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WWF at 50: A golden anniversary?

As WWF marks half a century of conservation work, it faces growing criticism that it is losing sight of its founding principles

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If you are an NGO trying to change corporate behaviour, is it better to partner with business, leading managers by increments to better practice, or is it more effective to confront companies through direct action, media blitzes, and public appeals?

Most NGOs say it is necessary to do both – and that both can be effective. But it is also true that an individual NGO will tend to do more of one than the other, reflecting its beliefs, history, and positioning.

Greenpeace, for example, is known for its confrontational approach, epitomised by its escapades at sea. WWF – celebrating its 50th anniversary this year – is, meanwhile, more “white shoe”: business-friendly, solutions-oriented, consensual.

WWF’s view is that NGOs have to collaborate with companies if they are serious about changing them. “We’re only going to arrive at sustainable solutions if we work with some of the most powerful entities on the planet,” says...

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Comments

Ecosystems don't follow Social Values

WWF is an important voice, but I've been frustrated for decades with environmentalists acting as if everyone just “wants to do the right thing” nature will respond. That treats human social values as determining how our environment responds to us, and is simply mistaken.

Environmental systems are also not machines, of course, but organisms themselves, with their own internal processes. You don’t find them in your own heart, you find them with an open heart, closely observing the behavior of your world. Those internal processes definitely have some regular mechanisms too. There are the ones now regularly driving the whole world economy to accelerate its consumption of the earth, for example. Those are centered on the practice of reinvesting profits to multiply investments.

All systems start with such of self-investment network. Having no way to turn ours off has many dire consequences, though. One is that without altering that systemic driver, no policy advocacy will have a lasting effect at all. That is the functional reason we’ve had no traction. Equally important is that it renders even the "conservation" approach to protecting the environment quite ineffective.

The specific reason the conservation approach is made ineffective is its need to engage people in protecting known threats. The system is continually multiplying unknown ones.

Those are very real, **very consequential**, aspects of how our social view of environmental systems fails. I have an excellent new paper out, on why most impacts are naturally untraceable, just published in Sustainability, called "Systems energy assessment (SEA)" http://synapse9.com/SEA I’d be glad to help you understand what it means and how to use it.

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