Swans Commentary » swans.com January 26, 2009  



When Environmentalists Legitimize Plunder


by Michael Barker





"For more than twenty years, we have empowered communities in jungles and deserts to make conservation part of their livelihoods. From early partnerships with Patagonia and Starbucks to our ground-breaking relationship with Wal-Mart, we've worked with companies large and small to make conservation part of their business model."
— Conservation International, 2008.
"[T]he big conservation organizations seem more like 'enablers' that are slowing down the corporate awakening to environmental and social responsibilities by providing the companies with easy ways to appear green without making significant changes."
—Christine MacDonald, 2008. (1)


(Swans - January 26, 2009)   Conservation International assert that they have redefined conservation. Formed in 1987, Conservation International boasts of "single-handedly redefin[ing] conservation," and "pioneering" the conservation transition by "keeping places intact as relics of the past" and aiming towards encompassing a vision "in which people [live] in harmony with nature." A closer examination of Conservation International's agenda reveals that they have succeeded in promoting a working model of conservation that will most likely destroy more environment than it protects. (2) A brief perusal of their project affiliates reveals a campaign of greenwashing, (3) and so it is fitting that within six months of opening their doors for business, Conservation International made history by becoming the "first environmental group in the world to do a debt-for-nature swap." (4) Aiming to conserve nature in this manner benefits corporate partners, like Alcoa, Anglo American, BHP Billiton, Cargill, CEMEX, ChevronTexaco, and not the environment.

This article will provide a critical overview of Conservation International's organizational history. It will illustrate that rather than tempering environmental destruction, Conservation International's work serves the opposite purpose. This article will provide a historically informed analysis of Conservation International's global greenwashing agenda and extend former Conservation International media advisor, Christine MacDonald's, critique of her former employers and the environmental movement more generally. (5)

Capitalist Environmentalists

As recently demonstrated in an article titled "The Philanthropic Roots Of Corporate Environmentalism, " the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) -- well-known guardian of pandas -- is one of the leading corporate/environmental groups that is promoting eco-imperialism. Consequently it is fitting that the founding and still current president of Conservation International, Russell Mittermeier -- one of Time magazine's "Heroes for the Planet" -- had previously worked for WWF. At WWF, Mittermeier served as vice president for science (1987-89), and also as director of WWF's programs for Brazil and the Guianas (1985-89), Madagascar (1985-89), Species Conservation (1986-89), and Primates (1979-89).

Furthermore, before joining WWF in late 1970s Mittermeier had garnered elite credentials by working as a primatologist for the New York Zoological Society -- a group now known as the Wildlife Conservation Society. In 1948 this group gave rise to the influential corporate environmental group, the Conservation Foundation. (6) Mittermeier is a former board member of the Wildlife Trust (a group whose board members include representatives from Bear Stearns International and Goldman Sachs), (7) the former chairman of the World Bank's Task Force on Biological Diversity (1988-89) and, since 1977, has served as chairman of the Primate Specialist Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Species Survival Commission.

Despite Mittermeier's elitist environmental background there were still disagreements between him and the other big-green corporate environmentalists in the United States. On this score, Christine MacDonald recounts how:

[Spencer] Beebe and a group of dissidents from The Nature Conservancy hired Russell Mittermeier to become president of a new group they had christened Conservation International. Mittermeier, then a senior member of World Wildlife Fund's U.S. staff, had been passed over for [Russell] Train's job leading WWF. "So he took the [Fund's] science department and he bolted and went to CI," remembers [Michael] Wright, who witnessed the coup from afar. (pp.9-10)

Unfortunately MacDonald spends little time critiquing the effects of liberal philanthropy on the environmental movement. However, she does acknowledge how, "Unlike philanthropists of bygone eras, who bequeathed their fortunes and didn't bother with the details of how it was spent, 'living donors' such as [Ted] Turner, the Walton [family], and [Gordon] Moore are deeply involved in deciding how best to use their money." For instance, she points out how the Walton Family Foundation gave $21 million in 2005 to Conservation International ("nearly a quarter of CI's total revenues that year"), while in 2002, Conservation International obtained a $261 million ten-year grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation ("the largest conservation donation in history"). (8)

MacDonald also provides a useful service to the progressive community by highlighting the concerns of liberal foundations and their environmental protégés. She reveals how the president of The Nature Conservancy, Steve McCormick (2001-07), "quit abruptly after a proposal to merge [The Nature Conservancy and Conservation International] was scuttled," to become the new president of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. (9)

The other key person running Conservation International is its chairman and cofounder, Peter Seligmann -- an individual that MacDonald considers to be "perhaps the most audaciously successful of a new breed of corporate courtiers." MacDonald adds that Seligmann "comes from a long line of German Jewish investment bankers, known for handling the business transactions of 'high asset' individuals," and notes how his uncle, Henry Arnhold (who also serves on Conservational International's board of directors), presently acts as the "co-chairman of Arnhold & S. Bleichroeder, the New York investment-banking firm that gave George Soros his start." (10) Seligmann's democracy-manipulating ties are extensive. He presently serves on the executive committee of a "humanitarian" group that was formed in 2000, which calls itself the Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa. Although this group has many ties to "democratic" elites the most significant one is through its founder, the former US Agency for International Development Administrator, Peter McPherson (1981-87). In addition to serving on the board of directors of Conservation International, McPherson is a board member of the Inter-American Dialogue, (11) and serves on the advisory boards of groups like the Eurasia Foundation, and the "agricultural counterpart of the World Economic Forum," the World Agricultural Forum. (12)

Mining, Capitalism, and Forests: A Match Made in Heaven

Given the devastation that mining corporations exert upon the environment, it is unsurprising that they take action to ameliorate the negative reporting on their daily stock in trade -- that is, landscape consumption. (13) One corporation that worked closely with Conservation International and that MacDonald examined in detail is one of the world's largest producers of gold, Newmont Mining Corporation. (14) MacDonald reports that in 2004, Newmont joined Forest Trends' and Conservation International's newly formed Business and Biodiversity Offset Program (BBOP), "pledg[ing] to bankroll one of BBOP's first offset programs." (15) She notes how Newmont's Akyem mining concession (in Ghana) for a 3,665-acre open-pit mine is "particularly sensitive" because part of it is located inside the Ajenjua Bepo Forest Reserve. However, controversially MacDonald adds:

As it turns out, the BBOP project involving the Akyem mine won't attempt to minimize the biodiversity damage to the Ajenjua Bepo Forest. Instead, the plans call for the company to pay BBOP to carry on conservation work in the Mamang Forest Reserve, another protected area to the south of the mine. Conservationists would use the Newmont funds to hire more forest rangers charged with keeping the local people from invading the reserve, cutting down trees to plant crops and hunting the forest's fauna for bushmeat, a staple of their diets. While the funding may improve the health of the Mamang reserve, it will not change large-scale impacts from Newmont's open-pit mine nearby. And, it is destined to exacerbate local residents' resentments against Newmont, as well as the conservationists for limiting their rights to the forests. (pp.137-8)

An exploration of the background of Conservational International's BBOP cofounder, Forest Trends, highlights the problematic nature of the BBOP project. Set up in 1999, Forest Trends was created to "promot[e] market-based approaches to forest conservation," and their current president and CEO, Michael Jenkins, has a background befitting such an organization. In the early 1980s Jenkins acted as a technical advisor for the US government funded "development" group Appropriate Technology International (now known as EnterpriseWorks); he then worked in Haiti for US Agency for International Development as an agroforester (1983-86), followed this by serving for ten years as the associate director for the MacArthur Foundation's Global Security and Sustainability Program (1988-98), and in 1998, Jenkins held a joint appointment as a senior forestry advisor to the World Bank (an organization that has long served to "incentivise forest destruction.") (16)

In the same year Forest Trends was founded (1999), another project was launched under the auspices of Forest Trends known as the Katoomba Group. This group describes itself as an "international working group dedicated to advancing markets and payments for ecosystem services." Jenkins presently serves as the president of the Katoomba Group, and in 2005, this Group created an offshoot project called the Ecosystem Marketplace, which the Katoomba Group describes as the "world's first global market information service for ecosystem services." Headed by Jenkins, this project's advisory committee is closely related to those representing the BBOP project, as Forest Trends Director, Kerry ten Kate, serves on the BBOP's Secretariat, while other notable advisory committee members include Conservation International's Ben Vitale, former international banker with Chase Manhattan Bank John Forgach, the Nature Conservancy board member Gretchen Daily, and Forest Trends board member David Brand. (17)

As Forest Trends promotes market-based mechanisms for conserving the environment it is to be expected that its board of directors incorporates business representatives, like James Brumm of Mitsubishi International. However, it is interesting to scrutinize the background of their environmental representatives, which include Randy Hayes (the founder and president of the "Earth First!-inspired" Rainforest Action Network), (18) and David Cassells (the Director of The Nature Conservancy's Asia Pacific Region Forest Program).

