FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Rot in Gang Green

by GEORGE OCHENSKI

Since its inception, the environmental movement has continued to change and, some would say, mature. But with those changes and maturity has come a bane common to groups that grow beyond their original mission. In the case of Gang Green, the term applied to the large environmental advocacy groups in the U.S., their growth—into large, showy and expensive operations—has come with a price, and that price, as Time magazine revealed in an exposé on their Ecocentric blog, is finding the money to keep those huge organizations running. Specifically, the scandal of the week is the Sierra Club taking $25 million from natural gas corporations between 2007 and 2010 and not telling its members or anyone else about it.

Most people who support environmental organizations expect them to be beyond reproach when it comes to telling the truth to their members and the public. The reason is both simple and compelling: In most of the policy battles over the environment, it’s usually the mega-corporations who are on the “dirty” side of the issue and mainly concerned with profit margins, while the environmentalists are supposed to be fighting not for themselves or for money, but for the good of the environment.

Time’s exclusive has blown the lid off that assumption for the Sierra Club and intimates that other members of Gang Green may have equally astonishing corporate relationships. The problem is not with the leaders of the groups rubbing elbows with their generous corporate sponsors, but the fact that at the grassroots level, where the impacts from the hydraulic fracturing process known as “fracking” are accumulating, those who support Gang Green expect them to fight for the environment, not make excuses for industry donors. A Wall Street Journal article from December 2009 exemplifies what many grassroots supporters probably have in mind: “The pressure from local environmentalists appears to be having an impact. The Natural Resources Defense Council is now pushing for stricter regulation of drilling, the Environmental Defense Fund is working with companies to encourage them to adopt stronger environmental safeguards and the Sierra Club has formed a task force to draft a policy on hydraulic fracturing.”

In 2009, the Sierra Club was already taking millions from some of the nation’s largest natural gas producers, who were, of course, fracking deep underground to release hitherto unobtainable deposits of gas locked in shale formations. While their members voiced expectations that the Sierra Club would fight fracking tooth and nail because of the damage it can cause to precious groundwater supplies, the club’s executive director, Carl Pope, was touring the nation with Aubrey McClendon, the CEO of Chesapeake Energy, the largest of the natural gas industry donors. The twisted logic behind Pope’s thinking was that natural gas would be a “bridge fuel” to transition the nation away from coal. They even called it the “Beyond Coal” campaign.

Unfortunately, this political ploy is not unique to the Sierra Club. It’s more common every day to find big environmental groups moderating environmental advocacy in favor of access to politicians, and trading hard fighting for hard funding. Add to that a concerted effort by ever more moderate foundations to fund groups that “collaborate” with environmental polluters in order to come up with what they dub “pragmatic solutions” to our growing environmental challenges.

In Montana, we can see the effects as groups such as the Montana Wilderness Association take hundreds of thousands from the Pew Charitable Trusts to suddenly sing “Kumbaya” with timber mill owners, aka “timber partners,” in Senator Jon Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act, which sets a new and horrible precedent for mandating timber harvest levels in national forests. That the bill sacrifices Wilderness Study Areas already protected in law by Montana’s late Senator Lee Metcalf only adds insult to injury—but it probably keeps that foundation funding flowing freely for MWA.

The Sierra Club actually had another $30 million in natural gas donations lined up when the news about the initial $25 million began to leak. Caught in what they knew would be a firestorm, they replaced Pope with Michael Brune in 2010. To his credit, only months after being hired, Brune advised the board to reject any future contributions from natural gas producers and continues to hold that position today. But that doesn’t mean the Sierra Club has severed all of its dubious corporate-donor ties. It formed a much-criticized partnership with Clorox Corporation, allowing the use of their emblem on the company’s “green” product line. They also recently have partnered with Hartford Insurance, which, like Clorox, gets to use the club’s logo in their ads.

The ties between Gang Green and big corporations seems to be growing, not diminishing. The U.S. Climate Action Partnership, for instance, teams Big Green groups like the Nature Conservancy, Environmental Defense Fund and Natural Resources Defense Council with the likes of Dow Chemical, Duke Energy, Shell, the notorious mining firm Rio Tinto and many other mega-corporations. Perhaps the exposé on the Sierra Club will lead to a cleanup, but for now, the gangrene in Gang Green is Big Green corporate donations.

George Ochenski rattles the cage of the political establishment as a political analyst for the Missoula Independent, where this column originally ran. He lives in Helena, Montana. He can be reached at: opinion@missoulanews.com.

George Ochenski was a long-time environmental lobbyist at the Montana Legislature and is a columnist whose work has appeared in CounterPunch over many years.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
David Swanson
100 Years of Using War to Try to End All War
Andrew Stewart
The 4CHAN Presidency: A Media Critique of the Alt-Right
Edward Leer
Tripping USA: The Chair
Randy Shields
Tom Regan: The Life of the Animal Rights Party
Nyla Ali Khan
One Certain Effect of Instability in Kashmir is the Erosion of Freedom of Expression and Regional Integration
Rob Hager
The Only Fake News That Probably Threw the Election to Trump was not Russian 
Mike Garrity
Why Should We Pay Billionaires to Destroy Our Public Lands? 
Mark Dickman
The Prophet: Deutscher’s Trotsky
Christopher Brauchli
The Politics of the Toilet Police
Ezra Kronfeld
Joe Manchin: a Senate Republicrat to Dispute and Challenge
Clancy Sigal
The Nazis Called It a “Rafle”
Louis Proyect
Socialism Betrayed? Inside the Ukrainian Holodomor
Charles R. Larson
Review: Timothy B. Tyson’s “The Blood of Emmett Till”
David Yearsley
Founding Father of American Song
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail