Swans Commentary » swans.com September 6, 2010  



Greasing The Cogs Of Corporate Environmentalism
From Exxon to BP and Beyond


by Michael Barker





"The history of oil in the 1970s is, in a way, simply another chapter in the posthumous life of John D. Rockefeller. The world of oil is much more densely populated than when he launched his Standard [Oil] empire, but still the axis on which that world spins depends heavily on Rockefeller companies. At home and abroad. At home, four of the companies that were spun off by the alleged 'breakup' of the Standard Oil Trust in 1911 still dominate the market in a total of forty-three states. Abroad, Rockefeller's dead hand has an equally impressive grasp of energy matters."
—Robert Sherrill, 1983. (1)


(Swans - September 6, 2010)   For many decades oil monies have been intimately connected to all things environmental, and black gold has been used to both destroy the environment and to sustain the movement to protect it. Heir to the massive financial and political power of the Standard Oil empire, the Rockefeller dynasty has presided over such polluting affairs to the current day, and any bid to undo their noxious involvement with the environmental movement necessarily means that we must first familiarize ourselves with their environmental precedents. Of course, former vice president of the United States Nelson Rockefeller (1974-7) was not the only Rockefeller to make his political presence felt when the environmental movement was born again in the late 1960s and 1970s. This is because three of Nelson's brothers -- John D. Rockefeller III, Laurence, and David -- all played key though oft-understated roles in defining the strategic evolution of the mainstream environmental movement (see "The Philanthropic Roots of Corporate Environmentalism," and "Laurance Rockefeller and Capitalist Conservation"). This article, however, unlike my previous work on these matters, is not directly concerned with the philanthropic activities of the Rockefeller family, but instead aims to show the direct connections between oil power brokers and environmental advocates. To tell this story I draw heavily upon Robert Sherrill's book, The Oil Follies of 1970-1980: How the Petroleum Industry Stole the Show (and Much More Besides) (Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1983).

To set the scene for this article Robert Sherrill reminds us how:

The 1970s were obviously destined to be a bloody battleground. As things turned out, most of the blood would be that of consumers. Still, the oil companies would bleed some too, for they would from time to time shoot themselves in the foot, or feet. If victory in the commercial world must include winning public approbation, then the oil companies lost the war of the 1970s disastrously; they emerged from that decade with hardly a shred of credibility still covering their affluence. Previously they had sometimes been able to claim at least some grudging respect; after the 1970s they were, it is fair to say, universally feared and despised. On the other hand, if victory can be measured only in new wealth, then it must be said that the oil companies were victorious indeed, for never in modern history has so much wealth been transferred from consumers to producers-with, let us add, so little justification. (pp.4-5)

One oil executive who skillfully managed to avoid shooting himself in the foot during these turbulent times was Robert O. Anderson, the creator and chairman of Atlantic Richfield (ARCO). Anderson was a notoriously smooth operator, and Sherrill observes that of all the oilmen who "had ready access to top White House assistants" in the Nixon administration, "None, it was said, was looked upon with more favor" than Anderson. (2) Yet Anderson's enviable situation was not new for him, as in 1966, during Lyndon Johnson's administration, ARCO had been "created without a particle of opposition... even though a number of antitrust principles seemed to have been violated in the merger of Atlantic Refining Co., one of the largest distributors in the East, with Richfield Oil Co., one of the largest distributors on the West Coast." Indeed, ARCO subsequently obtained government cooperation in March 1969 when it "announced its merger with Sinclair Oil Company," which again "was the biggest merger in history." (3)

At this ripe stage in history, the oil industry already had its sights firmly set on Alaska's rich natural resources that had been opened up by the Interior Department just two years earlier. As always the oil giants did not want to go it alone and "needed swift government action" to facilitate their entry to this lucrative region, especially after July 1968 when ARCO and Exxon announced the discovery of oil near Prudhoe Bay, on Alaska's North Slope. (4) The money to be made on this government-backed enterprise was immense and Barry Weisberg, writing in 1970, points out how:

In 1965, '66, and '67, four major companies -- Atlantic Richfield Company (Arco), British Petroleum (BP), Humble, a Jersey Standard [that is, Exxon] subsidiary, and Sinclair -- leased acreage for oil exploration on the North Slope, paying a total of 12 million dollars for leases now worth upwards of two billion dollars -- or more than 150 times as much. (5)

Yet this was not enough for the needy oil companies, and to ease their entry into this extremely sensitive environment the oil moguls realized that they needed a very friendly and amenable secretary of the interior. As Sherrill recounts, it just so happened that:

Anderson had his eye on just the right man for the job: Walter J. Hickel, a real estate millionaire who had recently left the governorship of Alaska. In that job, Hickel had shown his willingness to be very cooperative. Following the discovery of oil at Prudhoe Bay, he had rushed the state into building a road nearly four hundred miles long, from Fairbanks to the Arctic Ocean, so that trucks could carry equipment to the boom area. (6)

Prior to Anderson's political intervention, Nixon had been ready to appoint Montana Governor Tim Babcock to head the Department of the Interior, but with a little persuasion he changed his mind and appointed Hickel, an individual who "owned 32,316 shares of Alaska Interstate, a company whose subsidiary was specifically tied to Union and Marathon oil companies." But while this industry appointment appeared useful, Sherrill suggests that "it was a flawed scheme" as environmental opposition to Hickel's appointment was so strong that "at his confirmation hearings, he was forced to make promises of good conduct that would, as it turned out, greatly reduce his usefulness to the oil companies." (7) This comment is of course debatable, as given Anderson's stellar reputation for forward thinking, Hickel's apparent collapse in front of the environmental activism could (in the long run) arguably have reduced radical environmental opposition (for more on this read on).

Either way, Alaska's oil consortium, ARCO, Exxon, and British Petroleum, joined forces in February 1969 to form the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) and sought to undertake what would be the "largest private construction project in the world" in building an 800-mile pipeline from the North Slope to the Valdez tanker port. By June that year TAPS had lodged their plans regarding the pipelines construction, and Under Secretary of the Interior Russell E. Train (1969-70), attempting to allay the much-warranted fears of environmentalists, assured them that every effort would be taken to protect the vulnerable environment. (8)

But disaster had already struck the oil industry, because in late January 1969 the historically important Santa Barbara oil spill had the effect of encouraging many environmental groups to oppose the oil industry's intrusions into Alaska. For example, the Center for Law and Social Policy actually "came into existence in 1969 specifically to fight some of the proposed oil schemes in Alaska." Joining the anti-pipeline melee the New York Times editorial page endorsed the environmentalists' position, and Sherrill adds that: "Even some of the old clubs, which for years had seemed little more than drowsy bird watchers, suddenly were caught up in the sue-the-bastards spirit of the era." (9) The (temporary) nail in the pipeline's coffin subsequently came on January 1, 1970, when President Nixon signed the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) -- an Act whose requirements for environmental impact statements and the like proved to be a major headache for TAPS. The problems for the powerful oil brokers, however, did not end here, and:

In March and April [of 1970] a variety of environmental organizations (including The Wilderness Society, Friends of the Earth, and the Environmental Defense Fund) that felt the proposed pipeline would damage Alaska's wilderness filed lawsuits charging that the TAPS owners and the Department of the Interior had not met the environmental impact reporting requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act. They also charged that TAPS was asking the government to give them wider right-of-way than the law allowed. At the same time but in separate lawsuits, Alaskan "natives" filed suits against TAPS, the federal government, and the state of Alaska, charging that the project was being routed over lands that the natives had centuries-old ancestral claims to. (p.89)

Such resistance threw more than a spanner in the works, and in April 1970, US District Court Judge George L. Hart, Jr., "issued an injunction stopping construction of the pipeline until Interior came up with some answers." (10) At this stage, the drama becomes particularly intriguing, because TAPS charter member, Exxon, was apparently "in no hurry" to get the TAPS project online. In fact, "Exxon's languid approach to developing the Prudhoe Bay fields was heartily approved, if not in fact insisted on, by most of the other majors with interests in the Middle East." (11) Here Sherrill refers to Anthony Sampson's book The Seven Sisters: The Great Oil Companies and the World They Shaped (Viking, 1975), in which Sampson reports that BP's chairman, Eric Drake, admitted "that at one point he was so convinced they were being snookered that he threatened Ken Jamieson, the chief executive of Exxon, with an antitrust lawsuit." Thus in one respect the environmental groups opposing the pipeline could be seen to be unwitting agents of Exxon. On this controversial point Sherrill then quotes Sampson, who wrote:

The conservationists were strikingly successful, to the growing worry of BP and ARCO, who were waiting thirstily for the oil. But Exxon still appeared unconcerned and the suspicion arose in the minds of several BP men: might Exxon be secretly backing the conservationists, as an excuse to delay the production of the oil? The protests of the ecologists set back the transporting of Alaskan oil by four years [Sherrill says six years] and the Alaskan alternative was too late to save the West from its dependence on OPEC when the crunch came. It was not until the energy crisis had broken on America that the objections [of the environmentalists] were rapidly overruled. (12)

Even Hickel, who was once every oil man's dream, had turned sour on the pipeline: Sherrill reported that during "1970 something odd seemed to be happening to Secretary Hickel. He almost appeared to be turning into a crusading environmentalist." (13) This change of face certainly served a useful political purpose in cooling public anger fueled by the oil industry's flagrant disregard for the environment. Furthermore, it was especially important that Hickel be seen to advocate for some reforms against the industry after February 1970 when a major catastrophe on a Chevron drilling platform (just "thirty miles into the Gulf from New Orleans") "produced the biggest oil spill in history -- at least twice as much as the Santa Barbara spill." (14) Working the other side of the political equation, Nixon seemed intent on sending a different message to the corporate world and on November 25, Hickel was brought on up to the White House and "fired, effective immediately." (15)

So an important question remains: were the strange relations between the environmentalists' agenda and that of the oil industry simply coincidental? To answer this question it is critical to examine some basic information that was easily available to Sherrill but did not figure in his rendition of the events. For a start then it makes sense to take a closer look at the background of ARCO's CEO Robert O. Anderson, because at the time of these astounding events he was a board member of Chase Manhattan Bank. Thus in 1970 we can observe that the CEO of Chase Manhattan was David Rockefeller, while two other Standard Oil notables serving alongside Anderson on their board were John E. Swearingen (head of Standard Oil of Indiana) and Ken Jamieson (the CEO of Exxon). (16) One has to wonder how surprised Anderson really was when Exxon boss Ken Jamieson dragged his feet with getting the Alaska pipeline on tap, especially given that Anderson was himself funding environmental groups who were helping to stall the construction of the pipeline.

On Anderson's funding of environmental groups, we might start by observing that in 1969 Anderson was already a board member of the Rockefeller "conservation" group Resources for the Future -- although he would later rise to become their chairman (in 1974). Moreover, when "David Brower broke with the Sierra Club" in 1969, it was Anderson "who gave him $200,000 to set up Friends of the Earth (prudently channeling the donation through the organization's tax exempt affiliate, the John Muir Institute [which had been formed in 1966])." (17) Anderson had also funded a "four-month feasibility study conducted in February-May 1970" that laid the "philosophical foundations" of an organization known as the International Institute for Environmental Affairs. This Institute was set up in 1972 with seed funding provided by Anderson, and right from the start of the organizations developmental stages had worked closely with Anderson's close friend and fellow oil executive cum free market environmentalist Maurice Strong. (For a critique of Strong, see "Taking Strong Action For Capitalist-Led Environmental Destruction.") One can only assume that Anderson was not a complete idiot and realized the political repercussions of engaging in environmental advocacy at this historically important time.

As noted earlier, Sherrill highlighted three groups that played an important role in opposing the Alaskan pipeline and two of these were closely tied to oil wealth. The first one, Friends of the Earth, was launched with seed money from Anderson; while the second group was the Republican Wall Street venture, the Environmental Defense Fund. This latter group was launched in 1970 with start-up funding provided by the Ford Foundation and with none other than Laurance Rockefeller serving on their founding board of directors. Here one might note that despite Brower's opposition to the Rockefeller interests in the past, Laurance is purported to have publicly admired Friends of the Earth and their campaigns against nuclear power, even though Laurance was investing heavily in nuclear technology -- a long term nuclear habit that probably stemmed from his "instrumental role in putting together United Nuclear Corporation" in the 1950s. (18) Critically, around this time the oil industry itself was starting to dominate the nuclear arena (see footnote #12); clearly this seemingly contradictory arena is a fertile area for further critical research.

So was Hickel really as green as Sherrill made him out to be? Well, according to investigative journalist Greg Palast this seems unlikely. This is because Hickel had been a key player in securing the passage of the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act: this Act was key to dispossessing indigenous peoples from their land to clear the path for the pipeline consortium, and was signed into law by President Nixon a year after he dismissed Hickel (in December 1971). As if this was not bad enough, when the US Senate controversially authorized the Alaska pipeline project in 1973 (by a single vote), Anderson smoothed the political process by "testifi[ng] under oath that North Slope Alaska resources would be shipped exclusively to the US market, not Japan." Furthermore, both Anderson and Hickel "swore the pipeline would not be followed by a gas pipeline on the same route." However, low and behold, it turns out that this was a long incubated lie, and Palast reports that in May 2010 Yukon Pacific Corporation -- whose founding investors in the 1980s had been Anderson and Hickel -- "has begun work on that gas pipeline designed to ship liquefied fuel to Japan." (19)

But that is not the end of this dirty Alaskan story, because in 2000 ARCO merged with British Petroleum. Then on May 28, 2010, Greg Palast reported that, "With the Gulf Coast dying of oil poisoning, there's no space in the press for British Petroleum's latest spill, just this week: over 100,000 gallons [which is around the size of the Santa Barbara oil spill], at its Alaska pipeline operation." One should also recall that in the famous Exxon Valdez spill of 1989, Exxon was not actually the only oil corporation at fault; they simply "took all the blame for the spill because they were dumb enough to have the company's name on the ship." It turns out that...

...it was BP's pipeline managers who filed reports that oil spill containment equipment was sitting right at the site of the grounding near Bligh Island. However, the reports were bogus, the equipment wasn't there and so the beaches were poisoned. At the time, our investigators uncovered four-volumes worth of faked safety reports and concluded that BP was at least as culpable as Exxon for the 1,200 miles of oil-destroyed coastline. (20)

But that is not all, four years earlier Palast had published an article in The Guardian (UK) -- no doubt a paper that most of the board members of BP read regularly -- that noted how in 1989 "courageous government inspectors and pipeline workers [in Alaska] were screaming about corrosion all through the pipeline." Sadly though it becomes clear why little was done to prevent accidents, because as Palast adds, these inspectors were "courageous" because BP "had a habit of hunting down and destroying the careers of those who warn of pipeline problems." (21)

Much like their oily allies, BP is no stranger to supporting corporate environmentalism. Thus prior to Tony Haywood assuming the helm of the organization in 2007, BP's CEO was Lord Browne of Madingley (1995-2007) -- an individual who happens to be linked to two free-market environmental outfits, as he serves as the co-vice president of Fauna and Flora International, and as a board member of Conservation International. (22) Similarly one might observe that BP's recent acquisition as chairman, Carl-Henric Svanberg, currently serves in a similar "environmental" capacity on the advisory board of Jeffrey Sachs's Earth Institute, where he sits alongside corporate elites like George Soros, Bono, and Jared Diamond.

It is no surprise then that BP, like ARCO, like Exxon, are all part of what Martin Gellen referred to as the pollution-industrial complex, which of course is perfectly happy with financing a pro-corporate environmental "opposition." As Gellen presciently surmised in 1970:

Thus pollution control, developed as a complementary industry, is a way to insure that the favourable balance between cost, sales and profits can be maintained and business can continue as usual indeed, better than usual, for pollution control means new investment outlets, new income and new profits; the more waste, the better. Pollution control as conceived by the pollution control industry is merely an extension of the same pattern of profit-seeking exploitation and market economics which is at the root of the environmental crisis. (23)

The existence of such a pollution-industrial complex is intolerable, and the corporations driving and benefiting from this immensely profitable capitalist racket are certainly not going to solve the catastrophic problems facing the rest of the planet. Consequently the ball now lies in the court of the world's citizens to make sure that this sick and cynical game is swiftly brought to an end. Make no mistakes this will not be an easy task, but the ongoing battle that must be waged for the sake of life will be much easier to fight when we clarify which groups and individuals are standing in the way of our democratic future. The massive power of the capitalist elites of our world, the Rockefeller family being just one prominent example, must be dismantled and redistributed within the context of a fairer and more equitable political system. Capitalism is the antidemocratic enemy of the environment, and socialism... well, socialism is but one democratic alternative.


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Michael Barker is an independent researcher who currently resides in the UK. In addition to his work for Swans, which can be found in the 2008, 2009, and 2010 archives, his other articles can be accessed at michaeljamesbarker.wordpress.com. Please help fund his work.   (back)


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1.  Robert Sherrill, The Oil Follies of 1970-1980, p.11.  (back)

2.  Sherrill, The Oil Follies of 1970-1980, p.26.  (back)

3.  Sherrill, The Oil Follies of 1970-1980, p.27. Lyndon Johnson's "Justice Department did nothing except require that ARCO sell 1,800 of Sinclair's 10,500 service stations (mostly, the 1,800 were in the Midwest and the East) to British Petroleum (BP)." (p.27)  (back)

4.  Sherrill, The Oil Follies of 1970-1980, p.27. "In early 1969, just three miles south of the ARCO-Exxon discovery, British Petroleum also hit oil. (Just how much ingenuity was in these discoveries is very debatable. The U.S. Navy and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), at a cost of $50 million, had explored all of the North Slope and much of Prudhoe Bay between 1944 and 1953, and, when Eisenhower was sworn in as president, were about to sink the deep wells that would have discovered the big field the rig was in place, the workmen were waiting for orders to begin. At the insistence of private oil companies, Eisenhower stopped further explorations by the Navy and USGS, but, according to Lieutenant Commander Kirby Brant, a former deputy director of the Office of Naval Petroleum and Oil Shale Reserves, the basic data from those early Navy tests were passed on to the oil companies, and through them they were able to pinpoint the most promising portions of the North Slope.)

"These were no ordinary discoveries. They were gigantic. First estimates ranged from 5 to 10 billion barrels. Later estimates would balloon, perhaps unrealistically, to 40 billion barrels. At ten billion, it would be equal to more than 25 percent of the total proven U.S. reserves." (p.28)  (back)

5.  Barry Weisberg, "[Ecology of Oil] Raping Alaska," in Ramparts, (eds.), Eco-Catastrophe (Harper & Row, 1970), p.107.  (back)

6.  Sherrill, The Oil Follies of 1970-1980, p.28. "The highway named the Walter J. Hickel Highway in honor of the governor was a budgetary, engineering, and ecological disaster. It was, in the words of a University of Alaska professor, 'the biggest environmental screwup in the history of mankind in the arctic.' Costs, which originally were estimated at $125,000, eventually climbed to $1 million. With the spring thaw in 1969, the road became an impassable, water-filled ditch. Writer George Marshall accurately described the Hickel Highway as 'the first violent change, the first major intrusion of the modern industrial world' into the last great wilderness in North America, all the more shocking because 'the great Range [Brooks range] had been split and its unity with past ages destroyed -- destroyed without a public decision, destroyed without the knowledge of most Americans.'" (p.28)  (back)

7.  Sherrill, The Oil Follies of 1970-1980, p.29. Hickel "promised to do everything right out in the open; and although there were no solid signs that he went back on his word, there were rumors -- enough to make environmentalists nervous -- that he and other Interior officials were allowing the oil companies to proceed secretly with preliminary work on the right-of-way without benefit of permit or law." (p.29)  (back)

8.  Sherrill, The Oil Follies of 1970-1980, p.29. At the time the Secretary of the Interior was Stewart L. Udall.  (back)

9.  Sherrill, The Oil Follies of 1970-1980, p.32.  (back)

10.  Sherrill, The Oil Follies of 1970-1980, p.90.  (back)

11.  Sherrill, The Oil Follies of 1970-1980, p.90, p.91.According to Sherrill, the other two members of the TAPS consortium felt differently, as both ARCO and British Petroleum were "short of crude," and in ARCO's case actually "needed to get it out fast." (p.90)  (back)

12.  Sherrill, The Oil Follies of 1970-1980, p.91. "Once the big oil companies acquired vast quantities of non-oil energy sources, they then had a major incentive to try to drive up the price of all energy resources. One of the most important tactics in achieving this has been the creation of an 'energy crisis' atmosphere throughout the world, and particularly in the United States. It is extremely significant to note that the industry propaganda campaign for the 'energy crisis' did not begin with the historic Teheran and Tripoli agreements of early 1971, in which members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) negotiated sizable prices increases (see Chapter 8). The campaign was further accelerated by those agreements, but it was actually launched in 1968." Michael Tanzer, The Energy Crisis: World Struggle for Power and Wealth (Monthly Review Press, 1974), pp.34-5.

Conspiracies are not beyond the oil industry. For example, Sherrill observes that, "Coal prices were remarkably stable during the 1960-65 period but began edging up after the mid-sixties." These changes coincided with "oil companies... buying up the biggest coal companies and also buying and leasing millions of acres of coal-rich lands. In 1960, eight of the ten largest coal companies were independently owned. By 1970, eight of the ten had been bought by oil companies and other large noncoal corporations (such as General Dynamics and Kennecott Copper)." Sherrill continues:

"Did a conspiracy theory fit the picture? Senator Albert Gore of Tennessee seemed to think so, and many agreed with him. 'The big oil companies are making a determined effort to gain control of all energy sources,' he told the Senate Subcommittee on Materials, Mining and Fuels." "In fact, they already, with help from the Nixon Administration, manage effective control of both coal and oil The only remaining hope for competition rests with nuclear fuel. And whose tracks do we find in the nuclear field? Oil companies now control 45 percent of known uranium reserves. Oil companies control uranium milling. Oil companies own four out of five plants for reprocessing used nuclear fuel elements."

"Because they held dominance in all energy fields, Gore argued, they were now creating artificial shortages to drive up prices, and what was happening in coal proved it. The new owners of coal were shipping increased amounts overseas to create shortages, he said, and they were reluctant to sell at home even what was available." (p.85)

Another example provided by Sherrill occurred in July 1971 when "the Justice Department came to settlement of a six-year-old quarrel with seven major oil firms -- American Oil Company (Amoco), Atlantic Richfield, Cities Service, Gulf Oil, Humble Oil [Exxon], Sinclair Refining Co., and Mobil -- whereby Justice agreed to drop antitrust charges in return for a small fine. The seven companies had been accused of price fixing and of conspiring to monopolize the sale of gasoline in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware between 1955 and 1965." (p.111)

Around the same time, Daniel Yergin observes in The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power (Simon and Schuster, 1991): "Beginning in the mid-1960s, environmental issues began to compete successfully for their place in the political process, in the United States and elsewhere. Air pollution prompted utilities around the world to shift from coal to less-polluting oil, adding another major stimulus to demand. In 1965, New York's mayor pledged to banish coal from the city. An air pollution crisis hit New York City on Thanksgiving Day, 1966; smog gripped the city, and coal burning was restricted. Within two years, Consolidated Edison, the utility serving New York City, switched to oil." (p.568)  (back)

13.  Sherrill, The Oil Follies of 1970-1980, p.92.  (back)

14.  Sherrill, The Oil Follies of 1970-1980, p.93. "Only luck prevented severe damage. Normally the spring winds blow north. If they had done so in 1970, they would have deposited tons of oil into the estuaries of the Mississippi River Delta and destroyed thousands of acres of oyster beds and shrimp grounds. But, in 1970, the spring winds blew south.