Cassells demonstrates a concerning position regarding the environment, as The Nature Conservancy "champions an approach that doesn't threaten the rights of property owners to do what they want." (19) His background is worthy of note, as he serves on the board of directors of a group called the Tropical Forest Foundation. Fellow free-market environmentalists on their board include Bruce Cabarle (the director of the Global Forest Program of the World Wildlife Fund, and board member of Forest Trends), former WWF vice president, Gary Hartshorn (who heads up the logging industry front-group, the World Forestry Center), and WWF's former Director of Development Assistance Policy Frances Seymour (who is presently the director-general of the World Bank-supported Centre for International Forestry, and serves on the Asia advisory committee of Human Rights Watch). (20)

The most interesting environmentalist affiliated to the Tropical Forest Foundation is the renowned tropical and conservation biologist Thomas Lovejoy, who served as the group's founding chair from 1990 until 1998. Like his environmental counterparts at the Tropical Forest Foundation, Lovejoy is intimately connected to WWF, having worked with them since 1973, spending his last two years there as WWF-US's executive vice president (1985-87) and he is still represented on WWF-US's board of directors. As well as working for the World Bank, he is a member of Conservation International's chairman's council.

Bettina von Hagen is another environmentalist serving on Forest Trends' board of directors. She represents a group called Ecotrust. Von Hagen joined Ecotrust in 1993 to "develop and manage Ecotrust's $26 million Natural Capital Fund." More recently she "helped launch Ecotrust Forests LLC, a private equity forestland investment fund." Significantly Ecotrust was founded in 1991 by Spencer Beebe, a key player in the founding, a few years earlier, of Conservation International.

Like Beebe (who had formerly worked at The Nature Conservancy before founding Conservation International), Edward Backus, the vice president of Ecotrust's Fisheries Program, also worked at both these organizations before joining Ecotrust (in 1993).

Finally, William Hutton, another Ecotrust board member and "[o]ne of the nation's leading authorities on the tax and financial aspects of land preservation transactions," was a founding board member of Conservation International. (21)

Three other significant members of Ecotrust's Canada Council are Peter Seligmann (the CEO of Conservation International) and David Rockefeller, Jr. (the eldest son of democracy-manipulator and corporate environmentalist David Rockefeller), and Peter Warshall (the editor-at-large for the Whole Earth magazine and former board member of the All Species Foundation -- where Russell Mittermeier also acts as a board member).

Given the free-market approach that has been adopted by Forest Trends and Conservation International, they make unlikely guardians of the world's forests. Moreover, as will become clearer later, Conservation International's intimate relations to other leading mining and military corporations suggests that they might in fact be the worst people to trust to safeguard our planets natural resources. The following section will now expand upon the conservation approaches that are promoted by leading environmentalist Thomas Lovejoy.

Free-Market "Conservation" Biology

As noted above, Thomas Lovejoy, the renowned conservation biologist, maintains critical affiliations to various corporate environmental groups including Conservation International. This suggests that it would be a useful task to cast a critical eye over Lovejoy's career and connections to environmental groups that ostensibly work to save the environment from corporate destruction. In this regard, his ties to the Society for Conservation Biology are perhaps the most significant as he served as the president of this international professional organization from 1989 until 1991.

Formed in 1985, the Society for Conservation Biology describes itself as being "dedicated to promoting the scientific study of the phenomena that affect the maintenance, loss, and restoration of biological diversity." On the surface these appear commendable aspirations; however, the elitist political assumptions that underpin the work of the Society, should be examined. Evidence of liberal foundation initiatives permeate the Society for Conservation Biology's work and is demonstrated by the founding president of the Society, Michael Soule. Soule, in the 1960s, attended Stanford University to "study population biology and evolution under Paul Ehrlich" -- a person with whom he co-authored (along with Richard Holm) his first book titled Introductory Biology (McGraw-Hill, 1969).

Soule's link to Ehrlich is significant because the previous year Ehrlich had released his bestselling book, The Population Bomb (published by the Sierra Club). (22) The message contained in this influential work was essentially a crude Malthusian one, reiterating the earlier work of other population control activists that had been funded by both the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations. (23) More recently, Soule has again worked closely with another leading neo-Malthusian, as in 1991 he helped found The Wildlands Project with Dave Foreman -- an environmentalist perhaps most famous for founding the Deep Ecology-inspired activist group Earth First! (24) Oddly, Foreman's work on this project appears to symbolize his return to the less radical politics that led him to form Earth First! in the early 1980s, as the project involves his close association with his former employer, The Wilderness Society. For example, the project's four-person advisory council includes the president of The Wilderness Society, (Bill Meadows), while former Wildlands Project president, Mary Granskou, was previously employed as the executive director of The Wilderness Society. (25)

Incidentally, another founding member and former president of the Wildlands Project (and their current secretary), David Johns, presently serves on the board of governors of Soule's Society for Conservation Biology. In 1990, David John acted as a cofounder of Wild Earth magazine -- other cofounders being Dave Foreman, John Davis (the executive vice president of The Wildlands Project, and former Biodiversity and Wildness program officer of the Foundation for Deep Ecology), (26) Reed Noss (the consulting editor of the Society for Conservation Biology journal Conservation Biology), and Mary Byrd Davis.

While these trends suggest that the foundations of conservation biology have been built on shaky theoretical ground, courtesy of liberal foundation boosters, in more recent years commentators have been critiquing conservation biology practitioners for their accommodation toward neo-liberalism. After attending the 2007 annual meeting of the Society for Conservation Biology, Bram Buscher wrote within the pages of the Society's journal Conservation Biology that "Conservation biology is actively reinventing itself to fit the neoliberal world order." (27) Buscher proposed two main points in his critique:

First, in their drive to conserve biodiversity, conservation biologists are too eager to realign their field with seductive neoliberal win-win visions. As a consequence, discourses are created that ultimately reinforce an ideological system that is inherently unsustainable. Second, this realignment leads conservation biology increasingly into the social sciences, whereby conservationists oddly seem to throw overboard scientific principles they have always held so dear: acknowledging and critically analyzing complex realities and grounding arguments with rigorous empirical research.

Additionally, Buscher draws the reader's attention to a couple of the "more subtle effects of neoliberal transformation" that were evident at the Society for Conservation Biology's meeting. These, he suggests, were (1) the "incessant need for consensus and the subsequent retreat of many people into the domain of nice-sounding yet often empty words," and (2) the "apparent need to always be positive and think in terms of compatibility." The implications of the adoption coercive harmony as a "mode of cultural control" is expanded upon within Ugo Mattei and Laura Nader's important book, Plunder: When the Rule of Law is Illegal (Blackwell Publishing, 2008). Mattei and Nader note how win-win situations as ostensibly promoted by Alternative Dispute Resolution practices are in fact harmony ideologies that "may be used to suppress people's resistance, by socializing them toward conformity by means of consensus, cooperation, passivity, and docility, and by silencing people who speak out angrily" (p.77). (This concept will be discussed at length in a forthcoming article.)

Buscher's critique of the Society for Conservation Biology meeting was published in April 2008. However, later that year, in the October issue of Conservation Biology, the founding editor of the journal, David Ehrenfeld, responded by writing how Buscher's "critique of the neoliberalization of conservation is right on the mark." (28) Ehrenfeld continued:

The reduction of all conservation problems to economic terms is counter-productive and dangerous. Trusting to market forces and the laws of supply and demand to correct inequities and restore healthy equilibria does not work in economics and certainly does not work in conservation.

Thus it is not surprising that the society at which Thomas Lovejoy was a former president should have other ties back to leading corporate environmentalists mentioned in the previous section.

