Thanks to the recession and the arrival in Washington of a perceived green-friendly administration, the coffers of nonprofit environmental organizations are shrinking. For instance, the much-maligned Bush Administration's support of energy development was certainly good for eco-fundraising. Either cash-strapped, or believing that the bad old days are over, many of those dependable liberal donors have fled, under the impression that their financial support is no longer needed. Consequently, national and local grassroots green groups are cutting back on expenses and laying off staff. "Until we have a clearer picture about how the crisis will affect [sic] giving, we are keeping a close eye on spending and making sure our resources are devoted to our top science-driven priorities," Amy Golden of the Nature Conservancy told the New York Times during last fall's initial banking crisis. The layoffs and cutbacks continue, as they do across the entire nonprofit landscape.
Despite his rhetoric about our "energy crisis," the infamous cap and trade bill passed in the House and headed to the Senate, and green-directed economic stimulus (with marginal results, so far) -- President Obama is bad for business; green business, that is. And it turns out the ex-urban community organizer cares little for the nuts and bolts of such peripheral enviro issues as the beefing-up of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the maintenance of -- and expansion of wilderness areas on --America's public lands. In my reading of the regional media, it's obvious to me that Western greens give the new president mixed reviews.
Though I let my subscription to High Country News (HCN) lapse in January, I'm still prey to pitches from environmental organizations that have bought HCN's subscription mailing list. Some offer goodies; all are infused with a sense of desperation. You would never guess that our future green utopia wasn't validated by last fall's election.
The Audubon Society wants money (never gets it from me), but they're very nice to send me a sheet of those personalized Return Address stickers. I enjoy seeing my name and address next to a picture of a regal eagle or swooping osprey, though I can do without the ornithologically effete swallows and warblers, and never use those on my snail mail correspondence. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.'s "Riverkeepers" urgently wants me to help clean up the Hudson River, though having grown up in upstate New York, I know it's now as clean as it's ever been since Henry Hudson first sailed upriver. A number of local Idaho green groups implore me to assist in saving the salmon in the state's rivers or help to promote expanded wilderness areas. They're all headquartered in Boise, and from what I can see while living in rural Idaho, they don't get out of the city much.
Just the other day a large envelope arrived from the Sierra Club. It contained a Sierra Club car window decal; one of those long-strip computer keyboard calendars; four postcards featuring photos of animals (a grizzly bear, a bald eagle, wolves, a mountain lion); and an opportunity to receive free a small backpack, or as they refer to it in their quaintly elitist John Muirish way, a "rucksack" -- sporting the Sierra Club logo -- if I go for an Introductory Membership and send in a check for $15.
There was also a four-page green encyclical from Carl Pope, Executive Director. In it, Mr. Pope laments that "hundreds of animals and plants on the brink of extinction have yet to receive protection under the Endangered Species Act." He doesn't name any, but how is this possible? Mr. Pope continues: "For the past eight years, the oil companies, the logging industry, and other special interests worked hand-in-hand with the Bush Administration to undermine the Endangered Species Act….The Sierra Club is dedicated to working with the new Obama Administration and new officials in Congress to right these past eight years of atrocities as quickly as possible." Well. And an attached flier reiterates the point that: "With a new administration in the White House, we must act now to reverse the damage committed over the past eight years by G.W. Bush [with the chainsaw at the ranch?], and push our government toward enforcing and enacting [enacting and enforcing?] better energy and environmental policies."
In spite of the hysterical use of such loaded words as "atrocities" and "damage," the operative phrases in the quotes above are "as quickly as possible" and "we must act now." Sound familiar? As with much of the Obama Administration's hastily presented domestic policy goals (lately healthcare reform), its allies in the green lobbies are pushing their own agendas with a faux urgency. As usual, the sky is falling; green president and overwhelming majorities on Capitol Hill notwithstanding. And whether it's the general poor health of the economy, or too few salmon in the Snake River -- it's George W. Bush's fault.
Carl Pope isn't sleeping well lately. And he won't until 2010, when the GOP takes back the Congress, and he can again terrify those wayward donors. But a real pipe-dream-come-true would be Sarah Palin serving as Secretary of the Interior in a 2013 Romney or Gingrich administration. Then Mr. Pope could drift off to sweet slumber counting dollar signs instead of sheep.
And thanks, Carl, but I think I'll pass on the rucksack. I already have a closet full of sturdy, rock-ribbed, heavy duty backpacks.
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