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Does the Environmental Movement Speak for You?

By Burkely Hermann - Originally published at State of Nature, Spring 2013; reposted by permission of the author.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

For years, I thought the big environmental organizations were on my side. Just look at the nice logo for the World Wildlife Fund which has a polar bear as its image and the Defenders of Wildlife with wolves howling in the background. However, as I entered my first year of college I had a rude awakening. In researching for a talk, I found that companies ranging from the worst polluters to health insurance firms had representatives on the boards of these organizations. Over two months later I followed up on this and my anger was even greater as I woke up to the reality. In 2008, when the anger over the Sierra Club partnering with Clorox spread nationwide, NBC News quoted Gwen Ruta, a vice president of the Environmental Defense Fund, as saying that “partnerships between businesses and advocacy groups can be good for the planet and a company’s bottom line.” I asked myself: are these huge environmental organizations corrupted by the business community and the two-party oligarchy?

Let us jump back to the Forward on Climate protest in DC on February 17th. I went to the protest on this very cold day and wrote something everyone should keep in mind. Looking back, I remember how the rally before the march on the White House seemed like an Obama rally, and a bit like a rock concert. While there were college students and people of all persuasions – races, genders and ethnicities – the rhetoric of the speakers deeply worried me. My friend, who was also equally critical of Obama, concurred. While there were some good speakers such as indigenous rights groups and founder Bill McKibben, there were also a number of Obamacrats, such as Sheldon Whitehouse, the sponsor of the internet censorship bill, SOPA, and Van Jones, who formerly worked as Obama’s “green jobs” czar. Also, there were some strange speakers like an investment banker, an actor on a reality TV show, a commentator who has a CNN show and the Sierra Club President. It seemed to me that this rally was trying to channel all of the people there to have one demand: end the Keystone XL pipeline. I still think that people were thinking for themselves, and the march itself was inspiring to see, but it seems a lot of people took in the pro-Obama rhetoric without questioning it. As a result, I now believe that the permitted and approved march was almost worthless, and was a waste of time because no sort of political change came, especially since these “pseudo-protests” were on a Sunday, when the federal government wasn’t in town, meaning they were not a threat.

You may wonder how this ties into the environmental movement. Major “partner organizations” of this the Forward on Climate protest included the National Audubon Society, the Sierra Club (a main sponsor), Environment America, the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), National Wildlife Foundation (NWF), World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Wilderness Society. These organizations are part of what will be referred to throughout this article as “Gang Green,” (or Big Green) a moniker which represents the top ten groups in the mainstream environmental movement, all of which have huge staffs and a good number of lobbyists, and bring in millions each year. Journalist Naomi Klein recently wrote in The Nation about these groups, saying how the divestment campaign pushed by young activists has missed an important target: Big Green, which has

led the climate movement down various dead ends [including] carbon trading, carbon offsets, [and] natural gas as a “bridge fuel”… [because] the groups pushing hardest for these false solutions took donations, formed corporate partnerships with [or have stock in] the big emitters… [including] Conservation International… [the] Wildlife Conservation Society… WWF [World Wildlife Fund]… the National Wildlife Federation [and]… the Nature Conservancy.

As Klein says, “the message to Big Green is clear: cut your ties with the fossils, or become one yourself.”

The first member of Gang Green is a new group, Environment America. Officially the group is “a federation of state-based, citizen-funded environmental advocacy organizations… defending our environment [through]… independent research, tough-minded advocacy and spirited grassroots action.” According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the group has given almost five million dollars to ten Democratic congress members, President Obama, and Senator Al Franken among others since 2008. The staff of this college-educated group, while having few connections to the power elite, includes a so-called energy advocate, Bernadette Del Chiaro, who praised hydrogen fuel as being “clean,” and the Executive Director who chairs the Green Group, an “alliance” of some of the largest environmental groups, including many of the Gang Green members. Officially, another member of staff, Courtney Abrams, went on to trumpet a report saying 43% of US pollution came from power plants; she was actually trumpeting “President Obama’s plan to cap carbon and invest in a new clean energy economy”, or cap and trade. As many others have noted the cap and giveaway system gives a license to polluters, perverse incentives for polluting and is a distraction from other policies needed to pay off our “ecological debt.” However, is no surprise because the organization has eleven lobbyists, spent over $247,000 in 2012 lobbying Congress and thanked President Obama for his “actions to tackle global warming and promote clean energy” even though Obama is an “oiled president.”

