American Style Environmentalism is Destroying The Environment
This is the first of a series of articles exploring the failing model of American Environmentalism. In the series I will be outlining the results of considerable investigation and study of the persons and organizations, whose claims of acting on behalf of the environment have fallen far short of the truth. I will also be calling attention to the current genre of environmental propaganda, where it emanates from, who is producing it, and how it's timely influence on public opinion has been used to place a very few in control of vast amounts of natural resources. In these articles I will explain facts uncovered and ask you to challenge pre-conceived notions and consider the evidence. What I will not do, is propose theory or editorialize about intentions, I prefer to let the facts speak for themselves and will not fill in the gaps with unproven accusation. This isn't an easy topic to write about and I have no budget and very little help with it, so any information and input from readers will be greatly appreciated.
Today a majority of people in the US consider themselves to be environmentalists, or at least environmentally friendly, and an overwhelming majority express concern for the well being of the natural world and try to do less harm to it in their lives (I am proud to be a member of the first group.) For this majority environmentalism is about how you live your life and the small decisions that help to make our world better. Many people from this group donate time and money to environmental organizations taking action however they can. Unfortunately in many cases their good intentions are high jacked by clever salesmanship, cause marketing, and a broad based use of the media that pushes the public toward actions that make people feel good and away from doing any real good. I will use a real world example that more than makes the point.
Dawn dishwashing liquid (distributed by Proctor and Gamble) has a wildlife campaign that is advertised on the bottles of soap. The bottles proudly proclaim, "Dawn Helps Save Wildlife," and feature heart warming pictures of ducks, penguins, and even two seals kissing (My personal favorite.) When you buy bottles of Dawn with these images a donation is made to an organization that advocates for wildlife protection. This decision to spend a little extra to help wildlife feels good. Like one of the little decisions we can all make every day to make the world better. Since they use the soap to wash off birds and mammals that have been harmed by oil spills it just makes sense. I was dismayed to learn that a large percentage of the bottles contain an extremely harmful pesticide that not only harms wildlife, but is doing massive amounts of environmental damage contributing to global warming and the destruction of the marine food web, actually starving the wildlife they claim to help.
The pesticide is called, "Triclosan," and is an anti-bacterial agent found in an increasing number of soaps and other products sold in the US. Over the last ten years it's use has increased dramatically and since it doesn't readily breakdown in the environment, and cannot be removed by waste water treatment, rivers of it are running into the sea. Once it enters aquatic systems it kills phyto-plankton, (Microscopic plants that form the foundation of the ocean's food web). The tiny organisms that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and produce half of the world's oxygen have declined dramatically (40 percent since 1950) causing mal-nutrition and loss of size in fish stocks around the world. Triclosan is a bio-accumulating substance and has been found in Dolphins and in drinking water supplies where it has been nearly impossible to filter out. Efforts to get it banned have failed due to the fact that the public remains largely ignorant of the problem as their attention is directed toward other environmental issues that do not affect publicly traded corporations.
What happens to the donations made to wildlife advocacy groups when one purchases a hazardous chemical that damages the environment will be the topic of a future article.
We hear a lot in the media from environmental organizations and I like most people always accepted as credible the majority of statements made by these non-profit groups. I thought of them as mostly staffed by volunteers dedicated to the environment and imagined funding to come from kind persons with the means to help. I always found reports that they were only interested in control of natural resources to be less than credible, and usually from sources that were interested only in the exploitation of the natural world. Those populist views taught to me by the media were discredited by observation of the actions of the environmental industry and the simple fact that anyone no matter what their intentions or qualifications, can start an environmental group coupled with the premise that securing funding is made easy if their advocacy serves the agenda and business goals of resource oriented business owners and their foundations.
To say that all non-profit environmental organizations are good or bad is to paint with way too broad a brush in either case. The proliferation of non-profits and the variety of funding for them has left us with a growing industry that is largely un-regulated and represents a tremendous tax-payer investment not only in lost tax revenue (from deductions) but also in government funding for projects overseen by these organizations. A lack of oversight and accountability for the non-profits has left us with an incredibly expensive industry that is wide open to fraud and abuse. When you look at how much funding is pouring into these organizations and how much of it comes from the biggest polluters, exploiters, and resource accumulators of our world it doesn't take long to realize that the people that are funding the organizations could be paying for some say in which environmental issues get attention and which ones don't.
This is a very important topic to me. The stakes for our nation and our world are extremely high. We desperately need the mission that the environmental movement set out to accomplish to succeed. Sadly what started out as the best form of activism has been corporatized, politicized, and the few activists who would do real good have been marginalized, leaving the natural world with few obviously true advocates, and an increasing number of questionable ones.