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Web Letter

I don't have the detailed knowledge necessary to take a stand on the environmental groups mentioned in Hari's article.

But he refers to "environmental groups" and "conservation groups" as though he is describing all groups. What about the groups that he did not mention, such as Environmental Defense, which works with companies to make them greener; the Union of Concerned Scientists, which is involved in environmental issues; and the Climate Protection Action Forum, founded by Al Gore? It would be too bad if readers thought that Hari's claims of corporate influence (which may or may not be true) applied to all environmental groups and not just some.

Eleanor Hall

Chicago, IL

Apr 2 2010 - 8:18pm

Web Letter

I can't verify Hari's claims, but what he reports fits the general impression many of us have been getting for few years now.

When corporate creep started, many warned of its corrupting influence, but few thought it could penetrate environmentalism's soul. We twisted ourselves to see the wisdom of partnering with polluters--under the impression that change from within is possible, that one can shift practices by being friend rather than foe. With Hari's piece, we learn that change from within is possible: the corporates have taken the "long walk through the institutions," and have left some of our most venerable environmental groups shells for the moneyed green world.

Hari's article is painful to read. As he points out, those of us who care about the earth's ecosystem services and its most vulnerable must now add environmentalism itself to our list of things to save. It is a sad day when the very movement we've built to breathe ecological reality into our politics is in need of resuscitation.

But this is our call. Let's publicize Hari's critique, and demand accountability. Let's send hard copies of his article in all of those post-paid envelopes we receive asking for our donations. Let's continue to pay our rent on the planet by giving only to those groups who refuse polluters' money, and let's support political efforts that speak on behalf of ecological and social justice realities.

Environmentalism is one of the most profound and generous human expressions. There is no question that witnessing the ecological dismemberment of the earth is and will continue to be a sorrowful experience. Imagine witnessing this without a movement committed to bringing a dose of genuine humanity to our descent, and the road forward becomes downright agonizing.

Let's swerve. There is a battle for environmentalism's soul being played out as two paths diverge in a darkening and warming wood. Turn left.

[The writer is the author of Living Through the End of Nature: The Future of American Environmentalism (MIT Press 2010).]

Paul Wapner

Takoma Park, MD

Mar 21 2010 - 5:53am

Web Letter

Thanks so much to Johann Hari for the excellent piece on the failure of the big greens. My experience especially in regard to the mountaintop removal issue leads me to the same conclusions.

After completing a doc on the issue, I concluded that citizen activists like Larry Gibson, Maria Gunnoe, Judy Bonds and Ed Wiley have done more to get this issue before the American people and media than all of the Big Greens with their million-dollar budgets.

Before mountaintop removal became an prominent media and environmental issue, one large green group told local activists that the problem was"too big" and that "nothing" could be done. Once independent films, books and media articles started generating publicity and the potential donor dollars that follow, the Big Greens showed up and moved in like vultures to fresh roadkill.

I was also surprised to see the competition among the groups for donor dollars and the scramble for media attention that it requires. The turf wars and infighting seems just like some university cultures I've known.

I personally don't have a problem with their large budgets and bureaucracies if they deliver the goods. Unfortunately, I can't think of any significant legislation that they have accomplished in the last ten years, but maybe all the lobbying efforts will pay off. During the Bush years the Big Greens got steamrolled on every front: air, water forests and endangered species. They do hold a lot of leadership conferences and have some nice offices in our nations capital, though.

Maybe you have to have your home and family in harm's way like Larry, Ed, Judy and Maria to get some real work done. Roaming the halls of power is quite different than being on the front lines of an issue, but it sure doesn't get much done in comparison.

Michael C. O'Connell

Pittsboro , NC

Mar 12 2010 - 2:43pm

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