For example, Jeff McNeely (who sits on the Society for Conservation Biology's board of governors) is the chair of the World Bank-supported Ecoagriculture Partners -- a group that "seeks to support the emerging global movement for ecoagriculture." (29) Sara Scherr, the president and CEO of Ecoagriculture Partners formerly served as director of ecosystem services for Forest Trends (2001-05), while Forest Trends' president, Michael Jenkins, also serves on the board of Ecoagriculture Partners.

Similarly, the former president of the Society for Conservation Biology (and now member of their board), John Robinson, who works for the Wildlife Conservation Society, serves alongside Thomas Lovejoy on the executive committee of the aforementioned Tropical Forest Foundation. In addition, Robinson is a board member of a philanthropic foundation known as the Christensen Fund, (30) which sponsors an important international event known as the World Wilderness Congress. Nevertheless, as Conservation International is heavily involved in running this Congress the following section will explore the Congress's background.

The World Wilderness Congress and Elite Networks

The first World Wilderness Congress was held in October 1977 in Johannesburg, South Africa. It brought together 2,500 delegates from 27 countries and boasted of "introduc[ing] the wilderness concept as an international issue of importance" and of "incorporate[ing] economics and banking for the first time as major issues on the conservation agenda." Consequently, it is hardly surprising that the Congress counts among its patrons Conservation International, and government agencies like the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Canadian International Development Agency. According to their Web site, the two listed supporters of the Congress are the US National Park Service and The Wilderness Society, while benefactors of the Congress include the Ford Foundation, one of the world's largest global cement companies, CEMEX, (31) and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Perhaps not coincidentally the former chair of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Magalen Bryant, is a board member of the National Wildlife Federation, the Global Environment and Technology Foundation (a group that counts the leading defence contractor, Lockheed Martin, among its partners), (32) and the WILD Foundation. The latter group manages the World Wilderness Congress. So the people involved with the WILD Foundation will now be introduced.

The WILD Foundation was set up in California in 1974 by the former chief conservator of the South African Natal Parks Board, Ian Player, and according to their Web site, since then it has "worked around the world to protect highly threatened wilderness areas and wildlife." Player still serves on the WILD Foundation's board of directors, (33) and information obtained from their Web site in January 2007 demonstrates that three particularly distinguished members of their board of directors were Cristina Mittermeier (the wife of the president of Conservation International), James Dunlap (the former special advisor to the assistant secretary of state for African affairs at the US State Department, 2001-03), and Francine Kansteiner (the wife of Walter Kansteiner III, the former US assistant secretary of state for African affairs). The latter two individuals' connections to the US national (in)security apparatus are concerning to say the least... Furthermore, Dunlap is a principal at the investment banking behemoth the Scowcroft Group, which is managed directly by Brent Scowcroft, the former national security advisor to President George H.W. Bush; while Walter Kansteiner also serves as a founding principal of the Scowcroft Group, he is a board member of the democracy-manipulating African Wildlife Foundation, and WildlifeDirect, (34) and is a senior counsellor for the African Parks Foundation. (35) Keith Harmon Snow points out how Kansteiner is "the son of a coltan trader" (a valuable mineral that can be found beneath the forests of the Congo) and Kansteiner happens to be a board member of Moto Gold (which is "operating in [the] blood-drenched" Ituri province of the Congo).

Another "humanitarian" notable who serves on the WILD Foundation's board of directors is David Barron, the chairman of the PR firm Barron-Birrell (which is a member of the Kansteiner-linked Corporate Council on Africa). Although Barron's online biography suggests that he is a "prominent champion of democracy and human rights," it would be more accurate to refer to him as a prominent democracy manipulator "represent[ing] U.S. policies abroad." During the 1990s, his PR firm represented the former president of the Republic of the Congo, Pascal Lissouba; and in 2007, Barron was reportedly working on the campaign for the Republican presidential nomination of noted inhumanitarian warrior Sam Brownback (for further details on Brownback's "humanitarian" work see my recent article "The Project For A New American Humanitarianism"). In the past, Barron served as the chairman of a group called the Jefferson Educational Foundation, an organization that, according to William I. Robinson, "coordinated the [Reagan administration's] anti-Sandinista 'public diplomacy' programs" during the 1980s (p.100) (pdf). Last but not least, according to his online biography, Barron "played an important role (with explorer Michael Fay, a WILD Trustee) in establishing the new national park system in Gabon (West Africa), and in gathering support and momentum for the US-lead Congo Basin Tropical Forest Initiative." (36) Consequently, this connection to resource management in the Congo will now be explored.

Owing to his ties to the Congo Basin Tropical Forest Initiative, it is fitting to initially expand upon the background of the National Geographic's explorer-in-resident (and WILD Foundation trustee), (37) Michael Fay. Before joining the National Geographic team, Fay completed a gorilla-inspired doctorate, then worked for the Wildlife Conservation Society (from 1991 until 2004), and now serves on the advisory board of the International Conservation Caucus Foundation (which is presided over by David Barron and sponsored by corporate behemoths like JPMorganChase and ExxonMobil). (38) Here it is critical to acknowledge that as well as helping set up the US government-funded Congo Basin Tropical Forest Initiative -- whose partner organizations include groups like Conservation International, Forest Trends, WWF, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and the logging industry front-group the Society of American Foresters (39) -- Fay's work is "currently focused on the redwood forests of Northern California" where last year he completed a new project known as the Redwood Transect. This was a joint project of the National Geographic Society and the Wildlife Conservation Society, and involved documenting a walk of over 1000 miles along the "range of the redwood tree, from south to north." (40)

Fay's involvement with resource management in the Congo and environmental protection in California's redwood stands is ironic to say the least given his former employer's fixation on population-control strategies. This is because since the founding of the influential California-based Save-the-Redwoods League (in 1918), "eugenic guidelines of selective breeding and species endangerment" have been central to its conservation work, and the "three men at the core of the American eugenics movement, John C. Merriam, Henry Fairfield Osborn, and Madison Grant" also served as the founders of Save-the-Redwoods League. (41) On top of this, Henry Fairfield Osborn founder of the Wildlife Conservation Society, and his son, Fairfield Osborn (who served as one of their trustees from 1923 until 1935), went on to cofound the Rockefeller-backed offshoot group, the Conservation Foundation (which eventually went on to merge into WWF). Seeing that these latter two groups are part of the Congo Basin Tropical Forest Initiative it is reasonable that one might start harbouring some concerns over the underlying motives for the Congo Initiative, that ostensibly aims to "enhance the sustainable management of the Congo Basin forests and improve on the standard of living of the inhabitants of the region." Furthermore, the involvement of the military-linked Jane Goodall Institute should exacerbate such worries as Jane Goodall serves alongside Paul Ehrlich as a patron of a British Malthusian "think tank" known as Optimum Population Trust. (42)

Alarm bells continue to sound when it is known that the Congo Basin Tropical Forest Initiative counts amongst its partner organizations a number of logging front-groups -- that is, the Society of American Foresters (see footnote #39) and the American Forest and Paper Association. The board chairman of the latter group, John Faraci, is in turn the CEO of International Paper (the "largest forest products company in the world") and a board member of the US defence contractor United Technologies. (43) As one might expect, the American Forest and Paper Association also harbours a number of connections to other extractive industries, thus their former director of congressional affairs, Rich Nolan, serves as the vice president of government affairs for the peak industry group for major US mining corporations, the National Mining Association. In addition, the former president and CEO of the American Forest and Paper Association, Red Cavaney, served as the president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute (from 1997 until 2008), and has just been replaced by Jack Gerard (a former head of the National Mining Association).

Returning to the WILD Foundation's World Wilderness Congress, as noted earlier one of the supporters of the Congress is The Wilderness Society: thus in addition to WILD Foundation representatives, two of the three other people serving on the Congress's executive committee are indirectly connected to the work of The Wilderness Society. These are Harvey Locke (director emeritus of Dave Foreman's The Wildlands Project), and David Parsons (who is a science fellow at the Rewilding Institute -- another Foreman-related conservation project). (44) However, one yet to be mentioned is Cyril Kormos (WILD Foundation representative who serves on this executive committee is their vice president for Policy), an individual who in 2005 co-authored a coffee-table book with Russell Mittermeier and his wife Cristina, titled Transboundary Conservation: A New Vision for Protected Areas -- published courtesy of the cement giant, CEMEX.

