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The Philanthropic Roots of Corporate Environmentalism

Michael Barker - November 3, 2008 - copyright Michael Barker
original link for full article : http://www.swans.com/library/art14/barker07.html

hereafter : only few § due to copyright conditions.

"Big money wants control; it's as simple as that."
Thomas Kimball (1991) Former President of the National Wildlife Federation
"[T]he master's tools will never dismantle the master's house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change."
Audre Lorde (1984)

 

(Swans - November 3, 2008)   Perhaps the first environmental historian to critique the influence of ostensibly progressive philanthropic foundations (big money) on the environmental movement was Robert Gottlieb. (1) Writing in 1993, Gottlieb noted in his influential book Forcing the Spring: The Transformation of the American Environmental Movement that foundations "[a]s much as anyone else ...had become part of the process of creating the environmental policy system of the 1970s," which in turn, created a "new breed of environmental organization, with expert staff, especially lawyers and scientists, and a more sophisticated lobbying or political presence in Washington." However, of the subsequent work critically examining how liberal foundations have affected the evolution of the environmental movement, (2) none provides more than a cursory investigation of the involvement of liberal foundations in shaping environmental developments throughout the 1960s, despite the fact that even prior to the 1960s such foundations had been active in funding all manner of conservation and preservation organizations. This article fills this gap in the environmental literature by focusing specifically on the role of the two foundations that gave the environmental movement the most monetary support during its early days, the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations. (3) Indeed, despite the lack of critical studies, in 1973, a pioneering study of environmental philanthropy noted that three foundations, the Ford, Rockefeller, and Mellon, (4) "constitute[d] the biggest national force in private foundation philanthropy." (5)

 

Growth of foundation support for the Environmental Movement, 1970-2000

Year

Total Amount Given (in millions USD)

Distribution of Grants (in percentage)

Number of Grants

1970

0.8

--

20

1980

2.9

--

192

1990

17.6

--

652

2000

71.6

--

711





Discursive frame for 2000 Grants




Preservation

27.6

38.5

220

Liberal Environmentalism

19.9

27.8

222

Conservation

8.7

12.2

61

Wildlife Management

3.6

5.1

20

Environmental Justice

1.1

1.5

43

Deep Ecology

0.8

1.2

36

Ecotheology

0.5

0.6

7

Ecofeminism

0.1

0.2

6

Undetermined

9.3

12.9

96

 Adapted from Robert Brulle, The US Environmental Movement: Crisis or Transition? (pdf), 2005.

 

Two environmental organizations which primarily relied upon the financial support of the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations during this period were the Conservation Foundation and Resources for the Future; moreover, as Brian Tokar argues, these two groups played an important role in the development of the environmental movement, "helping to launch an explicitly pro-corporate approach to resource conservation." (6) Consequently this article will review the historical background of these two organizations to shed some much needed light on the system-supportive influence of liberal philanthropy on the modern day environmental movement. The arguably detrimental power that liberal foundations have exerted over mainstream environmentalism is epitomized by the ideological hegemony that the "Group of Ten" have attained over the environmental movement. (7) In this regard, the latter part of this article will critically scrutinize the recent work of one of the best known members of this group, that is, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). It is particularly pertinent to highlight WWF's activities within the confines of this article, because in 1990 the Conservation Foundation was successfully merged into WWF.

The Conservation Foundation

....

Resources for the Future
.....

Panda-powered Capitalism: Introducing the World [of Elite] Wildlife Fund[ers]
.....


Identifying Systemic Problems and Developing Solutions
......
 


About the Author

Michael Barker recently completed his doctorial thesis at Griffith University in Australia, where he studied the influence of the National Endowment for Democracy on global media systems. He is currently co-editing a book with Daniel Faber and Joan Roelofs that will critically evaluate the influence of philanthropic foundations on the public sphere.

 

Legalese

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