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Green, Inc.: An Environmental Insider Reveals How a Good Cause Has Gone Bad Hardcover – September 16, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
In this scathing indictment of the surprising profligacy and complacency of some of the world's top environmental organizations, journalist MacDonald, a former media manager at Conservation International, exposes the clubby, well-upholstered world of conservationists. The posh headquarters and six-figure compensation of top environmental leaders (from the Wildlife Conservation Society's $825,170 to the Sierra Club's $229,000) gall the author, but she's most outraged by organizations routinely accepting donations from oil, lumber and mining industries and corporate behemoths such as Wal-Mart without holding them accountable for ongoing pollution practices. MacDonald singles out BP's Beyond Petroleum campaign as a particularly egregious example of greenwashing (the label for corporations marketing themselves as green while paying lip service to environmental concerns) and lambastes Ikea for failing to ensure that the goods it imports are manufactured from sustainably harvested timber. Her lament at the loss of activist edge among top-tier environmental groups is heartfelt—MacDonald exhorts them to stop being such lapdogs and start acting like the watchdogs they were conceived to be—and her umbrage and ample evidence are impossible to ignore. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
No matter if the science of global warming is all phony climate change provides the greatest opportunity to bring about justice and equality in the world.” --Christine Stewart, former Canadian Minister of the Environment
An angry exposé claims that leading environmental organizations are now headed by overpaid chief executives who solicit contributions from companies that tout their greenness while continuing their predatory ways.
Freelance journalist MacDonald begins by pointing out that, unlike other activists such as labor organizers or feminists, early conservationists were not radicals but respectable gentlemen like John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt. Matters changed in the 1960s, when outrage over pesticides, toxic waste and nuclear power led to an influx of young militants. They changed even more in the '80s, when a proliferation of self-made billionaires, many of them former '60s militants, opened their wallets. From hand-to-mouth organizations existing on membership fees and the occasional bequest, groups such as Conservation International, the Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Federation and the Sierra Club grew to own skyscrapers, private jets and overseas offices while employing tens of thousands of workers who oversee billions of dollars in spending. Fighting the still-losing battle to save the environment energizes the rank and file, but their leaders have adopted the lifestyle and priorities of private industry: increase revenue, expand markets, outstrip competitors. These leaders are taking advantage of the fact that it is no longer acceptable to sneer at conservationists. Mining and power companies, Wal-Mart, Exxon and Shell now proclaim their concern for the environment, backing this up with a little bit of action and a lot of generous contributions. These come with strings attached, MacDonald emphasizes. She offers depressing examples of polluters who contributed, announced that they were mending their ways, then enjoyed support from their beneficiaries as they proceeded with destructive projects fiercely opposed by local conservationists.
Readers who take for granted that environmental organizations are made up of long-haired tree huggers and wilderness buffs will receive a jolt to learn how Green Inc.'s newfound prosperity has led it astray. --Kirkus Review
Green Inc. is a must read. Christine McDonald reveals the seedy underbelly of the greenwashing movement where brand-name environmental groups provide a PR bonanza for some of the worst polluters in corporate America, and get paid to do it. Americans will never look at many environmental groups the same way after reading Green Inc. Green Inc. should stir a revolt among the dues-paying membership of the environmental movement against those who believe working with oil companies to improve their image is the way to save the earth. --Jamie Court, President, Consumer Watchdog, and author of Corporateering: How Corporate Power Steals Your Personal Freedom and What You Can Do About It
"[A] scathing indictment of the surprising profligacy and complacency of some of the world's top environmental organizations...impossible to ignore." --Publishers Weekly
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One reviewer has pointed out that there are other sources with similar messages. But the truth remains that there is little outcry to change and improve from the conservation base and members of conservation organizations. Though written a few years ago, the situation in conservation has not improved (and I am speaking from experience as a conservation professional who has worked for a couple of the larger organizations). Conservation is failing for many reasons, among them that big money is being spent ineffectively and that many Big Conservation organizations do not really tackle corporate interests that lay at the root of many problems. I think the base message is still timely and needs more recognition. People should research who they give their donations to carefully before giving, and demand better from the organizations they support. Books like this can help contributors make more effective donations.
Billed as a look at how various environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs) have misplaced some of their well-intentioned goals and written by a former journalist, Christine Mac Donald, from this book I expected to get a well-sourced look at what it is that some ENGOs are doing wrong. Instead what I received was more of, what I view as, a harangue against the corporations which the ENGOs target. Criticism of corporations and their environmental impacts is a subject covered in many other books. I expected Green, Inc. to be different.
And the critical statements against the corporations weren't particularly well-sourced. The author does use what I consider to be high-quality sourcing. But she does not use it consistently or comprehensively throughout the book. This lack of consistently comprehensive sourcing, especially from a former journalist, is what disappointed me the most. There are seemingly endless "statements" about corporate environmental wrong-doing that aren't footnoted or referenced, which makes these "statements" just come off as "assertions." After I read about a third of this book, I decided that for the subject matter I sought based upon this book's title, I should look elsewhere.
That said, if you find much of what Christine MacDonald has written, as far as broader issues, either new or shocking, you obviously needed to be shocked.
Jeffrey St. Clair has been extensively tackling the problems of the domestic-focused portions of Gang Green (which obviously doesn't include the Conservation International where MacDonald worked) for a decade, and in great detail for much of that time.
That said, although MacDonald is tardy to the game, and writes a slim book not much longer than a two-issue magazine expose, she does have a few good points.
One is the salary structure. Contrary to another reviewer here, the highest-paid Gang Gree CEOs don't get $350K, they get $800K. And, even in NYC of SF, $800K is a LOT of scratch.
Two is her look at the international scene on US/Western European Gang Gree folks in developing nations is an area St. Clair hasn't at all covered.
The fact that native activists, in many places, basically detest Gang Green operatives and organizations SHOULD BE an eye-opener to the enviro groups that make up Gang Green. But, it's not.
In fact, in many cases, they say local activists have brought this on themselves.
That said, there's one error of fact and a couple of grammar in the book.
Texas' state bird is the mockingbird, not the Attwater prairie chicken. Where MacDonald got that idea, I don't know.
"Ally," the word she uses in one place, is NOT "allay."
And, it's a minor spelling mistake, but about a HUGE word in global warming - its "Arctic," not "artic" (sic on the lack of capitalization by MacDonald, too).
The mistakes and slim size alone would have knocked this book off the five-star level.
It's a solid 3.5 stars or a bit above, as is. We still can't do half-star ratings here, so it gets bumped to a 4.
For more on Gang Green, including its membership list, go to SourceWatch.org