- Paperback: 112 pages
- Publisher: Basic Books; 1st edition (December 26, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1560251530
- ISBN-13: 978-1560251538
- Product Dimensions: 4.5 x 0.5 x 7.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,969,178 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Pocket Guide to Environmental Bad Guys: And a Few Ideas on How to Stop Them Paperback – December 26, 1998
"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
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A Review by Michael Donnelly
The Earth isn't dying. It's being killed and the people doing the killing have names, faces and corporations they hide behind and we intend to tell you who they are and how they do it.
That about sums up the premise and promise of the new book, "Environmental Bad Guys" by James Ridgeway and Jeffrey St. Clair. And, in an easy to read format, the authors deliver.
Ridgeway and St. Clair dispense with the usual focus on political institutions and laws that define the nation's anemic Big Green cartel. Instead, they opt for direct exposure of the "loose affiliation of millionaires and billionaires" and the lobbyists and "environmental" groups they handsomely pay to further their polluting, deforesting and otherwise despoiling of the Commons for private profit.
The corporate practice of Greenwashing comes in for some well needed exposure, as well. And, also exposed - the shameless efforts of Teflon Green groups who haul in millions of corporate dollars to ensure that the sludge sticks anywhere but to its creators.
The book doesn't just trot out the facts and the bad actors. It offers hope, as well. A major part of the book is highlighting the grass roots, responsible greens who are making a difference against huge odds. The book is subtitled, "and a Few Ideas on How to Stop Them."
Expect the roaches unaccustomed to the light of such a book to run for cover. They'll surely break out the counter attack with assaults on the authors from the Wise Use loonies on one hand to the house-broken "Greens" on the other. It behooves the average air-breathing, water-drinking citizen to read this book and further their own self-defense.
Increasingly, it seems, events and trends are understood and reported as the products of individuals: Bill Gates creates the computer revolution, Boris Yeltsin leads Russia to a purported democracy, Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, flanked by Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan and Deputy Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers guide the world economy through turbulent times to a prosperous future.
Well, say reporters James Ridgeway and Jeffrey St. Clair, let's apply the personification-of-social-developments approach even-handedly. In A Pocket Guide to Environmental Bad Guys (New York: Thunder's Mouth Press), Ridgeway and St. Clair name names of the worst polluters, deforesters and despoilers of the wild, and the top lobbyists they employ to pass laws, gut regulations, broker deals and win tax breaks to legitimize their poisoning and destruction of the environment.
"You can focus on institutions and laws until you're blue in the face," Ridgeway says, but no one will pay attention.
"While there has been a plethora of books on how the environment is getting better," he says, in fact things are getting worse. And the way to grab people's attention is not by waving statistical trends on deforestation or global warming or any of a myriad of other environmental ills. People respond when they can put a human face on problems.
There's another reason to identify the "bad guys," Ridgeway says. "You need to know your enemy," Ridgeway explains. "How they operate, what they eat, what their styles" of doing business are. So who do Ridgeway and St. Clair identify as the bad guys? Here's a smattering:
* John Bryson, CEO of Edison International. Ridgeway and St. Clair list Bryson's "most imaginative sideline" as co-founding the Natural Resources Defense Council. Edison's subsidiary Mission Energy is building dirty coal-fired plants in Indonesia.
* Charles Hurwitz, CEO of Maxxam, who just managed to ransom the Headwaters redwood grove in northern California for nearlyn half a billion dollars. Faced with threats that Maxxam saws would chew the entire forest, the Clinton administration agreed to pay $480 million to acquire Headwaters -- even though the government estimated the market value at less than $100 million and even though companies owned by Hurwitz owe the government nearly $2 billion for the collapse of a savings and loan.
* Jim Bob Moffett, head of Freeport McMoran, the mining giant that operates the world's largest gold and copper mine in Indonesia. Local indigenous communities charge the company has polluted local rivers, killing fish and forests, and that the Indonesian military has committed brutal human rights abuses to crush anti-Freeport protests. Moffett's "quotable quote," according to Environmental Bad Guys, refers to Freeport pollution at the Indonesian mine: "[It's] equivalent to me pissing in the Arafura Sea."
* Ira Rennert, who is now building the largest residence in the United States, on Long Island, and controls 95 percent of Renco Group, which in turn owns Magnesium Corp. of America, "the largest source of air pollution in America."
* Donald Pearlman, a former high official in the Reagan Energy and Interior Departments, who "is by far the energy industry's most effective lobbyist in fighting climate control rules."
Identifying the bad guys is Ridgeway and St. Clair's entry point, but it is not the entirety of their handy Pocket Guide. In addition to peeling away corporate greenwashing to reveal how dirty Big Business really is, they highlight the critical work being done by thousands of grassroots groups in the United States to put the bad guys in their place.
Ridgeway and St. Clair have subtitled Environmental Bad Guys "(and a Few Ideas on How to Stop Them)." The most important of these ideas, Ridgeway explains, is that hope for saving the environment lies not with "the large environmental groups which sit in Washington, and don't represent anybody or anything," but with the smaller groups that have maintained their edge, practice a combative politics and are directly confronting corporate power.
It turns out that while highlighting individual bad guys may be a key to focusing the public on environmental degradation, the key to blocking them is not to rely on individual celebrities, but garnering public support. Prominent environmental good guys -- people like David Brower, founder of the Earth Island Institute and Friends of the Earth, and Lois Gibbs, made famous at Love Canal and now heading the Center for Health, Environment and Justice -- have made their mark not as backroom lobbyists, but as effective organizers and crusaders for environmental justice.
Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter. Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor.