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Audubon Society

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 350.org 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.”

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