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Garden Variety Environmentalism

The Band-Aid Wing of the Green Growth Economy

Counterpunch

Weekend Edition March 13-15, 2015

by MICHAEL DONNELLY

“The environmental movement needs shaming at this point.”

– Denise Boggs

It was 60+ degrees and sunny – had been for weeks – in western  Oregon, as I arrived in Eugene for  the annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC) at the University of Oregon Law School – the planet’s oldest such conference. The conference, attended by over 3000 attorneys, activists, wonks and government officials, is put on by law students at the UofO. Other students from other top environmental law schools (Lewis and Clark, Vermont Law …) also pitch in organizing and moderating panel discussions. The organizers did a remarkable job juggling speakers, attendees and all the little things necessary.

While suffering from a bigger than usual allergy attack brought on by many types of trees and flowering plants budding out at the same time; I, as usual, perused the conference brochure for panels and Keynote addresses that would take on the big eco-threats of the day.

Out of over 200 panel presentations and twelve Keynote speakers, there were  1) three panels on citizen  activism (two at the same time); 2) one panel on Consumption; 3) one panel on Population; 4) one on the “false solution” of “Green” Energy;…and NONE at all on Biomass/Biofuels! Not at all promising.

The first sign that PIELC was headed down the rabbit hole was the Fund for Wild Nature’s panel presenting the Grassroots Activist of the Year Award. A grand total of five people attended as Arlene Montgomery was honored. Us five heard inspiring tales of how she and the two other women panelists have carried on with great success against all odds and little money.

I found it quite an irony that the award was presented by Doug Bevington, author of the “Rebirth of Environmentalism,” in which he wrote that the was the model for grassroots activism in the 21st Century.  No one from the high-budget, big green litigation shop was there at the grassroots panel, though CBD staffers dominated the conference overall, appearing on five times as many panels as any other group. CBD has perfected the suing to get endangered species listings and garnering millions in Attorneys Fees in the process. Yet, rarely is there any critical habitat set aside in these listing victories – rendering them hollow, at best.

And, with the abject failure of the Clinton Option 9 Northwest Forest Plan to save the Northern Spotted Owl, there is deafening silence from CBD and the rest of the professional Endangered Species listings camp on an overdue Upgrade Petition for the owls, as Endangered, rather than the current more mild Threatened Status would result in real set asides – likely ALL old growth habitat remaining (8% of original, at best), if not all national forest lands in owl habitat – and the funders and Democrats will have none of that. The owls have no chance.

In a way, Bevington sadly was right. CBD is a new model, not of grassroots activism by any means; but of how to become an undemocratic, well-compensated big green outfit masquerading as a citizen membership group quicker than any predecessors.

Fossil Fuel Addicts against Fossil Fuels

From there, I went to the Friday noon Keynote address. The speakers on the agenda were Bill McKibben; writer Gary Nabhan, from something called the W.K. Kellogg Endowed Chair in Sustainable Food Systems at the University of Arizona; and Cyril Scott, suspended President of the Rosebud Lakota Sioux Tribal Council (Scott, the main speaker I wanted to see, was unable to attend given serious intra-tribal hubbub after he called the multinational TransCanada’s effort to build the Keystone XL Pipeline across tribal lands, “An Act of War.” He was coming to rally support… the well-established way grassroots victories always have come about – organize around the issue; seek allies and find a legal team when necessary.)

Bill McKibben appeared via video, to grumblings from some in the crowd who wanted to see him in person. Amy Goodman also a came in for the same lame criticism, while I found their video instead of flying in to the conference on Wings of Tar Sands the appropriate thing to do. McKibben, looking a tad under the weather, riffed on the conference slogan “Changing Currents” while saying little of substance. He ended his short presentation with a plea to “buy more solar panels” and a flippant “See you in jail.”

McKibben was followed by Nabhan who gave a homily to Collaboration. He blithely used that false Einstein quote on the definition of insanity without any irony. He used it as a cudgel to beat those who would rather Resist than work in partnership with Gaia-destroying industries. He praised “Collaboration” efforts between farmers, ranchers and consumer activists and claimed a great victory in getting citizens in the Midwest to plant milkweed alongside their tomatoes in their gardens! He never once mentioned why the iconic North America insect, the Monarch Butterfly, has seen its milkweed breeding habitat disappear in the first place. The words “Ethanol” and “Monsanto” were never spoken.

Shenna Fortner, a Vermont Law School student who will work this summer as a legal clerk with Rappold Law Office, which serves as the lead counsel for the Rosebud Sioux in their efforts to oppose the South Dakota permit of the Keystone XL, then came on and explained that Cyril Scott was unable to attend. She gave a recap of the KXL issue and told people how they can comment on the required Public Utilities Commission hearing on the pipeline proposal that is scheduled for May 5th. Fortner also spoke of the long-standing tipi action camps that have been set up by the grandmothers at the entrance points of the proposed pipelines. Send comments to: puc@state.sd.us or PUC, 500 E. Capitol Ave., Pierre, SD 57501. For more info on how to donate or otherwise help, contact: Faith Spotted Eagle, Ihanktonwan Protect the Sacred: (605)481-0416 or theIndigenous Environmental Network, PO Box 485 Bemidji, MN 56619

Rodney King Environmentalism

Nabhan, unfortunately, was not the sole presenter who had a “can’t we all get along/say nothing bad about the perps/we will cleverly wiggle our way out of it” worldview. An underlying “current” of the conference was that “wild” and “Wilderness” are no longer viable concepts. The future was all about geo-engineering schemes – the garden milkweeds were part of a pattern. I’ve always been astonished that the greens so eagerly embraced the very term “Collaboration” given its (rather recent) sordid history, but it IS the appropriate idiom.

One major green growth area is climate compensation legislation/litigation. Two separate panels were on Who Should Pay for Climate Change?  They were all about demonizing fossil fuel companies (“major GHG polluters”) and ways to shake loose compensation from them. To me that is akin to demonizing the pusher who provides one’s addictions, while never once looking at one’s own responsibility. Personal consumption driving Climate Change is off the table. McKibben has said, “Personal consumption doesn’t matter.”

At a presentation on another pipeline, a CBD staffer lamented the attention paid to the KXL instead of his own project. While his put out motivation was jealousy, he had a point. While the entire “movement” has been distracted by the KXL effort, ALL the necessary pipes and more have been constructed and it has been very hard to draw attention to other proposed pipelines. The competition for Foundation grants is fierce…no can’t-we-all-get-along on that front. Vast numbers are paid to work on the KXL, coal exports, land use, natural gas exports, other pipelines…these are the growth sectors the budding lawyers are steered to. Follow the Money, as usual.

The underlying causes are ignored or given little attention. After all, how could you have such conferences w/o massive carbon use? – Jet fuel is the number one end use of the Tar Sands, but you’ll never hear that at such an event.

