Archives

Tagged ‘Natural Resources Defense Council‘

The Bankers at the Helm of the ‘Natural Capital’ Sector

January 26, 2017

by Michael Swifte

 

bankers-at-the-helm

Let’s put a spotlight on four bankers who positioned themselves in the ‘natural capital’ sector around the time of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC). Let’s have a look at some of their networks.

The reason these bankers have positions at the intersection of big finance and the conservation sector is because of their intimate knowledge of financial instruments and what some call “financial innovation”. They follow the edict ‘measure it and you can manage it’. They are the perfect addition to decades of work – as part of the sustainable development agenda – aimed at quantifying the economic value of nature in order to exploit it as collateral to underwrite the new economy.

Banker 1

fullerton_pes_small

John Fullerton is a former managing director at JPMorgan, he founded the Capital Institute in 2010, in 2014 he became a member of the Club of Rome, he has written a book called Regenerative Capitalism.

“No doubt the shift in finance will require both carrots and sticks, and perhaps some clubs.” [Source]

The first of Fullerton’s key networked individuals is Gus Speth who consults to the Capital Institute, he sits on the US Advisory Board of 350.org and the New Economy Coalition board and is good buddies with the godfather of ‘ecosystem services’ Bob Costanza. He has a long history supporting sustainable development projects and has some seriously heavy hitting networks. He founded two conservation organisations with which he was actively engaged up until 2o12, both organisations continue to support ‘natural capital’ projects among other diabolical efforts.

The second networked individual is Hunter Lovins, an award winning author and environmentalist who heads up Natural Capital Solutions and is an advisor to the Capital Institute. She is a long term cheer leader for green capitalism, climate capitalism, and sustainable development.

Banker 2

tercek_pes_small

Mark Tercek was a managing director at Goldman Sachs and became the CEO of The Nature Conservancy in 2008, he has written a book called Nature’s Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive by Investing in Nature.

“This reminds me of my Wall Street days. I mean, all the new markets—the high yield markets, different convertible markets, this is how they all start.” [Source]

One of Tercek’s networked individuals is conservation biologist Gretchen Daily, the person Hank Paulson sent him to meet when he accepted the leadership of The Nature Conservancy (TNC). Daily co-founded the Natural Capital Project in 2005 with the help of  WWF, TNC and the University of Minnesota.

Another prominent figure in TNC is Peter Kareiva, senior science advisor to Mark Tercek and co-founder of the Natural Capital Project, he is also the former chief scientist of TNC and its former vice president.

Taylor Ricketts is also a co-founder of the Natural Capital Project, at the time of founding he was the director of conservation science at WWF. He’s now the director of the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics which was founded by Bob Costanza.

Banker 3

tall-paulson-misconstrued

Hank Paulson is the former CEO of Goldman Sachs, he was US treasury secretary during the GFC, he’s a former chair of the TNC board and the driving force behind the 2008 bail out bill. In 2011 he launched the Paulson Institute which is focussed on China, he has written a memoir called On the Brink: Inside the Race to Stop the Collapse of the Global Financial System.

Even before he was made treasury secretary by George W Bush, Paulson had an interest in conservation finance and greening big business. He was a founding partner of Al Gore and David Blood’s, Generation Investment Management which operates the “sustainable capitalism” focussed Generation Foundation. He has worked with Gus Speth’s World Resources Institute and the Natural Resources Defense Council to develop environmental policy for Goldman Sachs. In 2004 he facilitated the donation from Goldman Sachs of 680,000 acres of wilderness in southern Chile to the Wildlife Conservation Society and in 2002-04 he and his wife Wendy donated $608,000 to the League of Conservation Voters. He has also worked with the second largest conservation organisation on the planet Conservation International.

“The environment and the economy have been totally misconstrued as incompatible,”[Source]

 

“[…] It is is clear that a system of market-based conservation finance is vital to the future of environmental conservation.” [Source]

Banker 4

pavan-maxresdefault

Pavan Sukhdev is a former managing director and head of Deutsche Bank’s Global Markets business in India, he was the study leader of the G8+5  project, he founded the Green Accounting for Indian States Project, he co-founded and chairs an NGO in India called the Conservation Action Trust, he headed up the United Nations Environment Program – Green Economy Initiative which was launched in 2008, he has written a book called  Corporation 2020: Transforming Business For Tomorrow’s World 

Sukdev’s work cuts across more than a dozen UN agencies and scores of international agencies and initiatives. Here are just some of them: IUCN, ILO, WHO, UNESCO, IPBES, WEF, IMF, OECD. Every kind of commodity and economic activity has been covered through his work.

