Sunday Read: Earth Day Recap
This overview of NWC’s Earth Day Event was sent as part of NWC’s Sunday Reading series that aims to educate supporters about specific whistleblower legislative or policy initiatives. For more information like this, please join our mailing list.
In celebration of Earth Day this year, NWC hosted a special Earth Day event where panelists highlighted the importance of whistleblowers in stopping climate violations and wildlife trafficking.
The Whistleblowers Protect Our Planet event, supporting this year’s Earth Day theme to ‘Invest in our Planet’, answered many questions about whistleblowers and the impact they have concerning many different climate-related issues.
This panel was moderated by Siri Nelson, Executive Director of NWC, and featured:
- Sara Walker, Senior Advisor on Wildlife Trafficking at Association of Zoos and Aquariums;
- Dar-Lon Chang, Advisor to GeoSolar Technologies and former Engineer at ExxonMobil Upstream Research Company;
- Wendy Addison, Whistleblower and Founder and CEO of SpeakOut SpeakUp Ltd.
A recording of the panel is available on LinkedIn and will be uploaded to YouTube.
In this Sunday Reading we highlight some of the important topics discussed during NWC’s Earth Day panel demonstrating how whistleblowers who report environmental crime are essential to the survival of our planet.
The Lacey Act: Stopping Wildlife Trafficking
One of the most important pieces of legislation concerning wildlife protection in the United States is the Lacey Act. Congressman John Lacey campaigned to stop the overhunting of game birds in the 19th century, leading to the enactment of the bill in 1900. Today, wildlife trafficking is the fourth most profitable transnational crime, only behind the drug trade, arms trade, and human trafficking.
The Lacey Act makes it a federal crime to “import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire, or purchase in interstate or foreign commerce any wildlife that was taken, possessed, transported, or sold in violation of any law or regulation of any State or in violation of any foreign law.”
Discussing the importance of incentivizing disclosures concerning wildlife trafficking, panelist Sara Walker mentioned that “[w]ildlife trafficking is an illegal activity, so it’s going to operate underground, on the black market. [This] happens through government corruption, through secret networks, and transnational criminal organizations. So that’s why it’s really critical that we get the public’s help to report wildlife crime and related suspicious activity.”
Legislation has strengthened restrictions on multiple occasions in recent history, specifically targeting the industrial logging industry and its destructive practices.
The Lacey Act’s whistleblower program works to incentivize these types of reports to protect natural habitats and wildlife across the world. Like many other U.S. whistleblower programs, you do not need to be a citizen to qualify for whistleblower rewards and receive protection. Although this whistleblower program has no minimum or maximum reward, a practice that is becoming increasingly more standard, the program serves as an example of the increasing respect for whistleblowers across the world.
NWC recommends that whistleblowers find an attorney before speaking out to maximize available protections and to fully take advantage of whistleblower reward programs.
Everyone Needs to Make the Planet their First Priority
Many individuals are interested in taking steps to reduce their impact on the environment, adopting lifestyle changes and encouraging others to do the same. These efforts are important, but individual GHG emissions are a mere fraction of the world’s historical emissions; it is important to recognize that private industry has a role to play.
According to a 2017 report by The Carbon Majors Database, 100 fossil fuel producers were responsible for 71% of all historical GHG emissions since 1998. This demonstrates the disparity between individual and corporate emissions, further highlighting the need for climate whistleblowers.
Wendy Addison put it well: “let’s feed it back to organizations, let’s feed it back to regulators, let’s feed it back to governments… The next time anyone of us feel compelled to turn a conversation into the person raising the problem as the problem, just nudge yourself with the question: ‘Is it their problem to solve or is it our problem to solve?’”
Encouraging people to speak out is in everyone’s best interest, and those who stand against whistleblowers and climate activists are often the perpetrators of these very issues. Using a ‘structural lens,’ as Siri Nelson put it, is very important when determining who benefits from damaging our planet and who is deterring whistleblowing efforts. Many large companies do not make the planet their first priority and need to be subject to stronger reporting requirements.
What is NWC Doing to Protect Our Planet?
NWC is a participating partner in the Wildlife Anti-Trafficking Alliance, working to raise public awareness of wildlife trafficking issues. NWC has launched a multifaceted Climate Corruption Campaign, supporting and advocating for whistleblowers in the fossil fuel, industrial logging, wildlife trafficking, shipping, and fishing industries.
NWC responded to the SEC’s March 21st call for comments concerning proposed rule changes that would enhance climate-related disclosures and increase reporting requirements, cracking down on misleading tactics, thus providing investors with more information regarding the environmental impact of public companies. NWC strongly supported the enactment of the proposed rule, explaining that whistleblowers are extremely beneficial in stopping false reporting and illegal activity.
Specifically mentioning international whistleblowers, NWC called for a stronger focus on climate-related bribery abroad. Historically, developing nations have been more susceptible to bribery concerning the extraction of their natural resources, which often occurred illegally. NWC recommended that the SEC adopts a “zero-tolerance policy” concerning bribery paid in all areas that could impact climate.
Whistleblowers need clear guidelines to understand what constitutes a violation and which types of information qualify for rewards. NWC advocated for increased clarity on both measures, in addition to calling for clear definitions of ‘climate-related risks’ that companies are required to report. NWC recognizes that whistleblowers are forced to make tough decisions, often risking their careers and livelihoods, and we have been constantly working to create a safer environment for whistleblowers since 1988. Whistleblowers deserve strong protections and need to be incentivized with rewards to ensure that companies are held accountable for the damage they cause to our planet.
Please donate today to support NWC’s continuing efforts to advocate for climate whistleblowers and educate the public on the importance of all whistleblowers. If you enjoyed reading this edition of the Sunday Reading series, please subscribe to our mailing list to learn more about NWC’s work in advocating for whistleblowers.
This story was researched and drafted by NWC Intern, Shawn Robbins, a Sophomore double major in Economics and Sociology at University of California, Irvine.