PIELC does get credit for trying to limit its footprint – in addition to having more video presentations, you won’t see a raft of used paper coffee cups overflowing trash bins – they are banned. And, while I question the efficacy, one can make a Carbon Offset donation to the great group Friends of Trees, who have planted close to a million urban trees in Oregon. Speaking of uses of trees, a glance at the school bookstore’s Law School annex display table showed ten books being promoted. Five were indistinguishable books on Climate; each had “Forward by Bill McKibben” on the cover.

When whatever it is hits the fan, it is not redistributed evenly

The best thing about PIELC is its commitment to Indigenous peoples. Native lands have paid an inordinate price for our energy addiction – in addition to the pipelines, there are uranium mines, coal mines, coal plants, Biomass schemes, etc. all across Indian Country. Oregon just approved Tax Credits (of course) for Biomass schemes on all the state’s nine federally recognized tribes’ lands.

The most talked about Keynote this year was delivered by Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez, a 14-year-old activist from Boulder CO. He is the Youth Director of Earth Guardians, a musician with his brother Itzcuahtli, a speaker at the RIo+20 United Nations Summit… and he has been concerned and active over Climate Change since he was six. The guy is a powerhouse.

coaltrainChip and oil train parked on the tracks at the University of Oregon.

I took a break and went down by the river to enjoy some sun – Eugene has a wonderful greenway along the river with bike paths on either side that run for miles. On the way back, the path runs under a railroad overpass. Sitting on the tracks was train loaded with dozens of cars full of wood chips and tankers full of Bakken shale oil – headed for the export docks. (Here was a direct action opportunity right outside the conference!) A few conference panels were on the oil and gas exports, yet none on the ground-up-forest ones.

I was getting more and more depressed. The grumbling from grassroots activists was getting loud. My mood changed when I ran into my good buddy Calvin Hecocta. Calvin is a Klamath elder and spiritual leader. He was our Northwest chair of the American Indian Movement (AIM) back in the day. And, he was instrumental in the saving of the Opal Creek and Breitenbush Ancient Forests. I could go on and on singing praises to Calvin; suffice to say, he is one of the great ones.

Friday night is the annual Indigenous Peoples Reception at the Many Nations Longhouse. The Law School is unique in that is has a beautiful student Longhouse out back and has a long-standing working relationship with the Longhouse and the tribes. Panel discussions on Native issues are held at the Longhouse during this and other conferences.

The dinner of salmon, fry bread and other foods prepared by Native cooks was overflowing and a wonderful time. My mood got better.

Dancing on the Ruins

“You know I don’t lead you and you know I don’t feed you no lies. And it’s not up to me to tell you what you see through your eyes.”

– Jackson Browne

PIELC also is the occasion of the annual Earth First! OutLAW Bash. In a scene out of Mad Max, about 500 by-and-large younger, non- attorney activists gathered in a dilapidated industrial zone of old warehouses, kilns, yards of industrial debris – old log trucks, firetrucks, logs, rusting beams, cracked cement everywhere… music and kegs and the always entertaining effigy of some industrial insult to be burned are the highlights. This year it was a mock-up of the huge fracked Natural Gas export plant planned for Coos Bay, Oregon…with attendant thousands of miles of new pipelines. (I learned a lesson – never stand in a tight crowd behind anyone in a power wheelchair, especially if there is a big fire with fireworks shooting off randomly!)

As a naked pyramid and dancers appeared around the fire with a big moon in the clear sky, I couldn’t help but hear Casey Neill’s “Dancing on the Ruins” in my head. This is the eyes-open community that always has been and always will be on the front lines – the activists who show up, paid only by a clear Gaian conscience and great camaraderie. While Derrick Jensen wrote and three different PIELC  speakers I heard paraphrase “When hope dies; action begins;” I have to note that it is through collective action that there is any hope of hope.

The Elephant in the Boiler Room

I didn’t stay up too late as I wanted to attend the sole panel on Consumption that was held at the early hour of 9am. It was put on by the wonky folks from the PolicyInteractive Research group that has interviewed thousands of people worldwide on environmental values. A case study of 16 low-carbon lifestyle people in the Eugene area was presented – the why and how they live such lives. A larger study was presented on just why pro-environmental values do NOT translate into pro-environment behavior.

It was very informative and telling. 88% of us claim pro-environment values, but few live them. (The average annual American Carbon Output is 19.7 tons – what is optimistically projected to be “sustainable” worldwide is 4.5 tons per capita.) Why don’t we walk our talk? The research shows that the disconnect is the result of a combination of:

Denial – No problem, it doesn’t exist; nothing really matters, we are unimportant, love for the moment; the problem is beyond our ability to solve; I’m already doing my part (likely without much effect) – “I bought the Prius, what more do you want me to do? -; and, I’m working on something more important.

We heard of a sociology professor who wrote a book on Climate Change concluding that “the problem is beyond our ability to solve.” And we heard of another UofO professor – a Climate Change professor – who commutes from Portland, over 100 miles away – in a high-end German auto!

A friend recently posted on Facebook about feeling guilty about her carbon use and asked if others felt the same. The responses were 90%, “No way. I deserve it” or some other variance of the blind, New Agey “abundance” rationale.

Robin Quirke of PolicyInteractive noted, if we don’t walk our talk, how can we expect to convince governments and society at large to change behaviors and policies? What I call “Al Gore Syndrome.”

Her colleague Tom Bowerman noted that he and partner live in a 700 square foot house and have a monthly electric bill of around $10. They have a car they drive 3000 miles a year and do not fly. His personal footprint was around the 4.5 tons and he felt he could and would lower it without and real sacrifice. Tom talked about flying and its huge carbon cost. Basically, flying somewhere on a full plane spews the same amount of carbon per capita as one person driving an SUV the same distance. He called the back-and-forth flying far-flung First World family members do as a matter of course, “Love Miles.”

The sole other panel that looked at consumption and population was put on by CBD’s Population and Sustainability wing. CBD, in addition to distributing millions of free condoms with packaging tying it to species loss, seeks to break the taboo on talking about population in green circles. 7.3 billion Clever Apes consuming a finite planet is anything but “Sustainable” – by far THE most common word found in Panel titles.

Return of the Clan Mothers

sheenaShenna Fortner and Cedar Gilette.

The highlight of the conference for me was the “canceled” panel on Indigenous Resistance to the KXL. With President Scott unable to attend, it was called off. But, over 70 people showed up anyway and it turned into a circle discussion (not the usual school lecture model by any means) on those perverse impacts on Native lands due to our energy addiction and consumer lifestyle.  Shenna Fortner chaired it and started things off with a summary of the Rosebud Resistance to the Keystone XL and how one can plug in and help.

Cedar Gillette, another Vermont Law student and tribal member from North Dakota, gave a powerful presentation on the human costs of the “man camps” associated with the fracking boom in the Bakken shale oil formations that underlie her nation. A staggering litany of domestic abuse, alcohol-fueled rampages brought some of the human costs associated with our energy addiction into focus.