“We use nature because she’s valuable, but we lose nature because she’s free.” [Source]

There are only a one or two degrees of separation between these bankers and the environmental movements with which we are very familiar. Looking at key networked individuals connected to the representatives of the financial elites – bankers – helps to highlight the silences and privately held pragmatic positions of many an environmental pundit. “Leaders” of our popular environmental social movements don’t want to be seen or heard supporting the privatisation of the commons, but they remain silent in the face of a growing surge towards collateralization of the earth. Perhaps they too believe that using nature to capitalise the consumer economy is preferable to the toxic derivatives that precipitated the GFC. Either way the underlying motivation – for anyone who might feel that ecosystem services thinking is useful for the earth – is the desire for the continuation of our consumer economy.

 

nature-bar-code

A Fixed Mentality

The San Franciscan

December 1, 2015

by Jay Taber

Gates Energy

US President Barack Obama, Microsoft CEO Bill Gates and heads of state attend the ‘Mission Innovation: Accelerating the Clean Energy Revolution’ meeting at COP21. The Breakthrough Energy Coalition includes Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and Virgin Group head Richard Branson [Photograph: Ian Langsdon/AFP/Getty Images][Source]

In 2014 the Energy Foundation/Fund in San Francisco (assets $100 Million) granted four million to Sierra Club Foundation, a couple million to Natural Resources Defense Council, as well as $665,000 to Earth Justice (Sierra Club), $565,000 to Environmental Defense Fund, and $335,000 to CERES. Smaller grants went to Seattle area groups: $30,000 to Washington Environmental Council, $15,000 to Sightline Institute (a climate think tank that promotes Bill Gates) and $7,500 to Re-Sources.

 

Laying the groundwork for a fixed mentality behind the ‘clean energy’ Ponzi scheme led by Gates, these beneficiaries become its cheerleaders. Spreading money around to media, environmental groups and think tanks that supply them with ideas ensures compliance with the Ponzi agenda.

Compromising celebrities with strong environmental creds ensures they will maintain silence about elite fraud. The hush money Ford, Rockefeller, Gates and Buffett invested in this is augmented by oil companies and financial institutions that benefit from the fraud.

Following the money is challenging, since they routinely launder it through private and public foundations, as well as brokerages that make small grants. This way, no one examines the source of the money or the agenda that controls its use, let alone the overall actual purpose, as opposed to the stated purpose.

The payoff for this financial elite investment is potentially well above the bank bailouts of 2008-2009, that devastated the US economy. The climate bail out funds from public treasuries worldwide could easily eclipse that.

 

 

 

[Jay Thomas Taber (O’Neal) derives from the most prominent tribe in Irish history, nEoghan Ua Niall, the chief family in Northern Ireland between the 4th and the 17th centuries. Jay’s ancestors were some of the last great leaders of Gaelic Ireland. His grandmother’s grandfather’s grandfather emigrated from Belfast to South Carolina in 1768. Jay is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, a correspondent to Forum for Global Exchange, and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as communications director at Public Good Project, a volunteer network of researchers, analysts and activists engaged in defending democracy. As a consultant, he has assisted indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations. Email: tbarj [at] yahoo.com Website: www.jaytaber.com]

McKibben’s Divestment Tour – Brought to You by Wall Street [Part IV of an Investigative Report] [Marketing a Fallacy]

The Art of Annihilation

April 23, 2014

Part four of an investigative series by Cory Morningstar

Divestment Investigative Report Series [Further Reading]: Part IPart IIPart IIIPart IVPart VPart VIPart VIIPart VIIIPart IXPart XPart XIPart XIIPart XIII

 

 “Of all our studies, it is history that is best qualified to reward our research.” — Malcolm X

 

naturebarcode1

Prologue: A Coup d’état of Nature – Led by the Non-Profit Industrial Complex

It is somewhat ironic that anti-REDD climate activists, faux green organizations (in contrast to legitimate grassroots organizations that do exist, although few and far between) and self-proclaimed environmentalists, who consider themselves progressive will speak out against the commodification of nature’s natural resources while simultaneously promoting the toothless divestment campaign promoted by the useless mainstream groups allegedly on the left. It’s ironic because the divestment campaign will result (succeed) in a colossal injection of money shifting over to the very portfolios heavily invested in, thus dependent upon, the intense commodification and privatization of Earth’s last remaining forests, (via REDD, environmental “markets” and the like). This tour de force will be executed with cunning precision under the guise of environmental stewardship and “internalizing negative externalities through appropriate pricing.” Thus, ironically (if in appearances only), the greatest surge in the ultimate corporate capture of Earth’s final remaining resources is being led, and will be accomplished, by the very environmentalists and environmental groups that claim to oppose such corporate domination and capture.

Beyond shelling out billions of tax-exempt dollars (i.e., investments) to those institutions most accommodating in the non-profit industrial complex (otherwise known as foundations), the corporations need not lift a finger to sell this pseudo green agenda to the people in the environmental movement; the feat is being carried out by a tag team comprised of the legitimate and the faux environmentalists. As the public is wholly ignorant and gullible, it almost has no comprehension of the following:

  1. the magnitude of our ecological crisis
  2. the root causes of the planetary crisis, or
  3. the non-profit industrial complex as an instrument of hegemony.

The commodification of the commons will represent the greatest, and most cunning, coup d’état in the history of corporate dominance – an extraordinary fait accompli of unparalleled scale, with unimaginable repercussions for humanity and all life.

Further, it matters little whether or not the money is moved from direct investments in fossil fuel corporations to so-called “socially responsible investments.” The fact of the matter is that all corporations on the planet (and therefore by extension, all investments on the planet) are dependent upon and will continue to require massive amounts of fossil fuels to continue to grow and expand ad infinitum – as required by the industrialized capitalist economic system.

The windmills and solar panels serve as beautiful (marketing) imagery as a panacea for our energy issues, yet they are illusory – the fake veneer for the commodification of the commons, which is the fundamental objective of Wall Street, the very advisers of the divestment campaign.

Thus we find ourselves unwilling to acknowledge the necessity to dismantle the industrialized capitalist economic system, choosing instead to embrace an illusion designed by corporate power.

The purpose of this investigative series is to illustrate (indeed, prove) this premise.

+++

Marketing a Fallacy

There-is-No-Alternative

It is imperative to understand that the “solutions” being proposed in response to our unparalleled planetary ecological crisis will be only those that have the ability to enhance profits or build brand value, thus increasing revenues/profits. Yet, the fallacy of such “solutions” cannot be understated. The industrialized capitalist system is dependent upon growth. Infinite growth on a finite planet is not possible – a 5-year-old child can understand this fact because it is simple common sense (i.e., he or she would not wish to keep growing forever). Growth is dependent upon destruction of the natural world and exploitation of the world’s most vulnerable people. Violence is inherently built into the system. The idea that a “green economy” under the capitalist system will somehow slow down our accelerating multiple ecological crises and climate change is a delusional fallacy of epic proportion. Ceres allows corporations to continue this delusion and constructs a paradigm that conditions a culture to believe the fallacy.

Under Empire, All Life is Imperiled

index6

One Year On

Counterpunch Weekend Edition May 24-26, 2013

by JAVIER SETHNESS CASTRO

“After the catastrophes that have happened, and in view of the catastrophes to come, it would be cynical to say that a plan for a better world is manifested in history and unites it.”

– Theodor W. Adorno, Negative Dialectics

Channeling Adorno, it would I think prove difficult today to characterize the prevailing world-situation as anything other than highly negative.  Such an interpretation is arguably seen most readily in reflection on environmental matters—specifically, the ever-worsening climate emergency, not to mention other worrying signs of the ecological devastation wrought by the capitalist system.

The John Stauber Interview

johnstauber-newleftnow-

New Left Now

April 25, 2013

 

New Left Now: It’s great to talk with you today, John. I came across your Counterpunch article, The Progressive Movement is a PR Front for Rich Democrats recently, and New Left Now is keen to talk to you about it and related fronts. So, if I understand your take on this, the progressive movement is largely ineffectual, and for some fairly obvious reasons. What role does the Congressional Progressive Caucus have to play in the mix here? Why have we not seen more efficacy in what they purport to do or represent?

The Philanthropic Complex

In the aftermath of the British Petroleum disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, no one understands the importance of environmentalism better than the stockholders of BP.  They will be very happy for environmental groups to put pressure on the oil industry to provide more safety for deep sea drilling.  But they are most unlikely to welcome the end of deep sea drilling itself, and putting an end to the reign of corporations is utterly beyond the pale.

In the fall of 2009 I was approached by Hal Clifford, executive editor of Orion Magazine, and asked to write an essay about American philanthropy, especially in relation to environmentalism. From the first I was dubious about the assignment. I said, “Not-for-profit organizations like you cannot afford to attack philanthropy because if you attack one foundation you may as well attack them all. You’ll be cutting your own throat.”

Hal assured me that while all this might be true someone had to take up the issue, and Orion was willing to do so. And I was the right person to write the essay precisely because I was not an insider but simply an honest intelligence. So, with many misgivings I said I’d try.

I interviewed about a dozen people on both sides of the field, both givers and getters, and some in the middle. The people I spoke to were eager to articulate their grievances even if they were just as eager to be anonymous. I also should acknowledge that the development of these grievances was no doubt colored by my own experiences as a board member and president of the board of two not-for-profit organizations in the arts.

After working for several months writing and revising the essay, Hal Clifford announced that he would be leaving Orion. My first thought was “uh-oh.” The editor-in-chief, Chip Blake, took over my essay and at that point things got dicey. Ultimately he explained that he hadn’t been fully aware of my assignment, that he hadn’t known the essay would be an attack on “the oligarchy,” that it didn’t seem to be fully a part of the magazine’s usual interests, and that–fatally–from the magazine’s point of view publishing the essay would be an exercise in “self-mutilation.”

