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John Stauber & Source Watch on Big Green: How the Big Environmental Groups Have Failed the Grassroots

Big Green and other monikers such as 'The Group of Ten' and 'Gang Green' are terms that have been used often critically to describe the biggest environmental organizations in the United States. 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 partner with corporations and have representatives of major corporations on their boards of directors. With the exception of the Sierra Club, these groups have no meaningful accountability to the thousands of individual small donors who constitute their marketing lists and who are labeled 'members.'

Environmental activists and authors including Sharon Beder [1] Mark Dowie [2], Peter Montague [3], Brian Tokar [4], John Stauber and others whose articles and interviews are listed below have for decades criticized Big Green for soaking up the majority of the hundreds of millions of US dollars raised and spent each year on environmental activism, education and lobbying; raised for often abandoning or undercutting grassroots environmental struggles for fundamental change; and for often selling out the environment and the grassroots movement through business partnerships and agreements with compromising politicians.

Corporate PR experts such as Peter Sandman, Ron Duchin of the Mongoven, Biscoe & Duchin firm and E. Bruce Harrison have over the decades advised their clients on ways to divide and conquer environmental activists by finding common ground with business-oriented Big Green groups

Author and activist Jeffrey St. Clair of CounterPunch is one of Big Green's leading critics. In 2007 he wrote, "The Group of Ten (aka: Gang Green) now manifest all the intensity of an insurance cartel... National environmental policies are now engineered by an Axis of Acronyms: EDF, NRDC, WWF: groups without voting memberships and little responsibility to the wider environmental movement. They are the undisputed mandarins of technotalk and lobbyist logic, who gave us the ecological oxymorons of our time: 'pollution credits,' 're-created wetlands,' 'sustainable development.' In their relativistic milieu, everything can be traded off or dealt away. For them, the tag-end remains of the native ecosystems on our public lands are endlessly divisible and every loss can be recast as a hard-won victory in the advertising copy of their fundraising propaganda." [5]

Members of Big Green SourceWatch Resources Articles Critical of Big Green Environmental Groups

For more information on this topic or related issues you can search the thousands of archived articles on the OCA website using keywords:

post Aug 14 2008, 09:23 AM

I came to loathe Jeffrey St. Clair's "Counterpunch" when they published viciously-parsed excerpts from John Kerry's biography during the 2004 campaign. "Swiftboating" from the left. I recall it was Cockburn, and he must have hated Kerry on account of his vote for the Iraq War Resolution.

My answer to these sniping nonactivists is that they don't have anything to show for their activism. They don't have any insightful message and they don't work to build a movement.

To the credit of "Big Green", they have been successful in changing public opinion to support climate protection.

post Today, 09:27 PM

There are groups of people who get involved in community/activist groups who are actually terrified of confrontation and want to snuggle down in their pot lucks and social events and call it "actvism" when it is actually a kind of group narcissism. It can be contaminated by new age thought such as "staying positive" and everything will be ok. It is fluff activism that basically accomplishes nothing. You give money to a group that then it throws a fundraising potluck with your money to support itself when it in fact does nothing but actions to support itself. It's like a ponzo scheme for non-profits and it's a scam.

Remember--David Brower was kicked out of his own organization for being "too passionate." This was the beginning of the end. The kind of people that demanded his resignation are now running the "environmental groups."

Real activism makes you and the system uncomfortable. Real activism keeps you awake at night. Real activism can be painful. Real activism
goes outside comfort zones. Real activism needs people with courage, passion and guts.

There is no time like the present. Step forward all you passionate souls and push aside the
timid ones. Send them back to their pot lucks.
The time is now.