Good Shield spoke of the Buffalo Field Campaign – the longest continuous non-violent civil disobedience encampment in the nation. The BFC seeks to end the horrific slaughter of hundreds of Yellowstone Bison that is carried out annually at the behest of the cattle industry.

And, Calvin Hecocta spoke from the heart about what has been lost. He (and others) talked about the days of the Clan Mothers. The highly-respected elder women of each clan would set about correcting anyone’s behaviors that worked against the common good. And tellingly, they also chose the leaders of the men’s councils. Calvin was chosen by the Clan Mothers at a young age to speak for the land, the birds, the mammals, the trees…and he does it well. He spoke to how all this degradation has occurred on men’s watch and it is time again to look to the grandmothers for leadership.

With all the “logical” thinking and presentations going on all around, Calvin and others’ perspective was a breath of fresh air. There were few dry eyes in the room – from Native women elders to young, white students…all were deeply touched. While the spontaneity was a big part of it, I’d still suggest that such a gathering be an integral part of ANY green gathering.

The Biomassacre

While the many efforts against bad forest logging practices, GMO foods, fracking, pipelines, water, plastics, Indigenous survival, etc. are all well and good and necessary, little analysis can be found on the efficacy of already tried solutions, much less proposed ones.  And, thus, the biggest elephant is the Renewable Energy Portfolios which require that a certain percentage (usually 25%) of the retail electricity in a state’s grid come from “renewables” by 2025.

Just as Nabhan studiously avoided the real reason for the Monarchs’ decline (First Worlders burning corn in their SUVs), the entire “green” movement elides the other failures of “renewable” energy. McKibben et al. can pimp all the solar panels they want, but that does nothing to stop Climate chaos while Biofuels (monarch, et al.) and Biomass (forests) add to it. (Not to mention, solar panels – like wind towers – are carbon-based.)

After hundreds of millions in subsidies (and blighted landscapes, roasted birds, etc.) the last eight years, wind and solar combined feed less than 5% into the grid (and there is evidence that even that 5% is not useable energy – useless without concurrent steam-generated Baseload power stabilizing the grid) we’re left with laws requiring 25% by ten years from now.

And the major way the 25% will be met is with Biomass – the burning of forests for energy – the oldest (and dirtiest – 1.5x as polluting as burning coal) energy source of humankind. While some panels dealt with the across-the-board proposed increases in logging on public lands, the end game of Biomass is rarely mentioned. While Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR though he lives in NY!) proposes “thinning” 9 million acres of eastern Oregon public forests, he and Oregon’s former governor helped arrange billions in loans for new Biomass plants to consume the “thinning.” Ex-Gov. John Kitzhaber even sold of 1500 acres of a state forest to a Biomass company! Kitzhaber was ultimately brought down by the sordid crony capitalism/influence peddling side of the “Green” Growth Economy. Pacific Gas and Electric’s (PGE) Boardman Coal Plant is Oregon’s biggest carbon polluter and it is on schedule to be converted from coal to Biomass by 2020.

Just this week, The Oregonian reported that ex-Gov. John Kitzhaber’s forest adviser was the private owner of a timber consulting firm that benefited from Biomass deals Kitzhaber was selling State Forests and providing the Tax Credits to feed…plans the adviser was paid $400,000 by the State to develop! To her credit, new Governor Kate Brown immediately ended the contract with the adviser.

Forests in the Amazon, the US Southeast and British Columbia are being turned into chips/pellets and exported to Europe where they are burned for electrons and the countries burning them preposterously get Carbon Credits for it which are then used to off-set the emissions from coal plants! Every day, one sees false memes overselling German solar energy; yet, never a mention of Germany’s Biomass energy use (expected to comprise  2/3rds of Germany’s “renewable” energy by 2020) and increased coal use.

CBD is one of the many “green” groups that promote Biomass under the disproven rubric of thinning the forest to make them more fire-proof! CBD has helped plan the largest timber sale in Southwest history. They are hardly alone – Oregon Mild, errr, Wild signed on to Wyden’s plan and staffers appeared in a widely-disseminated photo with the senator  and timber execs announcing their collaboration. One Oregon Wild staffer wrote a tortured defense of it (that has since been scrubbed from their website). McKibben is also a top promoter of his Middlebury Vermont college’s biomass plant.

I’ll go so far as to say that Biomass is a greater threat to planetary life than Climate Change! Already we have copious evidence of entire civilizations going under due to deforestation. What could possibly go wrong at planetary scale this time?

Somehow people have come to believe that being an environmental groupie is equivalent to being an activist. It’s not!”

–Denise Boggs

Ultimately PIELC is a Job Fair for eco-law students. It is not the more activist entity is started out as. In those days, grassroots activists, like Cyril Scott and allies, identified an issue and set up resistance to it. When needed, legal teams were assembled to carry out the paperwork resistance. Now, it is inverted with high-paid pro-Democrat foundation agents dictating eco-policy and even what issues are on the radar and fundable. It has devolved into a multi-billion dollars per year growth industry run by big foundations (whose wealth came/comes mostly from energy production), lawyers and Democratic Party factotums. Many “green” groups have annual budgets in the tens of millions – The Nature Conservancy alone (one of the proponents of Biomass) has over $20 billion in assets while dogged grassroots activists show up whether paid or not, often getting undermined (or their efforts fund-raised upon) by the big greens.

The problem with having a “movement” lead by a professional class who collectively are a combination of General McClellans and Marshal Petains is that you get either hubris-ridden ineptness (paid to pull punches) or proud collaborators calling the shots and driving off the activists necessary to carry any issue to true victory. This top down mindset ultimately ends with: promoting, rather than opposing Biomass/Biofuel schemes; eliding consumption and population; failure to walk the talk… and planting milkweeds-in-a-garden being the only “victories.”

During the course of the job fair, some 800 species went extinct. The professional Green Growth industry is a dead end.  It’s way past time to walk the talk. There are NO Law Jobs on a Dead Planet.

 

[MICHAEL DONNELLY lives in Salem, OR. He was plaintiff in the first successful Ancient Forest lawsuit. He can be reached at Pahtoo@aol.com]

 

FLASHBACK: Big Greens and Real Greens

Biodiversity in the Age of Big Money Environmentalism

Counterpunch Weekend Edition January 15-17, 2010

by MICHAEL DONNELLY

“The real history has yet to be written.”

—Mike Roselle

As a grassroots activist involved in the environmental campaigns of the last four decades, of course I’m going to be interested in histories written about them. Especially one that mostly comes thru, with one thesis-killing lacuna, on its promise to delineate the taxonomy of green activism.

So, I’ve read another one…and, I’m still waiting for an accurate, complete one that celebrates the victories and explains the defeats of committed citizen activists instead of merely providing hosannas to paid, non-profit professionals – of whatever genus.

Maybe it’s a function of time and distance and real journalism – someday, we’ll get a real history – but “The Rebirth of Environmentalism: Grassroots Activism from the Spotted Owl to the Polar Bear” a dissertation-turned-book by Douglas Bevington falls into the same sad mix of hagiography and self-promotion as one of his main sources – Kathie Durbin’s beyond awful “Tree Huggers.

No Pay; No Count

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

—Upton Sinclair

In both books, the wrongdoings of the Big Green/Democratic Party lapdogs are decried and then the very same sins of the Mid-market Greens are not just overlooked, but deemed positives. Instead of telling the tales of the highly-paid green factotums in DC, Bevington tells the tales of lesser-paid folks in the hinterlands who suffice for “grassroots” to such authors. In either case, the interests of the institution – mostly a perpetual money chase to pay staff and rent posh digs be they in DC, San Francisco, Portland or some small town – come before those of any underlying protection campaign.

Non-paid citizen activists are nowhere to be found. An entire genus missing in Bevington’s taxon. Yet, show me any effective movement – large or small – that consists solely of professionals; one that ever succeeded without the synergy of a mass of regular citizens rallying to the cause and paid staffers who take direction from the larger group. The top-down nature and utter lack of grounding in a wide-spread, active-participation, place-based citizenry is precisely what’s wrong with environmentalism today and why we keep losing. Not only is a citizen underpinning missing; the professionals undermine, drive out or co-opt any such assemblage that arises despite them; usually taking credit for any gains the citizens have achieved. To the non-profit pros, the function of any “membership” consists of writing donation checks, swallowing/parroting false victory claims, signing Petitions and voting lock-step for Lesser Evil Democrats.

A Compromise is a Compromise is a…

Bevington begins by noting that “The institutionalization of the nationals tied them to a process of deal-making that would sacrifice some biodiversity protection in order to broker political compromises.”

He quotes Mark Dowie, “Compromise; which had produced some limited gains for the movement in the 1970s, in the 1980s became the habitual response of the environmental movement…These compromises have pushed a once-effective movement to the brink of irrelevance.”

He then goes on to produce a tome that snarkily dismisses the No Compromise philosophy and Civil Disobedience (CD) efforts of the volunteer activists of Earth First! as not “influential.” And, while spending considerable time on the Ancient Forest issue, he fails to even note our true grassroots Ancient Forest victories in the Oregon Cascades (at least Durbin deigned to give Opal Creek/Breitenbush one sentence in her “comprehensive history”). He then proceeds to celebrate a series of smaller groups that started strong yet went “mainstream” and fully adopted the Big Green trade-off game plan as their coffers and bureaucratic empires expanded. He does feature some who stayed true to their roots; saw others claim credit for their efforts, when not sabotaging them; and, ultimately withered or now teeter on the brink from lack of support.

Why Big Green Must Die

May 17, 2010

Why Big Green Must Die

Salazar Unleashed

By JOHN HALLE

Following the announcement of the right wing rogues’ gallery which would serve as Obama’s cabinet, the appointment of Ken Salazar, a well known shill for the oil and gas industry, elicited comparatively little comment.

Among the few who managed to express their outrage was Kieran Suckling of the Center for Biological Diversity who described Salazar as “a right-of-center Democrat who often favors industry and big agricultural interests in battles over global warming, fuel efficiency and endangered species.” (See also Jeffrey St. Clair’s “Ken Salazar and the Tragedy of the Common Ground” and Obama’s Used Green Team and Phillip Doe’s “The Man in the Hat“.)

Those recalling the narcotized climate of the early Obama administration won’t be surprised that these other warnings were never heard underneath the waving of pom-poms and the mindless chanting of the mantra “It’s not the personnel, it’s the policy.”

That this phrase has now become a sick joke is the essential lesson of last Friday’s New York Times which reports that under Salazar’s stewardship “(t)he federal Minerals Management Service gave permission to BP and dozens of other oil companies to drill in the Gulf of Mexico.”

These were issued “without first getting required permits from another agency that assesses threats to endangered species — and despite strong warnings from that agency about the impact the drilling was likely to have on the gulf.”

In the weeks to come, as the true extent of the catastrophe emerges, more fingers will be pointed at Salazar, possibly even leading to his resignation.

But Salazar shouldn’t take the hit.

Who deserves the blame for Salazar are those who unleashed him on us.

These include Natural Resources Defense Council President Frances Beinecke who “welcome(d) the news” of Salazar’s appointment, noting that “Salazar’s own connection to the land gives me hope.”

No less effusive was Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, said, “Senator Ken Salazar as been “a champion for America’s public lands.”

The League of Conservation Voters Gene Karpinsky weighed in, praising Obama for “Filling his cabinet and administration with environmental stewards, dedicated staff, scientists and experts.”

Not to be outdone, Carl Pope of the Sierra Club described President Obama as “the Greenest President in history” specifically singling out Salazar for having “act(ed) on the scientific evidence that a disrupted climate means that federal land managers must take into account the need for connecting ecosystems to preserve their natural values.”

And so rather than turning him back, Salazar was provided with the Green stamp of approval with completely predictable consequences.

Those who deserve the blame are those whose silence mattered and who could have made a difference if they spoke. And whose complicity equalled death for the Gulf of Mexico.

If we didn’t know it by now, the lesson for us is patent:

For the environment to live, the big green groups, the enablers of Salazar, this and other environmental atrocities to come, must die.

John Halle is Director of Studies in Music Theory and Practice at Bard College. He can be reached at: halle

http://counterpunch.org/halle05172010.html

COMMON DREAMS | Mainstream Green Groups Cave In on Climate

Note – This article has been endorsed by James Hansen.

Published on Tuesday, April 20, 2010 by CommonDreams.org

Mainstream Green Groups Cave In on Climate

Dangerously Allow Industry to Set Agenda

by Gary Houser and Cory Morningstar

“Governments will not put young people and nature above special financial interests without great public pressure. Such pressure is not possible as long as big environmental organizations provide cover. So the best hope is this — individuals must demand that the leaders change course or they will lose support.” – Dr. James Hansen

With climate scientists warning that we are in a global emergency and tipping points leading to runaway catastrophe will be crossed unless carbon pollution is rapidly reduced, one would expect groups identified as environmental defenders to be shifting into high gear. Instead, we are witnessing the unspeakably tragic spectacle of a mainstream environmental movement allowing itself to be seduced and co-opted by the very forces it should be vehemently opposing. At the very moment when moral leadership and courage are needed the most, what we see is a colossal failure of both – with potentially irreversible consequences for our civilization. If Congress chooses an inadequate response to the crisis, policies can get “locked in” which virtually guarantee that these tipping points are crossed. These organizations are using their significant financial resources to create a public impression that the “environmental community” has given its “stamp of approval” to this policy and to marginalize the voices of the genuine grassroots activists who represent the heart and soul of the climate movement. With nothing less than the future of the planet at stake, these groups must now be publicly challenged and held accountable for their actions.

