Book Review: The Greenpeace Guide to Anti-Environmental Organizations

by Carl Deal, Odonian Press, Berkeley, CA, 1993.

by Evan Fowler


In the not so distant past, environmentalists were often dismissed as
radicals, alarmists, or disguised communists: 'green on the outside,
red on the inside, like a watermelon.' Today, after decades of
struggle, environmentalism has become a mainstream cause, and a
sizable percentage of people in developed countries now consider
themselves environmentalists. For many, the Chernobyl disaster,
stratospheric ozone depletion, the greenhouse effect, acid rain, urban
pollution, and global deforestation have put an end to the illusion of
a world in which we can devour resources and spill pollutants without
limit.
	Yet even with these changes in public sentiment concerning the
environment, corporate polluters have resisted any changes that could
shrink their profits. Instead, they exploit environmentalism as a new
market for "green" products, and all too often their green advertising
is based on half-truths and outright lies. In the cold calculus of
profit maximizing, directly combating environmentalists and portraying
a company as environmentally responsible through propaganda campaigns
("greenwashing") are more cost effective alternatives than actually
taking measures to reduce pollution.
	That is what the book The Greenpeace Guide to
Anti-Environmental Organizations is about. Many ecologically
destructive industries, with support from the right, have set up
elaborate front groups, many of which masquerade as environmental
organizations while undermining environmentalists in the media,
courts, and legislatures. Some older right-wing foundations, think
tanks, and endowments are also playing an active role in trying to
turn the people against environmentalists, mainly through spreading
misinformation.
	In the Guide, Greenpeace writer Carl Deal lists more than
fifty such organizations that operate in the US and Canada (though
some have a broader international scope). He explains how they operate
and, most importantly, who funds them.
	Deal classifies the anti-environmental organizations into six
major groups: 1) Corporate Front Groups, bankrolled by the
corporations whose interests they defend-like the "Global Climate
Coalition," a group that represents the interests of oil and coal
producers. The Coalition opposed any regulation on carbon dioxide
emissions at the '92 Rio Earth Summit. Their proposal, approved with
the backing of the Bush administration, was that corporations would
voluntarily limit their own emissions (which is as absurd as
suggesting that peace in the world will be achieved through voluntary
limitations by weapons manufacturers).
	Another powerful corporate front group is the "Alliance for a
Responsible CFC Policy." They have been extremely successful in
slowing the process of phasing out stratospheric ozone-destructive
chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in the last 20 years, and they have also
won approval for dangerous alternatives to CFCs (like HCFCs and HFCs)
that still cause ozone depletion-they simply do it at a slower rate
than the CFCs. This group is funded by AT&T, DuPont, General Electric,
IBM, Texaco, 3M, and many other corporations.  2) Public Relations
Firms, like Burson-Mastellar of New York City, which greenwashed Exxon
after the huge Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, and Union Carbide, in
the aftermath of the gas leak disaster in Bophal.  3) Right-Wing Think
Tanks, like the Heritage Foundation, that promote claims that
environmental crises don't really exist, and are inventions of the
"extremists" in the environmental movement.  4) Legal Foundations,
like the Mountain States Legal Foundation, created and funded by big
business, that use the courts to fight environmental regulations.  5)
"Wise Use" (US) and "Share" (Canada) Groups. The Wise Use movement
founder, Ron Arnold, advises companies to contribute to these groups
because "it can do things the industry can't. It can turn the public
against [corporations'] enemies" by saying that environmental
protection causes unemployment. The goal of the movement, in Arnold's
words is "to be able to exploit the environment for private gain,
absolutely."  6) Endowments and Charities, four of which (the Lilly
Endowment, the Carthage Foundation, the John Olin Foundation and the
Sarah Scaife Foundation) disbursed over $150 million in 1991 alone to
right-wing think tanks, legal foundations, and corporate front groups.
	You should read this short (100 pages), fact-filled, and
inexpensive ($5) book if you care about the environment and want
insight into this facet of the environmental struggle. It is also an
excellent guide for activists (who need to know what they are up
against) and for contributors to environmental causes, who want to
make sure their support is going to the right place.
	Finally, it is important to recognize the other political
activities of these anti-environment groups, as many of the
organizations listed here have an influence in many matters other than
the environment. For example, the Public Relations firm
Burson-Mastellar was brought to Argentina during the "dirty war" in
the late 1970s to sanitize the country's image. This firm also handled
PR for Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu. Right-wing think tanks
influence the media and universities, and private endowments finance a
variety of right-wing groups. Perhaps it is more than our air and
water that are at risk.

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