Sunday, December 21, 2014

Who should get your conservation donation?


Who should get your conservation donation?


There is a bewildering diversity of organizations out there.  How do you choose?  Making a donation is an extremely important decision; it is like voting.  Donors decide the priorities of non-profits.

1. Giving to a charity is an important personal decision.  What causes or issues do YOU care most about?  Don't impulsively respond to the pamphlet that comes in the mail.  Think about your issue before you begin to look for an organization to support.  You might care about some specific organism, like cheetahs; a group or organisms, like bats; a geographic region, like Amazonia; a specific place, like the wetlands down the road from you.  You might care about a particular problem, like invasive species; or you might be concerned most about a certain issue, like whaling; or you might have a favorite solution to a certain problem, like planting trees to combat climate change.  Make a very short list of YOUR priorities, the less you have to donate, the shorter your list should be. 

Taking the time to decide on one or two recipients makes your life easier in the long run.  I decide who I want to support, then mostly ignore the daily solicitations in my mail and inbox (except newly emerging issues/crises).  Your time is valuable, research well, then stick with it until you have reason to change your direction.

2.  Think about how you want a problem approached.  Are you more of an activist that wants to support in-your-face demonstrations?  Or do you prefer to work more quietly in the background?  Do you want accountability, like an organization that sues big polluters, or do you want to support a community-based rails to trails project in your county?   It is not just a matter of what issues an organization addresses, but how they operate.  Choose an organization that is consistent with your priorities and style.

3.  Do some research.  This takes time but is worth it. Invest some effort up front so you make a good choice, then stick with that organization until your priorities change or they disappoint you.  You'll save yourself time in the long run if you are not considering every solicitation you get.  Narrow the field to those that directly address YOUR priorities through YOUR preferred methods.

The research is easy.  Here are some of tips:

Look for focus.  Some organizations do a little of everything and do it everywhere.   If an organization works all over the world, on whales, butterflies, and orchids, they probably do not do all these things well.  If your interest is whales, find an organization that specializes on whales.  If you want to put a new roof on your house, who will you hire: a roofing contractor or a general contractor that also does floors, plumbing, wiring, drywall, paving, and landscaping?

Scrutinize the organization's annual reports.  I tend to avoid organizations with very glossy and glitzy annual reports produced by expensive marketing consultants.

How much of the budget is sucked up for administration, development and other departments geared to internal maintenance rather than conservation outcomes? 

Where do their funds come from?  Are they mainly funded by large grants and donations?  Or do they really rely on membership and small donors?
How significant will your contribution be to the organization?  For some organizations, the membership and small donors are mainly icing on the cake; others completely depend on small donors. 

Look at their organizational structure.  How many presidents, senior vice presidents, vice presidents, directors, assistant directors, etc. there?  The fewer, the better.  How many staff appear to be directly working on your priority?  Be cautious where you cannot find good information about organizational structure. 

But be skeptical of the annual report. There are many legal tricks to blur the figures in the annual report.  For example, they might say they only spend 10% of their budget on development.  But this only includes the fulltime development staff.  Other staff might easily spend 50% of their time on fundraising too, but they are listed as scientists, conservationists, field staff etc.  I am highly suspicious of large budget organizations funded by many diverse sources reporting small development budgets.

By supporting them will you be getting a glossy calendar, glossy magazine, nice mug, etc.?  Opt out of the gifts if you can.

Where are their offices?  Do they have expensive modern office space where real estate is expensive and far from the conservation scene?   

You can research on-line how non-profits spend their money from their IRS 990 forms.  By being tax-exempt these organizations are partly subsidized by the taxpayer; their filings are public.  Some organizations have their 990 forms on their website.  I like such transparency.

If not presented you can usually find it via a search engine like Google-- plug in the name of the organization and form "990".  The 990 form provides more detail on income and spending than most annual reports.  You can also access 990 forms and other useful information for many non-profits at http://www.guidestar.org  [But trust your own research more than the simple guidestar ratings; they are easy to fudge.]