Finally, other than Russell Mittermeier, the only Conservation International representative who serves as a senior advisor to the World Wilderness Congress is emeritus director Sylvia Earle. Presently acting as the executive director of Conservation International's Marine Programs, Earle, as mentioned earlier, is an explorer-in-residence at the National Geographic Society, and a board member of the Marine Conservation Biology Institute. However, like many of her other "conservation" colleagues, she maintains problematic connections to the corporate world as from 1999 until 2006 she was a board member of Kerr-McGee Corporation -- an energy company that was involved in the exploration and production of oil and gas resources and that has now been acquired by Anadarko Petroleum. Notably, during her years of service at Kerr-McGee, the lead director of the company was William Bradford, a person who had until 2000 served as the chairman of the most influential member of the military-industrial complex, the Halliburton Company. (Halliburton's former CEO, Dick Cheney, also left the company in 2000 to become vice president of the U.S.)

Also of conservation interest, the former chairman and CEO of Kerr-McGee, Luke Corbett, presently serves on the board of Anadarko Petroleum: the president and CEO of Anadarko Petroleum, James Hackett, is a board member of both Halliburton and the Fluor Corporation; while two other significant board members are Robert Allison, Jr. (who is a board member of Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, a mining corporation that has operations in the Congo), and Peter Fluor (who is the chairman and CEO of Texas Crude Energy, and the lead director of the Fluor Corporation). As Fluor Corporation gets a double mention it is important to note that serving alongside the two Anadarko Petroleum board members is Suzanne Woolsey, the wife of the former head of the CIA, James Woolsey.

These are alarming military-mining-conservation connections. However, they are not likely to be reported by one of The New York Times' most influential "journalists," that is, Thomas Friedman. Indeed, in his recent book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution - And How it Can Renew America (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2008), he acknowledges that not only has he spent the last decade "travel[ling] throughout the world with Conservation International" but his wife, Ann, is also a board member of Conservation International. (45) So it is fitting that Ted Glick should point out, in his review of Friedman's latest corporate think-piece, that it "presents pretty much a top-down, elite perspective on the [environmental] crisis." No surprises there. However, more critical writers like Christine MacDonald also appear to play down the military ties that Conservation International maintains, as she writes that "[s]ometimes frustrations" with leading environmental groups connections to global elites "lead to conspiracy theories. For instance, CI has been accused -- among other things -- of spying on the Zapatista Rebel group in southern Mexico for the U.S. and Mexican governments. Although unsubstantiated, such reports have been published in the Mexican press." (46) Yet given the evidence presented in this article it would make sense if MacDonald's conspiracy theories turned out to be true.

Uprooting Conservation Multinationals

As critical as this article is of Conservation International (and of big green non-governmental organizations more generally), it does not question the sincerity of their staff to the incredibly important goal of facilitating international conservation. That said, depending on their staffs' individual democratic preferences, there may of course be more effective and ethical ways for them to contribute towards saving the environment.

In our vastly unequal and interconnected society, which provides so well for many, while ensuring that so many more are stranded in poverty, it is necessary for all potential do-gooders (environmental or otherwise) to ensure that their well-meaning efforts are not further oppressing those they wish to aid. Do-Good-all's -- like Jane, or Conservation International supporters -- may well have altruistic intentions, but when their work serves elite conservation priorities they are deluding themselves into assisting the elites to achieve the opposite. Consequently, it is hoped that the contents of this essay will inspire those truly democratically minded supporters of Conservation International to transfer their allegiances to organizations that counter, not bolster, elite domination.

In our age of endless crises, critical thinking is a phenomenon that ruling elites fear. What for instance would happen if a sizable proportion of humanity decided to reject the elite multinational "conservation" agenda and replace it with a humanizing alternative, like social ecology? The answer is obvious: people would regain control of all aspects of their lives, replacing the debilitating destructive demands of elite-driven prerogatives with those that respect life, not simply the demands of capitalist power mongers. (47)

The strangling ideological roots of corporate environmentalism have grown strong, embedding themselves in all manner of groups, both mainstream and radical. Consequently, loosening their hold over popular thinking by exposing their roots to the cleansing light of day is of utmost importance. This will enable alternative environmental groups to thrive in the newly created interstices between the old rotting roots of corporate environmentalism. Such newly invigorated groups can then grow, guided by ideas incorporating critical thinking and cooperative behavior, rather than values conforming to capitalist growth imperatives.

A progressive non-capitalist future is possible. (48) However, the groups needed to sustain such a future will only flourish if we are sincere in our attempts to expose all of capitalism's tenacious ideological foundations: naturally this means unearthing its liberal roots along with the conservative ones. In turn, when this network of noxious ideologies is gradually torn apart, much needed resources will be freed up, which can then be used to nourish projects built upon life-giving cooperative foundations. Elites are well aware that "we [the people] are the ocean that can embrace and swallow up all else. When we have but the will to do it, that very moment will justice be done: that very instant the tyrants of the earth shall bite the dust." (49) All we need to do is act, and act together.




1.  Christine MacDonald, Green, Inc.: An Environmental Insider Reveals How a Good Cause Has Gone Bad (Lyons Press, 2008), p.xvi.  (back)

2.  For example, "Bunge and Cargill, agribusiness companies contributing to the disappearance of the Amazon rainforest, have ties to CI [Conservation International], WWF, and TNC [The Nature Conservancy]." Christine MacDonald, Green, Inc., p.25.  (back)

3.  Sharon Beder, "Greenwashing/ Greenscamming/ Greenspeak, " in International Encyclopaedia of Environmental Politics, edited by John Barry and E. Gene Frankland (Routledge, 2001).  (back)

4.  Christine MacDonald, Green, Inc., p. 53. According to Aziz Choudry: "In its first year, 1987, Conservation International bought a small portion of Bolivia's debt in exchange for the Bolivian government agreeing to support the expansion of the Beni Biological Reserve, which contains some of the world's largest reserves of mahogany and tropical cedar. Critics charged that logging actually increased in the 'multiple use and conservation' buffer zone around the reserve. Conservation International offered training and technical assistance on 'sustainable use' of the forest. The Chimane and Moxeno indigenous peoples were not consulted, and the lands were divided up by sustainable development 'experts', and they were denied the chance to manage their lands communally." Aziz Choudry, "Conservation International: Privatizing Nature, Plundering Biodiversity", Seedling, October 2003.  (back)

5.  Christine MacDonald, Green, Inc.: An Environmental Insider Reveals How a Good Cause Has Gone Bad (Lyons Press, 2008).  (back)

6.  The Conservation Foundation merged into WWF in the late 1980s.  (back)

7.  Another board member of the Wildlife Trust is Thomas Lovejoy, see later.  (back)

8.  Christine MacDonald, Green, Inc., p. 15.  (back)

9.  "Mark Tercels, an investment banker from Goldman Sachs, was picked to replace McCormick as TNC's [The Nature Conservancy's] president and CEO." Christine MacDonald, Green, Inc., pp.34-5.  (back)

10.  "The Double Eagle Fund, a hedge fund [George] Soros started in 1969, is still a centerpiece of the Arnhold and S. Bleichroeder offerings. By 1973, when Soros jumped ship to start his own operation, he left with a sizable amount of its assets and went on to greater glory." In addition, Peter Seligmann "has spoken glowingly of oil companies, regardless of their records for being among the world's foremost polluters," and "has defended longtime CI benefactor William Clay Ford, Jr. from complaints about Ford Motor Company's efforts to sabotage tougher fuel efficiency standards. The Ford scion and executive chairman of the company's board once sat on CI's board. But, he traded that seat for another on the executive board of CI's Center for Environmental Leadership in Business (CEEB), established with $25 million from the Ford Motor Company. CELB's mission is "to engage the private sector worldwide in creating solutions to critical global environmental problems in which industry plays a defining role." Critics call it CI's greenwashing center." Christine MacDonald, Green, Inc., p. 43, p.24, p.45, pp.44-5.  (back)

11.  The Inter-American Dialogue was established in 1982 and refers to itself as the "premier center for policy analysis, exchange, and communication on issues in Western Hemisphere affairs." According to their website, the Inter-American Dialogue "engages public and private leaders from across the Americas in efforts to develop and mobilize support for cooperative responses to key hemispheric problems and opportunities." They go on to note that since their formation the "Dialogue has helped shape the agenda of issues and choices in inter-American relations." The type of relations they promote, however, would appear to be strongly influenced by the massive support their work receives from the business sector, as they boast of having more than 100 active member of their Corporate Circle, notables of which include Boeing, Chevron, General Electric, General Motors, IBM, JP Morgan Chase, Kissinger McLarty and Lockheed Martin.

