FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Adios Jay Hair

by JEFFREY ST. CLAIR

On November 15, Jay Hair, former boss of the National Wildlife Federation, died of cancer at the age of 56. The New York Times eulogized Hair as “a passionate defender of the environment”. But the Times’s wistful cruise through Hair’s career managed to glide right by his real significance: he established a corporate model for environmentalism that thrives to this day.

Whether the Hair approach amounts to a defense of the environment from plunder is another question altogether, a question that Hair himself didn’t seem that troubled about.

For grassroots greens, Jay Hair came to personify nearly everything that’s wrong with the mainstream environmental movement: elitist, pr-driven, politically calculating, and cautious. In fact, Hair helped to shape many of the more odious excesses: the plush offices, obese salaries and cordial affiliations with big business.

Hair was an environmental executive for the go-go 90s. He didn’t see unfettered capitalism a threat, but an opportunity to cash in on the bonanza.

Hair perfected the art of environmental triangulation long before Dickie Morris showed up at the backdoor of Bill Clinton’s White House with his black bag of trickery. He never lost an opportunity to stab the knife in the back of an environmental group (or idea) that he considered too radical or impolitic-even the middle of the roaders at the Sierra got tongue-lashings from Hair, their policies on wilderness and trade publicly ridiculed as unrealistic. Hair was an insider and a powerbroker. Usually, he got entr?e to politicos such as Al Gore by giving ground. It was the only thing he had to offer.

Hair wasn’t an organizer. He didn’t led a mass movement of outraged greens. In fact, there’s every indication that he despised grassroots environmentalism. He even tried to suppress the independence of the chapters within his own federation, sparking a rebellion of sorts that was put down forcibly by Hair’s lieutenants.

Hair embraced corporations without question. He stocked his board with corporate honchos from companies with dirty reputations, such as Waste Management. He took their money, greenwashed their crimes and then often did their bidding on the Hill.

His first big moment of betrayal came when he offered to lobby his fellow executives in the DC environmental caucus about the virtues of NAFTA. Not once, but twice. First he hawked the trade pact for Bush, then for Clinton. Unlike many of his colleagues, who operate as adjuncts of the Democratic Party, Hair wasn’t a partisan. He worked for whoever was in power and for whoever paid the bills.

And they were big bills.

Hair believed that if he was going to hang out with corporate execs, he should be paid like them. He was the first environmentalist to crack $200,000 a year in salary and benefits, setting a high bar that others have rushed to match. (When he left NWF in 1995, his salary was $293,000.)

He once attended a press conference in DC addressing the issue of global warming. As Hair pontificated about hydrocarbons and SUVs inside, he ordered his chauffeur to keep his limo idling outside the building, with the air condition blowing full-blast so that the great man wouldn’t break a sweat on the drive back to NWF’s lush headquarters.

After Hair was finally run out of NWF, he landed in Seattle, where he got a gig doing PR for the Plum Creek Timber Company, a logging outfit so rapacious that a Republican congressman deemed it the “Darth Vader of the timber industry”.

When the great David Brower at age 84 was on the streets of Seattle during the WTO’s confab, cheering on the protesters and cursing the police, Jay Hair was cashing in whatever remained of his green credentials for hackwork with the World Mining Congress and the World Bank. Gold mining may be the most destructive and toxic industry on the planet, often involving the use of cyanide and other poisons. But that didn’t stop Hair from fronting for the likes of Newmont Gold, one of the industry’s biggest and nastiest outfits. “Mining gold can be a pretty messy issue,” Hair said last summer. “But the gold industry, at least the (companies) I’ve talked to, are sensitive about cleaning up their acts.” That’s classic Hair.

His last big project was lobbying for the completion of a giant dam in Chile. This monument of environmental destruction dwarfs even Glen Canyon dam and will destroy nearly nearly a 500-miles of river, hundreds of villages, drown thousands of acres of forests and forcibly displace indigenous people.

Alas, Brower didn’t outlive his younger nemesis Jay Hair. Ever the optimist, CounterPunch bets Brower’s militant legacy does.

 

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His new book is Killing Trayvons: an Anthology of American Violence (with JoAnn Wypijewski and Kevin Alexander Gray). He can be reached at: sitka@comcast.net.

More articles by:
May 26, 2016
Paul Craig Roberts
The Looting Stage of Capitalism: Germany’s Assault on the IMF
Pepe Escobar
Hillary Clinton: A Major Gold-Digging Liability
Sam Pizzigati
America’s Cosmic Tax Gap
Ramzy Baroud
Time to End the ‘Hasbara’: Palestinian Media and the Search for a Common Story
José L. Flores
Wall Street’s New Man in Brazil: The Forces Behind Dilma Rousseff’s Impeachment
Patrick Cockburn
The Battle of Fallujah: ISIS Unleashes Its Death Squads
John Feffer
The Coming Drone Blowback
Alex Ray
The Death Toll in Syria: What Do the Numbers Really Say?
Richard Pithouse
We Shall be the Prey and the Vulture
Binoy Kampmark
Trump and the Polls of Loathing
Manuel E. Yepe
A Cruise Ship Without Tourists Arrives in Havana
Jack Rasmus
Greek Debt Negotiations: Will the IMF Exit the Troika?
Ajamu Nangwaya
Pan-Africanism, Feminism and Finding Missing Pan-Africanist Women
Howard Lisnoff
Israel, a Palestinian State and Anti-Semitism
May 25, 2016
Eric Draitser
Obama in Hiroshima: A Case Study in Hypocrisy
Ryan Mallett-Outtrim
Does Venezuela’s Crisis Prove Socialism Doesn’t Work?
Dan Arel
The Socialist Revolution Beyond Sanders and the Democratic Party
Marc Estrin
Cocky-Doody Politics and World Affairs
Sam Husseini
Layers of Islamophobia: Do Liberals Care That Hillary Returned “Muslim Money”?
Susan Babbitt
Invisible in Life, Invisible in Death: How Information Becomes Useless
Mel Gurtov
Hillary’s Cowgirl Diplomacy?
Kathy Kelly
Hammering for Peace
Dick Reavis
The Impeachment of Donald Trump
Wahid Azal
Behind the Politics of a Current Brouhaha in Iran: an Ex-President Ayatollah’s Daughter and the Baha’is
Jesse Jackson
Obama Must Recommit to Eliminating Nuclear Arms
Colin Todhunter
From the Green Revolution to GMOs: Living in the Shadow of Global Agribusiness
Binoy Kampmark
Turkey as Terror: the Role of Ankara in the Brexit Referendum
Dave Lindorff
72-Year-Old Fringe Left Candidate Wins Presidency in Austrian Run-Off Election
May 24, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
The Financial Invasion of Greece
Jonathan Cook
Religious Zealots Ready for Takeover of Israeli Army
Ted Rall
Why I Am #NeverHillary
Mari Jo Buhle – Paul Buhle
Television Meets History
Robert Hunziker
Troika Heat-Seeking Missile Destroys Greece
Judy Gumbo
May Day Road Trip: 1968 – 2016
Colin Todhunter
Cheerleader for US Aggression, Pushing the World to the Nuclear Brink
Jeremy Brecher
This is What Insurgency Looks Like
Jonathan Latham
Unsafe at Any Dose: Chemical Safety Failures from DDT to Glyphosate to BPA
Binoy Kampmark
Suing Russia: Litigating over MH17
Dave Lindorff
Europe, the US and the Politics of Pissing and Being Pissed
Matt Peppe
Cashing In at the Race Track While Facing Charges of “Abusive” Lending Practices
Gilbert Mercier
If Bernie Sanders Is Real, He Will Run as an Independent
Peter Bohmer
A Year Later! The Struggle for Justice Continues!
Dave Welsh
Police Chief Fired in Victory for the Frisco 500
May 23, 2016
Conn Hallinan
European Union: a House Divided
Paul Buhle
Labor’s Sell-Out and the Sanders Campaign
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail