Research Council distances itself from wretched greenwashing handbook

"The Big Greenwashing Handbook" bu Jüri Liiv.

In "The Big Greenwashing Handbook," chemist Jüri Liiv labels the green turn dangerous madness and envisions a ludicrous future for humanity. The Estonian Research Council (ETAG) said that the content of the book does not match the grant proposal description and demands that the sales of the book stop.

A popular, turn-skeptical book pits scientists against each other

A popular science book in Estonia rarely gets the reaction of "Big Greenwashing Handbook" by 59-year-old material scientist and chemist Jüri Liiv.

Liiv claims in his book that driving an old diesel car is smarter than driving a new electric car, that complete renewable energy conversion is a self-deception, that the green turn is dangerous folly, and that civilization will be extinct in 100 years. He thinks the next generation will be the last Estonians.

Critics say the book is opinionated and advocacy-driven rather than research based. Angela Anger-Kraavi, a climate policy researcher at the University of Cambridge, and Urmas Tartes, head of the Estonian Academy of Sciences' Committee on Nature Conservation, said in response to the publication that the greenwashing is a serious and urgent issue, but Liiv's book makes unsubstantiated claims, confuses concepts, oversimplifies and pushes a single narrative.

The Estonian Research Council wants the book out of circulation

The Estonian Research Council (ETAG), which partially funded the book, said that its contents did not match the funding proposal and that the sale of the book in its current form should be suspended.

Liiv emphasized that OÜ Hea Lugu submitted the application. "The publishing company received the research council funding for illustration, not for writing; moreover, I wasn't involved in applying. Funny that the Research Council now determines what I should write," Liiv said.

The Science Popularization Project Competition committee members who examined the publisher's application said the success of the grant was largely due to the personality of Jüri Liiv. In the past, the scientist had compiled two popularizing chemistry and science books and won the national science popularizer prize. Also, the book was edited by the well-known University of Tartu physicist Jaak Kikas.

In the submitted funding application the book's main audience was identified as "Estonian science teachers, students in the final years of primary and upper secondary school, their parents and grandparents who want to read about the green turn and introduce their children to a systematic, unconventional approach supported with real-life examples."

Annely Allik, head of the science popularization department of the Estonian Research Council, states in a demand letter published on Friday in the document register of the Ministry of Education and Research that OÜ Hea Lugu has abandoned the original branding and image of the promised book.

Also, with regard to its thematic emphasis and scope of coverage, she said, it is no longer appropriate for the intended audience specified in the application.

Members of the committee who reviewed the proposal early on Friday evening agreed with her position, she said. "The very title alludes to greenwashing, thus rendering any discussion of the "green turn" negative. Also, upon initial inspection, the content does not appear to be an impartial scientific analysis of the subject. ETAG in its judgement also consulted with the specialists who judged the application during the competition," the letter said.

In short, the letter states that OÜ Hea Lugu failed to notify the Estonian Research Council regarding the "decision to publish a book with a different title, target audience and subject matter" as opposed to of the popular science series book such as Liiv had previously authored.

Liiv: The book came out exactly as I wanted it

Liiv responded that the majority of the criticism directed at his book comes from a small group of people. "They are offended because the views expressed contradict their own convictions. I didn't make anything up. All the claims are scientifically proven and the references are there," the scientist said. Nonetheless, he said the book contains a few minor inaccuracies that he wants to correct in the future.

In their letter Estonian Research Council asked to immediately stop the sale of the book, stating that "the publication of the book has been supported by the Estonian Research Council," which is not technically the case.

It also requests the removal of the same inscription from books not yet sold. Finally, the agency expects, among other things, explanations as to why changes were made to the publication without their consent.

"The research council has no right to dictate content if it is not politically incorrect. The book came out exactly how I wanted it," Liiv said.

The researcher said he has no plans to restrict book sales but these decisions will be made by the publisher, who received funding from the agency.


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Editor: Airika Harrik, Jaan-Juhan Oidermaa, Kristina Kersa

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