Chris Rose is one of the world's most successful environmental campaigners, who among others, led the Greenpeace campaign which blocked the dumping of the Brent Spar oil platform in the North Atlantic. From 1992-8 he was Deputy Executive and Programme Director of Greenpeace UK and Strategic Adviser to Greenpeace International. From 1988- 92 he was Director of Media Natura, a media industry foundation working on environmental communication. In 1985-8 Chris Rose worked on communications and campaigns for WWF International based in Switzerland. Before that he was employed at Friends of the Earth as a campaigner on wildlife, agricultural pesticides and acid rain and prior to that worked for the London Wildlife Trust as its Conservation Officer responsible for handling planning inquiries and land management. Chris Rose currently works as a consultant in environment and communications for non-government, public and private sector organisations.The second edition of his book, 'How to win Campaigns - Communications for Change' is available from Earthscan. Contact Chris Rose at http://www.campaignstrategy.org
ECOCLUB.com: Learning from their major defeats -- historic environmentalist victories some of which you orchestrated or were directly involved with -- most big corporations have become savvier on how to handle the media, and a flood of 'corporate social responsibility' has occured, also involving the poaching / co-option of the more money-oriented among the environmentalist movement into consulting or greenwashing roles, such as for mega-resorts. So, are the corporates and capitalism winning?
Chris Rose: I would say overall the environmental argument is being won and there is a large, gradual green shift in many industries and businesses. But most environmental problems continue to worsen at a global level and in most countries. The overall impact of most economic activity is still negative - plainly more, and more fundamental change is needed in design and operation of businesses, which has only just started, and in economics, which has hardly started at all. I personally don't see it as a fight between capitalism and campaigns.
ECOCLUB.com: Some say major environmental NGOs themselves have undergone considerable transformation in the past 20 years, replacing hemp shirts with crispy suits. Some green critics such as Brian Tokar believe that transnational environmental NGOs ask little more than "incremental policy adjustments" and otherwise happily work, and financially succeed, within the current capitalist system. Having worked at the highest level for some of the most well known NGOs are there any grains of truth in such criticism, for example were you ever frustrated for having to make too many compromises, or is all such criticism to be explained by the jealousy, of less popular members of the green family?
Chris Rose: Yes sometimes 'green NGOs' endorse corporate behaviour which should be opposed but generally I don't think that's the major problem. I think a bigger problem is poor campaign design and management which means most NGO campaigns are unlikely to succeed, and governments failing to regulate to protect public goods and the public interest. It is that which NGOs need to do more to ensure.
ECOCLUB.com: Green consumerism once seemed to be a contradiction in terms, however we are witnessing a steady growth of fair trade and organic products, nowadays occupying the top shelves and dedicated sections in multinational supermarket chains. In your experience how credible are green and social justice / human rights claims in most of these products? Is there an easy way for the trained eye to spot the fakes?
Chris Rose: That's hard. It requires investigation and policing of standards. That in turn is a significant investment and one way or another requires public oversight if not funding. In the short term well judged consumer campaigns can be used to punish malpractice through exposing false claims, which can work but in the longer term it requires standards with the force of law.
ECOCLUB.com: Last year, climate change denialists managed to score through the 'exposure' (actually misinterpretation, taken out of context) of email exchanges between leading climate scientists. As a leading green campaigning expert do you think there is something seriously wrong with the way the broad movement against Climate Change for Climate Justice is conducting the struggle? Should there be a left turn, or perhaps a right-turn towards more egoistic, personalised 'climate change harming your health - cigarette pack label' approach ?
Chris Rose: 'Climate campaigns' vary enormously but most - including by major NGOs who ought to know better - are naievely literal and fail to play on interests or make political space. A huge amount of NGO money has been wasted on campaigns which NGOs would like to think will work but which fail simply because they only reach, engage or interest the converted, and because they do not organise and mobilise the converted to do effective things. This is made worse by the central role of climate scientists who tend to be ignorant of how communications and media work. I have suggested a number of changes in articles such as VBCOP and 'Climate Change Campaigns: Keep Calm But Don't Carry On' both at www.campaignstrategy.org
ECOCLUB.com: In the last few years, following the financial cricis, the discrediting of neoliberal capitalism and the right-turn of social democrats, green and left-green parties seem to be on the rise worldwide with alternative solutions and some double digit electoral results recently in Germany and France but even in the UK where the first green MP was elected. Is this an indication of improved green campaign quality or are they perhaps failing to capitalise on current popular sentiment due to inefficient and timid campaigning?
Chris Rose: I don't know
ECOCLUB.com: In your brilliant book "How to Win Campaigns – Communications for Change", you argue, and most readers will agree, that the Devil should not have all the best tunes? On the other hand isn't ecology also about other ethics? Is there a green way of conducting green campaigns, or just a winning way?
Chris Rose: Both. The very obviously ethical way which asks people to act for overtly ethical reasons works if that builds a majority for you where it's needed. The trouble is that the ethically minded are usually in a minority, as this is really just predominant amongst inner directed pioneers. That's why I have argued in many Campaign Strategy Newsletters that campaigners also need to engage security driven settlers and outer directed prospectors. Unfortunately you can't argue people into 'becoming ethical' - you need to look at outcomes, not try to specify that they accept your preferred means.
ECOCLUB.com: Thank you!