The current president of the Inter-American Dialogue, Peter Hakim, serves on the boards and advisory committees of a number of other key democracy-manipulating organizations, which include the Foundation of the Americas, the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, and Human Rights Watch. Prior to his appointment as the president of the Inter-American Dialogue, Hakim was a vice president of the Inter-American Foundation, had worked with the Ford Foundation in both New York and Latin America.

Writing in 2002, Yves Dezalay and Bryant Garth observe that the Inter-American Dialogue was initially created and "launched by members of the liberal establishment in the United States and funded by the Ford Foundation in order to counter the policies identified with the Reagan administration and, in particular, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, who supported dictators in the name of anticommunism." Thus the two people who submitted the request for funding to establish the Inter-American Dialogue project to the Ford Foundation were Abraham Lowenthal (who was the Dialogue's founding executive director, and is currently the president of the Pacific Council), and Sol Linowitz (who along with David Rockefeller played a key role in creating the International Executive Service Corps in 1964, and presently serves on the advisory committee of the Bush dynasty's "humanitarian" operation, AmeriCares). Therefore, given the strong backing the Inter-American Dialogue's receives from the corporate world, it is not so strange that Dezalay and Garth describe the Inter-American Dialogue as being "conceived as an elitist network":

"It focused on leaders and potential leaders. Among its members were four past or future heads of state and a larger number of past or future ministers of finance. As an organization of individuals close to state power, there was also a pragmatic cast to its endeavors. In the words of one of the participants, they sought mainly to ' nudge the debate forward,' helping to further ideas that promote democracy and help to bring the debt crisis to a resolution. In order to succeed in these goals, the founders of the organization sought to build a minimal consensus. They sought to bridge the differences between democratically oriented academics and politicians, on one side, and economic technocrats and bankers, on the other."

In short, Dezalay and Garth suggest that the Inter-American Dialogue "was a project of mobilization of professional elites -- friends of the United States -- in the service of policies that were both imperial and internal." Nothing much seems to have changed, and as a cursory look at the people affiliated with the Inter-American Dialogue will show, their affiliates remain firmly committed to manipulating democracy in the Americas. Thus it is not surprising that in 2005 the Inter-American Dialogue released a report entitled, A Break in the Clouds - Latin America and the Caribbean in 2005, which Edgard Hernandez notes was "biased against the administration of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, and makes use of several baseless arguments and half-truths."

Yves Dezalay and Bryant Garth, The Internationalization of Palace Wars: Lawyers, Economists, and the Contest to Transform Latin American States (University of Chicago Press, 2002), p.148, p.183, p.180.  (back)

12.  The Eurasia Foundation is a "privately managed non-profit organization supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development and other public and private donors. Since 1992, the Eurasia Foundation has invested over $360 million through more than 8,400 grants and operating programs in Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan." The Eurasia Foundation operates along much the same lines as the National Endowment for Democracy -- funding many of the same projects -- and amongst other things it notes that it aims to promote "[a]ccelerated development and growth of private enterprise".

The Eurasia Foundation's 2005 Annual Report acknowledges that they have received support from donors and partners which include two core grantees of the National Endowment for Democracy (the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute), Freedom House, Internews, the Carnegie Corporation, the Ford Foundation, the Open Society Institute/Open Soros Foundations, and corporations like ExxonMobil and Philip Morris. Particular notable members of the Eurasia Foundation's advisory board other than McPherson are Martti Ahtisaari, Madeleine K. Albright, and James A. Baker III.  (back)

13.  Daniel Franks, "Consuming Landscapes: Towards a Political Ecology of Resource Appropriation," PhD Thesis, Griffith University, Australia, October 2007.  (back)

14.  Newmont are also a financial supporter of the Fund for Peace -- a group whose work is funded by the National Endowment for Democracy.  (back)

15.  Christine MacDonald, Green, Inc., p.137. The one other institutional member of the Business and Biodiversity Offset Program's Secretariat is the Wildlife Conservation Society. This program describes itself as a "partnership between companies, governments and conservation experts to explore biodiversity offsets," and in addition to Newmont other notable groups that are members of its advisory committee include the Australian government, Anglo American, Rio Tinto, Shell, WWF, The Nature Conservancy, IUCN, UNDP, and Birdlife International.  (back)

16.  As Oscar Reyes points out: "The World Bank has an alarmingly poor track record in relation to forests, however. During the 1980s, it funded a series of disastrous commercial logging projects, mega-dams and road building programmes that opened the way to widespread deforestation. Mounting criticisms led to a new forest policy in 1991 which, at least on paper, ended the Bank's support for commercial logging, while stressing conservation and local peoples' rights. In practice, though, the Bank continued to incentivise forest destruction through its structural adjustment programmes. It then issued a revised forest policy in 2002, signalling its return to a more active role in this sector.

"Talk of 'sustainable forest management' could not mask the fact that the Bank had gone back to its bad old ways, encouraging further logging and the growth of plantations at the expense of natural forests. In early 2007, for example, the Bank launched a strategic plan to invest in up to 7 million hectares of new industrial plantations in Indonesia." Oscar Reyes, "Growing Money on Trees," Red Pepper, March 1, 2008.  (back)

17.  Here it is interesting to note that David Brand's environmental affiliations appear to be indicative of Forest Trends as he also serves as a board member of Environment Business Australia, where he sits alongside Robert Purves, the president of the mining friendly, and nuclear-energy-promoting WWF-Australia. In keeping with this connection, Brand is also the founder of New Forests Pty Limited, a "forestry investment management and advisory firm currently managing $200 million in assets throughout Australia, New Zealand, the U.S. and the Asia Pacific region." Most notably, former CEO of Goldman Sachs Asset Management (1999-2003), David Blood, serves on the four-person strong board of New Forests. Blood recently served as a board member (in 2007 at least) of the Acumen Fund -- a "non-profit global venture fund" that apparently "uses entrepreneurial approaches to solve the problems of global poverty." While at the Acumen Fund, Blood sat alongside leading liberal philanthropists like Angela Glover Blackwell (the former senior vice president for the Rockefeller Foundation), and George Soros's daughter, Andrea Soros Colombel.  (back)

18.  Given their current partners it is ironic that the Rainforest Action Network list their first success story as occurring in 1986 when they "Kick[ed] off a worldwide movement to highlight the destructive lending practices of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund." Moreover, in 1998 they list another success story as a result of years of campaigning that resulted in "Mitsubishi Motor Sales America and Mitsubishi Electric America pledging to end use of old-growth forest products and phase out use of tree-based paper and packaging products in favor of alternative fibers." One might assume that Mitsubishi has now improved their environmental credentials, given its representation on the board of Forest Trend, but unfortunately only these two American subsidiaries of Mitsubishi were forced into making environmental concessions. As Leslie King and Deborah McCarthy observe "the American subsidiaries are probably two companies with only minor involvement in timber activities. Their positive approach is basically in line with their long-standing efforts to improve their environmental records. Thus, the agreement did not necessarily hit the most destructive parts of the Mitsubishi Group." (The International Boycott Mitsubishi Campaign was designed and then directed by Michael Marx.)

Boris Holzer, "Transnational Protest and the Corporate Planet: The Case of Mitsubishi Corporation vs. The Rainforest Action Network," In Leslie King and Deborah McCarthy, Environmental Sociology: From Analysis to Action (The Scarecrow Press, 2005), p.362.