The corruption of the Nature Conservancy, which has revenue of over $547 million and an endowment of $950 million, is even more troubling. The organization’s current president is Mark Tercek, another who led “efforts to engage the private and public sectors in conservation and sustainability” at Conservation International. Also on its “executive team” is the former managing Director of Goldman Sachs, a former senior vice president for marketing at Showtime Networks, a former Vice President and Associate General Counsel for Staples, and a former Marketing expert for Time Warner. The associations on the Board of Directors are worse: high-ranking executives of a supermarket chain (American Stores Co.), a seventeen billion-dollar investment firm (General Atlantic LLC), Mexico’s second largest bank, Google, Inc., an electric holding company (Duke Energy), Goldman Sachs, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies (Merck & Co., Inc.), a huge private equity firm with assets ranging over $600 billion (Blackstone Group) and a huge information-technology firm (Hewlett-Packard). If this isn’t enough, the page of their website titled “Working with Companies” lists forty-six companies they work with. These companies include Bank of America, Boeing, BP, Cargill, Caterpillar, Coca Cola, CSX, Delta Air Lines, Disney, Dow Chemical Company, DuPont, Goldman Sachs, HP, IBM, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Macy’s, Monsanto Company, Pepsi Co, Shell, UPS, and Wal-Mart. Even worse, you can even get a BankAmericaCard if you apply to be a member of the Nature Conservancy! Likely these groups are part of the 6% of funds which come from corporations, which aren’t detailed in their annual reports at all.

Next on the radar is the Defenders of Wildlife (Defenders), starting with the chair of the board of directors, Winsome McIntosh, who serves on the boards of a California software company and an eco-cruise business in Alaska. Others on the board include someone who works for Discovery’s Animal Planet, a former worker at the R.J. Reynolds tobacco company, a hedge fund manager for PAAMCO, an employee of a Democratic politico outlet that warps anti-nuclear groups, and an environmental consultant to the World Bank, among others. As for their “national council” the connections to business continue with a former Waste Management, Inc. employee, a real estate and environmental lawyer, the founder of the “progressive” group called CREDO Mobile, the former chief biodiversity adviser to the President of the World Bank, and a person that is part of huge marketing communications firm DDB. One could easily dismiss this and say these connections are small. However, the Defenders website praised the “Conservation Registry” by saying it made clear that “industry and a conservation organization find they have common goals for preserving our natural heritage.” Also, like the Nature Conservancy, they offer a BankAmericaCard while differently giving savings on Liberty Mutual insurance if one signs up as a member, and allowing people through a Morgan Stanley broker to give them stocks. Additionally, according to their 2011 annual report they received money from the Pew Charitable Trusts, The Energy Foundation, Turner Foundation, Inc., and the Walton Family Foundation, among many others. They gave over $3 million dollars in political contributions while praising Obama’s reelection as a “victory for the environment.” In going through the Defenders website later on I found something even more disturbing: big companies were involved in the organization’s “matching gifts” program in which an employee gives money and the company gives an equal amount supposedly to help wildlife. This included companies like Goldman Sachs, Monsanto, JP Morgan Chase, BP, Bank of America, ExxonMobil, Shell Oil Company, ConocoPhillips, Dow AgroSciences (owned by Dow Chemical), Microsoft, General Electric, and Wal-Mart (specifics are detailed here). In a twitter response, they claimed to not solicit funds from any of these companies. However, this still appears to be a back-door way for these companies to fund the Defenders.