For example, I googled "Wildlife Conservation Society 990" and the first hit was the link to the pdf of their 2009 990 form.[i] In 2009 the Wildlife Conservation Society spent $2,443,748 on its five largest consultants.  You can see that they listed income of $10,563,032 in membership dues. The 990 lists what the top employees are paid.  The Wildlife Conservation Society 990 for 2009 shows the CEO received benefits worth $1,014, 567.  He and the 15 Vice Presidents listed earned a combined $5,515,365 in 2009.  In this example, payments to the top five consultants and top 16 executives exceeded 75% of what they brought in from memberships. 

4.  Once you have a short list of organizations you might want to support, do not be afraid to contact them with questions.  Anyone willing to take your money should be more than happy to communicate with you.

If you still uncertain about an organization you can delve into your options more; read older annual reports (often available on their web sites, or request one).  Are they growing?  Do they keep a consistent mission?  Do they demonstrate results? 

Remember, these organizations want your money, their sales pitch puts them in the best possible light.  Exhibit the same skepticism you would use with any salesman. 

5.  Once you decide, stick with it and watch them closely.  Non-profits appreciate a loyal donor.  They can plan better when income is predictable. Inconsistent donors force organizations to invest considerable effort courting new donors.  If you stay with them for some time, you can see yourself if they are delivering.  If you jump to new organizations each year, you do not develop that perspective.  If your perspective tells you they are not delivering, then you can do one of two things: move to another organization, or try to hold them accountable. 

Your donation history gives you clout to demand better outcomes.  If you have supported one organization over several years, you have the ability to say "Each year I donate $XXX to your organization, but am becoming disillusioned with your failure to deliver...."  This means a lot more if you have been with an organization for several years than if you are a new member.  This is an important way you can get more clout for your donation.  

By being a consistent supporter, you also provide an asset the organization can use to market itself to foundations and larger donors.  It is one thing to say "We have 500 members,"  and it is quite a better thing to say "We have 500 members, 450 of them have supported us loyally for more than five years."  Your several small donations can have more leverage when you consolidate them in a larger amount to one recipient and sustain them for multiple years.

In summary:
·       Identify your priority issue and how you would like to see it addressed.
·       Research organizations that specialize on your issue.
·       Look for organizations that demonstrate efficiency and results, read their annual reports and 990s.
·       Avoid organizations that demonstrate high overheads and costly administration, marketing and development.
·       Concentrate on a few or one top recipient; don't shotgun 20 dollar donations all over the board (unless, perhaps, lending membership for advocacy purposes).
·       Stick with your organization as a loyal supporter for multiple years.
·       Follow your organization and demand results.


The conservation issues we face are huge and daunting. Most of us do not have the ability to simply give more.  But we can give more effectively.  No one can demand results better than a donor.  Take a little time, get to know who you are supporting, be loyal to those who deliver, demand more from those who do not.



[i] Full disclosure- a former employer of mine.  By using an organization I know, I could make sure what I used as an example was representative.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A view of social media of the future



When the team at SETI announced they had confirmed the existence of extraterrestrial life in 2042, the news spread like wildfire through Snicker.  By 2042 nearly everyone in the world was connected by Snicker, the social media system that replaced the old slow and sluggish media like Twitter and the primordial "Facebook" kids learned about in snickschool.  Snicker completely bypassed what was once called the world wide web, which had sluggishly channeled through servers and hubs around the world connected by actual cables.  Snicker worked off something like fibreless fiberoptics-- connecting user to user at the speed of light.  Each user's communit, the device that replaced cell phones the way telephones replaced smoke signals, filtered input as it came in.  With micro quantum processing, terabytes of information could be filtered in essentially no time, at least in this reality.

As soon as the announcement was out, pretty much everyone in the world was resnicking.  Most people snicklistened to the snicks that were resnicked the most.  You simply set your communit to communicate the top five, ten, whatever snicks on any subject that had been resnicked some tens of million times.  News of binary radio communication from the Epsilon Tau cluster instantly resnicked over a billion times.  Everyone heard it, or more like thought it, since communits plugged straight into Broca's Area of the brain.  A nifty device, sort of a cross between a syringe and a staple gun, zapped a commimplant to the Broca.  Snicks were "heard" much like the annoying internal mental dialog people used to have before displaced by the snickerverse.