According to their 2005 Annual Report (pdf), Rainforest Action Network received just over $1 million in support for that financial year, with just over a third of their funding derived from public support and membership, another third coming from grants, and the remainder from family foundations and major gifts. Of the seven groups/individuals that donated more than $100,000, three were anonymous; the other four were the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Ecology Trust, the Rudolf Steiner Foundation, and the Wallace Global Fund. Given the Rainforest Action Network evident reliance on the support of liberal foundations, it is appropriate that their president, Randy Hayes, presently serves on the board of the David Brower Center alongside board chair Peter Buckley who additionally serves on the board of Doug Tompkins Conservation Land Trust. Tompkins' Foundation for Deep Ecology has similarly been highly supportive of the International Forum on Globalization, a group that Randy Hayes formerly headed, although he now presently serves as their Senior Strategist.  (back)

19.  Sharon Beder, "The Stain in Sustainability," The New Internationalist, October 2005.  (back)

20.  For an extended discussion of the Centre for International Forestry, see Michael Barker, "Bill Gates Engineers Another Green Revolution (Part 3 of 3)," Znet, August 8, 2008.  (back)

21.  Ecotrust board member, Nancy Schaub, sits on the board of director of Center for Ecoliteracy -- a group that counts Peter Buckley among its three cofounders.  (back)

22.  According to Alexandra Minna Stern's book Eugenic Nation: Faults and Frontiers of Better Breeding in Modern America (University of California Press , 2005): "Paul Ehrlich's The Population Bomb, published in 1968 by the Sierra Club through Ballantine Books, reiterated many of [Fairfield] Osborn's jeremiads and made population growth 'a major focus for groups interested in linking the problem of resource limits to the growing concern about "quality of life."' ...This book had an enormous impact, selling more than one million copies in less than two years and going through twenty-two printings. It also catalyzed the formation of Zero Population Growth (ZPG), a group based at Stanford University, where Ehrlich was a professor of biology. ZPG mushroomed to more than thirty-three thousand members and 380 chapters by the early 1970s. It strove to attain replacement-level fertility rates in the United States, a goal shared by allies in the Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood, and the Audubon Society. With a strong presence in California, ZPG relied on decades-old stereotypes of Mexicans and Mexican Americans as diseased hyperbreeders and demonized Spanish speakers and undocumented immigrants. This animus intensified in 1978 when John Tanton, a Sierra Clubber and 'English only' advocate, founded the Federation for American Immigration Reform to press for stricter immigration laws and border control. By the late 1970s, population control, particularly in the Southwest and California, had fused with 'efforts to control the flow of Mexican migrants.'" (p.127)  (back)

23.  Soule's corporate environmentalist credentials are also supported by the fact that he "was named by Audubon Magazine in 1998 as one of the 100 Champions of Conservation of the 20th Century, [and] is a recipient of the National Wildlife Federation's National Conservation Achievement Award for science"  (back)

24.  Despite his neo-Malthusian tendencies Dave Foreman is widely considered to be a leading spokesperson of the radical ecology movement. For a useful book-length discussion between Dave Foreman and one of his leading critics, the eco-anarchist Murray Bookchin, see their book Defending the Earth (South End Press, 1991). Given their differences, in the aforementioned book "both Bookchin and Foreman agreed that as long as hierarchical social relationships are the foundation for our societies, there is very little hope for creating an ecological society that will not seek to dominate or exploit the Earth. Similarly, both agreed that protecting wilderness areas and fostering a new ecological sensibility and a direct moral concern for other species was an urgent task that could no longer be ignored or postponed." (David Levine cited in foreword)

In the introduction to Defending the Earth, Steve Chase surmises: "While not necessarily the norm, there is clearly a misanthropic strain within the more extreme wilderness visions articulated by some deep ecologists. This blunts the social perspective and ethic of the entire movement and its members. Indeed, the deep ecology movement as a whole lacks a consistent or clear social analysis of the ecology crisis or even a consistent commitment to humane social ethics." (p.20) As noted before, although Bookchin has serious problems with important aspects of Foreman's work he observes: "Frankly, I see eye to eye with the activists of Earth First! on a large number of things. In many ways, I think they and Dave Foreman are doing a wonderful job. I feel a very keen sympathy for their many direct-action campaigns to protect wilderness. They are not terrorists as the FBI would have you believe. They are doing important work, work I strongly support." (p.28) A few pages later Bookchin continues, "I've never believed that people in Earth First! are fascists. I am afraid, however, of certain positions and statements, the tendency of which remind me of things I heard fifty years ago when there was a world-wide fascist movement that used 'naturalistic' Malthusian arguments to justify racist population control policies. This abuse of the "overpopulation" issue is not just a distant historical issue, either. The abuse of the population issue is ongoing. Just look at what the Rockefeller crowd is trying to do in the Third World. It is a remarkably dangerous question which has to be carefully and rationally discussed if we are to resist racism, sexism, and genocide." (p.30) It is on this significant point that both Bookchin and Foreman fail to reach an agreement, as Foreman highlights "the left's refusal to admit that there is a human population crisis and that we need to lower human population over the long run." (p.52)

Later, Bookchin provides a concise summary of his critique of Deep Ecology, he writes: "At the risk of being repetitive, let me stress that deep ecology's limited, and sometimes distorted, social understanding explains why no other 'radical' ecology philosophy could be more congenial to the ruling elites of our time. Here is a perspective on the ecological crisis that blames our 'values' without going to the social sources of these values. It denounces population growth without explaining why the poor and oppressed proliferate in such huge numbers or what social changes could humanely stabilize the human population. It blames technology without asking who develops it and for what purposes. It denounces consumers without dealing with the grow-or-die economy that uses its vast media apparatus to get them to consume as a monstrous substitute for a culturally and spiritually meaningful life." (pp.129-30)  (back)

25.  The Wildlands Project is linked to various other big green nongovernmental organizations as their Treasurer, Rob Ament, is a representative of the Wildlife Conservation Society; and their honorary board member, John Terborgh, serves on the board of WWF USA.  (back)

26.  In the late 1990s John Davis's "life-long friend Tom Butler assumed editorship so that John could go to California and serve as Biodiversity & Wildness program officer of the Foundation for Deep Ecology"; Butler himself presently serves as the serves as the editorial projects director for the Foundation for Deep Ecology.  (back)

27.  Bram Buscher, "Conservation, Neoliberalism, and Social Science: a Critical Reflection on the SCB 2007 Annual Meeting in South Africa," Conservation Biology, 22 (2), pp.229-31. Given the critical tone of this leading editorial for this particular issue of Conservation Biology, ironically a later article in the issue titled "Agents of Change and Nonviolent Action" (pp.241-42) was authored by Hardy Merriman, the Director of Programs and Research for the controversial democracy-manipulating organization the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict.  (back)

28.  David Ehrenfeld, "Neoliberalization of Conservation," Conservation Biology, 22 (2), pp.1091-92.  (back)

29.  Indicative of the type of people working for Ecoagriculture Partners is Cosmas Ochieng (their director of policies and markets in Africa) who prior to joining them had played an "instrumental [role] in helping start" the imperial project that is known as the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).  (back)

30.  The Christensen Fund was founded in 1957 by the past president of the Utah Mining and Construction Company, Allen Christensen. Since 1996, the Fund has been supporting conservation organizations, and "principal" among these is the Wildlife Conservation Society. Since 2002, the Fund has been headed by Ken Wilson, an individual who happens to have spent nine years working for the Ford Foundation, seven in Mozambique, and two in New York as the deputy to the vice president of the Foundation's Education, Media, Arts and Culture Program. One member of the Fund's board, Atossa Soltani, is linked to the aforementioned Rainforest Action Network (see footnote #18) as prior to founding a group called Amazon Watch (in 1996) she directed the Network's campaigns for five years. According to their 2007 Annual Report, Amazon Watch obtains 56 percent of their funding from philanthropic foundations; major funders being the Blue Moon Fund, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, and the Wallace Global Fund; and less important funders including bodies like the Moriah Fund and the American Jewish World Service.  (back)

31.  As I noted in an earlier article, the Mexican-owned CEMEX "is listed as a strategic ally and/or benefactor of the [National Endowment for Democracy-funded] New Journalism Foundation. ... This link begins to make more sense though when it is known that the chair and CEO of CEMEX, Lorenzo Zambrano -- who happens to be a member of the elite planning group the Trilateral Commission, and a director of the controversial Conservation International -- is also a director of Mexico's largest media group, Grupo Televisa -- which also happens to be the largest Spanish-speaking communications company in the world."  (back)

32.  The founder and Chief Executive of the Global Environment and Technology Foundation, Tom Harvey, amongst other former duties served as the National Security Advisor to Congressman Dick Cheney during the Reagan administration.  (back)

33.  Ian Player is also a member of the international scientific board of advisors for the Cheetah Conservation Fund, a group that is based in Namibia, Africa, and was founded in 1990 by Laurie Marker (a person who in 2003 was named Conservationist of the Year by Chevron-Texaco). Two other WILD Foundation board members serve on the Cheetah Conservation Fund's U.S. board of trustees -- these are David Barron and Vance Martin.  (back)

34.  Based in both Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo, WildlifeDirect is a "joint program" of two charities, both of which are founded and chaired by African conservationist Sir Richard Leakey, the U.S.-based Wildlife Direct Inc. and the British Africa Conservation Fund. Leakey served as the head of the Kenya Wildlife Service from 1989 until 1994, and is a life trustee of the Leakey Foundation -- a philanthropic body that was set up in 1968 and has "provided grants to many of the seminal studies that inform our understanding of human prehistory such as the field research and discoveries of Louis, Richard and Mary Leakey, Don Johanson, Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas." The chair of the Leakey Foundation's board of trustees is Gordon Getty, the son of oil titan J. Paul Getty. (Incidentally, Hanne Strong, the wife of environmental/oil strongman Maurice, "co-founded the first nonprofit private foundation in Kenya with Sir Richard Leakey and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Wangari Maathai for the disabled and street children.")

Reflecting on the controversial nature of Leakey's work in Kenya, Nancy Lee Peluso writes: "In April 1989, Richard Leakey became the director of Kenya's Wildlife Service. Since then Leakey has made his mark by firing administrative and field staff believed to be involved in the illegal ivory or rhino horn trade, by giving raises to underpaid and overworked park rangers, and by arming these rangers with automatic rifles and helicopter gunships in order to wage war more effectively on the poachers invading Kenya's national parks. Wage war they have: within two years of his taking over, more than a hundred poachers have been killed, many of them with no chance for discussion or trial; the rangers are licensed, like military in a state of emergency, to shoot-to-kill. The Wildlife Service has also reclaimed direct control over the Maasai Mara Reserve, where the combination of wildlife management with local participation and benefits had reportedly been more successful. The government claimed that the reserve had been inadequately maintained and was deteriorating, denying earlier reports that elephants and rhinoceros populations within this park had been increasing while antipoaching costs were virtually negligible." Peluso concludes her article by noting that: "Militaries, paramilitary organizations, and state agencies often create or exacerbate resource-based conflicts by their participation in protective activities, their involvement as actors, or their coercive tactics. ... Just as some military leaders can be co-opted to work for the sake of conservation agendas, conservation groups' resources and ideologies can be co-opted for separate military agendas. Once coercive conservation tactics are accepted, such co-optation is nearly impossible to prevent."

Nancy Lee Peluso, "Coercing Conservation," In Ken Conca and Geoffrey Dabelko (eds) Green Planet Blues: Environmental Politics from Stockhold to Kyoto (Second Edition), (Westview Press, 1998), pp.350-1, p.352.

Despite her criticism of Leakey (which was first published in 1993), Peluso has solid establishment credentials as she received a Ford Foundation Fellowship to aid with her doctorate studies (which were completed in 1988), and in the late 1970s she had received a field research grant from the Ford Foundation. Also of note, in 1996, Peluso co-authored a book with Christine Padoch, an individual who presently serves as the vice chair of the controversial Syngenta-linked Center for International Forestry Research.  (back)

35.  The African Parks Foundation was founded in 2003 and according to their website they have been successful in "demonstrate[ing] that national parks can be managed responsibly by a private organisation in partnership with governments." Their website highlights "three individuals who were instrumental in funding the organisation during its early years," these were the late Paul Fentener van Vlissingen (whose family business is based on liquid petroleum gas distribution, and who is also a Club 21 Member of the free-market orientated Peace Parks Foundation), the Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands (who is the founder of WWF), and Wal-Mart's Rob Walton (who helps govern the Walton Family Foundation, is a board member of Conservation International, and is the chair of the latter's Center for Environmental Leadership in Business).

A notable core funder of the Foundation is the U.S. Agency for International Development, while another related group is the African Parks Foundation of America -- Nicholas Lapham is a former vice president for policy at Conservation International, and currently serves alongside Paul Ehrlich as a strategic advisor to the Natural Capital Project (a "joint venture" among Stanford University, The Nature Conservancy, and WWF).  (back)

36.  Andrew Muir is perhaps the most intriguing (and progressive) member of the WILD Foundation's board of directors as he is an associate of the British-based Gaia Foundation, a group which is "committed to cultural and biological diversity, and a living Earth democracy": here he serves along progressive environmental activists like Martin Khor and Vandana Shiva. This, perhaps more than anything else, demonstrates the close associations that exist between elites and influential supporters of Deep Ecology like Khor and Shiva. However, the ties should not be so surprising given that the Foundation obtains funding from the philanthropic foundations like the Sigrid Rausing Trust (which supports an assortment of "humanitarian" groups from Human Rights Watch to the International Crisis Group) and Douglas Tompkins' Foundation for Deep Ecology (whose background is examined in my former article "The Philanthropic Roots Of Corporate Environmentalism"). Indeed, both Khor and Shiva are board members of the International Forum on Globalization, whose work happens to be heavily supported by the Foundation for Deep Ecology. Furthermore, the former Executive Director of the International Forum on Globalization is none other than Randy Hayes, the founder and president of the Rainforest Action Network, and board member of Forest Trends; while critically the founder and Co-Director of the Forum, Jerry Mander, is the program director for the Foundation for Deep Ecology.

Finally, it is worth observing that the chairman of the WILD Foundation's board, Robert Baron, is the founder and CEO of Prime Computer ("one of Fortune 500's largest American companies") and the founder and president of Fulcrum, Inc. (a Colorado-based book publishing company). Fulcrum publishes a number of environmental books, including the proceedings of the World Wilderness Congresses, so it is fitting to have a look at some of their other titles: thus they have one by the elite futurist John Petersen, another by Willie Nelson "explains the benefits of biodiesel," another demonstrates "[h]ow you can save the planet with changes, big and small, to your buying habits," and one titled Population: The Complex Reality in true Malthusian fashion "reflect[s] a sense of urgent concern about the growth of population and its effect on resource consumption, environmental degradation, and poverty." Interestingly Fulcrum do include one radical environmental publication on their catalogue, that is, David Morris's book Earth Warrior: Overboard with Paul Watson and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (Fulcrum, 1995).  (back)

37.  Other interesting WILD Foundation trustees include professional nature photographer Patricio Robles Gil (who is a board member of the Cougar Fund -- where he sits alongside elite chimpanzee researcher Jane Goodall and her primate colleague Marc Bekoff), documentary film-maker Bittu Sahgal (who in 2004 received the a distinguished service award from the Society for Conservation Biology), Mike McBride (a former trustee of The Nature Conservancy), and Partha Sarathy (who founded the Bangalore office of the World Wildlife Fund).  (back)

38.  Fellow advisory board member of the International Conservation Caucus Foundation, the Honorable James Greenwood, serves as a board member of the "environmental" group Resources for the Future, and of the Marine Conservation Biology Institute (a group whose head, Elliott Norse, has served as president of the marine section of the Society for Conservation Biology). Significantly, Greenwood is president and CEO of the biotechnology trade organization, the Biotechnology Industry Organization. The Conservation Caucus's advisory board also exhibits military ties on top of biotech the connection, as the Honorable Dick Schulze, recently served as a lobbyist for Lockheed Martin (from 1997 until 2004).  (back)

39.  WILD Foundation board member, John Hendee, has previously served in various leadership positions (during the 1980s and 1990s) at the Society of American Foresters.  (back)

40.  Two people that are examined within this article who are affiliated to the National Geographic Society are Thomas Lovejoy (who chairs their Conservation Trust advisory board), and Sylvia Earle (who is the explorer-in-residence at the National Geographic Society). It is also informative to examine the backgrounds of some of the members of the National Geographic Society's board of trustees: thus board chair Gilbert Grosvenor, is a board member of Chevy Chase Bank, and is a trustee of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund; while other notable trustees include Peter Raven (who is a member of the chairman's council of Conservation International), William Reilly (who is the former president of WWF), Rozanne Ridgway (who is a board member of Boeing), Tracy Wolstencroft (who is a managing director of Goldman Sachs, and a board member of the "humanitarian" International Rescue Committee). For a useful critique of the International Rescue Committee's reporting on the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, see keith harmon snow, "Over Five Million Dead in Congo?," Dissident Voice, February 4, 2008.

Marisol Da Silva's recent thesis, "Valuing Subjectivity In Documentary: Photography and the Media" (Griffith University, 2007), draws our attention to Catherine Lutz and Jane Collins' critical book Reading National Geographic (University of Chicago Press, 1993). Da Silva writes how they highlight "the magazine's history as one steeped in the trope of 'objective classifications of race', and as a product of a society deeply permeated by racism and gender difference, reinforced by images taken by the Geographic photographer as the 'whitest' of white men; 'the great hunter/adventurer' who is free to roam the globe...virile in his freedom from observation and evaluation', and brave for 'entering the dangerous realms at the ends of the earth' (Collins & Lutz 2002, pp.92-112)."Bearing this in mind, it is intriguing, as Ziba Kashef reports, that the National Geographic Society and IBM have launched their Genographic Project, to "collect more than 100,000 samples of DNA from indigenous people worldwide" to apparently "study ancient migration patterns and learn more about where different populations originated." However, as one might expect, "[f]rom its inception, the project has met with resistance from several indigenous groups. Though some have participated, most North American tribes and nations have declined. Given the history of scientific racism, indigenous people are wary of the project's intentions and consequences. While scientists stand to gain knowledge, and career advancement, from research on indigenous people, those populations potentially have a lot to lose. For example, the project poses questions about the aboriginal inhabitants of various regions and countries, and if it were to conclude that groups in Alaska came from Asia or elsewhere, the research could be used to undermine indigenous claims to land and other rights."  (back)

41.  Alexandra Minna Stern, Eugenic Nation, p.120, p.121. "[H]ikers passing through the Madison Grant Forest and Elk Refuge in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park or climbing Mount Jordan in Sequoia National Park might be surprised to learn that they are enjoying places named in honor of two of the most prominent eugenicists in the first half of the twentieth century." (p.119)

Here it is worth pointing out that Save-the-Redwoods League had, since the mid-1920s, received several million dollars from the Rockefeller family. Contrary to its green-sounding name, during the 1960s the League played a vital role in opposing the creation of a new national park in California's Redwood Creek, the site agreed upon by both the National Park Service and the Sierra Club. With the aid of Laurance Rockefeller, the League supported lobbying efforts to have the park established in the Mill Creek area, the site preferred by the local timber companies, most notably, the Weyerhaeuser Timber Company. Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall recalled that "Laurance had close ties with the people at Weyerhaeuser and prided himself on the fact that he could talk to them as one businessman to another." In fact, Martin Litton, a journalist and close friend of David Brower's, had already suggested that "everything Save the Redwoods League had [ever] done had been pretty much under the control of the logging companies." Despite these barriers, in 1968 the Redwood National Park was eventually created. However, Udall believed that it was Laurance's backdoor dealings that had led to the park being much smaller than it might have been.

As a further aside, President Johnson had told his secretary of the interior, Stewart Udall, that creation of the Redwood National Park should be his first priority in September 1964. Interestingly, the Sierra Club found itself in the difficult position of not being able to criticize Save-the-Redwoods League, because many Club notables, like Will Colby, Duncan McDuffie, Newton Drury, Francis Farquhar, and Richard Leonard, were closely associated with the League. Michael Cohen, The History of the Sierra Club, 1892-1970 (Sierra Club Books, 1988), p. 301.  (back)

42.  Ominously, keith harmon snow reports that in the Congo "many accusations coming out of North Kivu... link the Jane Goodall Institute and Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund to local Mai Mai and FDLR [Forces for the Democratic Liberation of Rwanda]: like every other militia, or occupation army, these factions have infiltrated villages and now prey on, intimidate and abuse the locals." On top of this in another earlier article co-authored with Georgianne Nienaber, snow observed how the "Jane Goodall Institute is sub-contracting under Engender Health for family planning initiatives in rural Congo." In this article they refer to Engender Health as "a house of horrors," which according to their 2007 Annual Report had a total income of $47 million, $37 million of which came from U.S. Agency for International Development: other funders include the likes of the ExxonMobil Foundation, GlaxoSmithKline, and the Rockefeller Foundation. Notably, the President of Engender Health, Ana Langer, formerly served for eleven years as the Population Council's regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean. For further details on the relevance of the connections between "environmental" and population control group see my article, "Liberal Philanthropy and the 'Birth' of Population Control Environmentalism."

keith harmon snow, "Merchants of Death: Exposing Corporate-financed Holocaust in Africa," Dissident Voice, December 8. 2008; Georgianne Nienaber and keith harmon snow, "KING KONG: Scoping in on the Curious Activities of the International Monkey Business," COA News, 2007.  (back)

43.  At United Technologies, John Faraci serves alongside the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Richard Myers. Myers's wife, Mary Jo Myers, serves with Jane Goodall on the advisory board of the "humanitarian" group MediSend International. Faraci is also a board member of the National Park Foundation -- a group that was created in 1967 with an "initial $1 million contribution from Laurance Rockefeller." The honorary chair of the Foundation's board is Laura Bush (the former First Lady and wife of George W. Bush), and one of their emeriti vice chairs is David Rockefeller, Jr. (the eldest son of David Rockefeller).  (back)

44.  The third non-WILD Foundation committee member is Alan Watson, who works as a researcher for the U.S. Forest Service's Leopold Institute.  (back)

45.  Thomas Friedman, Hot, Flat, and Crowded, p.141. Friedman surmises that "global warming, the stunning rise of middle classes all over the world, and rapid population growth have converged in a way that could make our planet dangerously unstable." (p.5) Thus Friedman joins many other conservationists and elites in their fixation on rising human populations, and makes the concerning observation that our "growth has come on so big, so fast that Michael V. Hayden, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, stated that his analysts now believe the most worrying trend in the world is not terrorism but demographics." (p.29)  (back)

46.  Christine MacDonald, Green, Inc., p.204.  (back)

47.  Murray Bookchin provides a concise description of the roots of an alternative future: "Mutalism, self-organization, freedom, and subjectivity, together with social ecology's principles of unity in diversity, informed spontaneity, and non-hierarchical relationships, coheers into an ethics of complementarity that sees human beings in a rational, ecological society as playing the creative role of 'nature' rendered self-conscious." Murray Bookchin, Which Way for the Ecology Movement? (AK Press, 1994), p.74.  (back)

48.  Gabriel Kolko observed: "There can be no alternatives so long as none are seriously proposed, and to propose a relevant measure of fundamental opposition one must understand what is going on in society, and the relationship of present activities to desired goals." We should take note of the concluding statement of his seminal critique of the Progressive Era in which he noted that: "No ['socially or politically significant'] party tried to develop a program that suggested democracy could be created only by continuous mass involvement in the decisions that affected their lives, if the concentration of power in the hands of an elite was to be avoided." On top of this Eric Fromm suggests that: "Those who unconsciously despair yet put on the mask of optimism are not necessarily wise. But those who have not given up hope can succeed only if they are hardheaded realists, shed all illusions, and fully appreciate the difficulties. This sobriety marks the distinction between awake and dreaming 'utopians.'"

Gabriel Kolko, The Triumph of Conservatism: A Reinterpretation of American History, 1900-1916 (Quadrangle Books, 1967 [1963]), p.304, p.305; Eric Fromm, To Have or to Be? (Abacus Book, 1990 [1978[), p.170.  (back)

49.  Roger Baldwin (editor), Kropotkin's Revolutionary Pamphlets: A Collection of Writings by Peter Kropotkin (Dover Publications, 1970), p.282.  (back)


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About the Author

Michael Barker has recently handed in his PhD thesis at Griffith University in Australia. His other articles can be accessed at michaeljamesbarker.wordpress.com.



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Published January 26, 2009