Mexico is crippled by corruption, violence, and poverty. But the World Wildlife Fund wants it to show leadership on climate change.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has much in common with its trademark symbol – the giant panda bear. As the US National Zoo advises:

Many people find these chunky, lumbering animals to be cute, but giant pandas can be as dangerous as any other bear.

Under the right circumstances, a 250-pound panda will tear the flesh from your bones and claw your face off. Those beguiled by its cuddly appearance may find themselves mauled literally to death (the list of bear attacks appearing here provides a dose of reality).

When it was founded back in 1961, the WWF was about saving wild animals and their habitats. But 50 years, and billions of dollars later, the WWF now has a more ambitious goal – saving the planet. This organization declares that

It is nearly impossible to overstate the threat of climate change.

Its senior executives have no doubt

  • that human influence on the climate is significant rather than minor
  • that the consequences of our influence are overwhelmingly negative rather than positive
  • and that drastic steps must be taken to avert catastrophe

Each of those ideas is, in fact, open to debate. It isn’t hard to find sincere, experienced, highly-credentialed scientists who dispute one or more of these statements. But the WWF isn’t interested in the fine print. It is the world’s best known environmental organization precisely because it reduces complicated issues to simple, black-and-white terms.

Although it’s supposed to be performing charitable works, the WWF seems to spend a great deal of its time on politically-oriented campaigns such as Earth Hour, as well as lobbying governments directly. Its demands for new laws are never-ending. And here’s the really important point: the further those laws stray from protecting wildlife, the more they take a toll on ordinary people’s lives.

This week the WWF issued a press release titled Groundbreaking Mexican Climate Change Law up for vote. It reads, in part:

WWF is urging Mexico’s Congress to approve the country´s proposed National Climate Change Law.If adopted, Mexico will be the second country – after the United Kingdom – to pass comprehensive national climate change legislation. [backup link]

Where, one wonders, did a charity get the idea that its job is to demand that duly elected politicians demonstrate conviction – and that countries show leadership? Where does the WWF’s authority come from, again? When do I get an opportunity to toss its personnel out on their ear?

It’s worth noting that the press release gives no indication of why the WWF is picking on Mexico. Surely this country has enough on its plate. Back in 2008 a Pentagon report said that while the idea still seemed unlikely, Mexico was at risk of becoming a failed state:

the government, its politicians, police, and judicial infrastructure are all under sustained assault and pressure by criminal gangs and drug cartels. [see page 40, numbered as page 36]

It’s difficult to argue that matters have improved much since then. In early 2010 a review of a book about Mexico’s tribulations put it this way:

powerful drug traffickers have corrupted the country’s political and law enforcement establishments at all levels. The cartels simply have too much money.

In October 2011 the Atlantic magazine discussed “the horrific violence” with which Mexico is currently struggling. Maria Elizabeth Marcia, a 39-year-old journalist, had recently been kidnapped and decapitated:

The killers placed Marcia’s head next to a computer, mouse, cables, and headphones. Her crime? Using social media to report on the activities of local drug gangs. This was just the latest of a string of gruesome attacks. Earlier this month, two young people were murdered and hung from an overpass in the same city for daring to blog about gangs.

In the words of a sober-minded article published a few weeks ago:

Right now, drug-related homicides in Mexico are reckoned to number about 1,000 per month, giving Mexico an overall homicide rate about three times that of the United States, which in turn is about five times the average for developed countries. The gangs are sufficiently well-armed, and the Mexican law enforcement agencies sufficiently demoralized (of the 40,000 drug homicides since President Calderón took office [in 2006], fewer than three dozen have led to homicide convictions) that the Mexican army has been called into action.

Anyone who doubts that Mexico is a basket case is invited to spend 20 minutes perusing the section of the Los Angeles Times website titled Mexico Under Siege. The list of appalling news stories found there is dozens of screens long.

There’s the one about the prison riot in which the 30 inmates who escaped belonged to one drug gang while the 44 who were slain were from a rival gang. There are stories about gunmen shooting up buses, bars, and car washes. There’s the one about the fire deliberately set in a casino that killed 53.

There are multiple stories about mass graves, kidnappings, car bombings, and dismembered bodies. Attorneys, prosecutors, reporters, photographers, activists, mayors, and police officers are routinely butchered – along with their families. TV stations and police stations are attacked.

Not only is Mexico a profoundly violent country, according to a recent news article at, it ranks “No. 2 in economic inequality among the 34 member nations of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development.”

But none of this, apparently, means anything to the WWF. With fanatical single-mindedness it thinks Mexico’s top priority should be fighting climate change. It thinks it should be the only other country besides Britain to pass national climate change legislation. Because, in the words of the WWF’s press release, Mexico must show leadership.

There’s a final twist here – and that’s that a national election will be held in Mexico this July. The current president, having served six years, will be stepping down. In a country this beleaguered the public may well desire a complete change of direction. Ramming through a climate package of this magnitude in the dying months of the current government – rather than giving the public a chance to express their views at the ballot box – seems underhanded to me.

If the person who eventually becomes the new president campaigns on climate change and receives a mandate from the public to proceed with this kind of legislation, so be it. But I can’t escape the feeling that the WWF isn’t overly interested in what the Mexican public thinks. It wants this legislation, and it’ll take it any way it can get it.

So, folks, if we decide to dim our lights for Earth Hour this Saturday evening, a question we may wish to ponder as we sit there in the dark is whether the world would be a better place for human beings if the WWF were in charge.

Read an update here. The Mexican Congress was expected to vote on this matter today. So far I’ve been unable to locate any news regarding what happened, but will add a note at the bottom of this post when I hear.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here