Pope Bieber The Popular put out a snickatement immediately that the new discovery in no way altered theology, since the new life forms were God's Creation too.  Pretty much everyone who snicklistened to Christian snicks heard the ageing former pop singer and sent out a snicknod showing their approval.   Although it took some 5000 years for the radio message to reach us from Epsilon Tau, it went to nearly everyone on earth in a matter of nanoseconds at the speed of light.  And nearly just as quickly, it became old news.  The message itself when decoded was not terribly interesting; just some Epsilon Tauian sportscaster saying GGOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLL!!!! 

Minutes later, almost an eternity in the snickiverse, the Epsilon Tauians were no longer a topic of much snickussion.  The world had pretty much concurred on an image of them as purplish-hued sportslovers, much like a puce version of Manchester United fans (still the top futbol team in the world).  Within hours what people once quaintly thought would be the most earth-shattering discovery ever was simply absorbed and added to common knowledge.  The latest trending thing took forecourt, with the unveiling of the most recent surgically rejuvenated Kardashian buttocks called "the Brazilian Beachball."

Friday, November 21, 2014

What My Facebook Feed Tells Me About The World


Things in my daily facebook feed generally fall into five general categories:
1)  Updates from friends-- where they are, stuff they are eating, who they are hanging with, pictures of their _____________ (fill in-- pets, kids, etc)

2)  Science-y updates, links to publications...

3) Humor, like the golden retriever that totally bombs dog show

4 & 5 Are the bad news and the good news.  Bad news outnumbers good news, as expected.  But it seems the good news usually is not really good things happening, but just when things are not as bad as they could be.

Examples from my morning facebook feed:

The Bad News:
·      Alligators in the Everglades are emaciated-- indicating further ecosystem collapse
·      Crater Mountain mine underway, no apparent environmental oversight
·      Abbott cutting funds to ABC and SBS
·      Major networks did not air Obama's speech on immigration
·      House passes bill to replace independent scientists at the EPA with industry experts
·      October was hottest month ever on record, as is the year 2014
·      Canadian woman charged 1 million for giving birth in a US hospital
·      US only developed nation that does not guarantee paid vacations
·      Aussies boycotting halal foods because they think buying supports terrorists
·      Michelle Bachman calls immigrants illiterates
·      GOP furious with Obama (hardly news)
·      Poachers kill 1200 rhinos in South Africa this year alone
·      Statistics on bird kills at wind turbine facility are trade secrets

The good news (really this is the good?):
·      Company halts plan to frack 1 km from Pennsylvania school
·      Elizabeth Warren taking on Walmart
·      Federal court decision might allow a humanist study group to form in a prison (as religions have always freely done)
·      First bus in Britain running on bio-methane
·      Non-hunters contribute to conservation more than hunters
·      Plans for a poorly-sited solar facility turned down

It is indeed good news when something bad stops or doesn't happen.  But why are there so few stories out there of good shit actually happening?  The good news is usually something small and local.  Bad things easily happen on an epic scale-- famines, oil spills, etc.  But good things rarely happen on a large scale.  I guess that's part of the logic behind "think global, act local."  This is another reason I like smaller non-profits with specific goals than the big "saving the world" non-profits.  You can't save the planet, end hunger, etc.  But you might save a piece of the planet or a family's hunger.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Easy, inexpensive, do-it-yourself bird safe windows

100% bird safe windows  

(re-posted from bigredaglaia because it is a popular essay)


"Bird Window Trampolines":  an invisible,  cheap, easy and 100% effective way to make windows bird-safe
We all know that sickening "thunk" when a bird hits a window.  Often the dead bird can be found beneath the window, more often it flies off and likely dies of internal hemorrhaging later.  The estimates of birds killed by window strikes range in the hundreds of millions per year in the USA.  If you live somewhere with birds near your house, and your house has windows, you are probably killing birds.
But I hate to be indoors and the one thing that can make indoor living tolerable is a nice picture window, and the more and bigger the better.  For a bird enthusiast like me, this poses a conundrum.   Go insane indoors without windows, or stay (somewhat) sane and accept collateral damage to the many birds simply going about their business and suddenly dying in a collision they literally couldn't see coming.
I found a solution.
View looking out a window that is protected with netting from bird strikes.  The mesh is barely visible.
There are simple and inexpensive steps anyone can take to make their windows bird-safe.  Here I describe what I've done to the big picture windows in my living room that were real bird killers.  Before I did this, bird strikes occurred often, especially in the spring during migration, as fledglings left the nest in summer, and again in the fall, with a few through the winter.  Any time a Sharp-shinned Hawk burst out of the woods into the yard, birds were likely to hit the glass. 
The solution costs about $15/window and it takes about 30 minutes per window.   Here are simple instructions and a few photos of the result.  All you need are: two round curtain rods, six curtain rod brackets, and some netting for each window.
 