Another Gang Green group, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), which had an influx of $116.5 million in new funds last year, must also be examined. The head of EDF, Fred Krupp, helped to get “strategic partnerships with FedEx, McDonald’s and Walmart, among others” to supposedly improve “energy efficiency” and helped launch that corrupting group that brings together the EDF and a bunch of corporations: the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (which I’ll talk about later). Those sitting on the organization’s board of trustees include an Advisory Director of a multibillion-dollar private equity firm (Berkshire Partners), the President of the very powerful ICANN which governs the structure of the internet, the Senior Counsel of an international law firm (Davis Polk & Wardwell), the co-founder of CNET Networks, the chairman of DreamWorks Animation, SKG, and the former Managing Director of Morgan Stanley, among others. As for the National Council, there are a number of continuing corporate connections, including the chair of the council serving with the chair of Monsanto in the past, another member being the former director of corporate communications for Medline Industries, a hedge fund manager, a Chief Risk Officer of Credit Suisse, the founder of a private investment firm, the co-founder of a robotics company (Humanistic Robotics, Inc.) and the co-founder of an electric power company (AES Corporation). This is just the beginning. Looking at the executive team one finds the following: a former Time Magazine correspondent, a former employee of Metlife (for over twenty years), a promoter of the Climate Action Partnership, an HR employee who has worked at Newsweek, American Express and Merrill Lynch, the person who directs the EDF’s Corporate Partnerships program, and a former journalist for The Economist.

These connections become more solidified after the EDF declared that they don’t accept money from their partners. This, of course, doesn’t mean they are corrupted, despite the fact that their “corporate partnership” program tries to create “environmental results” for big companies like FedEx, Carlyle Group, Wal-Mart, KKR, and McDonald’s, and past partners of their program have included UPS, DuPont, Citigroup, and Starbucks. This is probably why they have a whole part of their website devoted to why they help Wal-Mart, another about how they work with GE, and how they help AT&T reduce their water use. Don’t forget, they also have the “Climate Corps,” which is their summer fellowship program that helps build the business case for energy efficiency by helping companies like Addias, AT&T, Avon, Bank of America, Boeing, Caterpillar, Citigroup, Coinstar, CSX, Dell, General Motors, Microsoft, News Corp., Pfizer, REI, Verizon and Yahoo! among others. This is all for a supposedly “nonpartisan” organization which gave over $82,000 to Democrats and more than half of their lobbyists have gone through the revolving door. One must also note that the EDF backed the business-friendly cap and trade bill proposed by Henry Waxman as well.

In order to fully understand the EDF, one must understand the US Climate Action Partnership, or USCAP. The group describes itself as an “expanding alliance of major businesses and leading climate and environmental groups that have come together to call on the federal government to enact legislation requiring significant reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.” However, as a post on the Earth First! Journal noted, “organizations like Environmental Defense and Natural Resources Defense Council have actively partnered with the fossil fuel industry in the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a front group that helped stop climate legislation in 2010.” This is further ingrained in stone when one sees that the members of this group include a number of companies, including: AES, Alcoa, Chrysler, Dow Chemical Company, Duke Energy, DuPont, Exelon, Ford Motor Company, General Electric, General Motors, Honeywell, Johnson & Johnson, PepsiCo, and Pacific Gas & Electric. SourceWatch writes that the organization “has been criticised for greenwashing, as many of the corporations which are members… are also working behind the scenes to undermine greenhouse-gas regulations… [while] eight… members sit on the board of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is critical of attempts to reduce carbon.” Additionally, the organization seems to support the continuing use of coal energy, saying there should be more “advanced coal technologies” but carbon sequestration. In the end, their plan calls for “cost-effective” approaches – the industry-friendly cap and trade, diverse use of dirty energy, emissions offsets, increasing coal plants, and no use of alternative energy unless that’s “lower-carbon transportation fuels.” Such a description is very troubling especially if one considers their full “background” material, which includes their environmental statements.