Which was exactly what I said at the beginning! They had come to their senses even if it had taken a long time and cost me a lot of work to get there.

But, secretly, I was pleased. This editorial catastrophe was the best possible confirmation of everything I argue in the essay.

Part One:

What Organizations Experience

In the United States, everyone may enjoy freedom of speech so long as it doesn’t matter.  For those who would like what they say to matter, freedom of speech is very expensive. It is for this reason that organizations with a strong sense of public mission but not much money are dependent on the “blonde child of capitalism,” private philanthropy. This dependence is true for both conservative and progressive causes, but there is an important difference in the philanthropic cultures that they appeal to.

The conservative foundations happily fund “big picture” work.  They are eager to be the means for disseminating free market, anti-government ideology. Hence the steady growth and influence of conservative think-tanks like the Heritage Foundation, Accuracy in Media, the American Majority Institute, the Cato Institute, the Brookings Institute, the Manhattan Institute, the Hoover Institute, and on (and frighteningly) on.

On the other hand, progressive foundations may understand that the organizations they fund have visions, but it’s not the vision that they will give money to. In fact, foundations are so reluctant to fund “public advocacy” of progressive ideas that it is almost as if they were afraid to do so. If there is need for a vision the foundation itself will provide it. Unfortunately, according to one source, the foundation’s vision too often amounts to this: “If we had enough money, and access to enough markets, and enough technological expertise, we could solve all the problems.” The source concludes that such a vision “doesn’t address sociological and spiritual problems.”

Indeed.

The truth is that organizations whose missions foreground the “sociological and spiritual” go mostly without funding. Take for instance the sad tale of the Center for the New American Dream (NAD), created in 1997 by Betsy Taylor (herself a funder with the Merck Family Fund).  NAD’s original mission statement gave a priority to “quality of life” issues.

We envision a society that values more of what matters—not just more…a new emphasis on non-material values like financial security, fairness, community, health, time, nature, and fun.

This is exactly the sort of “big picture” that philanthropy has been mostly unwilling to fund because, it argues, it is so difficult to provide “accountability” data for issues like “work and time” and “fun” (!).  (To which one might reasonably reply, “Why do you fund only those things that are driven by data?”)

In any event, in 2007 NAD ran an enormous deficit, $500,000 in a budget of less than $2,000,000.  In 2008, however, NAD staged a remarkable recovery.  Suddenly, its restricted grants grew from $234,000 in 2007 to $647,000 in 2008.  The cavalry, apparently, had arrived.  NAD’s savior was the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Foundation which had given a restricted grant of $350,000 for 2008.

Good news except that the money did not fund NAD’s vision; it was restricted to a narrow project.  NAD was now in the bottled water business, as in “don’t buy bottled water.”  NAD’s 2008 Take Action! section in its newsletters was devoted to the Goldman Gospel: get local athletic teams off bottled beverages, etc.  In short, a visionary organization had become a money chaser.

One source summarized the general situation in this way, “Progressive funders say all things are connected, but act as if all things are disconnected.  Conservative funders never argue that all things are connected, but then they act—and spend money—as if they were.”

§

 One of the most maddening experiences for those who seek the support of private philanthropy is the lack of transparency, that is, the difficulty of knowing why the foundation makes the decisions it makes. In fact, most foundations treat this “lack” as a kind of privilege: our reasons are our own.  One of the devices employed by philanthropy for maintaining this privilege is what I call the mystique of the foundation’s Secret Wisdom.

So you want to ask, “What do you know that I don’t know?  What do you know that makes your decisions wise?”  The closest thing to an answer you’re likely to hear is something like this: “The staff met with some Board members last night to discuss your proposal, and we’re very interested in it.  But we don’t think that you have the capacity [a useful bit of jargon that means essentially that the organization should give up on what it thought it was going to do] to achieve these goals.  So what we’d suggest is that you define a smaller project that will allow you to test your abilities [read: allow you to do something that you have little interest in but that will suck up valuable staff time like a Hoover].  Meanwhile, we’d like to meet with your Board in six months and see where you are.”

And on you go one year at a time. But cheer up, you’ve made your budget for the year!

The uncertainty and opacity of this reality leave organizations frustrated and bewildered. No matter how many meetings are held, no matter how carefully the questions are posed, the fundamentals remain maddeningly elusive. It is as if grant seekers were Kafka’s K in The Trial searching absurdly for someone to tell him exactly what crime he has committed.

The foundation has money but it has no organic idea (no idea that is native to its being) what to do with it.  Perhaps the foundation really would like to help someone somewhere, but it can’t quite bring itself simply to trust the organizations it funds and set them free to do their work, in part because it fears that once freed this intelligence and competence might produce results not in keeping with the interests of the foundation.

Not wanting to acknowledge that brutal fact, all that the foundation is left with is the chilling satisfaction of its own undiminished and unaccountable authority. None of this, of course, can be said, least of all by the organizations that are still hoping for support.

Like the system of patronage that served the arts and charity from the Renaissance through the 18th century, private foundations have the rarest privilege of all: they do not have to explain themselves. They do not have to justify the origins of their wealth, or how they use that wealth, or what the real benefit of their largesse is.

 §

In the end, what the foundation can be trusted to understand is not forest health, or climate change, or the imperatives of recycling; what it can be trusted to understand is the thing that gives it its privileges: its endowment.  Unfortunately, managing how the endowment is invested often leads to conflicts with the stated social purpose of the foundation.

For example, one of the emerging controversies in the world of private philanthropy is the 95-5 question.  Foundations are required to give away just 5% of their endowment each year.  The other 95% is invested.  But invested where?  Environmentalists are particularly sensitive to this question because if the money is invested in companies that continue to pollute, you have a very disturbing reality.  5% does (theoretical) good while 95% does demonstrable bad: chasing profits in the same old dirty and irresponsible way.

This issue came to a head when the Los Angeles Times concluded a long investigation into the investment practices of foundations by revealing that the Gates Foundation funded a polio vaccination clinic in Ebocha, Nigeria, in the shadow of a giant petroleum processing plant in which the Gates Foundation was invested.

The Los Angeles Times report states:

But polio is not the only threat Justice [a Nigerian child] faces. Almost since birth, he has had respiratory trouble. His neighbors call it “the cough.” People blame fumes and soot spewing from flames that tower 300 feet into the air over a nearby oil plant. It is owned by the Italian petroleum giant Eni, whose investors include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Say what you like about the need to invest wisely for the future of the foundation, but this is prima facie evidence of a deep moral conflict not just at Gates but in all of private philanthropy.  The simple fact is that most boards actually don’t know if their investments and their missions align.  When pushed on the matter, most foundations respond as Gates did:  investments are the foundation’s private concern and no business of ours.

But the problem remains, when organizations receive funding, what confidence do they have that this happy money is not itself the expression of a distant destruction?  (Perhaps your funder owns stock in British Petroleum.  Of course, for the people of Louisiana, that’s anything but distant.)  When philanthropy proceeds without acknowledging this reality, it proceeds without conscience.  It proceeds pathologically.  It destroys the thing it claims to love.  And it makes the organizations it funds complicit.

§

 Because this culture of unaccountable authority is rarely challenged, especially by the organizations that receive funding, the foundations become little more than, as one source put it, dramas of “self-aggrandizement.”—the lavish year-end celebrations in which many indulge being a particularly noxious demonstration. They like to be thanked for their generosity, and they like the warm feeling of virtue that washes over them when they receive their thanks.

It is as if they could not tell which was the more worthy: the organization for its work or the foundation itself for its generosity.  You can sense this tension in the films that the big  foundations underwrite for PBS.  “Support is provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation,” emblazed on the screen with heraldic force, as if it had been struck with a single blow into brass.

Without an understanding of this psychology, it’s difficult to explain the most perplexing question asked of private philanthropy: why do most foundations give away only 5% of their endowment each year, the legal minimum?

Let’s say the funding is going to address the problem of global warming.  If that problem must be successfully addressed within the next two decades, if it’s really the critical moral issue of our time, or any time, why spend only 5%?  For a simple reason: spending 5% annually will allow the foundation to do its work into eternity. Sadly, a world without a livable climate is easier for the philanthropist to imagine than a world without the dear old family foundation.

 §

Most of the sources that I contacted for this essay requested anonymity.  The reasons for this may be obvious and hardly worth mentioning except that what’s hardly worth mentioning is a powerful emotion: fear.  Fear of losing a grant or a job, fear of harming a client, or fear of becoming persona non grata in the field. Everyone has skin in the game, so “discretion is the better part of valor,” as Falstaff put it. One source spoke of being threatened with blackballing by one wealthy donor.  His error? He’d supported Ralph Nader rather than Barack Obama.

Mark Dowie reports in his book Losing Ground that in the early 1990s the Pew Charitable Trust entered the fray over public land forestry.  Josh Reichert, Pew’s environmental program officer, created a foundation coalition, the National Environmental Trust, to address forestry among other issues.  Once the money was held out, large organizations like the Sierra Club fell in line, talked the talk, and took the money.

The downside was that this program was not allowed to consider a “zero cut” position.  The organization would be about moderating policy on behalf of corporate interests.  Smaller, more principled organizations like the Native Forest Council were “left out in the cold.”  But Reichert was unapologetic.  According to Dowie, “Reichert stipulated that no one advocating zero cut, criticizing corporations by name, or producing ads that did so would be eligible for membership in the forest coalition—or for funding.”

All of this leads to the reasonable assumption that to criticize is to invite punishment.  All that’s left is a lot of smiling and bad faith.