The stage has been set for this necessary debate by publication of Johann Hari’s excellent commentary entitled “The Wrong Kind of Green“. In this piece, Hari provides important insight into some of the relevant history. He describes how in the 1980s and 1990s some of the larger environmental groups began to adopt a policy often called “corporate engagement”. The basic idea was that by participating in “partnerships” with corporations – some involving receipt of monetary contributions – there would be opportunity to exert positive influence.

It is not possible to look into the minds of those who promoted this shift. Perhaps there was a sincere hope that corporations would be moved toward more responsible behavior. Whatever the case, the critically important task at this time is not to evaluate possible motives but rather the real life consequences. To do so honestly, all self-interested blinders must be set aside.

The truth is that this policy has created a “slippery slope” leading to severely compromised stances – nowhere more apparent than in regard to the over-arching issue of climate. In 2007, a coalition was formed between corporations and environmental organizations called the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, or USCAP – whose purpose was to influence U.S. climate legislation. Some of the large groups that joined were Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), the Nature Conservancy, and National Wildlife Foundation. In January 2009, USCAP presented its proposals and these became the framework of the Waxman-Markey bill.

The physical context is that previously projected worst case scenarios are already being surpassed and humanity is running out of time. Ice is melting far more rapidly than expected, releasing the “albedo effect” where open water absorbs more heat and accelerates further melting. The normally quite cautious National Science Foundation is ringing alarm bells about the methane – a greenhouse gas over 30 times as powerful as CO2 – now venting from the Siberian seabeds. According to the NSF statement: “Release of even a fraction of the methane stored in the shelf could trigger abrupt climate warming.” These are only two examples of “reinforcing feedbacks” that can significantly move the process closer to tipping points.

Within a context so dire that in reality a war-time level of mobilization is needed, what kind of legislation is being offered? First of all, the emission reduction targets themselves – apart from the theoretical strategies for achieving them – categorically ignore the science. The goals do not even aim at stabilization at 350 ppm (let alone the lower figures more likely to be necessary) and the time frame for enacting meaningful reductions is not even remotely close to the speed needed to prevent disaster.

Beyond the issue of targets is that of reduction strategies. USCAP would like to see a trillion dollar carbon market put into place, where traders can claim “pollution rights” to the sky and seek profits from the exchange of such “rights”. Such a system – which would determine whether life-supporting ecosystems survive or collapse – would be placed into the same manipulative hands on Wall Street that brought on the financial meltdown. As this commentary goes to press, several traders in the European carbon market (the world’s prototype) have been arrested in connection with a

), NRDC and EDF are sending their own people to promote it at carbon trade conferences.

The next immoral concession is to allow the industry to “buy” its way out of actually reducing emissions by supporting so-called “offsets” – such as forest preservation projects in the developing world. Sounding plausible in theory, offsets are actually riddled with verification issues and defects such as loggers simply moving elsewhere. But the bottomline “wrong” here is that any form of offsetting should never be looked at as an alternative to reducing emissions. It should only be seen as an additional action to take.

Then there is the unbelievable capitulation represented by the removal of EPA authority to regulate coal-burning. Now that the EPA has finally been empowered by the Supreme Court to act against a carbon-fueled ecocide, this ability has been effectively stripped from the House bill without a murmur from the USCAP “greens”. The result of all these concessions is a pathetically weak bill that the Congressional Budget Office estimates will not even begin to reduce emissions until 2018. Other studies indicate that if all available offsets are used, reductions could actually be postponed an astonishing 19 years until 2029.

The USCAP “greens” proclaim that their positions are being driven by “political expediency”. But there is a stunning “disconnect” which these groups have been reticent to address. How does one negotiate with a melting iceberg? Can the inexorable laws of physics be placed “on hold” while emission reductions are scuttled in a process of political “horse-trading”? What is the meaning of “expediency” when it leads to the collapse of society as we know it? John Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Reseach, stated at the “4 Degrees and Beyond” conference at Oxford that “political reality must be grounded in physical reality or it is completely useless”.

The Sierra Club is experiencing what may be a positive change in leadership and to its credit has not adopted the policy of “corporate engagement” described, yet it has failed to truly mobilize its base against the dangerous shortcomings of the USCAP endorsed legislation. In 2008, the Sierra Club bestowed its highest honor – the John Muir Award – to climate scientist Dr. James Hansen. In presenting the award, Sierra Club President Allison Chin said: “He is truly a hero for preserving the environment”. How does the Sierra Club reconcile the honoring of this man for warning the world and then essentially ignore his core message that present climate legislation is based on false solutions that will waste precious time?

NRDC and EDF, on the other hand, have gone far beyond mere silence. While their websites claim a dedication to public service ( NRDC’s motto is “The Earth’s Best Defense”), they have been actively promoting the USCAP accomodation. If they had not lost sight of their original missions, they would have sought out members of Congress willing to stand up to the fossil fuel industry and used their resources (in 2008, NRDC had an operational budget of 87 million dollars) to throw weight behind them. Instead of emboldening this kind of voice, they have done the exact opposite by allowing industry to define what is “feasible”.

The real climate movement – the one with its backbone intact and composed of grassroots activists and principled groups like Friends of the Earth and Center for Biological Diversity – is already in a “David versus Goliath” situation as it tries to confront the most powerful lobby in the country. But that task has been made infinitely more difficult by these big budget groups using their money to isolate and “box in” the smaller ones.

We close this commentary with the following direct appeal to both the leadership and the members of these groups that have chosen the path of accommodation:

The verdict is in. Your experiment in “corporate engagement” has resulted in a disastrous failure that now threatens the planet. We fully expected the massive campaign from the fossil fuel industry to strip any substance from this legislation. But you have blindsided those of us who are fighting with all our hearts for the future of the earth. Your coffers have grown and now you are using this money to drown us out.

Your stance does not represent those in the grassroots movement, many of whom are young and see the disasters that are looming within their own lifetimes. In your comfortable offices, you do not speak for those willing to put themselves on the line and engage in nonviolent civil disobedience against the very forces you seek to accomodate. The rationale for your corporate “partnerships” was the issue of exerting influence. But the question begging to be asked is who influenced whom? Though your treasury is more full, what truly has been gained and what has been lost?

Your intentions may have been honorable, but the agenda of “defending earth” has been hijacked. Along the way, your vision became blurred and you lost sight of this mission. In this “experiment’, you are the ones who have been “had”. It now appears to have been a terrible Faustian bargain, and we are all paying the price. At the very moment of greatest need for an empowered public advocacy in the face of the most overwhelming threat in human history, your leadership is not to be found.

