    It then turned out, in the course of a week wherein the Greenpeace employees became increasingly wroth and unrelenting, that their accusing press release was based on a report written by a former manager of the exceedingly renowned Austrian Institut of Ecology (http://www.ecology.at/index.en.htm), the report didn’t even say the required tests were neglected which rendered the Dutch press release false, and that the Greenpeace employees had misinterpreted the report, showcasing a poor understanding of the outline of the stress test in general and no understanding at all of the difference between deterministic and probabilistic assessments.

    Suffice to say that I’ve become even more sceptical of any Greenpeace report which is claimed to be science-based.

  • J M

    Greenpeace is a political organisation. They have their own ideas about nature, agriculture, energy, food and technology and science is mentioned when it serves their purposes.

  • mem_somerville

    I have tried to imagine the scale of the Greenpeace outrage if a bunch of the climate combatants trashed the weather-recording instruments that climate scientists use.

    Yeah, I’m sure the response would be totally similar…..

    • janssen86

      Actually, I think Greenpeace would be much more upset if you calibrated the instruments or put them where they measured not just asphalt heating up ;-)

  • Luis García-Pimentel

    Of course they are not science based, it is an organized religion revolving around ecology seen as an end to which any means are permitted.

  • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

    A moral civilization would only eat cabbages that have died a natural death. Soaps and syndets are immoral, nightsoil is precious. All else follows.

  • Loren Eaton

    If I recall correctly, GP was front and center in pushing the preliminary data (Losey’s words) that they decided confirmed harm to Monarch butterflies from Bt. To me, this became the Rosetta Stone for many future debacles using incomplete and sometimes erroneous data as fact….Carman, Seralini, Pusztai, to name a few.
    Strictly speaking, they are science-based. Just not the good science.

  • Neil

    Well, if you consider that Greenpeace was forced to pay compensation to the CSIRO (to the tune of ~$300,000) I’d say they are a huge supporter of GM science. :-7

    I like to remind people who donate to Greenpeace that their money goes to supporting GM research through fines like that one…..and paying bribe money to Russian officials to get their showboating fools out of Russian prisons. There are many science-based environmental groups that can more effectively use the donations (e.g. WWF, Nature Conservancy).

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About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.

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