Greenpeace blows up the French

3 March 2005

"WHEN I visited America during my time working for Greenpeace International in the 1990s, time and again people would say to me 'we really don't approve of the way your organisation blew up that French ship', or words to that effect".

So begins Jeremy Leggett's review of Michael Crichton's State of Fear in the 5 March edition of New Scientist.

How could it be, Leggett asks, that Americans got the French secret service's sinking of the Greenpeace ship the Rainbow Warrior (and killing of a Greenpeace photographer) the wrong way round so consistently?  He encountered the phenomenon in no other country and concluded it  was something cultural.

To anyone who has worked in an international environmental organisation, says Leggett, Crichton's "horrific assault on sanity"  will evoke feelings that veer between hilarity and deep disgust.

Crichton's book is high on the best seller lists, and will surely be made into a blockbuster film. On his way home from Arizona, says Leggett, he checked the airport bookshop:

"I found State of Fear in pride of place.  Nearby were Beyond Iraq - the Next Move: Ancient prophecy and modern day conspiracy collide, and Generation Kill: Devil dogs, iceman, captain America, and the new face of American War.  Like I said, it's all about the culture.  A true reason for a state of fear".

Not a happy time for environmentalists then.  But has it ever really been much better? In my first piece for openDemocracy, I wrote that environmentalists and other reality-based humans need to start from the position that they have already pretty much lost. Drugs won the "War on Drugs". Terror wins the "War on Terror".  The question is: where do you go from here?

[See RealClimate.org for an itemisation of Crichton's mis-representation of climate science]

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals

To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.

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