I would like to echo Professor Brulle's commendation of Hari's article and also suggest a few modifications of his excellent overview of the current state of professionalized "environmental" organizations in the United States and what we must do to mobilize for scientifically sound and equitable climate policy.
First, even groups that Professor Brulle would seem to approve of--RAN and Greenpeace--have been supporting "politically realistic" as opposed to grassroots and scientifically necessary policies and practices. Witness their support for the Forest Stewardship Council, a disastrous industry/environmental movement partnership that allows industrial logging of old growth forests under the guise of market incentives for "well-managed" forests (see FSC Watch); also consider the consideration to hire Tzeporah Berman as the climate policy director--above and despite the desires of and without consultation with the many grassroots environmental organizations in Canada whose advocacy has been excluded and sidelined by Berman's corporate-friendly model of secret deal-making (see "Stop Tzeporah Berman").
Second, one need only look at the role of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Nature Conservancy and the World Resources Institute as founding members of the United States Climate Action Partnership to recognize that more will need to be done for us to "help the general public to connect the dots between personal, local concerns and the dramatic, global threats." These corporate environmental organizations (with many conflicts of interests on their polluter-friendly boards of directors) worked shoulder to shoulder with the worst polluters (hydrocarbon industry, nuclear corporations pushing a nuclear renaissance and banks investing in the carbon-trading sham) in drafting a blueprint for what would have been a catastrophic piece of legislation (the Waxman-Markey bill).
See for yourself. Here are the members of USCAP.
These large "environmental" membership outfits who have lobbied (and continue to do so) for US climate legislation with unsound targets and timetables for reductions of atmospheric GHG, continued use of coal for the foreseeable future and new nuclear plants have combined budgets that allow them to drown out the voice of science, the environment and grassroots groups pushing for what is needed. The USCAP is pushing for 450-550 ppm, when the science tells us that 350 ppm is the outer limit at which the climate might be stabilized; they declare the coal should be part of the US energy mix for the foreseeable future; and they are pushing pie-in-the-sky nuclear technology that would take decades to implement.
Environmentalists can't allow these organizations' self-serving misrepresentation of the environment, combined with the fear and urgency that many of us feel about the future of our planet, to trump science and ethics by promoting false solutions in US climate policy.
The website of the Mobilization for Climate Justice has a useful page exposing many of the conflicts of the Board of Directors of just one of these organizations: the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Responsible environmental advocacy based in science (let alone ethics) would suggest to most environmentalists that we should not gamble on the future viability of entire ecosystems, biodiversity or life on the planet for human civilization by letting the loud voices of these compromised organizations remain unchallenged. Suckling of the Center for Biological Diversity has their number. As he says in Hari's excellent piece, these organizations "have no bottom line, no interest in scientifically defensible greenhouse gas emission limitations and no willingness to pressure the White House or Congress."
We must not only connect the dots between personal issues and global threats, as Professor Brulle suggests, but also challenge these organizations publicly--at their fundraisers and events--to expose them and educate and mobilize their well-meaning members to the anti-environmental positions for which they lobby.
Only then will we be able to shape climate policy (in the United States and the world) within a new political reality, instead of conceding the powerful battle field of the US Congress and administration to these organizations without censure.
Because, as we know, as goes the US, so goes the planet.