Letter: Greenpeace and Brent Spar: a propaganda victory that raises more questions

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The Independent Online
Sir: The Greenpeace victory in alerting the public and politicians to the Brent Spar disposal problem, which was necessary, must not mask the main decision that has now been taken, which is to put the broad moral principle of "not dumping waste at sea" above the narrower, technical "best practical environmental option" (BPEO).

It is particularly important for environmental campaigners to recognise that this is the decision which they have helped European governments and now Shell to take - and to accept the implications of this decision. These include the real possibility that the extra occupational and environmental risks that are likely to be involved in land disposal (and which human failures and fate could easily turn into significant disasters) are being accepted as part of the price of the "no dumping at sea" principle.

It should also be clearly stated that the positive economic advantages of land disposal (jobs, income, probable technical innovations, cleaner production methods, "life-cycle" thinking, etc) are part of the sustainable development idea which is also wider than BPEO.

Clarifying these different principles and concepts will not only help Shell to improve the management and communications of complex environmental problems but will also give environmentalists a firmer base for their position. If storms or human error do precipitate a disaster, then at least Greenpeace will have a defensible position.

Yours faithfully,


London, SW11

The writer is former director of Friends of the Earth.