Weekend Edition December 23-25, 2011
Standing Up to Obama on the Environment
Ten Small Green Groups That Make a Big Difference
by JEFFREY ST. CLAIR
It’s been a triumphant month for Big Oil. First, the Obama administration teamed with the Chinese delegation to scuttle the timid climate agenda at the Durban summit. Then recidivist offender British Petroleum won the rights to drill once again in the perilous depths of the Gulf of Mexico. And last week the Interior Department gave the green light for Shell to begin exploratory drilling in the pristine Chukchi Sea on Alaska’s western coast.
These environmental body-blows elicited barely a murmur of protest from the green establishment and as the presidential election draws near even those faint critiques will fade away and inevitably be replaced by an REI-clad chorus singing Obama’s praises as an ecologically enlightened chief executive. The crazed encomiums have already begun. Carl Pope, recently deposed from his twenty-year-long autocracy over the Sierra Club, ludicrously pronounced Obama the greatest environmental president in history.
Yet, when it comes to protection of the environment Obama’s no Richard Nixon. Indeed, he’s barely even George W. Bush. Let’s look at revealing numbers from the national forests. During Bush’s first three years in office, the Forest Service sold 4,792,702 MBF (thousand board feet) of timber logged from the national forests. During Obama’s first three years in office, his team of chainsaw zealots nearly doubled Bush’s frightful totals, selling 7,641,484 MBF. (See Sold-Harvest Documents, 1905-2011, National Summary Graph, US Forest Service.) Even worse, Obama’s Forest Service cloaks this grim enterprise under the dubious premise of “ecological forestry” and “biomass production.” Recall that this high level of logging is occurring during an economic recession and prolonged slump in the housing market. If the economy ever picks up, Obama may even break the logging records set by Clinton after the Rider From Hell.
As for coal mining, according to the annual coal report prepared by the US Energy Information Administration, total coal production has actually increased since Bush left office, bulging from 1,070.9 million short tons in 2008 to 1,084.4 million short tons in 2010. Coal consumption has climbed even faster, rising more than five percent under Obama’s tenure. So much for energy conservation. But don’t tell that to Bill McKibben. While leading the protests in front of the White House against the Keystone XL Pipeline, the Cassandra of Climate Change was proudly sporting an Obama button.
Despite the ongoing crisis at Fukushima, Obama has recklessly boosted the fortunes of the nuclear power industry in the United States. Just this week, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the design plans for three new nuclear power plants slated for construction in Georgia and South Carolina, the first new plants in the nation in the last thirty years. This shouldn’t have surprised anyone familiar with Obama’s political career, which has long been sponsored by the Exelon Corporation, which operates 17 nuclear reactors, most of them in Illinois.
Wildlife isn’t faring any better. In the Pacific Northwest, the Obama administration wasted little time before endorsing a plan for endangered salmon stocks that was crafted by the Bush administration following instructions from the aluminum companies and the industrial agriculture lobby. A federal judge shot down the scheme and ordered the Obama administration to evaluate tearing down several fish-killing dams on the Snake River. Obama officials chafed at the ruling and pleaded with Congress to over-ride the judge’s decision.
In Yellowstone, Obama has opened a three-pronged attack against the region’s most iconic species: wolves, grizzlies and bison. Obama has moved to delist both the gray wolf and the Yellowstone grizzly from the protections afforded each under the Endangered Species Act. Thanks to Obama, the State of Idaho wants to allow hunters to kill 550 wolves, out of a total population of 700 wolves. The state of Montana, run by Obama’s pal Brian Schweitzer, is looking to kill more than 100 wolves from a population of only 425 animals. Again only a federal judge stands in the way of a region-wide massacre. Obama has also continued the depraved slaughter of Yellowstone’s bison herd under the bogus pretext of protecting local cattle from brucellosis. Since Obama took office more than 1,300 bison have been killed after wandering across the park’s invisible boundary.
