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Ford: Sugar Daddy of the Greens
By John Perazzo
FrontPageMagazine.com | January 19, 2004
We have all seen the photos of cute, fuzzy creatures and flower-speckled hills adorning the Websites and promotional literature of America’s leading environmentalist groups. These groups portray themselves as grassroots organizations of ordinary nature-lovers motivated purely by a desire to preserve, for the welfare of future generations, those pristine areas of our nation’s landscape not yet spoiled by the smoky breath of industrial pollution. But in truth, environmentalism’s major objective has little to do with clean air, pure water, or cuddly wildlife. Rather, it is a vast network of radical leftist organizations dedicated to nothing less than the overthrow of American capitalism, which they deem the source of all environmental ills.
Randall Hayes, president of the Rainforest Action Network, calls capitalism “an absurd economic system [that is] rapidly destroying nature.” Greenpeace International puts it this way: “When the last tree is cut, the last river poisoned, and the last fish dead, we will discover that we can’t eat money.” Far from being a grassroots movement, almost all of today’s environmentalist groups were created with grants from one or more elite foundations, among the most prominent being the Ford Foundation, which regularly funds leftist political causes. “Seed grants” from Ford and other foundations establish radical groups as new, independent entities that can thereafter commence their own fundraising operations under the pious banner of “environmentalism.”
The environmentalist establishment is comprised of thousands of groups – some local, some national – but virtually all well funded and able to pursue a multitude of often-obscure issues. Many people wonder, for instance, what motivates such groups to jump on the particular bandwagons they choose, such as a California group organized solely for the purpose of protecting an obscure species of flies. The answer is simple: these groups understand that the allegedly threatened welfare of such an insect could provide the pretext needed to someday derail the construction of a proposed factory, housing development, corporate office building, or road slated for a particular location. To set the stage for this scheme, a leftwing foundation such as the Ford Foundation makes a grant to establish a group purportedly dedicated to protecting the species in question, and a cause is thus created. The nominal beneficiaries take many forms: spotted owls, snail darters, band-winged grasshoppers, moss spiders, beach mice, gray bats, and flatwoods salamanders, to name just a few. The “endangered species” list in the U.S. alone currently contains no fewer than 70 varieties of clams, 32 types of snails, 16 kinds of beetles, and 19 breeds of butterflies.
Contrary to the public image of an everyman’s movement, environmentalism is in fact big business, raking in more than $8.5 billion per year. If we factor in the revenues of law firms involved in environmental litigation, this figure nearly doubles. Environmentalist group income is larger than the Gross National Product (GNP) of about five-dozen nations worldwide. No trade association on earth possesses the financial resources and political influence of the environmental lobby. There are more than 3,000 so-called nonprofit environmental groups in the U.S. today, most of which take in over $1 million annually. In one recent year, Greenpeace International took in $35 million, the National Audubon Society $79 million, the National Wildlife Federation $102 million, the Sierra Club $74 million, the Nature Conservancy $972 million, and the World Wildlife Fund $118 million. In addition, each of these groups holds assets ranging from $16.3 million to $2.9 billion.
Only a small portion of these immense revenues comes from the checkbooks of concerned individual donors. Much of the money comes from the groups’ real estate holdings, product marketing, business deals, and huge stock portfolios. In other words, the very movement that condemns capitalism for allegedly ravaging the environment happily takes advantage of capitalism to rake in mounds of cash. Indeed, many environmentalist organizations buy stock in companies whose industries they consistently denounce as “harmful” to the environment: lumber companies, mining companies, and manufacturers of bulldozers and logging equipment such as Caterpillar and John Deere. Other environmentalist groups round out their portfolios with holdings in real estate, utilities, and government securities. The anti-capitalists further feed from capitalism’s trough by accepting at least another $200 million per year in corporate donations.
Environmentalist groups also exploit their non-profit status and reputations as selfless wildlife protectors by buying and selling vast tracts of land. The Nature Conservancy (NC), for instance, buys real estate from landowners at a reduced cost and then sells it to the government for an inflated price. In one recent year, the NC bought and sold more than 73 million acres in this manner – all in the name of “saving the environment.” Notably, environmentalist groups use a hefty portion of such windfalls only to feather their own financial nests with such things as luxurious new offices, high-profile lobbyists, high-priced economists and attorneys, and millions of direct-mail pleas for still more money. Moreover, the bigwigs of the environmental game are careful to save themselves an ample piece of capitalism’s pie; environmental executives have average annual salaries in the $200,000 neighborhood.
The rest of environmentalism’s funding comes largely from prestigious foundations like the Ford Foundation. Each year, hundreds of foundations earmark thousands of grants totaling hundreds of millions of dollars for environmentalist groups. Many of these foundations are part of an informal coalition called the Environmental Grantmakers Association (EGA), comprised of more than 250 private donors responsible for most of the money given to such groups. The EGA holds private annual retreats to plan strategies for achieving its desired programs and policy outcomes – almost exclusively leftwing, anti-business, and anti-private property ownership. Occupying a prominent place at the EGA meetings is the Ford Foundation, which has a long history of donating enormous sums to environmentalist causes.
In 1969, for instance, a large Ford Foundation seed grant established the Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), a group that made its name in the early-1970s fight to ban DDT, the life-saving insecticide that was turning the tide on malaria. Among EDF’s other achievements was its role in drafting California’s first sweeping environmental regulations in the form of Proposition 65, the ballot initiative that restricted the use of many chemicals in industry and agriculture and has cost the California economy billions of dollars. The Ford Foundation has funded EDF heavily over the years, its generosity highlighted by a $500,000 grant in 1988, a $400,000 grant in 1996, and a $150,000 grant in 1998. Today EDF has seven offices nationwide, more than 150,000 members, and an annual operating budget of $17 million.
A $400,000 Ford Foundation seed grant in 1970 also established the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a radical leftist group that serves as one of the environmentalist movement’s legal arms. The NRDC has filed dozens of lawsuits to block the construction of highways, hydroelectric dams, and nuclear power plants, but is perhaps best known for being the source of an enormous and costly apple industry hoax about Alar in 1989. Another NRDC signature issue is its fight to shut down the timber industry. Depicting itself as a nonprofit entity dedicated to fighting the capitalistic greed that purportedly ravages the environment, the tax-exempt NRDC holds assets exceeding $71 million.
A very partial list of other Ford Foundation grants made in the past few years includes the following: $225,000 to the Wilderness Society, $200,000 to Friends of the Earth, $2 million to the Nature Conservancy, $48,000 to the World Resources Institute, $75,000 to the NRDC, $24,000 to the World Resources Institute, $250,000 to the Environmental Law Institute, $225,000 to the Environmental Working Group, $50,000 to the National Environmental Trust, and $300,000 to the National Wildlife Federation. According to the Capital Research Center (CRC), which was established in 1984 to study non-profit organizations, all of the aforementioned organizations are politically far-left. Other recent Ford grants include: $150,000 to the American Land Institute, $500,000 to the Rainforest Alliance, $96,000 to the Center for Marine Conservation, $32,000 to the Conservation Fund, $150,000 to American Rivers, $100,000 to Northwest Environment Watch, and $400,000 to the Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development.
Four years ago, the Ford Foundation also gave $150,000 to the International Forum on Globalization (IFOG), a think-tank of some five-dozen anti-capitalist organizations with close ties to the Rainforest Action Network. IFOG founder and president Jerry Mander calls capitalism and economic globalization “the greatest single contributor to the massive ecological crises of our time,” characterized by an “inherent emphasis on increased trade requir[ing] corresponding expansion of transportation infrastructures – airports, seaports, roads, rail-lines, pipelines, dams, electric grids – many of [which] are constructed in pristine landscapes, often on Indigenous people’s lands. Increased transport also uses drastically increased fossil fuels, adding to the problems of climate change, ozone depletion, and ocean, air, and soil pollution.”
That, in a nutshell, is the environmentalist view of capitalism. Therefore, the next time you hear an environmentalist group depicting itself as a grassroots enterprise of average Americans who spontaneously banded together to save the environment, remember that its true agenda is political, not environmental. Moreover, it is most likely an enormously wealthy entity funded by some of the deepest pockets on earth, such as those of the Ford Foundation.
John Perazzo is the author of The Myths That Divide Us: How Lies Have Poisoned American Race Relations. For more information on his book, click here. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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