Buy the plastic mesh that you use to keep birds off fruit bushes and trees.  Any garden supply store has it.   A 7 X 21 foot net cost me $9, enough for 3-4 windows.  (I first used old mist nets, but these lose their integrity and tore more easily).
Example of the netting available to keep birds off fruit trees.

Outside the window, above and below attach the brackets that hold the curtain rods.  These should stand away from the glass at least 6 inches.  If the windows are recessed the brackets can be shorter than windows that are flush with the wall.  Put three brackets for each rod-- left, right and center above and below the window (maybe more for a window longer than 4-5 feet.  The upper three brackets have the "U" that cradles the rod facing up, while the lower three brackets are upside down with the "U" facing down.
Lower curtain rod holding mesh.  I used a larger, stronger rod on this double window.
Cut a piece of the mesh about 8 inches larger than the span from curtain rod to curtain rod and wider than the window.
While comfortably seated thread the top curtain rod through the net, through every-other cell of the mesh.  Then hang this on the upper brackets-- in the corner brackets but outside the middle bracket so it sags slightly below the bracket.  This is so when you put the rod into the middle bracket it helps draw the net tight.
Pull the net down tight to where the lower curtain rod will rest.  Measure or count meshes down to where the rod is when moderately tight, then go up two or three cells, about 2-3 inches. 
Thread the lower curtain rod through the mesh through the mesh 2-3 inches above the line of the lower brackets.  As with the top rod, be careful to thread straight through so the two rods are parallel.  If not parallel the mesh will not pull tight evenly.
When it is through the lower curtain rod should hang in the net a couple inches above the brackets below. 
Pull the mesh outward to the sides so the net is taut left to right and fully covers the window.
Then pull the lower curtain rod down and snap it into the three brackets.   It should be pretty tight and the upper curtain rod should be bowing down more in the middle.
Push the middle of the upper curtain rod up and snap it into the middle bracket.  This should pull the net really tight.
Upper curtain rods holding mesh on two windows with a few tacks in between to pull the mesh tight horizontally.
If it is not tight, you can simply release the lower curtain rod from the brackets, pull the rod out of the mesh, and thread it through a little higher, and then re-seat it in the brackets.
The finished net should be firm against your push and require substantial pressure to push as far as the glass.  A "trampoline."
On a large window I put a few tacks along the sides and pull the mesh on to them to add tension side-to-side.  This also brings the edges to the wall and reduces the chance a bird would ever get between the mesh and the glass.  This has never happened for me.
When the net is up and in place, you can trim some of the excess mesh off the sides, but leave a few cells outside the edges.   This helps retain the integrity of the net and stops it from becoming too slack if a mesh tears at a tack or on the curtain rod. 
Now and then you can check the tension on the net and pull it a little tighter on the edges if needed.
Sitting inside and looking out I barely see the mesh against a dark background.  On sunny days sometimes it is more evident.  But it really is not very apparent and a lot less noticeable than typical screened windows.  From the outside the mesh is invisible.  One could paint or conceal the curtain rods, but I hardly notice these either.
Birds still fly "into" the windows.  The mesh, like the glass, is invisible to them.  But instead of instant deacceleration when they hit glass, the net stretches and slows them without hitting the solid glass.  Airbags in cars work on the same principle-- instead of slapping your head on the windshield with 60 to 0 deacceleration in a fraction of a millimeter, your momentum is absorbed by the airbag, not your skull.  Same for the birds only it is the net instead of the airbag.
Three large picture windows protected with mesh.
On windows where I have put these nets I never hear that "thunk" and I have never found a dead bird below.   The first window where I used fruit tree netting (rather than old mist nets) is still in good shape after two years.  There are a few meshes torn where possibly big birds hit, and I sometime see bird droppings on the window to indicate a bird bounced and defecated. 
I enjoy my large windows guilt-free.  I can put bird feeders right up beside them and never have strikes, even when a Sharp-shinned hawk passes and all the birds freak out.
I like this method.  It works.  It does not cost much.  It is easy to do.  It requires little maintenance (you can easily remove, wash the windows and replace).  It does not obscure the view at all.   Note added- we just did spring cleaning and washed the windows.  It only took a minute to release the lower rod holding the net, fold it to the top rod, clean the window, and put it back in place.   This really works.  Even when a Cooper's hawk comes by and birds dive for cover, none hit the window anymore.  This used to happen often.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

