Macdonald's Green Inc.
By William Walter Kay
“Conservationists count their victories in terms of things that don’t happen - developments thwarted.”
Hell hath no fury like a greenie scorned. Christine Macdonald left journalism for her “dream job” at Conservation International in 2006. A year later she was let go. To retaliate she wrote the muckraking Green, Inc. (Lyons Press, 2008). While the book suffers from Macdonald’s militant environmentalist polemics, it does dish the dirt. Highlights:
Tens of thousands of nature preserves now cover 10% of Earth’s landmass. Most of these parks were imposed on underdeveloped countries in the last few decades. Such parks, while nominally state-owned, are under environmental movement control.
Millions of Africans have been evicted from their homes to make way for nature preserves.
In 2005, to Big Green’s delight, Indonesia launched Operation Forests Forever. 1,500 police and paramilitary troops dragged 180 loggers and timber merchants off to jail.
The contraversial US-based, Conservation International, received $300 million from one philanthropist.
While the public perceives environmentalists as scruffy leftist tree-huggers, leading American environmentalists are a staid clique of “right-leaning” Washington, DC insiders.
Across America there is a ubiquitous but dodgy practise whereby wealthy, well-connected movement insiders get to build mansions inside designated wilderness preserves.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The Corporate Conservation Bund
Train, Beebe, Paulson & Seligmann
In prose packed with purple passages of planetary peril, Macdonald portends: Peak Oil, polluted water, mercury poisoning, smog, acid rain, die-offs, desertification, disrupted hydro-cycles, toxic dust, acid mine drainage, dwindling fresh water, and declining agricultural productivity. She makes 100 references to Climate Change; some a page long. The antiquated phrase “global warming” appears 40 times. The phrase “dirty industry barons” appears without caps or italics.
Among Macdonald’s howlers-unworthy-a-response:
- deforestation wipes out 55,000 species a year;
- one billion people are presently primitive forest-dwellers;
- urban sprawl in the USA annually consumes an area of farmland the size of Pennsylvania;
- rainwater run-off from Wal-Mart parking lots is an environmental disaster.
This following passage betrays a brain-washed mind:
“…I can’t go to a Wal-Mart without images of disappearing forests dancing in my head. Visions of leopards, tigers, Himalayan black bears, and other so-called “protected” species come to me while I wander the aisles.”
She hammers Wal-Mart but concedes Costco, Home Depot, and Lowe’s are no better. She rejects the idea of people driving to stores to purchase products that end up in landfills. She approvingly quotes an anti-sprawl activist:
“…big box retailing is as intrinsically unsustainable as clear cut logging is a method of harvesting trees.”
Regarding tree harvesting Macdonald is equally uncompromising. Whereas most peoples’ eyes light up upon sighting a varnished hardwood floor, the ecologist sees a mass grave. She complains of trees being squandered on flooring. She insists there is no way to sustainably log old forests. She recommends Americans live in adobe huts!
While emphasizing deforestation and sprawl’s contribution to Climate Change, she thinks forestry’s worst crime is road-building. She rails against logging (and mining) roads:
“It usually begins with a dirt road built into an untapped wilderness… Once the road goes in and the raw materials come out, landless peasants follow, clearing patches by the roadsides for subsistence farming. Eventually the dirt roads get paved. The small plots are bought up and consolidated into large tracts of land. The transformation is complete when these former rainforests become vast pasture lands for cattle grazing or soy, palm oil, or coffee plantations…”
“In poor countries, however, sprawl is not just a suburban – or even an exurban – phenomenon. It also involves the gradual transformation of once impenetrable forests first by timber, oil or mining prospectors. Once the roads are opened, agriculture expands and urbanization follows.”
In her rant against mining she thrice says: “There is no way to tell for sure what will happen hundreds of years into the future.” In other words, possessing no evidence of damage, she deploys the Precautionary Principle, while assuring us: “The list of grievances against mining companies is too long to detail.”
Prominent among her anti-mining grievances are: a) boom-bust economic cycles (as opposed to bust-bust cycles), and b) the creation of new class tensions (by high wages). She speaks nostalgically of artisanal mining. She asks and answers:
“Can mining be done in a way that is environmentally sustainable? Mining is a one-time activity; the very opposite of a sustainable endeavour.”
She calls for more recycling to reduce the need for virgin ore and, as ever, she calls for more government regulation.
Her enviro-movement is divided between “good guys” (Earth warriors) and “bad guys” (corporate lackeys). Good guys are:
Rainforest Action Network, Center for Biological Diversity, Native Forest Council, Wilderness Society, Environmental Investigation Agency, Rainforest Relief, Climate Counts, Conservation Law Center, Rising Tide Network, Oxfam, Earthworks, Indian Law Resource Center, Corporate Ethics International, Living Oceans Society, Dogwood Alliance, Forest Peoples Project, and Survival International.
Bad guys are: Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy, WWF-USA, Environmental Defense, and Natural Resources Defense Council.
The Corporate-Conservation Bund
America’s 12,000 Environmental Non-Government Organizations (ENGOs) have assets of $30 billion and annual revenues of $10 billion (2004). America’s hundreds of conservationist organizations (focused on parks and preserves etc.) are a subset within the ENGO set.
To the public, environmentalists might appear as scruffy tree-huggers; but conservationists are a staid, conservative, right-leaning bunch. “Left-wing” environmentalism materialized in 1970s kerfuffles over garbage dumps and urban smog. Conservationism dates to the 19th century. The Sierra Club was established in 1892. Far from being anti-establishment, environmentalists of the conservationist ilk often trace their nature-loving ways to privileged childhoods frolicking about family-owned preserves.
Early conservation clubs were “whites only.” Their preserves had “whites only” signs. The prejudice lingers. A third of major ENGOs do not have a single person of color on staff. Movement leadership is snow white and stacked with millionaires.
ENGOs traditionally depended upon bequeathments from the wealthy. Recent enviro-philanthropic trends are toward: a) newly-minted foundations controlled by “living donors,” and b) corporate payola.
Self-made billionaire philanthropists are the most important new source of conservation funding. EBay founder, Pierre Omidyar, donated a 1,500-acre easement to the Trust for Public Land. Ted Turner’s foundation made hundreds of grants since 1991.
Officially, corporate donations account for less than 10% of most big ENGO’s revenues. However, because accountants lump donations from corporate-controlled foundations in with foundation grants, it is difficult to calculate corporate contributions.
The lawyerly organizations, Environmental Defense (ED, “nature’s lawyer”) and Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC, “environmentalism’s brain trust”), are business-friendly and welcome contributions from foundations based on corporate fortunes. Under long-serving Yale-educated President Fred Krupp, ED eschewed industry money but accepted lucrative contracts to “green” Federal Express, S.C. Johnson and Du Pont. NRDC founder and former President John Adams frowned on corporate sponsorship while raking in cash from corporate-based foundations.
Adams earned $760,000 a year. Conservation ENGOs spend half their budgets on salaries and consultancy fees. National Park Foundation’s President James Maddy, with an annual salary of $833,290, was America’s highest paid environmentalist in 2006. His successor, Vince Cipolla, was a high-priced CEO for six corporations before taking NPF’s helm.
NRDC President Frances Beinecke is the daughter of the former CEO of Sperry & Hutchinson. NRDC’s board includes: Robert Fischer (Chairman of Gap Inc.) and Alan Horn (President of Warner Bros).
Many career environmentalists fear the quest for corporate lucre is steering the movement astray, but few say so publically. One exception is David Morine. He helped launch TNC’s corporate outreach but now contends: “Corporate executives are carnivorous …you bring them in and they just take over.”
The topic of corporate influence is seldom broached by struggling enviro-journalists. The only scathing exposés appear in the legacy media: Washington Post, Sacramento Bee, and Los Angeles Times.
The confrontational 1960s/1970s zeitgeist made business-environmentalist alliances unacceptable. Circa 1990 ENGOs turned toward corporations.
USA’s Big 5 conservation ENGOs – TNC, CI, WCS, WWF-USA and CF – experienced dramatic growth after 1990. The Big 5 have myriad partnerships with the very corporations commonly demonized by environmentalists: ExxonMobil, Shell, International Paper, etc.
Unilever, Cargill, Nestle, Proctor & Gamble, and Kraft are each involved in the environmentalist-condemned palm oil industry; each has close relationships with big conservation ENGOs.
Waste Management has relationships with WCS and WWF. Home Depot donates to CF and partners with TNC. WWF-US is Lowe’s “cause related marketing” partner. WWF-US partners with Coca-Cola, the distributors of Dasani bottled water – a business vilified by environmentalists.
Energy businesses donate to ENGOs for energy business reasons.
Enron and Shell planned a Bolivia-to-Brazil pipeline through a jungle. Movement-wide opposition was broken when WWF, WCS, Missouri Botanical Gardens et al. accepted the companies’ offer of $30 million. After Friends of Earth and Amazon Watch cried foul, WWF did an about-face, but not the others.
BP gives lavishly to the Big 5. BP is repeatedly prosecuted for enviro-crimes. After BP spilled oil into an Alaskan lake, they were ordered to donate $4 million to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. This donation is held out as evidence of BP’s “environmental stewardship.”
In 1997 BP CEO Sir John Browne did three green things. First, he thrilled environmentalists and shocked oilmen with pro-global warming speeches. Second, he convened four “off the record” forums with Big Green execs. (TNC organized his US forums. BP later signed a deal with TNC to conserve three million acres of Bolivian jungle.) Third, Browne awarded the advertising firm Ogilvy & Maher a $200 million contract to launch “Beyond Petroleum.” (By 2007 BP was considered the greenest energy company even though their “earth-friendly” investments constituted only 4% of their total investments.)
By 1997 Enron was heavily committed to alternative energy. CEO Ken Lay gambled the Clinton administration would implement the Kyoto Protocol. In August 1997 Lay attended an Oval Office meeting with Clinton, Gore, and Browne. A coterminous Enron memo predicted a carbon-capping treaty would: “do more to promote Enron’s business than will almost any other regulatory initiative.” In December, after the quartet again conspired, an Enron memo synopsised:
“Sir John thinks there will soon be government regulation of greenhouse gases. And companies that have anticipated regulations will not only know how to use it to their advantage, they will also, as Browne puts it, ‘gain a seat at the table, a chance to influence future rules.’”
A simultaneous Enron communique thumped Enron’s “excellent credentials” with Greenpeace, WWF, NRDC, and Climate Action Network. Alas, America never ratified Kyoto and Enron sank.
Consol Energy Inc., a mountain-decapitating coal producer, donates land to CF and TNC in exchange for a litany of environmental prizes. American Electric Power, a company habitually entangled with environmental agencies, is a generous donor to CF and TNC. Coal-burner Georgia Power is a CF donor; its parent, Southern Co., won an EPA award.
Most intriguingly, in 2007 ED played a key role in Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.’s $45 billion takeover of TXU, one of America’s largest coal-power concerns. The deal was an environmentalist coup. The buyers cancelled eight proposed coal-fired plants. ED’s Krupp was beatified in the New York Times. William Reilly (former EPA administrator and former WWF-USA Chair) represented Kohlberg Kravis. He convinced them Krupp was “a guy who can keep secrets…and he’ll do deals.”
Financial institutions have also gone green. Many banks banded together to pronounce the Equator Principles and Carbon Principles; the latter were drafted by NRDC and ED officials. Bank of America partners with CI and TNC. Citigroup is a WWF-USA partner as is JP Morgan & Chase, whose CEO is on CI’s board. HSBC donated $100 million to WWF et al. to combat “the urgent threat of climate change.” Citigroup pledged to invest $50 billion in carbon reducing projects. “Affinity” credit cards issued by Visa and MasterCard, bearing ENGO logos, have proliferated.
“Marketing” entered our vocabulary a century ago. Marketing encompasses all aspects of selling products: packaging, advertisement, distribution, customer relations. “Green marketing” may refer to: a) ENGO marketing, b) corporate efforts to appear enviro-sensitive, and c) the selling of enviro-friendly consumer goods.
ENGOs spend millions marketing their brands. They routinely use focus groups and opinion polls. ENGOs often depend on small donations and membership dues; hence, their public image is of prime importance. ENGO execs discuss membership data in the way corporate execs discuss stock prices.
ENGO memberships come with: free subscriptions to magazines, discounts on calendars and books, and eco-travel specials. Sierra Club gives a backpack bearing their logo.
Many ENGOs engage in merchandising. WWF sells tonnes of panda-logo mugs, T-shirts, and safari hats. NRDC sells $10 dog tags designed by Green Day lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong (from recycled metal). Other celebrities recruited by NRDC include Robert Redford and Leonardo DiCaprio.
CI’s travel service, Sojourner, caters to the exotic vacation whims of wealthy donors. Celebrities recruited to liven up the sojourn include Pearl Jam, Dixie Chicks, and journalist Thomas Friedman (whose wife gilds CI’s board).
ENGO marketers deploy “bio-celebrities” as well, as in ubiquitous photos of seal pups and bear cubs.
More importantly, according to Macdonald:
“…‘science,’ as a concept, has become a centerpiece of marketing efforts and an integral part of their brand identities today. CI touts itself as ‘science driven,’ while TNC says it’s ‘science based;’ WWF claims it has ‘a foundation in science.’ It is a selling point with donors and an effective club to bat away critics, who can be dismissed as failing to grasp the ‘pure science’ behind their work.”
Conservation ENGOs generate reams of “scientific” documents. These are seldom critiqued. The few audits of “conservation science” have revealed an astonishing lack of relevant maps and basic data and a near absence of follow-up, prioritization, and oversight.
Conservation ENGOs are not science-driven. TNC scientists complain about their marginalization. They are never picked for top posts and they are low on the pay-scale.
Most businesses now trumpet sustainable development. “Corporate Social Responsibility,” with its salient green facet, is usually a defensive posture adopted to ward off government regulation and/or increasingly savvy ENGOs. Stung by the wrath of militant ENGOs, corporations often flee into the arms of big conservation ENGOs who recommend a marketing makeover, and a donation.
When IKEA came under fire for selling furniture made from endangered forests, they turned to WWF for backup. WWF vouched for the company at a 2007 press conference. In exchange, IKEA funded a WWF program to explain deforestation’s evils to Russians.
CEMEX, a Mexican cement giant with a forestry subsidiary, went to CI for “reputational rehabilitation.” CI also helped “green” the cruise ship industry. When environmentalists accuse this industry of falling short, CI provides a balancing sound bite. After facing a barrage of criticism over coffee plantations causing rainforest conversion, Starbucks and CI launched “Conservation Coffee.”
An investigation of 1,000 “green” consumer products found nearly all marketing claims glossed over the full ecological impact of the product in favour of hyping one attribute. 11% of the products offered zero evidence for the green claim. Such practices compelled the Federal Trade Commission to launch a review of green marketing guidelines in 2008.
Also in 2008, the makers of Clorox bleach asked Sierra Club to endorse their Green Works household cleaners in exchange for a percentage of sales. Despite objections from members, SC executives jumped on the offer. Carl Pope, SC Executive Director, in a New York Times op-ed, claimed Green Works products were vetted by SC’s Toxics Committee – a boldfaced lie.
Train, Beebe, Paulson & Seligmann
Circa 2008, 14 years after retiring, Russell Train still trekked twice weekly to his corner office on the fourth floor WWF-USA’s Washington, DC headquarters, still sporting a three-piece suit, starched shirt, and breast-pocket handkerchief, his hair still short and parted neatly to the side.
The great-grandson of Pilgrims, Train was a third-generation Washington insider. His wife was Jacqueline Kennedy’s bridesmaid. The Trains spent weekends at their Maryland farm and winters on Juniper Island, down the trail from the Bushes. While in Nixon’s Department of the Interior, Train drafted the Endangered Species Act. He was EPA Administrator from 1973 to 1977.
When Russell was a boy, his father, an Admiral, took him hunting on the banks of the Potomac. Later, Train, a federal tax judge, hunted elephants in Africa.
In 1959 Train founded the African Wildlife Leadership Foundation to put Africans through American university conservation programs. Train recalls:
“All these colonies were becoming independent. With independence, what was going to happen to the wildlife and the wild places that drew so many of us to Africa? ... Native African people and communities tended to view wildlife as a source of food, primarily, and otherwise damn nuisances as far as their crops are concerned and other things of importance at the time, all of which is very understandable. But it made you wonder what the future held.”
Train’s activism came to the attention of Fairfield (“Fair”) Osborn – head of the New York Zoological Society (now Wildlife Conservation Society). When Fair proposed Train replace philanthropist Samuel Ordway as Conservation Foundation President, he was shocked when Train requested a salary. Train explains:
“Fair was somewhat taken aback. The CF tradition was to have a gentleman of wealth at the top, who would serve without compensation.”
In 1961, at Sir Julian Huxley’s behest, Train volunteered as a World Wide Fund-USA director. This was the year WWF was established in Europe with Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands as International President and Prince Philip presiding over the UK branch.
In 1978, when Train became WWF-USA’s first paid President, he quickly reined in grant-giving to other ENGOs and started his own international program. Previously, WWF-USA ran fundraising initiatives ranging from school-kids collecting ‘pennies for pandas’ to the solicitation of large donations from philanthropists. Revenues were divided between WWF’s Swiss HQ and US ENGOs.
WWF-USA was the first US ENGO to fund international projects. Under Train’s tutelage, biologist Thomas Lovejoy supplied the grants that launched international programs at NRDC, ED, and TNC.
Train shamelessly poached staff from other ENGOs. Two trophy catches were Russell Mittermeier (a Harvard-trained primatologist from the New York Zoological Society) and Michael Wright (who started TNC’s international program with WWF funds). Wright went on to manage the enviro-powerhouse MacArthur Foundation. He currently runs the Natural Capital Project, a WWF-Stanford-TNC partnership.
From its DC headquarters, TNC executives oversee the world’s largest conservation ENGO, with chapters in 50 US states and 30 countries.
The Ecological Society of America (est. 1915) morphed into The Nature Conservancy in 1951. Their mission was protecting American wilderness from sprawling suburbs and industrial operations. Their first deal involved 60 acres along the New York-Connecticut border. By 1958 they had saved 2,500 acres.
TNC’s state chapters now manage 117 million acres including thousands of miles of riverfront. In 2007 TNC raised $1.3 billion and spent $800 million on international conservation. It had assets of $4.7 billion and 3,000 employees.
After Train snared Wright from TNC’s international post, TNC replaced him with Spencer Beebe – a third generation Oregonian with fond memories of hiking on his family’s preserves. Upon receiving his Yale forestry degree, Beebe sailed the world for years before settling into TNC’s West Coast operation where he quickly climbed the jigging.
When Beebe came to DC (1980), TNC, like other US ENGOs, focused their international efforts on Latin America. These were fronted by the US Agency for International Development and the World Bank.
In 1990 Princeton-educated economist John Sawhill left the elite management consultancy McKinsey & Co. to become TNC president. Sawhill was President Ford’s Energy Secretary before presiding over New York University, America’s largest private university, from 1975 to 1979. He brought many NYU alumni over to TNC.
In 1995 Sawhill explained his conservationism to the Harvard Business Review:
“Some people at the Conservancy think our customers are the plants and animals we’re trying to save. But our real customers are the donors who buy our products, and that product is protected landscapes.”
Sawhill steered TNC into corporate solicitation, raising hundreds of millions of dollars in the process. He gave a conservation award to Shell in 1999 when Shell desperately needed a PR boost due to its connections to the brutal Nigerian regime and its dust-up with Greenpeace over the Brent Spar platform. Shell then donated millions to TNC.
Sawhill’s pet project, the Virginia Eastern Shore Sustainable Development Corp, created 250 jobs in eco-tourism, organic farming, and other enviro-friendly trades. He sought a low-impact economy to thwart conventional development. His thinking:
“… once you say you’re going to work on the scale of an entire landscape to protect biological resources, you’ve touched the tar baby whether you like it or not. You’re in the community development business and the conservation business; the two are inextricably linked …”
Eastern Shore Corp died in 1999; as did Sawhill in 2000.
To replace Sawhill, TNC enticed Steven McCormick with a $75,000 signing bonus, a $75,000-a-year housing allowance, a $1.6 million low-interest mortgage loan, and a $23 million discretionary fund for pet projects.
McCormick continued Sawhill’s corporate solicitations despite a 2001 TNC-funded focus group study which revealed widespread disapproval of partnerships with big business.
Under McCormick: ExxonMobil paid $150,000 for naming rights to TNC’s ExxonMobil Education and Volunteer Center, S.C. Johnson and Son paid TNC $100,000 to promote their toilet bowl cleaner, Occidental Petroleum (of Love Canal fame) was given a “conservation leader” award; Visa created a TNC “affinity” card through which TNC received an activation fee and 25 cents on every $100 spent, General Motors rented TNC’s mailing list and bought millions of dollars in carbon credits from TNC (GM’s Chair John Smith was on TNC’s board).
TNC’s drift to industry provoked intra-movement resistance, notably a muckraking series in the Washington Post. One exposed scandal involved TNC’s until-then-little-known oil drilling at its Texas City preserve. The Sage Foundation, owners of an adjacent preserve, accused TNC of stealing its oil. TNC settled out of court for $10 million.
A larger scandal involved TNC’s systematic aiding of insiders to take large inappropriate tax breaks. TNC’s signature tool is the attaching of conservation easements onto land titles. Because restrictive easements lower land values, landowners get tax deductions. TNC is supposed to enforce the easement. However many landowners, who pocketed substantial tax savings, built mansions complete with access roads, swimming pools, tennis courts, multi-car garages, and guest cottages on their “wilderness preserves.”
The Washington Post series prompted Congressional and IRS investigations. Two years later (2005) Congress excoriated TNC for not enforcing easement restrictions but did not revoke TNC’s non-profit status. The IRS investigation revealed TNC’s slack enforcement of easements was endemic among conservation ENGOs.
A chastened McCormick repaid his home loan, took a 5% pay cut, and stopped oil drilling at Texas City and other preserves. TNC still logs and ranches on certain properties – activities it claims set enviro-friendly examples.
TNC’s board is adorned by: John Morgridge (Cisco Systems, Inc.), Roberto Hernandez Ramirez (Banco Nacional de Mexico), and Roger Milliken (logging company, Baskahegan). Banco Nacional de Mexico is TNC’s banker in Mexico.
TNC chairman Henry Paulson was George W. Bush’s Treasury Secretary and Goldman Sachs’ CEO. He got into hot water at Goldman Sachs for arbitrarily donating 680 acres of company-owned timberland to the WCS. Goldman Sachs paid TNC $145,000 for middling the deal. Paulson was a TNC director at the time. His son was on WCS’s advisory board.
Goldman Sachs exec Mark Tercek replaced McCormick as TNC President. McCormick moved over to the Moore Foundation.
In the mid-1980’s TNC split between those who wanted to buy as much foreign land as possible and those who believed this “US style” approach would not work in Latin America and could open TNC to accusations of eco-imperialism. The optics of a US organization gobbling up the region’s most spectacular real estate was not good.
Also, TNC’s burgeoning (50-employee) international department was riling TNC state chapters. According to custom, if one state chapter hooked a philanthropist, other chapters were to butt out. The international team were above such courtesies. Beebe and his understudy, Peter Seligmann, aggressively fundraised and were seen as interlopers.
Tensions mounted until January 27, 1987 when, during a blizzard, much of TNC’s international department marched out the door and through snowy DC streets to the Tabard Hotel where they christened Conservation International (CI). They sang Latin American revolutionary songs. Stories about the coup traversed the globe. (The dissidents had been assured of financial support.)
Beebe offered Russell Mittermeier the CI presidency. Mittermeier took WWF-USA’s science department and bolted.
For months, CI headquarters was the Tabard Hotel. The bill was paid by an anonymous donor. CI then secured free office space in a DC building owned by a dissident’s father. In July 1987 CI pioneered a debt-for-nature swap. Such swaps with debt-burdened states are now standard.
Twenty years after the coup, Chairman Seligmann and President Mittermeier were the only “revolutionaries” left at CI.
Mittermeier, a Time magazine “Hero for the Planet,” is usually photographed cuddling lemurs. His wife is CI’s communications director. A marine biologist by training, her job at CI is to travel the planet as Russell’s first lady. The two collaborate on coffee table books. As elsewhere in Big Green, nepotism is rampant at CI. Relatives of executives and donors hold posts ranging from interns to senior staff.
Seligmann’s mom, Esther, hailed from German Jewish investment bankers specializing in managing the finances of wealthy dynasties. Their bank was chartered in 1803. In 1937 Esther’s brother, Henry Arnhold, established Arnhold & Bleichroeder in New York City. Today it manages $30 billion in assets. Esther married Otto Seligmann, treasurer of Arnhold Ceramics.
(Uncle Henry, a long-time CI director, gave George Soros his start in business in 1962. The Double Eagle Fund Soros started in 1969 remains an Arnhold & Bleichroeder centrepiece. Soros jumped ship in 1973.)
Peter was born in 1950. He spent his childhood summers at the family “inholding” in Wyoming’s Grand Teton Park. When not sojourning, Peter divides his time between his Seattle mansion and his Virginia horse farm. He jettisons family assets to maintain his jetset lifestyle. He charges his restaurant tabs to his CI credit card. He used CI funds for a trip to Africa for himself, his mistress, and her kids.
CI is an autocracy. Executives are usually out globe-trotting. Seligmann and Mittermeier materialize at quarterly meetings and at organization-wide pep talks broadcast live to CI field offices. These “all staff meetings” consist of Seligmann and Mittermeier spinning yarns about their latest trips.
Seligmann leads a CI team dedicated to soliciting philanthropists and corporations. In 2001 they convened the short-lived Energy and Biodiversity Initiative with reps from BP, Chevron, Enron, Shell, and Statoil. In 2004 they launched the Business and Biodiversity Offset Program with Shell, Newmont Mining, and Anglo-American. Longtime CI benefactor William Clay Ford Jr. (Chair of Ford Motor Co.) traded his CI board seat for a seat on the executive of CI’s Center for Environmental Leadership in Business (established with $25 million from Ford Motor Co.).
(Seligmann was not the progenitor of the corporate-conservationist bund. This distinction is bestowed upon Jay Hair – National Wildlife Federation (NWF) President from 1981 to 1995, then IUCN President for a term before becoming a mining industry advisor. In the 1980s Hair’s NWF annual salary was $300,000. Amidst the Climate Change furore, he regularly kept his limo idling outside his elegant DC office with the AC cranked. His Corporate Conservation Council raised $1 billion. While the Council appalled enviros, it was copied: TNC’s International Leadership Council, ED’s National Council, CF’s Corporate Council, etc.)
CI’s board is a glorious fishing club. Peter arranges trips to exotic locales off South American coasts and breathtaking Pacific atolls. He dubs his assembled anglers his “creative councils.”
Peter met Gordon Moore in 1987; the year Moore stepped down from Intel. In 1998 Moore gave $35 million to CI’s Center for Applied Biodiversity Science. In 2001 Moore gave $261 million to CI’s Center for Biodiversity Conservation. Moore, his daughter, and his foundation’s trustee each sit on CI’s board.
Also on CI’s board are: Robert Fisher (Gap, Inc.), Nicholas Pritzker (Hyatt hotels), Orin Smith (Starbucks), and actor Harrison Ford whose Grand Teton Park mansion is near the Seligmann compound.
Disregarding the environmentalist dictum that: “Bottled water is a business that is fundamentally, inherently and unalterably unconscionable,” CI boasted about its 2007 joint venture with Fiji Water. Fiji Water’s parent company’s chairman is on CI’s board.
In 2000 Seligmann scored an intro to Wal-Mart Chairman Rob Walton. Seligmann treated Rob and his sons to exotic vacations for four years before he asked to meet Wal-Mart CEO, H. Lee Scott Jr. Rob was rattled: “We are really, really careful about mixing personal interests and the business.”
In 2004 Rob arranged a meeting between Seligmann and Scott at Wal-Mart’s Bentonville, Arkansas HQ. Scott then hired a Seligmann crony to assess Wal-Mart’s environmental footprint. The Walton Foundation gave CI $21 million and Rob joined CI’s board.
In 2005 Scott announced Wal-Mart’s green conversion in a speech titled “21st century leadership.” He later admitted this greening was a defensive strategy. His Earth-friendly initiatives were business-friendly: increasing fuel efficiency, reducing packaging, etc. Wal-Mart’s $35 million “Acres for America” program commits Wal-Mart to buying an acre of wilderness for every acre its stores cover.
ENGOs flocked to Bentonville. Sierra Club’s Carl Pope, a Wal-Mart Watch director, agreed to give Wal-Mart a chance. Former Sierra Club President Adam Werbach, who had derided Wal-Mart as a “virus, infecting and destroying American culture,” became a Wal-Mart consultant. Wal-Mart now works with ED, NRDC and WWF.
CI swore off mass marketing after a flubbed late-1980s foray. In 2006 leadership changed tacks. Communications staff were summoned to a room where a VP told them, “Peter wants to be a household name,” before unveiling plans to whip them into a “marketing enterprise” capable of catapulting Peter into the limelight. Days later Peter boasted to an “all staff meeting” that CI would be showcased on the upcoming Live Earth 24-hour rock concert telecast. As it turned out, CI was stiffed by concert producers, illustrating how cut-throat Big Green can be.
Like hundredsof ENGOs, CI is headquartered in Washington, DC. Uniquely, however, CI does all its work abroad in 40 countries on four continents. CI farms out much work to local ENGOs in the Indonesian and Brazilian “conservation markets.” CI has a major say in who gets funding in the developing world.
CI frequently clashes with local ENGOs. Guatemalan villagers, exasperated by a feud between CI and its own local ENGO, torched a CI research station.
Macdonald expends an inordinate amount of ink on a spat between CI and a one-employee ENGO, Waters of Piaui, led by Judson Barros. (Piaui is a state in northern Brazil.)
Bunge Ltd, a New York-based agribusiness conglomerate, has operated in Brazil for a century. Bunge asked CI to help them in Piaui where Bunge opened a soybean crushing facility in 2003. Soybean farmers were flocking to Piaui in search of cheap land. By 2006 soybeans were Piaui’s number one crop.
Land clearances left so much waste wood lying about that Bunge began using it for fuel. This violated enviro-laws. Bunge argued natural gas was unavailable and trucking in diesel was hardly eco-friendly. (Macdonald argues they should have used solar power.) An exception was made allowing Bunge to continue burning wood. Piaui’s governor bragged about this exception. An outraged Barros made statements about the affair for which Bunge sued him. Ford Foundation sided with Barros. CI sided with Bunge.
A better example of CI’s “work” occurred in Milne Bay, Papua, New Guinea where CI sought to educate locals about conservation with a view to getting them to abandon farming and fishing in favour of eco-tourism, etc. CI boys arrived in expensive vehicles and set up shop in the best part of town. Their satellite dish had the only high-speed Internet access in the province. CI boys shouted down locals at meetings. Millions of foreign aid dollars, earmarked for the community, went toward the CI boys’ lavish lifestyles. In 2006 the provincial governor expelled CI from the province. He was swept from office in the next election and CI was welcomed back.
The world now has tens of thousands of nature preserves. They cover 10 million square miles – 10% of the Earth’s landmass – an area equal to the combined territories of China and India. Most of these parks were imposed on underdeveloped countries in the last few decades. Such parks, while nominally state-owned, are under ENGO control. Around these parks, ENGO “community development” initiatives promote eco-tourism, handcrafts, nut collection, tree-oil tapping – activities that spare the park.
83,000 people work in the world’s protected areas. Even more work for conservation ENGOs. The omnibus government, foundation, and ENGO conservation budget is $6 billion a year.
With ENGOs and rights groups rallying indigenous tribes, the days of excluding tribes from decision-making are numbered. To conservationists, this indigenous awakening is a two-edged tomahawk. Indigenous tribes/villagers support and oppose conservationism.
Several South America tribes are paid to defend “their forests.” ENGOs typically establish an endowment for such purposes to control indigenous leadership’s access to the funds.
UNFCCC’s Bali Summit (2007) launched REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) – a massive program of cash incentives to suppress land development with funds reserved for indigenous groups.
Mining firms, long obstructed by ENGOs ostensibly defending trees, are increasingly obstructed by tribes ostensibly defending sacred sites and/or territory subject to some disputed claim. Half the world’s mines are on indigenous-claimed land.
After a lengthy fight with indigenous villagers, Occidental pulled out of a remote region in Peru in 2000. The villagers are now suing for clean-up costs.
Barrick’s Pascua Lama gold and silver mine in Chile was accused of evicting indigenous people, and damaging a glacier. (Barrick insists the glacier was already shrinking.)
Rio Tinto closed one of the world’s largest copper mines in PNG after ENGO-indigenous opposition led to armed attacks on the mine.
In Papua New Guinea (PNG) villagers are suing BHP Billiton for $4 billion for disrupting their traditional way of life. This suit was filed in PNG, but more and more activists file claims in US courts where non-citizens may sue based on violations of international law. ENGO-indigenous opponents of an Alcoa refinery in Australia are suing in Pittsburgh, where Alcoa is based.
Newmont’s planned expansion of their super-productive Yanacocha mine in Peru was accused of profaning a sacred indigenous site. The ongoing mining operation was accused of wrecking the region’s pastoral bliss. Worse, residents of the provincial capital, Cajamarca, became convinced the mine was poisoning their water. The water issue went to Peru’s Supreme Court who ruled in Newmont’s favour. Nevertheless, after road blockades and a 10,000-strong protest in Cajamarca, Newmont backed down, cancelling the expansion and taking a $2 billion hit on their books.
Much ENGO-rhetoric consists of demanding mining or forestry companies have a “social license” from the community. The CEO of Newmont’s Peruvian partner said this about social licenses:
“I do not understand what social license means. I expect a license from the authorities, from the minister of mines. I expect a license from the regional government. I don’t expect a license from the whole community.”
To deal with mounting “reputational problems” Newmont, in 2005, contacted CI who recommended they embrace biodiversity conservation. Newmont now funds CI’s Ghana field office to coordinate development of two Ghanaian mines. A Friends of the Earth-led campaign against these mines has turned violent.
Pursuant to a CI-brokered deal, Newmont, to work in Ghana’s Mamang Forest Reserve, bankrolls armed forest rangers to rid the Reserve of locals whose livelihood is foraging and hunting in the Reserve.
An EU-funded conservation plan expelled 8,000 natives from Cameroon’s Dja Reserve.
In 2008, Zambian Environment Minister announced plans to evict several thousand natives from a park so it could be restocked with wildlife. The Minister explained:
“These animals bring foreign exchange and also create job opportunities.”
CI cajoled Equatorial Guinea’s regime, one of Africa’s worst, into converting 33% of national territory into parkland.
WCS has facilitated a conservation diaspora from India and South America. WCS invests heavily in Gabon (western Africa) where in 2002 dictator Omar Bongo decreed a parks system covering 11% of national territory. Thousands of natives were evicted. In Lope National Park alone 2,000 Pygmies were expelled.
WCS President, political scientist Steven Sanderson (salary, $825,000) fears the environmental movement is being “hijacked” by indigenous peoples’ advocates. To Sanderson:
“Forest people and their representatives may speak for the forest. They may speak for their version of the forest; but they do not speak for the forest we want to conserve.”
A 2007 report, analysing 180 parks, noted how shocked conservationists were at the growing unpopularityoftheir efforts. Conservationists expressed anguish over indigenous representatives’ “hijacking” of their agenda.
The UN’s Special Rapporteur on indigenous people singled out parkland expulsions as a primary threat. He claims there are millions of “conservation refugees” in Africa alone. He notes:
“Oftentimes their homes, fields and grain stores are burned and they are forced to move into villages with no compensation for their losses and minimal assistance creating a new means of survival.”
International ENGOs do not openly call for expulsions, but their field reps do. They operate through tacit agreements and plausible deniabilities.
In 2006, during CI’s field managers’ annual Washington, DC confab, an argument erupted between CI’s man in Liberia and CI’s media director. The former complained he had not been given PR support from head office when the Liberian government, at his urging, expelled squatters from Sapo National Park. The media director, a veteran AP correspondent, said this was no oversight. He wanted to distance CI from this potential PR debacle, and preserve CI’s plausible deniability.
On this issue Macdonald is conflicted. She describes the expulsions as atrocities, yet confides:
“It is undeniable, however, that indigenous and other poor, rural people often pose a threat to the Earth’s rapidly disappearing biodiversity. In a constant struggle to survive, they empty forests of flora and fauna and practice the environmental crime of slash and burn agriculture.”
Macdonald’s discussion of “illegal logging” is larded with the terms: organized crime, mafia, gang, kingpin, syndicates, and notorious timber barons. It does not dawn on her that the imposition of parks criminalized what was hitherto considered a benign industry. It does not dawn on her that the American Forest & Paper Association might have a protectionist motive for claiming 60% of Russian hardwood, 100% of Indonesian log, and 50% of Brazilian wood exports are illegal. She does note that if 10% of US, and 50% of European, wood imports are illegal, then illegal logging must be depressing prices.
While politicians debate how to suppress illegal logging, the wood retailer’s biggest nightmare is not governments; it is ENGOs. After being tormented by enviro-activists, Home Depot spent two years researching the origins of its wood wares and now vouches for the legal origin of every stick. Environmental Investment Agency operatives, posing as buyers, met with Wal-Mart’s Chinese wood suppliers. They later accused Wal-Mart of buying wood from a who’s who of “illegal logging.”
The struggle is ferocious down South. In Honduras, Brazil, and elsewhere ENGO staff have been physically attacked by loggers. Indonesian villagers threatened to lynch WWF staff after WWF successfully cut off local loggers’ access to the only ferry.
In 2005, to Big Green’s delight, Indonesia launched ‘Operation Forests Forever.’ 1,500 police and paramilitary troops dragged 180 loggers and timber merchants off to jail. 500,000 cubic metres of wood was seized. Macdonald, while praising the crackdown, complains no one was convicted and the wood was auctioned, not destroyed.
To environmentalists, deforestation and urban sprawl are overlapping crimes; home-builders and timber companies are a diabolical duet. Macdonald concurs:
“Low density housing developments and roads that cut across migratory corridors have led to the breakdown of once thriving ecosystems, leaving species homeless. While we most often hear the aesthetic objections to sprawl – the cookie-cutter subdivisions and the ugly strip malls – it is easy to forget its victims all over the country, from the Florida panther to Arizona’s ancient ironwood, from creosote bush to the saguaro cactus.”
Sprawl bulldozes spiritually valuable scenic vistas. Sprawl locks Americans into planet-roasting car-centric lifestyles. The devil is “unbridled housing development.” She quotes a TNC scientist:
“Sprawl is without a doubt the most pervasive threat. Failure to recognize and address this threat on all levels, not just buying land will result in a mission-critical policy failure.”
With America’s public lands enclosed, the battlefield is 750 million acres of private timberland. Enviros fret big timber companies will sell out to homebuilders or get into the real estate business themselves. In 2006 International Paper Company (IPC) sold $6 billion worth of forestland to an investment firm.
Plum Creek Timber Co. owns 8 million acres across 18 states. They are seeking approval to turn 20,000 acres of their Maine forests into resorts with 1,000 cabins. In 2005 Natural Resources Council of Maine and Maine Audubon launched all-out campaigns against this plan. They have twice convinced Maine’s Land Use Regulatory Commission to reject Plum Creek’s request.
Decades of militant ENGO attacks have driven companies into the arms of big conservation groups.
In 2006 IPC transferred control of 300,000 acres to TNC and CF for $383 million. (IPC continues to log many of their former holdings.) IPC kicks back a penny to the National Park Foundation for each paper cup sold by concession operators inside national parks.
In 1999 Centex began donating $35 to TNC for every house Centex built. (Centex builds up to 40,000 houses a year.) Centex ended this deal in 2006 by switching allegiances to CF’s Land Legacy Fund. Centex’s closest rival, Pulte Homes Inc., is on TNC’s International Leadership Council (ILC), as is Plum Creek.
Weyerhauser is a member of TNC’s ILC and CI’s Business & Biodiversity Offset Program, and they give millions to conservation groups. This has not spared them from ENGO attack. Seattle Audubon Society and other West Coast ENGOs demonize Weyerhauser and obstruct its operations.
