Today, the National Whistleblower Center (NWC) is celebrating World Wildlife Day. The theme this year is “Forests and Livelihoods: Sustaining People and Planet,” and this global day of awareness hopes to underscore the “central role of forests, forest species and ecosystems services in sustaining the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people globally, and particularly of Indigenous and local communities with historic ties to forested and forest-adjacent areas.”
NWC is committed to protecting forests about the world, as we recognize that as the current pace of deforestation continues, it further exacerbates the climate crisis and threatens endangered species and Indigenous communities that rely and inhabit these forests. In order to combat this threat, we launched our Climate Corruption Campaign in January 2020 to educate and assist whistleblowers in the industrial logging industry, among others, about opportunities to report likely frauds.
The core concept of the Climate Corruption Campaign’s timber work is this: with investors and consumers demanding sustainably harvested timber, logging companies and their supply chains will conceal their environmental and climate destruction to maintain their profitability – but whistleblowers can shed light on this concealment with help.
Powerful whistleblower laws exist to empower individuals with original information about illegal logging, deforestation, and other environmental crimes to come forward. Many U.S. laws like the False Claims Act, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and Lacey Act can secure whistleblowers needed protections, including confidentiality, and potentially reward those who come forward if their original information contributes to a successful prosecution.
Whistleblower stories like that of the anonymous Chevron whistleblower who provided videos documenting dangerous oil spills and waste pits in the Ecuadorian Amazon demonstrate the importance of protecting and rewarding whistleblowers. The whistleblower’s outing of Chevron aided the courts in finding the company guilty, ordering Chevron to pay $9 billion to fix environmental damages caused by their waste and pay for clean water and healthcare for the affected Indigenous communities.
So on this World Wildlife Day, NWC celebrates both the importance of forests and the power of the whistleblowers who protect them. Every day, we see stories from whistleblowers who expose the illegal trade and sale of animals, who expose corrupt officials bribing local magistrates, who fight to protect their homes from encroaching, pollutive corporations and more. It is up to all of us to ensure that these whistleblowers can come forward, wherever they are, and speak out against the illegal activities that jeopardize the safety of ecosystems, forests and the lives of those who live among them. With almost three trillion trees on Earth, there is a lot of forest to cover.