On the ways America has come to celebrate ignorance: POTSIs the Person on the Street Interview


On the ways America has come to celebrate ignorance: 
POTSIs the Person on the Street Interview

When I was young ignorance was embarrassing.  Most people would avoid a public display of their ignorance.  We preferred not to comment on things we knew nothing about.  But Americans have slowly embraced ignorance, first making it OK to be ignorant, then ever more celebrating ignorance. 

Somewhere in the last couple decades the media began to seek out the ignorant for comment.  Interviewees are selected for being "representative" not knowledgeable.  And if the public is generally ignorant, then the best representative is ignorant. 

Interviews of the random person off the street are often perceived as given the same weight as experts. The usual Person on the Street Interview, or POTSI, is a gimmick to try to relate whatever the story is about back to you the audience.  Remember that the next time you hear or see a POTSI, some producer thinks the POTSI represents you and that you are interested in the POTSI.  The stupider the POTSI, the stupider they think you are, news audience.

The interviewer of POTSI rarely questions or challenges the POTS.  Their word is taken not because it is right or wrong,  Whether a statement is informed is not even at issue, it is valid simply because a POTS said it.  On the other hand, when interviewing an expert, reporters tend to look for exceptions and to challenge their conclusions. 

We've all seen POTSIs  saying "I don't think global warming is real, why look at all that snow [pointing to the '78 rusted pickup truck on blocks in the front yard under ten inches of snow]." 

Nearly every local tv news story wraps up with some statement by someone whose only qualification is that they happen to be in the proximity of a reporter.  The reporter turns to the camera





 "There you have it, many people still don't believe climate change is real.  This is  Katie Hairdo reporting live from Hooterville.  Back to you Dufus."

What you won't see is the reporter saying-- "Whoa, do you really think the infinitesimally small bit of the globe you personally see this moment is truly representative of the entire planet [you moron]?"

But, when the same reporters interview a climate scientist it's time to ask the "hard-hitting questions" and challenge authority [then usually ignore the answer-- the point was to question them publicly, not learn from them]. 

"But aren't there other scientists who don't agree with you?"   "Hasn't the climate always been changing?"

I use climate change as an example, but POTSIs are pervasive.  After a shooting, we get the POTSI  "This used to be a good neighborhood."   [No mention of actual statistics on shootings.]  After the fire "It took forever for the fire trucks to get here."  [No mention of actual data on response times.]  Before the election "I'm voting for Greed E. Monger because I think we need a change."  [No follow up question on what policy exactly Greed E. Monger will change.]  Watch for POTSIs-- you will be dismayed how pervasive they are and how they'll dumb down almost any news story. 

The media (mainly television and radio news) give equal time to the ignorant, but only challenge the experts.  It just isn't considered fair to expose the ignorant to possible public ridicule, after all, the reasoning goes, they aren't experts....

The subtle message assimilated by the public after a couple decades of daily POTSIs is that ignorance is acceptable, nothing to be ashamed of, and often something to celebrate.


It remains to be seen how much further the bar can be lowered.  The news might have to dig a basement so they can keep lowering it.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Why conservation is failing Part 9a. Donor driven priorities, meaningless numbers, and sustaining the mothership


Why conservation is failing Part 9a.  Donor driven priorities, meaningless numbers, and sustaining the mothership.

The Ocean Health Index is a fairly new initiative by Conservation International- they've been working on it for over four years.  Four years to come up with some numbers based on existing science about the state of the oceans.  This is not generating new information; it distills and repackages what we already know.  The idea is to make a few simple numbers to represent complex issues. 




The power of meaningless numbers forever immortalized in the documentary "This is Spinal Tap" where the amps went up to 11, while other bands' amps only go to 10.


Do we need an index?   People follow indices like the DOW or NYSE because they guide how to manipulate investments.  This new index is the brainchild of businessmen, and we all know conservation needs to be run more like businesses.  Businessmen closely follow the stock indices and invest accordingly.  They know when to buy or sell.  An index for health of the ocean might make sense to them.   Perhaps it can guide when to pollute and not pollute.

But.... if you don't have money in the market, those indices are uninteresting.  Ask anyone worldwide without spare money to invest in markets how they react when the DOW goes up or down.  Most of the world gives not a twit about an index based on the investments of the wealthy elite.  Is a drop in the Ocean Health Index really going to trigger action?  This new index is just as meaningless to most people.  It is a publicity stunt. 

The Ocean Health Index website is proud that the concept was originated and funded by business magnate William Wrigley (of gum fame) with a personal worth of $2.6 billion.  He and his wife Heather are avid scuba divers.  It is great that they want to invest in conservation of the oceans that provide them with so much enjoyment in their leisure time.  But is a business-like index on ocean health the best a guy with a couple billion plus change can do? 

When billionaire Wrigley suggested an ocean health index to someone at CI did someone take the risk of saying "Interesting idea Bill, but what would really make a difference is...."   Or, did they prostrate themselves and say "Brilliant idea Bill!"   For decades Big Conservation has played lip service to setting priorities based on best science.  But in reality priorities are usually determined by donors.  I've read hundreds of peer-reviewed papers identifying conservation priorities based on science.  I don't think I've ever seen one saying what we really need is a simple index of ocean health.

A change in some generalized index will stimulate no more conservation action than actual published statistics about plastics in the ocean, or coral bleaching, or overfishing, or pollution from fish farms, or ocean acidification, or fertilizer nutrient runoff....   We already know about these problems. Action will be motivated by the realities of coral bleaching, fisheries that fail, species extinctions, sea level rise, etc., not an index.  Does a hypothetical index PR stunt leverage more action than actual data?  Is an index value of "63" as meaningful as the actual measured changes in ocean acidification? 

The Ocean Health Index website lists two people on Conservation International's staff among the 73 science contributors.  So the project primarily draws on external science for support-- scientists primarily supported from other sources.  CI does not have to be bothered with supporting pesky scientists. 

But Communications and Outreach-- talking about conservation-- is Conservation International's forte.  The index website lists 20 people at CI involved in communications and outreach just for the Ocean Health Index.  The site lists an additional 31 people at other organizations involved in communication and outreach.  So the Ocean Health Index has 51 people involved in communication and outreach and 73 science contributors.  CI's funding supports 20 people who talk about conservation, and maybe two actual scientists. Conservation International does not have to generate new science, no specific action is required, no one at CI has to stand up to an industry or polluters.  But the creation of the number and publicizing it attracts those donor's dollars.  And whoa, guess what, it needs to be re-calculated every year-- convince enough donors this index is important and you have a steady income.  Unlike real conservation action, generating a number is something you can promise to accomplish every year-- so much easier and certain than actual needs, like reducing pollution.

The funding might not do much for conservation, but it is sure good for Conservation International. 


Thursday, October 30, 2014

A review of the ITS Global report (April 2013) "Uncivil Society: A review of activist NGOs in PNG."


Review of "ITS Global report (April 2013)  "Uncivil Society:  A review of activist NGOs in PNG."

The report has some useful information, but it misses the point and is a front for the logging industry.  It sets up a straw man dichotomy as the NGOs being opposed to development and job creation.


The report clearly reads like it has its own hidden agenda to support foreign corporations in PNG.  They ignore that such corporations are serving their own interests also, just as foreign NGOs serve their own interest.  I wonder where the funding for the investigation comes from when I read comments like:
"....arguably one of the most environmentally-responsible, forestry operators - the Rimbunan Hijau (PNG) Group."

"In the case of Bougainville, what was a localized political problem was conflated in the mind of the public outside of Papua New Guinea with the actions of large corporations operating in Melanesia.24" 

global anti-mining campaigns in PNG are facilitated by Western interests rather than local communities.26

More recently the campaigns have more broadly attacked the establishment of areas for agricultural development under the special agricultural business leases (SABLs) that have become a popular form of tenure in Papua New Guinea.

-- REALLY?  Rimbunan Hijau (RH) is environmentally responsible and Bougainville was just a localized political problem?  Local communities are not opposed to mining?  SABLs are a popular form of tenure?  Popular with whom??

The report quickly loses any credibility by being thinly veiled pro-corporation rather than being pro-PNG.

The report makes a big issue of local organizations who obtain funding from outside of PNG. This does not de facto create a problem.  There are few sources from within PNG that advocacy groups can obtain support.  Without some external funding there would be little opportunity for local groups to organize and be effective.  The result would be no independent scrutiny of corporations like RH; PNG society would only have government to oversee and monitor what corporations like RH do.  Would it really be in PNG's interest to abandon all independent oversight and only rely on publicly funded agencies to monitor foreign corporations?  It certainly would be in RH's benefit..

The report claims that the lions share of international funding only goes to conservation, not social or health development and cites a few examples like the Packard Foundation, ICCO and the Rainforest Foundation Norway.  It makes no mention of many donors that support health and social issues, combating AIDS, church-run health posts, schools and universities.   By cherry-picking examples like this, the report shows its bias.  This is truly unfortunate because there ARE criticisms to be made regarding conservation funding and how inefficient it is.  But the authors miss those valid criticisms in their effort to excoriate Western support of opposition to corporate logging, mining and agriculture.


The report acknowledges  " Most official aid overwhelmingly supports social and economic development needs. Most NGO funding is to further environmental objectives."  and goes on to cite the 579 million USD received as foreign aid in 2010.

This is counter to their earlier core argument that Western sources ignore social and economic development.  One might argue that NGO funding can be used to address needs that are not met through "official aid."  I would say this is one thing NGOs should be doing.  Thus I would not agree that the funding is misdirected simply because ALL funding should go to social economic development.   Do they really think that the additional small change (relative to 579 million USD) NGOs invested in 2010 would have made any tangible gains on top of the > half billion USD already going to social and economic development?  Clearly it is not that the report wants more funding for social or economic development, they want less funding for  conservation.

Instead of slamming the international donors who invest in something other than social and economic development, a legitimate evaluation of the situation would advocate for NGO funding to go to national NGOs who were empowered to identify THEIR priorities and how to address them.


Claiming all donor priorities should follow the Government of PNG state priorities  sounds good if not critically examined, but it ignores two important considerations:
1) Official PNG Development goals are also influenced by outside donor pressures; such as corporate interest.  Many are part of international conventions and were funded by multi-lateral donors.
2)  There are other interests in PNG, like local communities, women's groups, indigenous landowner rights groups, national conservation organizations, etc., that have a legitimate voice and independent objectives from those of the PNG government.  Even Provincial and local level governments have different priorities.  All funding should not be determined by a few grand over-arching national development documents.

The report shows an unprofessional bias with unsubstantiated conclusions like:
Research for this report estimates that since the year 2000 at least PGK 194 million (USD 82 million) has been disbursed in Papua New Guinea for NGO projects that work against the nation’s long-term development prospects and directly undermine PNG’s development objectives.

The authors offer no justification for how these funds work against the nation.  The underlying assumption is that any support to protect the environment is contra PNGs long term development interests. 


The report is critical of EU funding to CI for the YUS Indigenous Forest Reserve.  They stop with this as if it is wrong.  What needs to be done is to explore whether that funding was well spent.  The fact that the EU supports local activities and organizations in and of itself is not wrong.  They claim the EU "channels significant amounts of money into groups such as WWF and local NGO, the Research and Conservation Foundation."  From personal investment with the Research and Conservation Foundation, I know that the funding provided over many years while "significant" has not been enough to cover even basic core expenses.  This organization is staffed by highly dedicated PNG nationals who work for next to no pay.  The report deliberately portrays national organizations like RCF, CELCOR and the Bismarck Ramu Group as pawns of western donors.  This is insulting.