The seemingly peaceful National Audubon Society also works with big business. For one, the organization’s President and CEO, David Yarnold, originally worked at the EDF helping expand partnerships with corporations. Now, if that sounds bad, consider the others that are their leaders: a person who launched a climate change project with American Electric and Power, a person who has participated in marketing for American Express, a former investment banker for Merrill Lynch, a person in a leadership role at Time Inc.’s Corporate Finance division, the former head of human resources for Time Inc., a former partner at Goldman Sachs, the former General Manager of AOL’s ecommerce businesses, a former employee of Netscape Communications, a former Chairman of Seagate’s board of directors. This isn’t all. Consider that the organization has a corporate partnership with Toyota, a Capitol One Credit Card, a partnership with Coinstar, a discount on Nationwide Insurance, the selling of their clothing through Corporate Casuals, and numerous companies partnered with them to help shape a “vibrant future” according to their 2012 annual report. One also shouldn’t forget the 155 corporate donors that give them money, under the “corporations” heading in the section about contributions in their most recent annual report. These included Toyota, Chevron, Disney, Monsanto, Boeing, Shell Oil, Honeywell, Mitsubishi, Northrop Grumman, Constellation Energy, Intel, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Conoco Phillips, ExxonMobil, FedEx, Google, Merck, SunTrust, and Target. Those under the matching gifts category included a number of similar corporations which included 3M, AIG, American express, the Gates Foundation, BlackRock Inc., the Boeing Company, Chevron, Coca-Cola, Dell, GlaxoSmithKline, Goldman Sachs, the IMF, Motorola, the Pew Charitable Trusts, and Verizon. One must also note that the EDF backed the business-friendly cap and trade bill proposed by Henry Waxman as well.

The National Wildlife Federation, which received over $22 million from “foundations and corporations,” must be scrutinized as well. At first it may not seem so, but among the executive leadership is someone who helps “understand the components of effective cause-corporate partnerships.” On the board of directors it doesn’t get better. This is because there are: a former officer of numerous investment companies, the former managing director of Citigroup [then Citicorp], a consultant for financial institutions, and a consultant for the CIA. This doesn’t seem like much, but one must consider the business interests they work with, which include 26 different organizations including Disney, REI, Johnson & Johnson, Bank of America, Mattel, SeaWorld and WETA. On top of this, just like the Defenders, they have a matching gifts program, including companies like Google, BP, ExxonMobil (a volunteer program attached to it), and over 397 other companies! Also, the Ford Foundation and the Walton Foundation give to their organization according their most recent annual report.

One of the other big environmental organizations, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), must be looked at as well. Their Board of Trustees is deeply conflicted, and includes the Vice Chairman of a multibillion dollar technology corporation (AECOM), a private investor, the director of Gap Inc., the chairman of Walt Disney Studios, Van Jones, and the CEO of the Sony Corporation of America. Business interests were also as blatantly represented by the Honorary Trustees. While the organization doesn’t work with any business interests directly, they profile “green” businesses. In the process they have praised Starbucks, UPS, Tiffany, and Ford among others. Additionally the NRDC’s Center for Market Innovation has engaged several industry leaders as technical advisors, including Goldman Sachs and Johnson Controls, while their work is made possible thanks to Goldman Sachs and the Rockefeller Foundation. So, once again Big Business is helping out an environmental organization.

The Sierra Club is one of the oldest and most respected environmental organizations in America. Just looking at the webpages of the Executive Director Michael Brune and the Board of Directors not much is found that is worthy of note except connections to the Obama administration, the club’s Delegate to UN Climate talks in Copenhagen, a former field director for Democracy for America (DFA) and the former president of the Hydrogen Fuel Cell Institute. Looking next at the associated Sierra Club Foundation, which works for the Sierra Club, more connections can be found, including: a former Global General Counsel for PricewaterhouseCoopers, a former chair of REI, a former mutual funds director for Dodge & Cox, and a leader of the “cleantech sector” at one the world’s biggest banks (Barclays), which make sense considering the foundation has over $100 million in assets! For the Cub itself, three business interests are among the organization’s benefactors – Google, REI, and Microsoft – along with two “investment advisor” companies, and four fishery organizations. This isn’t the only smell of corruption. After he left, the organization’s former President, Adam Werbach, chose to lead Wal-Mart’s effort to take sustainability mainstream! Oh and don’t forget that if you add up the spending by their PAC in contributions and outside spending, it adds up to more than $2.1 million dollars. One must not forget that when the Director of the Sierra Club sat in front of the White House to protest the Keystone Xl pipeline, it was the first time the organization had committed an act of civil disobedience in its entire history!

I next turn to the Wilderness Society, which has a divestment policy on its investments, and works for our nation’s wilderness by protecting it from encroachment. Looking at the Governing Council of the organization one finds the chair, Douglas W. Walker, is the former CEO of WRQ, Inc. (an integration software company). The Governing Council also includes the President of a privately held diversified forest products company (Archer Holdings Company), the founding partner of a huge investment firm named TPG, a board member of REI, a former Ford Foundation member, a member of a strategic equity investment firm (Blum Capital Partners, L.P.), the former managing director of First Manhattan Co., the Chief Risk Officer of an investment partnership, and a member of the Council of Foreign Relations. One should also consider that one of their Vice-Presidents worked for Discovery Communications while another worked for CARFAX in the past. On top of this they have a number of partnerships including one with Liberty Mutual and they get money from Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Adobe, GE, BlackRock, ExxonMobil, Microsoft, and Google, according to their annual report.

The World Wildlife Fund-US (called the World Wide Fund for Nature across most of the world) has an endowment of $195 million, $75 million of which is in publically-traded securities. The organization’s executive team is swimming with big business: the president, Carter Roberts, formerly worked at Procter and Gamble. Other executives include a former partner with PriceWaterhouseCoopers Global Human Resources Solutions business, a public finance analyst for the First Boston Corporation, a co-director of a consortium of WWF, World Bank, and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the former Senior Vice President of Marketing for Columbia House (the world’s largest direct marketer of entertainment products), a former vice president in the commercial lending division of First American Bank of Washington, and someone who helps integrate environmentalism into the World Bank. The Board of Directors continues this trend, including the former CEO of Coca-Cola, a former employee of Goldman Sachs, the CEO of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, a former Vice President of Strategy for Charles Schwab, a board member of the pro-GMO Global Crop Diversity Trust, the CEO of the MPAA, the former Chief Environmental Adviser at the World Bank, the Chairman of the board of directors of Bank of America, the Senior Vice President for Technical Infrastructure at Google, a former General Partner of Goldman Sachs, Seagate’s chairman of the board, the former CEO of Credit Suisse Europe, Middle East and Africa, and the co-founder of The AES Corporation. With this high-rate of connection with business interests, one shouldn’t be surprised by their marketing partnerships. The companies they partner with include Coca-Cola, Bank of America, Gap Inc., Barnes & Noble, SeaWorld, Coinstar, CVS, Dial Pure & Natural, Disney, Hilton, Forever 21, HP, The Golden Compass (owned by Time Warner), and Subway. Probably these companies contribute part of the $11 million they receive from corporations.