The trendy spin about “monetizingecosystemservices” makes state diktat sound like market forces. The enviro-party line is: Nature performs services like CO2 sequestration; hence, Nature deserves payment – through the appropriate middlemen, of course.
Climate Change has engendered carbon credits, carbon offsets, etc. Conservationist climate programs involve reforesting farmland and preventing deforestation (and/or “wilderness degradation”). While framed as climate policy, such programs are old-school conservationist suppression.
In 2002 the World Bank established its Prototype Carbon Fund. By 2008 the World Bank was managing $2 billion through ten carbon funds. The European Climate Exchange was founded in 2005 to trade carbon credits. UNFCCC’s 2007 Summit debuted the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility with $160 million, mostly from European states (and $5 million from TNC), to help poor countries arrest deforestation.
US conservationist ENGOs were slow to embrace Climate Change. In 2006 CI had one glacier photo in its image archive and scrambled to add shots of winter bio-celebrities. In 2007 ED, NRDC, TNC, and several corporations formed the US Climate Action Partnership. By 2008 TNC’s carbon credits program generated $34 million to save Latin American forests. There are innumerable small initiatives such as TerraPass’s indulgence-style sale of $49.95 personal carbon offsets. (TerraPass landed the gig to green the Academy Awards.)
Ducks Unlimited (DU) procured 100-year easements on plots of Mississippi Valley farmland upon which trees were planted. DU then sold carbon credits to energy companies who got environmental bragging rights. Such a program, while sold as a climate initiative, is identical to longstanding state-imposed wetlands and endangered species mitigation programs.
Decades ago conservationists made “mitigation banking” a standard part of the construction permitting process. To build on an undeveloped parcel of land, a construction company must replace this parcel, acre for acre, with a new nature preserve somewhere else. Hundreds of mitigation banks now restore wilderness, apply for government credits, and then sell these credits to developers.
Cutting-edge enviro-entrepreneurs “stack” offsets, i.e. sell the biodiversity value of a re-wilded parcel to a construction company, then sell the CO2 sequestration value of the same parcel to a CO2 emitting firm. Both “values” entirely derive from government regulations, not market economics.
Macdonald sees corporations corrupting environmentalists. Others see environmentalists corrupting corporations. Business donations to ENGOs are often quasi-extortionistic shakedowns. Green marketing evidences environmentalism’s cultural hegemony. No doubt, ENGOs are being co-opted and environmentalism is being bent. Who’s zooming who?
Social components are trisectable into their private (for-profit) sectors; governmental sectors; and non-profit, non-governmental thirdsectors. American environmentalism is chiefly a third sector phenomenon, albeit with large colonies in the other sectors. Enviro-activism conjured an array of conservation and regulatory government agencies. Government-run schools and universities are enviro-movement infiltrated. Enviro-activism engendered entire industries of for-profit firms in alternative energy, organic foods, assorted green products, and recycling.
Third-sector US environmentalism consists of philanthropic foundations and non-profit societies (ENGOs).
The label “non-profit” is illusory. ENGOs are corporations in the marketplace. They sink or swim depending on their ability to raise revenues. Countless ENGOs have failed, much like for-profit businesses. When ENGOs run budgetary surpluses, they create slush funds, raise salaries, and expand operations – much like businesses. Nor are foundations truly “non-profit.” Their legendary wealth is not piles of $100 bills; it is shares of for-profit businesses.
The label “non-government” is equally illusory. ENGOs and foundations are government concoctions dependent on tax exemptions. ENGOs receive government grants. Much enviro-activism involves compelling compliance with government regulation. ENGOs and enviro-grantmakers are inextricably intertwined with government educational and regulatory institutions. ENGOs pro-actively and profoundly influence elections.
In the nucleus of American environmentalism’s third sector, one finds the likes of:
Walter B. Hewlett, Diane Edgerton Miller, Maryanne Mott, Ted Turner, Steven Rockefeller, Gordon Moore, Henry Paulson, Lee M. Bass, R. Anderson Pew, Julie Packard, Paul Brainerd, William Randolph Hearst III, Rob Walton, Timothy Mellon, Peter Seligmann, William Clay Ford Jr., Robert Kennedy Jr., Teresa Heinz, John R. Hunting, Harriet Bullitt, H. Fisk Johnson, etc.
Orbiting this nucleus are 1,000 ENGO and foundation managers, each possessing post-graduate degrees from Ivy League universities and each drawing annual salaries in the $250,000 to $1,250,000 range. They oversee a multi-faceted activist campaign stretching from litigation to eco-terrorism. They channel a torrent of: books, magazines, documentaries, reports, articles, movies, billboards, posters, sermons, lectures, websites, television and radio shows, and advertisements. This propaganda has hardened into religion in the craniums of several million Americans.
In the next sphere of US environmentalism’s third sector are 14,000 ENGOs. Many are small, struggling affairs. Collectively they employ around 50,000 and preoccupy even more devoted volunteers.
In the outermost sphere are several million dues-paying ENGO members. These are also the several million faithful consumers who render green businesses profitable.
ENGO employees, let alone memberships, know little of the high-priced help in Big Green’s second sphere, and nothing of its plutocratic core. They know only jeopardized leopards, cancer-belching smokestacks, and a Mother Earth profaned.
Macdonald is a Winston – the protagonist in Orwell’s 1984. She is a professional propagandist tormented by an insider’s glimpse of the Ministry of Eco-Truth. She realizes environmentalism is controlled by powerful, cynical, dishonest, self-serving ultra-elitists. She is frazzled by cognitive dissonance but cannot shed the double-think and new-speak. Her concern about excessive industry influence over the ENGOs is also a concern of the plutocrats in environmentalism’s core. She remains a loyal if unwitting servant. She loves Big Mother.
Macdonald, Christine; Green, Inc.; Lyons Press, Guilford Connecticut, 2008