It was a very bad day for environmentalism in 2000-2001 when the Sierra Club secretly took over $100 million in donations from Wall Street investor David Gelbaum on the condition that its historic caution about immigration not be renewed.
It signaled the end of true bipartisan defense of the earth and the beginning of environmentalism's enthusiastic plunge into extreme multicultural ideology and nutty One-Worldism—with a deep-sixing of the overpopulation issue both domestically and worldwide.
The greens' recent elevation of radical Van Jones, Obama's just-derailed green jobs czar, is another marker of the decay.
In 2000, conservationist icon David Brower resigned from the Sierra Club board, complaining that there was "no real sense of urgency" about saving the earth. "Overpopulation is perhaps the biggest problem facing us, and immigration is part of that problem'', Brower said."It has to be addressed''.
The immigration issue is a great integrity detector—the position of an individual or group on immigration reveals basic integrity…or the lack of it.
The Sierra Club once had integrity—back in 1989 when the official position was "Immigration to the U.S. should be no greater than that which will permit achievement of population stabilization in the U.S".
Then the Club got that big pile of cash (with which it purchased some very nice land to preserve), for which donor Gelbaum required censorship on the issue. He confirmed to a reporter:
"'I did tell Carl Pope in 1994 or 1995 that if they ever came out anti-immigration, they would never get a dollar from me…'
"Gelbaum, who reads the Spanish-language newspaper La Opinion and is married to a Mexican American, said his views on immigration were shaped long ago by his grandfather, Abraham, a watchmaker who had come to America to escape persecution of Jews in Ukraine before World War I..
"'I cannot support an organization that is anti-immigration. It would dishonor the memory of my grandparents.'"
[The Man Behind the Land, By Kenneth R. Weiss, Los Angeles Times, October 27, 2004. Links added].
That would be Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope, who as a young man spent two earnest years in India as a Peace Corps volunteer, promoting overpopulation awareness and educating about birth control. But now he hangs out with leftist billionaire George Soros and self-identified truther and communist organizer Van Jones, who until recently was White House green jobs advisor.
After Jones resigned following revelations of his own extremist statements, Pope penned a strange apology titled We All Blew It—meaning "we, the far left" didn't support Jones enough. That blog item appeared on the Sierra Club site as well as the Huffington Post.
Pope blamed racism, Fox News, the "reactionary right"—everything but Jones' own history of radical associations and remarks. Pope wrote:
"..I assumed it would blow over.
"Well, that was a mistake. So was the decision by the White House to treat the initial attacks not as part of an assault on the president but, instead, to allow them to be viewed as being about Van Jones. What we underestimated was the power of the fact that both Jones and the Barack Obama are black. Yes, the hysteria was about politics—I don't think Fox News really cares about Jones's ethnicity—but it was enabled by race. Calling Bush a 'crack-head' is seen by a large part of America as worse than calling him 'addict-in-chief' because crack is not just a drug — it is a drug used largely by black people. It reminds those Americans who are still uncomfortable with Barack Obama that we have a black president." (Links added).
Is it not odd for the leader of an environmentalist organization to be (wrongly) beating the racism drum? Whatever happened to concern about preserving endangered species and wild places?
The Sierra Club's new pursuit of diversity as the highest good has led to curious obsessions—such as a recent self-criticism on its website by Sierra Club President Allison Chin (who is Asian), responding to complaints by Obama EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson (who is black), which was cringingly headlined "Yep, We're Too White".
Multicultural values dictate that a movement doesn't matter unless it includes lots of colorful people, so environmentalism had to shape up. As a result, the leftist concept of "social justice" morphed into "environmental justice". The Sierra Club now devotes a special webpage to celebrating diversity, which has greenified the familiar bromide that "diversity is our strength" into the "Sierra Club Diversity Statement":
"Like a healthy ecosystem, our differences strengthen us in our efforts to preserve and protect the natural and human environment."