One of the most noxious agencies in the entire federal government is an outpost of Agriculture Department known as the division of Wildlife Services, which functions as little more than a death squad for ranchers and developers. During the Bush Administration, the hunter-killer teams at Wildlife Services annually shot, trapped or poisoned hundreds of thousands of birds, mammals and reptiles. Many wildlife advocates hoped that the Obama Administration would defund the agency’s bloody work, which has no ecological or scientific merit. Instead, funding for Wildlife Services has actually increased marginally under Obama and the death toll continues to mount. The agency’s most recent report reveals the scope of the slaughter: 586 black bears, 27,218 beavers, 568,000 redwing blackbirds, 1,400 bobcats, 1,500 green iguanas, 367 mountain lions, 200 barn owls, 452 gray wolves, 20,500 black prairie dogs, 527 badgers, and 572 river otters. Of those river otters, 455 were killed “unintentionally.” Just more collateral damage in Obama’s indiscriminate war on wildlife.
It takes guts for an environmental group to stand up to a Democratic president in an election year and call him on his betrayals. You risk being marginalized and stripped of your funding by the Democratic-aligned foundations that underwrite most of the mainstream groups. Here are ten groups who stand up for what they stand on, who put protection of the environment before politics. They all operate close to the bone, their meager budgets are spent on activism and litigation, not on self-promoting direct mail operations, glitzy offices or bloated administrative expenses. These groups will put your money to work defending the planet. Now pony up!
6930 Carroll Avenue, Suite 400
Takoma Park, MD 20912
The nation’s feistiest and most uncompromising anti-nuclear power group, which is fighting to shutdown aging nuclear plants like Indian Point and protesting the construction of a new generation of nuclear plants. Beyond Nuclear also highlights the symbiotic relationship between nuclear power and nuclear weapons production.
Buffalo Field Campaign
PO Box 957
West Yellowstone, MT 59758
Since 1985, the federal government, working in concert with Montana cattle barons, has killed more than 6,800 bison that have migrated out of Yellowstone National Park. The slaughter is rationalized on the specious grounds of preventing the spread of brucellosis from bison to local cows. The Buffalo Field Campaign has exposed this dreadful bloodbath as a political hoax. Their volunteers courageously place themselves between the bison and their would-be killers. They spend all day, from sunrise until sunset, watching and documenting actions taken against the buffalo. They run patrols from cars, skis and snowshoes to protect buffalo outside the park. Their tactics range from video documentation to nonviolent civil disobedience.
Climate Ground Zero
PO Box 163, Rock Creek,
West Virginia, 75174
The frontline battles against big coal aren’t being fought in Durban or Washington, but in the mining towns of Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia, where citizens are placing their bodies on the line to stop mountain top removal mining. This grotesque form of mining has devoured more than a million acres of forest, buried hundreds of miles of streams under toxic debris and is steadily annihilating a way of life for the mountain people of Appalachia. The coal industry has struck back hard, hitting activists with SLAPP suits, trying to intimidate greens from engaging in acts of nonviolent civil disobedience. Mike Roselle started this group and he hasn’t compromised since he bunted once in Little League.
Fund for Wild Nature
P.O. Box 900
Kelso, WA 98626
Think of the Fund for Wild Nature as a kind of mutual fund for radical environmentalism. Instead of investing in stocks and bonds, the Fund for Wild Nature puts its money into non-compromising grassroots environmental groups. Unlike most foundations, the Fund for Wild Nature’s budget doesn’t derive from oil companies, sweatshops or software magnates, but from individuals who want to see militant action taken in defense of the earth. Join them. You’ll feel better about yourself.
P.O. Box 538
Gosport, IN 47433
The midwest was once blanketed with a majestic hardwood forest containing more than 70 species of hardwood trees. Unfortunately, much of this forest has been cleared and what remains is mostly isolated fragments of public land that nonetheless play a critical role in providing habitat for wildlife, purifying the air and water, moderating global climate change, and offering places of beauty and enjoyment. Heartwood was founded in 1991, when concerned citizens from several midwestern states met and agreed to work together to protect the heartland hardwood forest. Their campaigns remain rooted in the heart of the central hardwood region, with an emphasis on our “core states” of Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, and Missouri. Over time, Heartwood has branched out to serve areas of need throughout an 18-state region, giving special attention to the “at risk” national forests in Michigan, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, West Virginia, and Virginia.