Part Two:

Why Organizations Experience What They Experience

In the end, philanthropy wants the wrong thing.  It may think that it ought to want what the lovers-of-nature want, but its actions reveal that, come what may, it loves other things first: the maintenance of its privileges, the survival of its self-identity, and the stability of the social and economic systems that made it possible in the first place.

This is not an inhuman feeling.  As Nietzsche put it, it is “all-too-human.”  The people who live within the culture of wealth can’t do the things that grassroots environmentalists want them to do without feeling that they are dying.  They can’t fund the creation of ideas that are hostile to their very existence; they can’t abandon control over the projects they do fund because they fear freedom in others; and they can’t give away all of their wealth (“spending out”) without feeling like they’ve become the Wicked Witch of the West (“I’m melting!”). Instead, philanthropy clings to the assumption of its virtues. Its very being, it tells itself, is the doing of good. It cannot respond to criticism because to do so might lead it to self-doubt, might lead it to honesty.  And that would be fatal.

The great paradox of environmental philanthropy is this: How do institutions founded on property, wealth, and privilege (in short, plutocrats) seek to address the root source of environmental destruction if that source is essentially the unbridled use of property, wealth, and privilege?   And yet when we ask that foundations abandon their privileges and simply provide funding so that we activists can do our work without hindrance, what the foundation hears is a request that they will their own destruction.  Not unreasonably, they are bewildered by the suggestion and unwilling to do so.

 §

There’s an old saying on the Left that goes something like this: Capitalism accepts the idea that it will have enemies, but if it must have enemies it will create them itself and in its own image.  In fact, it needs them in the same way that it needs the federal government: as a limit on its own natural destructiveness.

The periodic Wall Street meltdown aside, the most dramatic problem facing capitalism for the last thirty years has been its tendency to destroy the very world in which it acts: the environmental crisis in all its manifestations.  The response to this crisis has been the growth of the mainstream environmental movement, especially the Environmental Protection Agency and what we call Big Green (the Sierra Club, et. al.).  But, it should go without saying, Big Green was not the pure consequence of an up-swelling of popular passion; it was also the creation of philanthropic, federal, and corporate “gift giving”.

For instance, the Natural Resources Defense Council was created by the Ford Foundation, just as Pew created the National Environmental Fund.  (Pew itself was first endowed with money from the Sun Oil Company.  At its inception, Pew’s political views were deeply conservative.  It advocated free markets and small government, and funded the John Birch Society.)  These large environmental organizations are more dependent on federal and foundation support, and accordingly tend to take a “soft” line on economic and industrial reform.  As Mark Dowie reports, “They are safe havens for foundation philanthropy, for their directors are sensitive to the economic orthodoxies that lead to the formation of foundations and careful not to do anything that might diminish the benefactor’s endowment.”

As with the Environmental Protection Agency, Big Green is not so much an enemy as a self-regulator within the capitalist state itself.   The Sierra Club is not run by visionary rebels, it is upper management.  It really does have effects that are beneficial to the environment (many!), but in no way are those benefits part of an emerging new world that is hostile to the industries that are the most immediate origin of environmental destruction.

Consequently, a given industry may attack environmentalism when it interferes with its business, but the plutocracy as such is dependent on Big Green and will regularly replenish its coffers so that it may stay in existence, never mind the occasional annoyance for an oil company that wants to spread its rigs and pipelines across delicate tundra.

Capitalism has taught environmentalism how to protect it from itself.  Federal and philanthropic funding allows Big Green to play a forceful national role, but it also provides the means for managing and limiting the ambitions of environmentalism: no fundamental change. Sadly left out of negotiations between government, industry and environmental NGOs are the communities of people who must live with whatever decision is reached. As Paula Swearengin of Beckley, West Virginia, commented after House Republicans stripped the EPA of its authority to refuse a permit for yet another project for mountain top coal mining, “The people of Appalachia are treated like we’re just disposable casualties of the coal industry. We live in the land of the lost, because nobody wants to hear us.”

Will environmental philanthropy ever convince the federal government to limit the ability of the coal industry to destroy mountaintops in West Virginia?  Maybe. But will they seek to curb that industry’s constitutional freedom to deploy capital in their ruinous “pursuit of happiness”?  No.  Absolutely not.  In the aftermath of the British Petroleum disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, no one understands the importance of environmentalism better than the stockholders of BP.  They will be very happy for environmental groups to put pressure on the oil industry to provide more safety for deep sea drilling.  But they are most unlikely to welcome the end of deep sea drilling itself, and putting an end to the reign of corporations is utterly beyond the pale.

Philanthropy and the organizations it funds are what they are.  They are not in the revolution business.  They are in risk management.

G

Curtis White is a novelist and social critic. His recent work includes The Barbaric Heart: Money, Faith, and the Crisis of Nature and Requiem, a novel.

