Blog / March 31, 2014

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s inconvenient truth

If you went down to the woods today (or rather, tropical forest) you would be in for a very big surprise. As Global Witness revealed last week, high profile actor, former Governor of California and environmentalist Arnold Schwarzenegger is profiting from investments in companies engaged in tropical deforestation. We took a light-hearted approach to highlight this serious issue. But we didn’t realise then that there was a bigger irony still – one involving Hollywood.

Director James Cameron helped propel Arnold Schwarzenegger to stardom by casting him as ‘The Terminator’, a cyborg assassin hell-bent on destruction. In Cameron’s latest endeavour Schwarzenegger has traded his gun for a hose. Here Arnie is shown fighting forest fires, as part of a documentary TV series aimed at educating US audiences about the ravaging effects of climate change, and the crucial role forests play in curtailing them.

It will come as somewhat of an embarrassment to Cameron and his team then, that just two weeks before the premiere of Years of Living Dangerously, Schwarzenegger was found to be part owner of an investment company financing mass deforestation.

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Global Witness has just published details of Schwarzenegger’s stake in Dimensional Fund Advisors (DFA) – a firm that has been bankrolling particularly nasty logging companies, including one previously linked to arms trafficking during a brutal civil war in Liberia, part funded by illegal logging.

Press reports indicate that Schwarzenegger’s ownership in DFA – which manages US$ 338 billion for clients worldwide – stands at approximately 5 per cent. US$ 174 million of that total is bound up in 20 of the world’s 50 biggest logging companies, including some particularly notorious firms implicated in illegal logging.  Click here to read our earlier press release.

This presents a stark conflict of interest with the progressive environmental policies that Schwarzenegger spearheaded as Governor of California, such as co-founding the Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force, a subnational collaboration between 22 states in Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, Spain, and the US.

Approached by Global Witness earlier this month, Schwarzenegger declined to comment. It’s hoped that these revelations will now urge him to get his house in order – to get DFA to cut ties with logging companies or to cut his own ties with DFA.

HFordMonkey.pngDue to premiere on April 13th, episode one of Years of Living Dangerously sees Harrison Ford travelling to Indonesia to visit the habitats of critically-endangered orang-utans, and make a personal appeal to the country’s President to halt deforestation. In neighbouring Malaysia, one of the companies that DFA invests in, and Schwarzenegger profits from, continues to bulldoze through orang-utan-populated forests.

We hope that Arnie – and co-stars Harrison Ford, Matt Damon, Jessica Alba and Don Cheadle – see the irony.

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