April 22, 2014

I$ the U$ #environmental movement $adly a$tray?

Per the joking old college letter, I think my sentiments in the headline are pretty clear, at least in terms of the big "gang green" environmental organizations.

Smaller ones like the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, or mid-sized ones like the Coalition for Biological Diversity, are generally OK, but Sierra Club and others?

They have their idea on another kind of green.

That's how they got the name Gang Green, by trading ardent environmentalism for Democratic Party access. That, in turn, brought them the possibility of more donors.

So, for the "gang green" environmental groups deciding at the start of the Clinton Administration that cozying up to Democrats for political "access" was more important than being firmer on stances. Then, we have the topper, several years ago, of Sierra Club selling the rights to its name, for branding and marketing, to Clorox. There were certainly a few questions about Clorox's environmental commitment, and a boatload of unquestionable facts on its low standards on labor issues. I blogged more here and here about how this exposed authoritarian tactics of Sierra's national board and then-CEO Carl Pope.

But, when a big, rich (yes, relatively) environmental group pays just $33K a year for copy editors for its magazine, with a job based in downtown San Francisco, we know which "green" is speaking. We also know how much neoliberal gang green environmentalists really care about labor rights.

That said, there's some question of how much they even care about environmental issues that don't float the boats of rich neoliberal donors. Sierra was touting natural gas as a "bridge fuel" well after the possible and actual problems of fracking became known, and even as wellhead gas leaks that might undermine its claim as a "bridge fuel" also became apparent.

Sierra's not alone; witness Audubon getting halfway in bed with a subsidiary of Rio Tinto, the hardrock mining company with a history of environmental problems. The Audubon story is similar to Sierra's for another reason. The national HQ saw dollar signs and overrode the will and desire of a local chapter. This time, instead of suspending the board, like Sierra, Audubon created a new entity to bypass the old one.

And, it's not just this.

Witness the proliferation of the made-in-China tchotchkes passed out by the "Gang Green" groups, combined with the wasteful amount of mail, snail mail, not email, sent for solicitation efforts.

If you think this isn't true, Sourcewatch sets us clear on the bottom line for Gang Green:
These are heavily-staffed, well-funded non-profit corporations each with budgets in the tens of millions of dollars a year, offices in Washington, DC and other major cities, highly paid executive directors, and a staff of lobbyists, analysts and marketers. Big Green environmental groups together raise and spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year, most of it contributed by non-profit foundations and individual donors. Many of the Big Green groups accept funding from or partner with corporations, have representatives of major corporations on their boards of directors, and work with corporations through other organizations. 
There you go, in a nutshell.

This is why, again, I fear for how our government's celebration of the centennial of the National Park Service will turn out in 2016. I fear it will get the neoliberal corporatist treatment.

That said, maybe SUWA can protest at Arches, or CBD at Saguaro. We may be getting closer to that time.

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