"If Chevron had installed the equipment as instructed, the accident would never have happened. But Chevron deliberately flouted the warning and by doing so made a mess of Hickey's safety promises. This left the Secretary with a very narrow choice: he could let Chevron off and lose face entirely with environmentalists, or he could get tough." (p.93)  (back)

15.  Sherrill, The Oil Follies of 1970-1980, p.94.  (back)

16.  One might note that during the 1970s John McCloy was the oil industry's "top legal adviser." McCoy had been the chairman of Chase Manhattan from 1953 to 1960, chairman of the Ford Foundation from 1958 to 1960, and the chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations from 1953 to 1970. Sherrill, The Oil Follies of 1970-1980, p.100.  (back)

17.  Katherine Barkley and Steve Weissman, "The Eco-Establishment," in Ramparts, (eds.), Eco-Catastrophe (Harper & Row, 1970), p.21.  (back)

18.  Peter Collier and David Horowitz, The Rockefellers: An American Dynasty (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1976), p.402. The third group mentioned by Sherrill was the Wilderness Society, which was founded in 1935 and was home to many important environmental activists. However, for the past three decades (at least) the Society has come to work closely with leading members of the pollution-industrial complex. Mark Dowie dates this change to the mid-1970s when he suggests that Stewart Brandborg was "the last true activist to lead" the Wilderness Society resigned in 1976. Moreover, a sign that the times were changing was evident in 1970 when the Wilderness Society "provided money and office space" for the first Earth Day project, joining the Rockefeller family's Conservation Foundation, which was a major financial supporter of this PR venture. One might also add that although the New Left were certainly influential on the development of the first Earth Day, it was around this time that their "influence on the new forms of environmentalism quickly began to recede." Today one might note, the Wilderness Society presents itself as a vigorous proponent of free-market environmentalism, and in recent years the daughter of one of their long-standing board members (Bertram J. Cohn) even married the eldest son of David Rockefeller.

Mark Dowie, Losing Ground: American Environmentalism at the Close of the Twentieth Century (MIT Press, 1995), p.25; Robert Gottlieb, Forcing the Spring: The Transformation of the American Environmental Movement (Island Press, 1993), p.139. For recent criticisms of the Wilderness Society, see Jeffrey St. Clair, "Daschle's Deal Dooms the Sacred Land of the Sioux: Dark Deeds in the Black Hills," CounterPunch, August 1, 2002; Jeffrey St. Clair, "Shaky Foundations: Toxic Sources, Tainted Money: The Decline of Big Green, Part One," CounterPunch, June 4 - 6, 2010.  (back)

19.  Greg Palast, "Emperor Hickel: The Man Who Invented Alaska ... and Sarah Palin," Dissident Voice, May 11, 2010.  (back)

20.  Greg Palast, "Smart Pig: BP's OTHER Spill this Week," Buzzflash, May 28, 2010.  (back)

21.  Greg Palast, "The Brilliantly Profitable Timing of the Alaska Oil Pipeline Shutdown," The Guardian (UK), August 9, 2006.  (back)

22.  For my detailed criticisms of these two "environmental" groups, see "Buying the Environment to Save Capitalism" and "When Environmentalists Legitimize Plunder."  (back)

23.  Martin Gellen, "The Making of a Pollution-Industrial Complex," in Ramparts, (eds.), Eco-Catastrophe (Harper & Row, 1970), pp.76-7.  (back)


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Published September 6, 2010