An organization founded by members of the Nature Conservancy, Conservation International (CI), deserves one’s scrutiny. Officially it “works to ensure a healthy and productive planet for us all.” That sounds great, but the Chairman of CI’s Executive Committee, Rob Walton, is the Chairman of Board of Directors for Wal-Mart! Other board members include the retired President of International branch of JPMorgan Chase, the Chairman of Northrop Grumman, the Chief Executive of Unilever, the former CEO of Starbucks, the Director of Gap, Inc., the President of the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Chairman and CEO of BDT Capital Partners, among many others. Their Chairman’s Council isn’t any better: the Chair is the Chief Corporate Development Officer of LifeNexus, while others include the CEO of MediaTrust, the Executive Director of the Moore Charitable Foundation, the CEO of the Observatory Group LLC, and the CEO of Bel Air Investment Advisors LLC. If this isn’t disturbing enough, consider their fifty-nine corporate partners, which they take “pride” in, including Bank of America, BP, Cargill, Chevron, Coca-Cola, Dell, Disney, Exxon Mobil, Hewlett-Packard, McDonald’s, Monsanto, Nestlé, Northrop Grumman, Shell, Sony, Toyota Motor Corporation, Veolia Environment and Walmart. Also, they partnered with USAID, the arm of the US government that forces policies on poorer countries, and the Asian Development Bank, which was created by Japanese bureaucrats and the UN. They work with some of the other Gang Green outlets while having meetings on Capitol Hill about “conservation” which seem to be more about how the environment can serve the interest of Big Business. They never even talk about promoting alternative energy, even on the page about their international policy.

The final group I wish to look at is one that was founded in the early 2000s and has risen to prominence within the movement itself: While it is not part of Gang Green, it is still important. The team that organizes people doesn’t really have any business connections, but the board of the International Advisory Council and the U.S. Advisory Council has some such connections. As for those that give money to them, the only ones that are even close to questionable are the Flora Family Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Rockefeller Family Fund, and Namaste Foundation, according to their most recent annual report. However, the fact that their “allies” include numerous Gang Green organizations and two democratic partisan organizations (MoveOn, and Credo Mobile) is still troubling. Others have leveled criticism at Bill McKibben, the head of the organization, with one writer saying he is a hypocrite for calling New York City the greenest city in the country, another noting he told protesters to not criticize Obama for Keystone XL, one saying how McKibben overlooks that the fact that the world’s biggest polluter is the Pentagon, and activist Maura Stephens wondering why “McKibben concentrat[es] so much effort on the pipeline, when it’s just a tiny piece of a much bigger threat” against the environment.

My criticism is not a lone wolf crying in the forest. In fact, there are a number of other articles that come from different angles but also criticize Gang Green. A recent article in Truthout noted that while Gang Green is focused on the Northern portion of Keystone XL, in the words of toxicologist Dr. Riki Ott,

it’s very disingenuous for the big national environmental groups to be claiming that the battle still has to be fought and the question is still out there, the decision hasn’t been made, when clearly it’s been made… It’s sort of like a smokescreen because… [the pipeline] is being built; it’s just been decoupled like a train and the last car is being built and all they have to do is slam the rest of the train in there and connect that last car, and their pipeline is done, ready to go.

Reverend Billy of the activist performance group, the Church of Stop Shopping, wrote this January that

the environmental movement ignores culture-making. The classic strategy for Earth activism in the West is to shadow the perpetrator of the crime. Thus the policy-making and lobbying of the most destructive corporations – is matched by policy-writers and lobbyists from the advocacy groups. Even the websites of the Wildlife Conservancy and Natural Resources Defense Council… resemble corporate graphics… When revolutionary change came in the past century – the heralds of new values were comedians and singer-songwriters… Who is it now?… Performers that might carry the Earth’s message are not supported by the big budgets of the environmental movement, not by NGO’s nor by their foundations… Not betting on culture-making is the wrong decision.

Johann Hari wrote a controversial article from a different perspective in The Nation in March 2010 criticizing Gang Green. Hari wrote that

Environmental groups used to be funded largely by their members and wealthy individual supporters. They had only one goal: to prevent environmental destruction… [now] the mainstream green organizations… take money, and in turn they offer praise, even when the money comes from the companies causing environmental devastation… The green groups defend their behavior by saying they are improving the behavior of the corporations… [in reality] the addiction to corporate cash has changed the green groups at their core… After decades of slowly creeping corporate corruption, some of the biggest environmental groups have remade themselves in the image of their corporate backers: they are putting profit before planet.