ENVIROS CRAFT POLITICAL SUICIDE PACT FOR U.S. DEMSOCRATS ON CLIMATE CHANGE

Note: Any politically sentient being should understand that if the strategy suggested below prevails, Democrats will have given Republicans a sword through which it will be even more possible for Republicans to capture Congress. Such a strategy, as suggested below, would allow Republicans to attack Democrats through the rest of the year and certainly into the elections saying that Democrats are plotting to pass cap and trade in a lame duck Congress. While, in truth, there are not and will not be the votes to do that, it will unecessarily provide Republicans with such powerful ammo, that Republican pollsters will likely consider sending the Democratic leaders, and their politcally inept environmental group enablers, a big thank you card after the elections. One can only hope that sanity will prevail.

Environmentalists are pressing Biden and President Barack Obama to amp up their whip operations to give the legislation a chance of passing Congress this year. But one source from a major advocacy group said Wednesday that another option is for the Senate to pass a pared back energy measure now and then go to conference during a lame-duck session with the House-passed climate bill that includes greenhouse gas limits across multiple sectors of the economy. At that point, the source said, anything is possible.

Leaders from the Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council are scheduled to meet later Wednesday to map out strategy with Reid, Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Caucus Vice-Chairman Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

POLITICO

Dems divided on energy bill
By: Darren Samuelsohn and Coral Davenport
July 21, 2010

Senate Democrats are increasingly divided over whether to move forward on any energy and climate bill in the coming weeks.

On one side are those who say it’s too late to move even a modest energy measure, and are urging colleagues to abandon their efforts and bring up a small package of offshore drilling reforms next week before heading home.

On the other are ardent liberals, who are mounting a last-ditch campaign to push through an ambitious climate bill with a cap on greenhouse gas emissions.

For months, many moderates in the caucus have said that trying to move a climate bill that caps carbon was a bridge too far for this Congress, and they have urged dropping the cap in favor of a modest “energy-only” bill that ramps up renewable energy.

But at a caucus meeting of Senate Democrats on Tuesday, the prevailing feeling was that even that measure doesn’t stand a chance, say people familiar with the meeting. “The meeting mood wasn’t exactly excited about the prospect of doing climate and energy next week,” said one source familiar with it, who also said “not to expect anything but a spill bill.”

West Virginia Democrat Jay Rockefeller said the reason for the mood is a growing expectation that Republicans will block any legislation that’s brought up. “We didn’t discuss [energy and climate] at all at the chairman’s meeting. And that should stun you,” Rockefeller told POLITICO on Wednesday. “We’re trying to figure out, can we do anything? Can we pass anything? Because their idea is they’re going to stop all legislation.”

But advocates of passing a climate bill aren’t backing down – particularly the leading champion for the legislation, Massachusetts Democrat John Kerry, who told POLITICO on Wednesday that he will keep plugging away so long as Congress is in session.

“No, it’s not dead because we’re going to have a lame-duck session and we have weeks ahead of us,” Kerry said. “And the issue is not going away as I’ve said 100,000 times. So it’s not dead at all.”

Kerry got fresh backing Wednesday afternoon from a cohort of twelve liberal Democrats, who wrote to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid demanding that any energy and climate legislation to be considered in the coming weeks include a cap on carbon emissions.

“ The single most important action we can take to reform our energy policy and make the United States a leader in the global clean energy economy is to make polluters pay for the pollution they emit,” the letter said. “President Obama has consistently called for establishing a price on carbon as part of any comprehensive clean energy legislation Congress passes.”

Democrats are expected to caucus again on Thursday to determine a path forward on a bill, which Reid hopes to bring to the floor next Monday. Democratic leadership aides said Wednesday that there may be a White House presence at Thursday’s meeting.

Kerry and his partner, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), expressed concern Tuesday about the bill’s prospects of reaching the floor before the August recess as electric utility companies press for more time to negotiate complicated provisions of a bill that places limits on their emissions before any other major industrial sector.
Reid had been aiming to release the energy and climate legislation ahead of a floor debate next week, but that schedule appears to be in jeopardy now because of difficulty in finding 60 votes on the carbon pricing piece and the utility industry’s pleadings for more time.

Still, Kerry on Wednesday said he wasn’t ready to rule out action next week. “I don’t even think that is out of the question,” he said. “We have to see where we are on utilities and we have to see where Harry wants to land.”

“Obviously, the clock is pressing on it,” Kerry added.

Kerry met Wednesday morning for breakfast with Vice President Joe Biden where the energy and climate issue came up only “marginally,” Kerry said. Instead, the meeting was mostly about foreign policy.

Environmentalists are pressing Biden and President Barack Obama to amp up their whip operations to give the legislation a chance of passing Congress this year. But one source from a major advocacy group said Wednesday that another option is for the Senate to pass a pared back energy measure now and then go to conference during a lame-duck session with the House-passed climate bill that includes greenhouse gas limits across multiple sectors of the economy. At that point, the source said, anything is possible.

Leaders from the Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council are scheduled to meet later Wednesday to map out strategy with Reid, Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Caucus Vice-Chairman Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Kerry and Lieberman said they will continue to work with the electric utility industry after meeting with several top CEOs on Tuesday. The power plant executives also met Tuesday with White House energy and climate adviser Carol Browner.

For now, prospects for the electric utility provisions remain uncertain in the Senate as both moderate Democrats and Republicans say they’re skeptical an agreement can be reached any time soon.

“There is a way in which you could build consensus,” Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) said on Tuesday. “But whether that can be part of any base energy bill really is highly questionable, I’d expect, because it’d be hard to build consensus on that particular question.”

Snowe said Democrats should consider offering the power plant-first proposal as an amendment to an energy bill, rather than place it in the underlying legislation. But Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio), who will unveil a bill later Wednesday to promote nuclear power, said there is no shot of a climate bill with carbon limits passing this year.

“This is going through the motions to satisfy your conference,” he said on Tuesday. “Anybody that’s being intellectually honest has got to say there’s no time to get anything done on climate.”

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0710/40018.html

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

Campaign to Correct NRDC Continues at Bar Association

March 10, 2010

NRDC again was targeted for supporting gas drilling in NYS and beyond

By Kerry

A coordinated campaign to challenge the promotion of gas drilling by the Natural Resources Defense Council, a corporate-friendly environmental organization which has come under fire in recent years for its controversial stances, funding sources, and what-some-perceive as a Board of Directors with many conflicts of interests between their ties to polluting industry and the mission of the organization expanded into Midtown today.

Related: NRDC Blasted For Gas Drilling Support: Activists exposed NRDC’s support for gas drilling at Green Drinks event in West Village

Keywords: News, Bronx, Nature,

A coordinated campaign to challenge the promotion of gas drilling by the Natural Resources Defense Council, a corporate-friendly environmental organization which has come under fire in recent years for its controversial stances, funding sources, and what-some-perceive as a Board of Directors with many conflicts of interests between their ties to polluting industry and the mission of the organization expanded into Midtown today.

Activists crashed the event:

Marcellus Shale: Shall We Drill?

Co-sponsored by the New York City Bar Environmental Law Committee and the Environmental Law Institute

at the New York City Bar Association

the Moderator: Jeff Gracer, Sive, Paget & Riesel, P.C. and the Panelists: Kate Sinding, NRDC Thomas West, Counsel for Chesapeake Energy Corporation Hilary Meltzer, New York City Corporation Counsel’s Office The activity was promoted by the NYC Environmental Meetup Group although all of the panelists support gas drilling.

Fliers distributed stated: Stop Greenwash Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)

The NRDC has been an incredibly destructive force for the environmental movement in the United States. Now Greendrinks is providing legitimacy for this corporate “environmental” group.

But the NRDC supports gas drilling!

They have partnered with the worst polluting industry as part of the United States Climate Action Partnership to greenwash these industries’ role in polluting the local and global environment. USCAP advocates for: • Continued use of coal for decades • New Nuclear power plants • Targets for carbon stabilization of 450-550 ppm (when the entire world knows that 350 ppm is the outer limit of what we need to aim for to avoid catastrophic environmental destruction.

Ask NRDC to explain their betrayal inside. Or ask Greendrinks why NRDC is being allowed to our green party. Greendrinks has a sponsorship program – is NRDC appearing under that guise, and paying to present their greenwash?

See these websites for more information on NRDC polluter greenwash and the threat their support for ‘natural gas poses to the environment of New York State:

http://www.actforclimatejustice.org/tools-resources/mcj-take-on-corportate-polluters-and-corporate-environmental-organizations/ www.un-naturalgas.org

Stop Greenwash by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)

The NRDC has been an incredibly destructive force for the environmental movement in the United States. Now Greendrinks is providing legitimacy for this corporate “environmental” group. • But the NRDC supports gas drilling! • They have partnered with the worst polluting industry as part of the United States Climate Action Partnership to greenwash these industries’ role in polluting the local and global environment. USCAP advocates for: • Continued use of coal for decades • New Nuclear power plants • Targets for carbon stabilization of 450-550 ppm (when the entire world knows that 350 ppm is the outer limit of what we need to aim for to avoid catastrophic environmental destruction.

Ask NRDC to explain their betrayal inside. Or ask Greendrinks why NRDC is being allowed to our green party. Greendrinks has a sponsorship program – is NRDC appearing under that guise, and paying to present their greenwash?

See these websites for more information on NRDC polluter greenwash and the threat their support for ‘natural gas poses to the environment of New York State:

http://www.actforclimatejustice.org/tools-resources/mcj-take-on-corportate-polluters-and-corporate-environmental-organizations/ www.un-naturalgas.org

By Kerry http://www.climatesos.org/

Download Article (PDF) Add to PDF Compilation Download PDF Compilation

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/