Your accommodation and your defense of abominably weak Congressional legislation has already had a destructive global impact. It was this legislation that set the bar intolerably low in Copenhagen and instigated a “race to the bottom”. The entire world-wide movement for climate sanity has become blocked by the denial, blindness, and paralysis embodied in U.S. climate policy. When you take this stance in the name of “defending the earth”, you are actually creating an insidious and dangerous deception.

For the sake of the planet, we appeal to your organizations to reclaim the integrity of your original visions. The position you presently advocate will squander the precious little time we have to implement true reductions before the irreversible tipping points are crossed. The stakes could not be higher. We ask that you join hands with the grassroots activists and groups and support the following eight points:

1) Officially recognize that we are truly in a global emergency and that irreversible tipping points are likely to be crossed if humanity does not act in time;

2) Officially recognize that this emergency is of such a magnitude that a war time level of mobilization is needed in order to effectively deal with it;

3) Stand squarely for the necessity that climate legislation be based on the setting of emission reduction targets and a time frame which are defined by the science;

4) Due to the severe ecosystem damage that will ensue in response to a 2 degree (celsius) rise, an overall goal of no more than one degree (celsius) rise must be sought;

5) Clearly renounce cap and trade and offsets as false solutions that will squander precious time;

6) Stand squarely against any attempt in Congress to strip EPA of its authority to regulate carbon;

7) Support a comprehensive approach to the crisis that combines elements of legislation, regulation, and public investment;

8) Support a legislative component based on a continually rising carbon fee with a 100% distribution of the proceeds to U.S. citizens, with the amount of the fee determined by an emission reduction schedule driven by science.

We also ask the members of these groups to withhold their organizational support until their leadership recognizes the necessity of these changes. On this defining issue of our time, may we strive to remove the barriers that divide us and work together.

Gary Houser is a public interest writer, documentary producer, and activist with Climate SOS seeking to raise awareness within the religious community (here) about the moral issues at stake and working to create a more empowered climate movement.

Cory Morningstar, in addition to being a mom, is an activist with Canadians for Action on Climate Change and has collated latest scientific findings here.

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/04/20-1

Conservation Groups & Corporate Cash: An Exchange

Johann Hari’s piece “The Wrong Kind of Green” takes mainstream environmental groups to task for selling out their principles, often in exchange for money from the worst polluters. Posing the question, “How do we retrieve a real environmental movement, in the very short time we have left?” Hari argues that we have no choice but to confront the movement’s addiction to corporate cash and its penchant for environmentally destructive political deal-making–even if doing so requires having a “difficult and ugly fight.” We invited a range of green groups mentioned in the article to respond to Hari’s arguments in this special online forum, which concludes with Hari’s reply. Readers may also be interested in the web letters written about the piece.   –The Editors

Christine Dorsey, National Wildlife Federation
Leah Hair, National Wildlife Federation
Phil Radford, Greenpeace
John Adams, Natural Resources Defense Council
Kieran Suckling, Center for Biological Diversity
Carl Pope, Sierra Club
Bill McKibben, 350.org
Karen Foerstel, The Nature Conservancy
Johann Hari, The Nation

National Wildlife Federation

Christine Dorsey

The Nation‘s cover story “The Wrong Kind of Green” is an irresponsible and toxic mixture of inaccurate information and uninformed analysis. The author, who did not contact the National Wildlife Federation for this story, has written a work of fiction that hardly merits a response, except that it stoops to a new low by attacking the reputation of the late Jay Hair, a former CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, whose powerful legacy of conservation achievement speaks for itself.

In case The Nation is interested in publishing facts, the National Wildlife Federation is funded primarily by the generous donations of 4 million members and supporters. Corporate partnerships for our educational work account for less than 1/2 of 1 percent of our funding. Our dedicated staff, volunteers and state affiliates fight tirelessly to take on polluters, protect wildlife habitat, promote clean energy and educate families about wildlife and the importance of spending time outdoors in nature.

What will The Nation do next, blame polar bears for global warming?

National Wildlife Federation

Leah Hair

In “The Wrong Kind of Green” Johann Hari made outrageous and entirely false statements about my late husband, Dr. Jay Hair.

Jay died in 2002 after a five-year battle with an incurable bone marrow cancer. He devoted his life, with all his considerable passion, courage and intelligence, to protecting this planet. Jay never betrayed that mission in order to “suck millions,” as the article claimed, from oil and gas companies. During Jay’s tenure as president of the National Wildlife Federation, corporate contributions never exceeded 1 percent of NWF’s budget.

In 1982 Jay established NWF’s Corporate Conservation Council to create a forum for dialogue with Fortune 500 leaders. Prior to this controversial initiative, almost the only place business and environmental leaders met was in court. Jay took considerable heat, but he understood that the enormity of our environmental challenges required that all sectors–private, governmental, NGO, religious–be involved and talking to one another.

The Council was funded solely by its members; NWF’s budget was not drawn upon to create the Council, nor did corporate money from the Council seep into NWF’s regular budget.

In 1989 the Exxon Valdez spilled 10 million gallons of Prudhoe crude. Jay was the first national environmental leader to go to Prince William Sound to draw attention to the social and environmental devastation. Under Jay’s leadership, NWF initiated the class action lawsuit against Exxon for punitive damages. He protested on the floor of the Exxon stockholders meeting. If Exxon or anyone else thought that Corporate Conservation Council membership bought them “reputation insurance,” per Mr. Hari, for “an oil spill that had caused irreparable damage,” they clearly were mistaken.

Jay was only 56 when he died. Had he lived, he would have continued to be a passionate and courageous voice on behalf of our imperiled planet.

Your sloppy reporting smeared the reputation of a fine man. You owe an apology.

Greenpeace

Phil Radford, Executive Director

“The Wrong Kind of Green” points to three principles that could make environmental advocacy groups stronger and the world a safer place for our children. First, avoid the perceived or real conflicts of interest created by taking corporate money. Second, start with what must be done to save the environment, not with what we think we can eke out of an unfriendly Congress. Third, the way forward will be bottom-up, shutting and stopping coal plants. I couldn’t agree more.

For forty years, Greenpeace has maintained our financial independence, refusing money from corporations.

A few years ago, Greenpeace and our allies decided to stop deforestation in the Amazon by “convincing” the major industries driving the problem to cease and desist. We would then permanently lock up the forests by securing financing from rich countries. When we discovered that cattle ranching was one of the primary drivers of deforestation, Greenpeace activists throughout the United States and Europe nudged Nike and Timberland to cancel their contracts with leather company causing deforestation. A few cancelled contracts later; the major ranching companies agreed with Greenpeace Brazil to a moratorium on any ranching that causes deforestation.

It doesn’t matter if you work with companies or governments, as long as you are independent, start with the ecological goal, work globally with governments or companies to change the game, and ultimately bring your opponents to a place where they’ll lobby for your law or can’t withstand it.

