Branch Out is investigating a greenwashing scheme involving Fox News, Carbon Credits and Crypto
In a multi-part series, Branch Out is unearthing the history of what gets branded as "regenerative" agriculture and how cryptocurrency has given new life to unproven carbon credit schemes.
Branch Out is creating independent, solutions-focused climate media. If you’re new here, we publish the collective work of a team of climate researchers and reporters occasionally on substack and on our website branchoutnow.org. Now onto the story…
Greenwashing Counterinsurgency: How ‘regenerative’ cowboys are rebranding the frontier of settler colonialism and climate denial
For decades, Rupert Murdoch’s flagship U.S. TV channel – Fox News – has led the charge in denying the reality of climate collapse. Fox has distorted the overwhelming scientific evidence, incessantly lied and denied obvious facts in their coverage, and demonized as “un-American” environmental justice, grass-roots activism, and even mild pro-climate policies.
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Fox News was founded on the media power of the “Cowboy President” Ronald Reagan. Before running his own cable news station, Roger Ailes had worked for Reagan, as well as Nixon and George H.W. Bush, and he worked out a theory on the political importance of television performance. This strategy found its application in “Hollywood Cowboy” John Wayne, whom he instructed his candidates to channel in their bids for electoral success.
After Roger Ailes disgracefully resigned from Fox News in 2016, Rupert Murdoch took over as Executive Director. Today, the billionaire oligarch himself has a new home on the range (345,000-acres, to be precise). Of course, Murdoch’s investments in cattle ranching — much like his holdings in petroleum — are nowhere near the scale of his media empire.
Yet this acquisition may be crucial to understanding the network’s full-spectrum strategy of climate jamming: Murdoch’s $200 million ranch is planning to sell carbon credits. Based on the disproven theory that intensive cattle ranching — done “regeneratively” — sequesters more carbon in the soil than the cows emit as gas, these credits seek to monetize the “natural capital” of this soil carbon.
Earlier that same year, the Murdochs profited from the largest ever sale of soil carbon credits based on this premise. Half of these credits came from Rupert’s personal ranch, the Cavan Station, with the rest from the family-owned Wilmot Station (both in Australia). These stations are managed by the Wilmot Cattle Company, owned by eldest daughter Prudence Murdoch and her husband Alasdair MacLeod.
Hit the button below to read the full introduction to our investigative series:
Allan Savory and the origins of ‘regenerative’ cattle ranching
The man behind this theory of soil carbon sequestration through cattle ranching, Allan Savory, admits he has “no expertise in climate change” and asserts that his method of carbon sequestration “cannot be peer-reviewed.” Still, he boasts that it is infallible, based on “300 years of European military experience of planning in immediate battlefield situations.” Lacking for qualifications in climate science, Savory makes up for that with an extensive history of his own in counterinsurgency warfare.
After graduating from the University of Natal in Apartheid South Africa in 1955, Allan Savory enlisted as a ranger with the British Colonial Service in what was then the Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) Game Department. During his time in this role, he learned from Native informants the art of tracking large fauna such as elephants and lions. According to Savory’s own memoir, he pursued this position and launched his lengthy career in land management to prepare himself for guerilla warfare.
As the commander of Rhodesia’s top reconnaissance unit, Savory was the regime’s leading field officer in military intelligence and oversaw hundreds of special operations. It was in conjunction with his leadership in “tracking down like wild animals” and murdering Freedom Fighters that Allan Savory began to develop his method of intensive cattle grazing, which he would soon rebrand as ‘Holistic Management,’ strongly influenced by the social Darwinist theory of holism of Apartheid South Africa’s Architect, General Jan Smuts.
Savory’s grazing system was first implemented by wealthy Rhodesian settlers, with at least 150 ranches using his method by 1969. The government support he received coincided with a massive expansion of Rhodesia’s cattle industry between 1965 and 1972, which was vital to the illegal war effort and busting international sanctions.
After a decade of military-intelligence service, Savory became a leading Rhodesian politician, advocating for a diplomatic settlement with the explicit goal being “to ensure the long-term future of the European in Rhodesia through strong and just government.”
Savory’s outspoken advocacy for white supremacy was quite clear from his own exposition of his Rhodesia Party platform, as reported by the Oxford University Press in 1974: “that white economic superiority must be maintained, and that the immigration of skilled whites is necessary for the future of the economy; only the extreme difference between white and black wages should be lessened.”
He also advocated for expanding eugenics, then being implemented in Rhodesia’s death camps. “Savory suggested that one avenue where new efficiency would be displayed was in the creation of a ‘Minister for Population Control’ who would handle the ‘population explosion’ among Africans,” the Oxford University Press reported.
A deeper look at the crossover of carbon credits and cryptocurrency
Earlier this year, Branch Out dug into some of the carbon credit registries that are being brought onto the blockchain as tradable cryptocurrency. Some of these new cryptocurrencies are encouraging more cattle grazing using the method developed by Allan Savory, others are using debunked avoided deforestation credits. Virtually all of them undervalue the contributions of Indigenous communities to protecting and restoring their own living forests, while many profit from violating Indigenous rights.
When the emissions trading industry first took off with the launch of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, even the staunchest advocates of carbon market solutions to the climate crisis were steadfast in opposing the inclusion of avoided deforestation credits on principle.
Because these credits rest on speculative projections of hypothetical deforestation, they are prone to many forms of accounting tricks and cartographic manipulation. Elias Ayrey, a PhD in forest resources, published a video explainer last year outlining 21 different ways these credits are regularly manipulated.
From 2019-2021, Ayrey was the Head Scientist at a carbon market startup providing assurances of carbon credit quality in support of market integrity. Yet after two years of having his scientific research on deeply flawed carbon credits routinely ignored, Ayrey chose to resign as head scientist and became an industry whistleblower instead.
Today, avoided deforestation credits are a five-billion-dollar industry. But in the first decade after the launch of the Kyoto Protocol, their issuance was far from guaranteed.
It would take an enormous collaboration of the fossil fuel industry and its affiliates, stewarded by the World Economic Forum, to remake the rules of the carbon market.
By 2010, Shell Oil was funding the first Verra project issuing avoided deforestation credits, paving the way for the projects and funders to follow. As Verra grew to become the largest registry on the voluntary carbon market, these projects grew to account for 40% of all credits issued by the registry.
Hit the button below to read more about how ineffective and fraudulent carbon credits are being turned into cryptocurrencies to help greenwash some of the biggest corporate polluters in the world:
Looking forward… Branch Out is launching Climate Wiki this Summer
For many months, Branch Out has been steadily building Climate Wiki in preparation for its public launch. The platform is a knowledge commons for climate education, political organizing, and a library of real-world climate solutions. Stay tuned for more about Climate Wiki, and as always, we appreciate your support on our Patreon.
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