Around the same time, Washington Post published an article explaining how BP was one of the biggest partners of The Nature Conservancy even after the Gulf Oil Spill, along with the EDF, while Gang Green groups partnered with big business to create the American Wind and Wildlife Institute. Another article in Earth First! Newswire notes that

the Sierra Club… [has] been in cahoots with the worst of the worst corporations in recent years. They’ve been paid tens of millions of dollars by the fossil fuel industry, tyrannical billionaire mayors and Wall Street in exchange for cleaning (and greening) up their public images… The Sierra Club greenwashes Bank of America through… “affinity schemes.”… [just like] Credo Mobile… Defenders of Wildlife, The Nature Conservancy, National Wildlife Foundation and The Wilderness Society.

There are many other articles that share criticism of the environmental movement, including an article in the Christian Science Monitor about how anti-immigrant and animal rights activists were taking over the Sierra Club’s board of directors in 2004 – one of many articles about how foundations have made Gang Green less radical, the decline of environmental organizations since the 1970s, how corporate America subsumed the environmental movement through “non-profits,” and how the arrest in front of the White House was elaborate PR.

One may be feeling helpless and thinking that there is nothing they can do. This is false. For one, we must reject the corporate leeches in the environmental movement: the Nature Conservancy (TNC), the Defenders of Wildlife (Defenders), the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), the National Audubon Society, the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Conservation International, the Wilderness Society, the National Wildlife Federation, and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). These organizations are basically a joke and too corrupted to fix. Others, like Environment America, seem to be tied to the Democrats, while the Sierra Club has some connections to Big Business. is good for allowing a more activist-driven model of fighting climate change through campaigns like divestment, but is worryingly too tied to Gang Green and seems very biased toward the Democratic Party. However, the Sierra Club can be reformed from the bottom-up as members of the Board of Directors can be replaced in the next two years – five can be replaced this year, five next year and five in 2015. There is hope: in 2013, Becky Gillette, a candidate for director advocated for reducing the club’s “carbon footprint for travel, exploring options such as virtual chapter” and said that “we have to stop allowing the sale of politicians to corporate interests. We need a government for the 99 percent, not the one percent.” She lost, but only by about 2%.

More radical choices similar to Gillette are needed. A commentary by Rainforest Action Network climate organizer Scott Parkin in CounterPunch gives some advice as well, noting that in April 2011, an “unofficial march, spearheaded by Rising Tide North America, formed and headed into the streets of Washington D.C.” where they engaged in a flash sit-in at the Department of Interior against the government’s lack of willingness to take the steps needed. Changing your Facebook picture, sending a tweet or signing one of those many petitions isn’t going to do anything to mitigate climate change. Instead, we as world citizens should support and become part of “new green” groups like the Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC), Rising Tide North America, the Radical Action for Mountain People’s Survival (RAMPS), Mountain Justice, the Backbone Campaign, and what is remaining of the Occupy Movement. The main focus should be in participating in nonviolent resistance tactics like: picketing, vigils, leafleting, art, music and poetry that has a protest message, bringing new consciousness to your community, lobbying, tax resistance, civil disobedience, sit-ins, and one of my favorites: electronic civil disobedience. Hopefully such ideas will make us become the new mainstream environmental movement, displacing the old in our wake, rejecting associations with the two-party oligarchy and pushing for a radical approach to mitigate the coming environmental catastrophe, not just the building of the Keystone XL pipeline. In the end, we should follow what Ecosocialist Contingent advocated on the eve of the Forward on Climate march:

The beginning of a more united, grassroots climate movement… [that] believe[s] capitalism is killing the planet… [that] only the self-organization of the 99% can turn society around… progressives, radicals, the labor movement, and First Nations must unite… [into] a revolutionary movement that creates a new society free of exploitation, oppression, and the profit motive. A society which measures the quality of life not through the competitive acquisition of things, but by our relationship to each other and nature that acts to protect and restore our planet for future generations.

Burkely Hermann is a writer and activist who maintains numerous blogs to inform the public of local, national, and international issues. In recent years, he has been involved in more political action, fighting for economic, social and environmental justice, including attending numerous Occupy encampments, and several environmental protests in Washington, DC. He can be reached at

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