It is difficult to imagine a way forward on global warming that gets at the root of the problem–coal, the number one cause of global warming pollution–without a plant-by-plant fight to shut down coal. Some have approached coal with an attitude of “if you cant beat them, join them.” The Sierra Club and Greenpeace have a different approach: “beat coal until they join us.”

Natural Resources Defense Council

John Adams, professor of political science, University of Pennsylvania

I read your article “The Wrong Kind of Green” and was disappointed with your comments about Jay Hair, now dead eight years. I have no knowledge of any contributions made from oil and gas to NWF, but what I do know is, Jay was a dedicated environmentalist, and to the best of my knowledge, he did not sell out on any issues. I find it very troubling that someone who cannot defend himself is made the center of this article without many facts backing up the charges.

Center for Biological Diversity

Kieran Suckling, Executive Director

Johann Hari’s article follows upon stories in the Washington Post and E&E which ask similar questions: Why do so many of the large U.S. environmental groups appear to take their lead on climate policy from Congress and the White House? Why do they appear to lack a bottom line on climate policy? He is puzzled by the quick endorsement of weak climate bills, lauding of the Obama administration’s regressive position at Copenhagen, and claims that Copenhagen was a success.

What motivates such positions is unclear. But this much is very clear: as a political strategy, such positioning has been a failure. Congress and the White House have taken progressively weaker positions since early drafts of Markey-Waxman. They are giving ground in the face of corporate opposition and see little reason to move towards environmental groups who have already endorsed weak positions and signaled that they will endorse even weaker positions.

Similarly, it was a strategic mistake to press Congress to pass comprehensive climate legislation by pitting it as the alternative to Clean Air Act regulation. The result of that strategy could be (and was) predicted from the outset: climate deniers would latch onto the sense that Clean Air Act regulation is a bad idea and climate supporters (such as Kerry) would feel they have cover to use the Clean Air Act as a bargaining chip to win conservative votes. We would not be looking at such vehement opposition to Clean Air Act and such confusion about its working in the media, had the larger environmental groups been clear from that the outset that the Clean Air Act is effective, should be used to its fullest to combat global warming, and that any new legislation must be additive to the Clean Air Act, not in opposition to it.

Climate and wildlife scientists have convincingly shown that we must reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions to 350 parts per million from our current level of 387 ppm if we are to avoid runaway global warming and the extinction of polar bears, corals and thousand of other species. The Center for Biological Diversity has joined with groups such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, and 350.org to establish this as a bright line criteria for endorsement of any climate legislation, policy, or international agreement. It is not a negotiable position because the conditions which support life on Earth are not negotiable.

While pushing for new, comprehensive legislation, the Center believes it is imperative that we simultaneously use existing environmental laws such as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act to begin reducing greenhouse gas emissions now and updating land and wildlife management plans to ensure imperiled species are able to survive the level of global warming that is already locked in. We’ve had many successes in this arena and, as Hari describes, recently petitioned the EPA to scientifically determine the safe level of atmospheric carbon dioxide (and other greenhouse gases), just as it does for other criteria air pollutants. We believe that level is 350 parts per million or less.

Hari correctly describes the aggressive, public opposition to having EPA determine this safe level by a faction within the Sierra Club. Even worse, this faction tried to convince other environmental groups to support a congressional vote to prevent the EPA from determining the safe level of greenhouse gas pollution. The scientific determination of a clear greenhouse gas emission target is not in the interest of those who have endorsed vastly weaker targets.

The good news, however, is that the Sierra Club is a diverse and dynamic organization. Many of its leaders (including board members and chapters) are strongly in favor the Center and the 350.org’s petition to cap greenhouse gas emissions. I agree with Hari that recent changes in Sierra Club management are promising and look forward to working with the organization to fully use the power of science, the Clean Air Act, and new legislation to reduce carbon dioxide to 350 part per million. That is unquestionably the task of our generation.

The questions asked by Hari will continue to be posed by astute reporters, and will be asked with increasing urgency as endorsement are lined up for a very weak Kerry-Graham-Lieberman bill which will seek to increase oil drilling, continue coal burning and allow greenhouse gas emissions to increase past irrevocable tipping points. Whether one agrees with Hari’s answers or not, his questions are critical for our time. As environmental leaders, we would do well to take them as opportunities for self-reflection rather than defensive dismissal.

You can find more information on the Center for Biological Diversity’s efforts to combat global warming here.

Sierra Club

Carl Pope, executive director

While thin on solutions Hari’s story was so plump with distortions of reality that it might have been written by Lewis Carroll.

Hari’s silliest innuendo is that the Sierra Club is somehow less than aggressive in the fight against coal power. Sierra Club members have blocked no less than 119 coal-fired power plants in recent years and the organization is regarded by friend and foe as the most successful force in the critical effort to scrap coal power. On February 10, even climate scientist James Hansen pulled on a Sierra Club T-shirt and participated in Sierra Student Coalition anticoal rally at the University of North Carolina–one of dozens of such rallies our young activists have held in support of Hansen’s number one anti-climate disruption goal–to move America beyond coal.

The author also offered the false and offensive analogy that Sierra Club’s cause-related marketing partnership with Clorox’s environmentally friendly cleaning products was like Amnesty International being funded by genocidal war criminals. The Sierra Club had ensured that these products met the Environmental Protection Agency’s most stringent standard, “Design for the Environment,” spending four months reviewing Green Works to ensure that it deserved this designation. In the two years since the partnership began, no one has cited any evidence that Green Works products do not meet the environmental claims made for them. They are, rather, helping to increase demand for green products in the marketplace.

Finally, while there are legitimate disagreements between lawyers about the best legal strategies for cutting carbon emissions, we have always supported the deepest emissions cuts in line with the science and need to convert to a new clean energy economy. This includes cuts endorsed by the Center for Biological Diversity, with whom we often join in litigation. Indeed, it was the Sierra Club that helped bring the original suit which led to the Supreme Court Decision that spurred EPA to begin regulating global warming pollution.

350.org

Bill McKibben, founder

Many thanks to Johann Hari for an interesting piece, and for the very kind words about our work. Those of us at 350.org aren’t so much an organization as a campaign, and as such we’ve always looked for allies everywhere. And we’ve managed to find them not only across the environmental spectrum but, just as importantly, from less likely places–churches and synagogues and mosques and temples, sports teams and theater troupes. When we organized our global day of action last October–which CNN called “the most widespread day of political action in the planet’s history”–it involved 5,200 demonstrations in 181 countries. Around the world we worked easily and cooperatively with lots of big green groups as well as thousands of organizers from tiny local campaigns, and people who’d never done anything at all.

We were, sometimes, a little surprised at how hard it was to get buy-in to our campaign from some of the big American environmental groups. This piece might explain some of the reasons, but we’re not privy to their councils in those ways. Our guess is that history had something to do with it too–it’s worth remembering, as Hari points out, that these groups were set up and scaled to fight much smaller battles, doing the noble work of saving particular canyons or passing remediating laws. It’s a whole ‘nother level to try and take on fossil fuel, the center of the economy. Using the Sierra Club as an example, it should be noted that even if the front office didn’t like what we were doing, chapters all across America and around the world engaged with the 350 campaign in really great ways, helping pull off rallies and demonstrations. The same was true of many other groups. Which is good, because we’re a tiny outfit–a couple of dozen young people and one rapidly aging writer, spread out across a big planet. Immodestly speaking, we’re good at what we do, but not good enough to replace other organizations. Our real strength, of course, is the amazing volunteers who make the work happen everywhere–including places you’re not supposed to be able to do this work. If you check out the pictures at 350.org, one of the things you’ll be struck by is the fact that environmentalism is no longer something for rich white people. Most of our colleagues are black, brown, Asian, poor, young–because that’s who most of the world is.

One key battle that lies ahead for American groups is passing legislation to finally do something about our enormous contribution to the planet’s rapid warming: when we talk to our organizers in Addis Ababa or Beijing or Quito or pretty much everywhere in between, they say that American legislation is vital before anyone else will take real steps. Our movement-building history–beginning with the StepItUp campaign in 2007, which organized 1400 rallies in all fifty states–would indicate that it’s easier to try to rally people around bold and ambitious goals that would really safeguard our future. The lobbying in DC will go more easily if there’s a real movement around the country making senators feel at least a little inclined towards action, and that movement can only be built behind legislation that would truly change the system.

Copenhagen was a very serious drag–still, it was wonderful to see 117 nations endorsing the 350 target. True, they were the poorer and more vulnerable nations; we’ve still got persuade the real fossil fuel addicts. But the good news is everyone gets another chance to help out, all over the world. Working in collaboration with our UK friends at the 10:10 movement, we’ve set October 10 as the date for a global-scale Work Party, with people across the planet putting up solar panels and insulating houses, all with a 350 theme. The point is not that we’re going to solve climate change one house or solar panel at a time–unfortunately, that’s not mathematically possible. But we can use the occasion to send a distinctly political message to our leaders: we’re doing our work, why aren’t you? If we can get up on the roof of the school with hammers, surely you can find the strength to do your work in the Senate, or the General Assembly. If leaders simply won’t lead, then we’ll have to lead for them. We hope everyone will join in, from big groups and small. Working together is fun and empowering, or so we’ve found.

The Nature Conservancy

Karen Foerstel, director, climate media relations

The article “The Wrong Kind of Green” offers readers in inaccurate and incomplete picture of the role deforestation plays in climate change and the way in which environmental and conservation organizations are fighting for policies to address global warming. For the full story, visit www.nature.org/climatechange.

The Nation

Johann Hari, reporter

It is simply a fact that Jay Hair kick-started the process of environmental groups partnering with and taking money from the world’s worst polluters. It is also a fact that this process has been taken much further by other groups like Conservation International and The Nature Conservancy, and has ended with their missions becoming deeply corrupted, in ways I described in great detail in my article. This account of what has happened is not just my view–it’s the view of America’s most distinguished climate scientist, Professor James Hansen, the whistler-blower Christine MacDonald, and of virtually all the environmental groups that don’t take money from polluters.

I am perfectly prepared to accept that Hair was a fine person in his personal life and had some positive motives. Of course his early death is tragic. But many people who have made harmful misjudgments have also had some some admirable achievements in their lives. In public debate, we have to be able to expose the harm they did and show how it continues, or we cannot make sense of the world and prevent even more harm. Is John Adams seriously suggesting that since the dead cannot answer us, we should hold back in our criticism of their actions? How could any serious discussion of how the world came to be as it is take place under such an omertà?

The apology Leah Hair demands is in fact due from the “green” groups who have chosen to take polluter cash and have betrayed their own mission. If she wishes to preserve the best of her husband’s legacy rather than the worst, she should direct her anger at them–rather than at journalists honestly describing how this corruption began.

Rather than engage with the serious issues I raised, Carl Pope sadly plays the old politician’s trick of denying charges I did not make. Where did I say the Sierra Club doesn’t oppose coal? Nowhere. In fact, I did the opposite, writing that “there is an inspiring grassroots movement against coal power plants in the United States, supported by the Sierra Club.”

I went on to describe some plain facts–that under his leadership, the Sierra Club vehemently opposed a lawsuit to force the US government’s policies into line with climate science by returning us to 350ppm of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Pope doesn’t even try to justify this in his response, even though it was the most serious criticism of the club in my article.

The Center for Biological Diversity describes this behavior accurately as throwing “climate science out the window,” and Jim Hansen–the very man Pope waves as a papal authority–describes it as “shocking” and “abominable.” So, yes, the Sierra Club opposes coal in many places and at many times–but it is a matter of record that when there was a lawsuit to ensure the dramatic scale- back we need to preserve a safe climate, they lined up with former Bush administration members to mock and condemn it. I would like to hear Pope offer a serious explanation, rather than name-calling about Lewis Carroll.

Pope also gives an account of the Clorox scandal that is contradicted by his own staff. As Christine MacDonald exposes in her book Green, Inc., the company approached Pope and said they would give the Sierra Club a cut of their profits if they could use the club’s logo and brand on their new range of cleaning products. MacDonald reports that Pope gave the go-ahead without making a rigorous effort to check they were genuinely more green than their competitors. The club’s own toxics committee co-chair, Jessica Frohman, was very clear about this, saying: “We never approved the product line.”

It is a disturbing example of how corporate cash has perverted the behavior of even as admirable a green group as the Sierra Club–and may be the reason why Pope is being replaced with a leader from the more serious and science-based wing of the environmental movement. Its members certainly deserve better than this.

If there are so many “inaccuracies” in my description of TNC, why can’t they name a single one? Do they think the banal propaganda they link to is an answer?

Yet this is not the only glaring hole in these responses (apart, of course, from the arguments of Greenpeace, who refuses polluter cash). Do none of these people feel any concern that the leading environmental groups in America are hoovering up cash from the worst polluters and advocating policies that fall far short of what scientists say we need to safely survive the climate crisis? Do they really think there is nothing to discuss here?

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20100322/forum

· Slide Show: The Wrong Kind of Green

“Our objective is to save humanity and not just half of humanity. We are here to save mother earth. Our objective is to reduce climate change to [under] 1°C. [above this] many islands will disappear and Africa will suffer a holocaust. The real cause of climate change is the capitalist system. If we want to save the earth then we must end that economic model. Capitalism wants to address climate change with carbon markets. We denounce those markets and the countries which [promote them]. It’s time to stop making money from the disgrace that they have perpetrated.”

Evo Morales, December 16th, 2010, Copenhagen Climate Summit

POST COP15 | TIME TO BE BOLD | NO MORE COMPROMISE: http://timetobebold.wordpress.com/

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