PO Box 466
Moab, UT 84532
Living Rivers is working to overturn one of the greatest environmental crimes in American history, the damming of Glen Canyon. The goal is to restore not only Glen Canyon, but the much abused Colorado River itself. With a series of restoration initiatives and organizing efforts in both the Colorado and Rio Grande River watersheds, Living Rivers has begun building a popular movement to promote strategies for large-scale river restoration. From the ejidos communities in Mexico, through Indian reservations, farming towns and into metropolitan areas, Living Rivers is engaging people to pressure water agencies to embrace the simple solutions that offer opportunities for restoring our rivers and improving quality of life for millions of people across this arid region. Living Rivers gives you more bang for you bucks than any other American environmental group.
Los Alamos Study Group
2901 Summit Place NE
Albuquerque, NM 87106
Since 1989, the Los Alamos Study Group community has consistently provided leadership on nuclear disarmament and related issues in New Mexico. Their work includes research and scholarship education of decisionmakers, providing an information clearinghouse for journalists, organizing, litigating, and advertising. They place particular emphasis on the education and training of young activists and scholars.
LASG’s careful, reasoned approach developed many whistleblowers in the nuclear labs and plants. Since September 11, 2001, their work has increasingly placed nuclear weapons in the context of aggression abroad and the militarization of our society at home. One of LASG’s most recent campaigns is the effort to end nuclear waste disposal in northern New Mexico. Official estimates place current annual waste generation and burial at Los Alamos at about 45,000 drums’ worth per year, with increases planned if the University of California begins production of plutonium “pits,” the cores of nuclear weapons. New pits are not needed for any existing weapons, but they are needed for some of the new weapons now being designed at Los Alamos, which include weapons specially-tailored for aiming at Third World countries.
Utah Environmental Congress
1817 South Main Street, Ste. 10
Salt Lake City, Utah 84115
Phone (801) 466-4055
Utah, which still harbors some of the wildest country in the lower-48, is under perpetual siege from uranium and coal mining, oil drilling, tar sands and shale extraction, logging and a crazy scheme to put a nuclear power plant near the small town of Green River. The UEC often finds itself alone on many of these battles. They are a fearless and unflinching outfit that doesn’t back down. Instead they advance. Their latest project is an audacious campaign to break wolves back to Utah. Now that’s a radical and welcome idea!
Wild Idaho Rising Tide
P.O. Box 9817,
Moscow, Idaho 83843
Since October 2010, Imperial Oil, a Canadian subsidiary of ExxonMobil, has shipped, barged, and trucked over one hundred pieces of gargantuan, Korean-made, industrial equipment from the Ports of Vancouver and Pasco, Washington, and Lewiston, Idaho. During the next six months, Northwest interstates could be overrun by another 300 transports of these two-lane wide, 500,000-pound “megaloads” escorted by aggressive, industry-sponsored state police. This is the second front in the fight against the tar sands oil frenzy in Canada. Wild Idaho Rising Tide is leading the battle against ExxonMobil’s scheme to turn the Lochsa Wild and Scenic River corridor into megaload highway.
3111 Offut Lake Rd. SE
Tenino, Washington 98589
Since 1982, Wolf Haven has rescued more than 160 captive-born wolves from private owners, roadside zoos, animal collectors, research and other facilities. At Wolf Haven, these wolves receive a lifetime of compassionate care and are treated with dignity and respect for their wild nature. Wolf Haven is one of only three US pre-release breeding facilities for a multi-agency effort to restore Mexican gray wolves to the Southwest. Wolf Haven is also a foster facility for breeding and housing the endangered red wolf. Awwoooo!!!
Jeffrey St. Clair’s latest book is Born Under a Bad Sky. He is the co-editor of Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, forthcoming from AK Press. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.