The authors should not attack national NGOs simply because they get funding from outside PNG.  If this logic were extended, then many hospitals, development projects, etc. should not happen either.

The report goes into great length criticizing any national or international interest in monitoring or regulating forestry.  It considers this an international conspiracy to hold PNG down.  It makes no mention of the many potentially damaging outcomes of unregulated logging, or that short-term gains from logging can damage PNG's long-term interests.  As such, the report is so lopsided and clearly supportive of the logging industry, it loses all credibility.

"Forestry is a major employer in PNG and a key provider of social services and infrastructure in remote rural areas."

The same lopsided approach goes to the reports treatment of mining.  It considers opposition to the Ok Tedi mine a foreign-driven attack.  It does not mention the environmental disaster the mine created for everyone downstream.

The report starts to get even more tedious on page 29 where it provides  "Case Studies"  that pretend to examine CELCOR, BRG, PNG EcoForestry Forum,  and Act Now!, even singling out their key leaders like  Kenn Mondiai and Damien Ase.  The report accuses these fine people and organizations of  acting against the interests of PNG because they get funding from outside PNG.  I found this one of the more objectionable parts of the report.  These people and organizations are Papua New Guinean and have every right to oppose things like the Madang Nickel Mine and SABLs. 

By page 39 the report finally gets to more detailed examination of the International NGOs and donors in PNG.  People who know me or have read my book and blogs know that I am very critical of the NGOs and how they operate and their widespread failures.  If anywhere in this sham report, this is where I might find common ground.

But again, it is just a diatribe with some dates and figures cherry-picked to make it sound like research.  Statements like

WWF is a conservation organisation that prioritises expansion of conservation areas over health, education and other social outcomes.

Greenpeace launched a campaign against RH based on allegations of illegal logging and worker abuse by the company at its Wawoi Guavi concessions in Gulf Province. The allegations were never proven.

The NGO[Greenpeace]  makes no attempt to address long-term social and economic problems, including health and education, faced by developing countries such as PNG.

..the foundation [Packard} almost exclusively supports operations which ignore social and economic development priorities.

The ICCO Pacific program ignores its own commitment to addressing ‘fair economic development’ by almost exclusively funding environmental initiatives in the region including eco-forestry projects,...

The RFN [Rainforest Foundation Norway]  does not fund initiatives in PNG that address poverty, health, education and the need for improved infrastructure. Funding is instead directed to local groups including EFF, CELCOR and BRG to support initiatives which block and disrupt PNG’s resource industries and stall economic development.

There is a belief within the environmental movement that Papua New Guinea should be ‘saved’ from the supposed evils of industrialisation.

Good environmental management needs to be paid for, and this can only happen after economic development.

This [conservation] would deprive PNG’s citizens of humanity’s better achievements: modern healthcare, broad education and liberation from poverty.


The report (finally) ends its rants with a summary entitled "It's a small world:  PNG's anti-development community"

They've characterized any NGO or donor that is not funding their view of economic development as anti-development.  This is the same tedious (but often effective) argument corporations everywhere use to fight any controls, regulation or oversight of their activities.  The conclusion singles out a few PNG conservationists by name,  Kenn Mondiai, Damien Ase, Sam Moko, John Chitoa, Effrey Dademo, and Thomas Paka, for a personal attack.  It practically calls them dupes of western anti-development puppet masters.  One has to wonder where the personal attacks are coming from.  It certainly appears that the authors of this report are corporate interests striking back at their critics.

In conclusion, this report was prepared by a Melbourne based consulting firm, International Trade Strategies, Ltd.  The authors do not reveal their names, nor does the report state who paid the consultants.  Their clients, per website, are major corporations in the Asia Pacific region.  So presumably this report was funded by a corporation with interests in PNG.  The organization funds a Forestry and Development newsletter on line that appears to be fully dedicated to attacks on conservation organizations and policies.  One of their online documents is a short description of all the fine things Rimbunan Hijau has provided PNG.  I am sure the figures in it could not have been provided by any source other than Rimbunan Hijau.   I find it particularly ironic that an entire report lambasting NGOs for who funds them does not itself even reveal who funded the report!