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.