- Take Action
- Latest News
- About Us
- Why Donate?
Palese Says Beder Was "Outdated, Incorrect and Unworthy"
Letter from Blair Palese, Greenpeace International Olympics Campaign, Sydney, Australia
Your article about Greenpeace's role in Sydney's Olympic Games ("Greenwashing an Olympic-Sized Toxic Dump," Sharon Beder, Second Quarter, 1999) was outdated, incorrect and unworthy of your usually insightful publication.
Beder implies, wrongly, that Greenpeace's involvement in Sydney's Olympic Games is and has always been motivated by the desire for positive PR and, from that, increased donations. In fact, compared with most of our international campaigns, our Olympics work has received only marginal media attention and certainly brings in no significant funding. This is generally true for all of our solutions work internationally but makes it no less important to our environmental agenda. We were well aware of this going into the Olympics campaign back in 1993.
Sadly, Beder's article included nothing about Greenpeace's Olympics campaign since 1995 and she only contacted Greenpeace after its publication, not before to check her facts or investigate the issue.
Beder failed to mention any of the excellent successes and ongoing problems of Sydney's Olympic Games which Greenpeace has worked on for the last seven years--both of which we talk of equally. Successes include the building of what will be the world's largest solar suburb where athletes will be housed during the Games, the establishment of the world's first virtually car-free Olympic Games, and the introduction of whole new product lines in Australia such as PVC-free materials to meet Sydney's Environmental Guidelines. The establishment of the Guidelines themselves, with input from a number of environmental groups, is unique to Sydney but will likely be part of future Games developments internationally.
Of course there are issues still tarnishing Sydney's environmental reputation, and Greenpeace is the first to be critical of these. The use of ozone-depleting chemicals in Olympic venues and the cleanup of toxic waste in Homebush Bay, just off the Olympic site, still hang in the balance.
Far from being co-opted by Sydney's Games organizers, Greenpeace is currently taking legal action against the Olympic Coordination Authority in the Federal Court of Australia over the issue of ozone-depleting HCFCs in the Olympic SuperDome and other venues.
Regarding toxic waste near the Olympic site, no organization has done more than Greenpeace to expose the problem and fight for a real environmental solution. We have carried out numerous protest actions, discovered and secured 70 barrels of dioxin waste left in the area by multinational Union Carbide and continue to pressure those responsible to begin a cleanup before the Games.
Dr. Darryl Luscombe, a Ph.D. chemist and Greenpeace toxics campaigner, has worked with experts internationally to find and promote the best possible way to treat this waste so that the area is made safe for those living there. Far from hiding from the seriousness of this problem, Greenpeace believes we must seek out real and effective solutions to the disposal of the world's stockpiles of toxic waste and Sydney, with its upcoming Olympics spotlight, is a good place to start.
The inaccuracies in Beder's article are too numerous to mention, but there are two in particular that I would like to point out. Firstly, she stated that "the issue of toxic contamination of the site was not openly discussed [by Greenpeace] prior to the Olympic decision." As one who worked on the campaign in the early days and was in Monte Carlo when Sydney won the bid in 1993, I can state categorically that this is untrue. I spoke to numerous journalists and IOC members about reclaiming toxic land for Sydney's Games and the environmental and safety risks. Greenpeace believed then and believes now that the Olympics can provide a unique opportunity to bring funds and attention to the toxic waste left there that would otherwise be ignored. We are still campaigning to ensure that promises of cleanup are kept before and after the Games.
Secondly, Beder suggested that having temporary housing in the Athletes' Village is an environmental shortfall from the original Village plan. In fact, having just visited the site with those building the temporary housing, I can report that they are an innovation to the Australian building industry. They are virtually PVC-free, include Forest Stewardship Council certified timber throughout, and were designed to significantly reduce building waste during construction. These houses will be sold for use offsite after the Games and will positively influence future construction of similar homes nationally.
Will Sydney's Games be environmentally perfect? Of course not. Does this mean Greenpeace should not try to use the opportunity, billions of dollars spent and global Olympic focus to push for environmental solutions? Of course not, again. Greenpeace works to find any and all ways to protect the environment, not to play it safe or to choose campaigns based on their PR potential. When PR Watch is ready to report the complexities of this solutions-oriented campaign, we'd be delighted to work with you. It's a fascinating story and one that will lead you to conclude that Sydney is not a Potemkin village.