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If you live in Canada and are exposed to the mainstream media, you've probably heard bits and pieces about the federal government's recent declarations about environmental groups regarding advocacy and funding.
This is a blog in three parts: ForestEthics is a group led by U.S. based corporate shills (not environmentalists), Arundhati Roy is brilliant, and some of the big greens are probably laundering money -- but they're not environmentalists either.
I first caught wind of this when Elizabeth May of the Green Party of Canada wrote up a blog in praise of ForestEthics. "ForestEthics found ways to find consensus with the forest industry at boardroom tables. The group is clearly too effective for the Harper regime," she wrote.
Among folks who have been around these struggles over the past years, it is common knowledge that ForestEthics is the supreme representation of everything that is wrong with so called "environmental groups" -- backroom negotiations with corporations (and government) and zero accountability to communities on the ground. They represent the best among the tradition of Rockefeller funded groups that do more damage to environmental and social movements than good. In BC alone, ForestEthics has repeatedly severely undermined Indigenous land defenders and grassroots environmental groups.
Nevertheless, May loves em, and her blog held ForestEthics up as a bastion of bravery after being targeted by the Prime Minister's Office for their position on advocacy. In their Info-Alert, the PMO office referred to Forest Ethics as a "radical" environmental organization twice.
To clarify something the media has ignored, ForestEthics isn't a Canadian environmental group. It is based in San Francisco. It doesn't even exist in Canada as a legal entity. "Across the border, ForestEthics is a project of Tides Canada Initiatives (formerly the Sage Center), who have full governing, legal, and fiduciary responsibility for the project," reads a passage on a since removed page on the ForestEthics website (cached version).
Anyhow. So this supposedly radical Canadian enviro group doesn't even legally exist in Canada yet they're being targeted by the feds? "Either the PMO has no idea about the real agenda of Forest Ethics and its funders or the PMO knows all too well," wrote a friend of mine who follows these things closely.
It all boggles the mind a little, right? It makes me think of Arundhati Roy's recent essay, Capitalism: A Ghost Story. Quoting Roy:
...the corporate or Foundation-endowed NGOs are global finance’s way of buying into resistance movements, literally like shareholders buy shares in companies, and then try to control them from within. They sit like nodes on the central nervous system, the pathways along which global finance flows. They work like transmitters, receivers, shock absorbers, alert to every impulse, careful never to annoy the governments of their host countries. (The Ford Foundation requires the organisations it funds to sign a pledge to this effect.) Inadvertently (and sometimes advertently), they serve as listening posts, their reports and workshops and other missionary activity feeding data into an increasingly aggressive system of surveillance of increasingly hardening States. The more troubled an area, the greater the numbers of NGOs in it.
Mischievously, when the government or sections of the Corporate Press want to run a smear campaign against a genuine people’s movement, like the Narmada Bachao Andolan, or the protest against the Koodankulam nuclear reactor, they accuse these movements of being NGOs receiving “foreign funding”. They know very well that the mandate of most NGOs, in particular the well-funded ones, is to further the project of corporate globalisation, not thwart it.
Armed with their billions, these NGOs have waded into the world, turning potential revolutionaries into salaried activists, funding artists, intellectuals and filmmakers, gently luring them away from radical confrontation, ushering them in the direction of multi-culturalism, gender, community development—the discourse couched in the language of identity politics and human rights.
If we read between the lines here, I think we could establish that these "attacks" on Forest Ethics are actually aimed at something deeper. The first thing that comes to mind is the grassroots Indigenous resistance to Enbridge and Pacific Trails Pipelines in northern BC. Just sayin'.
Anyhow, on to the second part of this real quick, which is the accusation lobbed by Enviro Minister Peter Kent recently where he claimed enviro groups were essentially money laundering operations. He hasn't offered any proof that I know of and of course this is a ridiculous assertion. Right?
Well, actually, not totally. It appears to be the same kind of smear Roy talks about above, which is of course super damaging to small orgs. But there's one "environmental" group activists have been calling out for years on this one: Ducks Unlimited.
Take a look at this funding map, and I quote from the map text above, "Through the Canadian Boreal Initiative, the Pew Charitable Trusts distributes approximately $2 million per year* to Canadian environmental groups and First Nations. The money enters Canada via Ducks Unlimited, and ultimately comes from the Pew Charitable Trusts. Despite some protestations to the contrary, the Pew has deep ties to Sunoco, the company that originally established Suncor, and is currently expanding its tar sands refining operations."
Corporate funded environmentalism has become the norm in Canada. Check this quote from Pembina:
From year-to-year, on the order of one tenth of our revenue originates from “foreign” sources that share our sustainable energy goals... The other 90 per cent of our revenue comes from Canadian governments, companies, foundations and individuals interested in the innovative thinking we bring to sustainable energy challenges.
Oh yea. Government, foundations and companies are funding you? Wow, I feel a LOT better.
In short, I personally am much more concerned about Pembina's actual list of funders than I am with some easy to bat off with a nationalistic shrug "foreign funded" crap.
This piece was originally posted on Dawn's blog.