Setting the record straight: What Channel 4 got wrong

Last week Channel 4 set out to discredit and undermine the environmental movement with their documentary, ‘What the Green movement got wrong’, featuring a handful of individuals that most people have never heard of blaming environmentalists for everything from mass starvation to the spread of malaria to fuel poverty.

Last week Channel 4 set out to discredit and undermine the environmental movement with their documentary, ‘What the Green movement got wrong’.

Featuring a handful of individuals that most people have never heard of blaming environmentalists for everything from mass starvation to the spread of malaria to fuel poverty, the programme prompted The Guardian’s TV critic John Crace to mock:

“Stand by for further Channel 4 documentaries: How the Greens Caused the Banking Crisis, and Why the Greens Invaded Iraq.”

However, jokes aside, there were a number of false accusations and hidden interests put forward in the film so here Left Foot Forward highlights and rebuts some of them.

First, as George Monbiot highlighted in his column, contrary to the misleading impression given in C4’s polemic, a ban on the use of the pesticide DDT to combat malaria was never encouraged by Greenpeace. Indeed nor were DDT anti-malarial programmes ever banned. Ironically, Greenpeace actually support the use of DDT when used for malaria control.

Second, one of the principle contributors to the film, Adam Werbach, is now considering an OFCOM complaint against C4 for misrepresenting his views.

Werbach told the Guardian that the film:

“… misrepresents who is to blame for many of our social and environmental problems. Blaming environmentalists for starvation and lack of energy [in developing nations] is like blaming weathermen for the weather.”

On Friday Werbach responded to the broadcast in The Atlantic, writing:

“It’s not helpful… when environmentalists are portrayed as all-powerful zealots that have wreaked havoc on the planet.”

He also explained how his protests led to some last-minute editorial changes. Left Foot Forward has learned that Channel 4 were also forced, at the last minute, to remove from their film, statistics about climate change opinions because MORI said they were misleading.

Third, the narrator of C4’s film said all the critics of the green movement that they feature in their film are all united by their belief that climate change is a huge threat that is being driven by human activity. But in fact, one of their central commentators, Patrick Moore, is a climate change sceptic who featured in C4’s own ‘Great Global Warming Swindle’. As Left Foot Forward explained on Thursday, he is also a paid shill for the logging and nuclear industries.

Fourth, the programme suggested people starved in Zambia during a famine when the Zambia government rejected food aid because it was Genetically Modified, and that this was because of environmentalists. In fact, Greenpeace wrote to the Zambian government advising they should not reject GM food aid if no non-GM food aid was available.

Greenpeace have published a detailed response to this serious accusation here. Given C4’s flawed account of the argument over GM food, perhaps it is hardly surprising that it has emerged that the main critics they interviewed for their programme on this issue are funded by biotech corporations including Monsanto. One of them, Florence Wambugu, is a lobbyist for a number of biotech companies.

Finally, Stewart Brand – whose book was the inspiration behind the programme – set up the Global Business Network, which boasts 12 major energy companies among its membership which have interests in both nuclear and coal electricity industries.

If you’re interested, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and a number of other environmentalists have also written their own detailed responses and rebuttals to Channel 4.

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26 Responses to “Setting the record straight: What Channel 4 got wrong”

  1. Peter Pannier

    RT @leftfootfwd: Setting the record straight: What Channel 4 got wrong: http://bit.ly/aFtpn4 by @JossGarman

  2. Nicholas Ripley

    RT @leftfootfwd: Setting the record straight: What Channel 4 got wrong: http://bit.ly/aFtpn4 by @JossGarman

  3. Shamik Das

    Setting the record straight: What Channel 4 got wrong: http://bit.ly/aFtpn4 by @leftfootfwd's @JossGarman

  4. Tony Dyer

    RT @leftfootfwd: Setting the record straight: What Channel 4 got wrong: http://bit.ly/aFtpn4 by @JossGarman

  5. Joss Garman

    RT @leftfootfwd: Setting the record straight: What Channel 4 got wrong: http://bit.ly/aFtpn4 by @JossGarman

  6. RupertRead

    RT @leftfootfwd: Setting the record straight: What Channel 4 got wrong: http://bit.ly/aFtpn4 by @JossGarman

  7. Patrick Ainley

    RT @leftfootfwd: Setting the record straight: What Channel 4 got wrong: http://bit.ly/aFtpn4 by @JossGarman

  8. Eddy Anderson

    Nice. I hadn’t seen the documentary but I guess now I’ve got to . . .

  9. Jack

    http://www.leftfootforward.org/2010/11/what-channel-4-got-wrong/ A response to C4's woeful, biased 'documentary' on 'New Environmentalism'.

  10. John Ruddy

    These are probably all true in the detail, but the essential thrust of the program is accurate. The “Green movement” has discouraged things such as GM food and Nuclear power that can help to solve some of the worlds most pressing problems.

  11. Lewis Coyne

    RT @leftfootfwd: Setting the record straight: What Channel 4 got wrong http://bit.ly/cLDkN8

  12. Mr. Sensible

    Joss, can you give us the link to the programme on 4 OD? I missed it, and it sounds interesting.

  13. Anon E Mouse

    Why are you annoyed about healthy debate?

    The fact is that irrespective of your bluster in that item you link to (http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/about/greenpeace-gm-food-aid-and-zambia) those starving babies have become a pawn in your political games.

    The US offered food – you rejected it – advised the Zambian government not to accept it and people starved. It doesn’t matter what your excuses – “At the time, the Bush administration was using food aid to Africa as a political and commercial tool.” Blah, blah,blah.

    First of all you said that – not any independent body, you and so what? Food is food. Those starving unfortunates didn’t have a choice because you put unproven dogma ahead of the interests of human beings and you should be ashamed of yourself – and you should certainly NOT be trying to deny the facts.

    You may be unhappy because someone misrepresented your position (which you didn’t challenge, you just tried to smear them by claiming vested interests – just like yourselves) but the majority of decent people in this country would be more unhappy that you intervened with your “opinion” to the Zambian government. And if you think that government didn’t take your opinion into consideration then why make it to them?

    For the benefits of the readers here will you please post a copy of the advice Greenpeace gave to Zambia with nothing redacted please.

    Then we can make our own minds up with the benefit of transparency and not rely on this biased article.

    In the meantime get back to saving whales, keep out of politics and stop advising governments to turn down available aid that would have stopped human beings starving to death…

  14. Mortimer Vanunu

    RT @leftfootfwd: Setting the record straight: What Channel 4 got wrong: http://bit.ly/aFtpn4 by @JossGarman

  15. Joss Garman

    @Mr Sensible: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/what-the-green-movement-got-wrong

    @ Anon E Mouse: Greenpeace advised that the Zambian government should not reject the food aid if non-GM food aid was not available. Can’t you read?

  16. Anon E Mouse

    Joss Garman – Obviously I can read – especially web pages put up to disagree with a statement against an opinion.

    The end of your link states: “To say that African countries adopted policies on advice from Greenpeace and other environment groups is wrong. African governments decide these things for themselves”

    Perhaps, in the interests of transparency, you’d care to publish a link to the original opinion they gave to the Zambian government instead of their opinion of what they said they said.

    Then everyone will be able to decide if they actually DID give the opinion that they state.

    Because so far we only have your/their word for it and if that OPINION is considered to be EVIDENCE then so should the OPINION’s of the commentators in the C4 program in which case it is a cyclic waste of time.

    I bet no one produces the original correspondence in this matter.

    What is a fact is the people starved to death because of someone’s advice to that government – if it wasn’t Greenpeace’s advice that contributed to their opinion then please show us. Prove it.

    If not it’s just your word against theirs…

  17. Joss Garman

    @ Anon E Mouse: Well, so now we know you didn’t actually watch the programme because at 52 mins in they do indeed actually show the letter Greenpeace sent to the Zambians. (They had to include it at the last minute as otherwise they would have been vulnerable to libel action for making false statements.)

  18. Anon E Mouse

    Joss Garman – No I didn’t see that letter in but I’ll see if it’s on YouTube and be back. If it is then obviously I’ll apologise…

  19. Mr. Sensible

    Cheers Joss.

  20. Anon E Mouse

    Joss Garman – I have seen the letter and it’s worse than I thought.

    In this public forum can you please explain where the information in the final paragraph comes from:

    “The safety of GM food is unproven. On the contrary, there is sufficient scientific evidence to suggest it is unsafe. GM food can potentially give rise to a range of health problems, including: food allergies, chronic toxic effects, infections from bacteria that have developed resistance to antibiotics, rendering those infections untreatable; and possible ailments including cancers, some of which are yet difficult or impossible to predict because of the present state of risk assessment and food safety tests”

    There was certainly NO EVIDENCE for any of those claims even today yet that was a decade ago and the end of your link where Greenpeace state:

    “To say that African countries adopted policies on advice from Greenpeace and other environment groups is wrong. African governments decide these things for themselves”

    Well if the African government didn’t know any better about how safe GM is and at the time they didn’t, what were they to do?

    Without ANY evidence that GM foods were harmful Greenpeace added it’s name to a letter that advised an ignorant government that it was a political American idea to potentially kill their people with dangerous foods.

    And with the connivance of Friends Of The Earth (but not the innocents who live on it) the people continued to starve to death.

    Well done Joss – I bet you had your organic muesli this morning. Ten years ago those wretched people in Zambia didn’t…

  21. Craig

    There were some mistakes in the film but it wasn’t as bad as people say. It wasn’t as bad as the defensive greens in the interview said. In my experience as a rational, pro-nuclear, pro-science green the usual environmentalists most certainly do tend towards being anti-nuclear, anti-science. In favour of shouting at the problem until it goes away rather than working with what we’ve got and fixing it.

  22. blogs of the world

    There were a number of false accusations and hidden interests put forward in a recent C4 d… http://reduce.li/pwiwtc #setting

  23. Sara Teresa

    Setting the record straight: What Channel 4 got wrong | Left Foot Forward http://t.co/N13tVN9 Wow #channel4 I thought I knew you

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