But efforts at outreach have proved to be more difficult than anticipated in the liberal playbook. The New York Times recently quoted Carl Pope complaining about the "cultural barriers" created by the Club's existing membership: "If you go to a Sierra Club meeting, the people are mostly white, largely over 40, almost all college-educated, whose style is to argue with each other", he remarked. [In Environmental Push, Looking to Add Diversity, By Mireya Navarro, March 3, 2009]
Certainly that difficulty meant it was easier for Pope to happily welcome an edgy black man like Vann Jones into the green fold. There was expediency on both sides. Pope got more of the diversity he desired. Jones got a whole new sphere where he could strut his stuff, as well as connect to a lot of foundation money.
What should set off alarm bells was how easily a radical organizer—he's described himself as a former "rowdy black nationalist", said he was a communist, was arrested while protesting the Rodney King verdict, and supports cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal—could recast himself as an important environmentalist without missing a beat.
Certainly the elite media were enthralled. The Washington Post called him a "towering figure of the environmental movement". The New Yorker produced an adoring puff piece for the January 12 issue: Greening the Ghetto, by Elizabeth Kolbert.
"Jones, who is forty, is tall and imposing, with a shaved head and a patchy goatee. He wears rimless glasses and favors dark clothing. On this particular day, he was wearing a black turtleneck, black jeans, black boots, and a charcoal jacket. He was introduced by a community organizer and aspiring rapper, who described him as 'a leader with answers,' a 'genius from the hood, similar to our own,' and a youthful version of Barack Obama. When it was his turn to speak, Jones rejected the lectern that had been set up for him, saying that it reminded him too much of college."
A big part of Jones' appeal was his salesman pitch to solve poverty and climate change with green jobs—a spiel no utopian leftist could resist. His book The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems promised way more than it could realistically deliver, but sounded terrific to those environmentalists friendly to big-government approaches.
The idea was that Washington should create a green New Deal, based on spending $350 billion to rebuild the country with energy-saving technology. Instead of a chicken in every pot, Jones promised a solar panel on every roof. As for the cost, a few hundred billion sounds low to remodel the country.
It's obvious how Carl Pope could have starry-eyed plans for the guy, even though Jones had no experience in business, or green technology either for that matter. The message was the important thing. And having it delivered by a shaved-headed black guy who exuded street cred was too juicy to resist.
VDARE.COM readers who are strong of stomach may want to watch a documentary titled "The Brave Nation", in which leftists like Pope, Jones, Delores Huerta, Pete Seeger and Anthony Romero chat about their big plans for America, framed with historical background footage. Watch the trailer here. The Pope-Jones section is here, and shows Jones in his upbeat friendly mode, with none of the hostile commie-speak that has showed up on YouTube.
What is disturbing about this dismal episode is what it reveals about the environmental movement.
The earth needs friends right now, and the organizations that are supposed to be doing that job aren't. America is a conservative country, and far-left environmentalists are very off-putting. Watermelon greens—"Green on the outside, red on the inside"—are wrong for Americans on too many issues.
There are plenty of environmental problems about which we can all agree, e.g. the destruction of fisheries and a Texas-sized patch of floating plastic garbage in the North Pacific. But Carl Pope would rather trash-talk about conservatives than engage in bi-partisan environmental protection.
Furthermore, the Sierra Club has taken positions that are either purely political (i.e. friendly to the Hispanic lobby, often to the detriment of Americans) or are actually harmful to the environment. For example, in California's 2003 gubernatorial recall election, it endorsed candidate Cruz Bustmante, despite his refusal to condemn the race-baiting Brown Power organization MEChA, which he joined as a college student. In 2001 Bustamante had to apologize for using a racial slur when speaking to an audience of black trade unionists. All too blatantly, the Club has lower standards for its political allies than for its critics.
Mexican cartels have turned parts of our most treasured national parks (including Yosemite and Sequoia) into toxic marijuana plantations. But the Sierra Club has "acknowledges other priorities then drug bandits".
In California, the Club has supported drivers licenses/identification cards for illegal aliens, despite the increased threats of terrorism and worsened public safety.
The Sierra Club has opposed a fence on the Mexican border. Despite the terrible destruction to habitat and mountains of trash left by illegal alien crossers (1.18 million pounds in Arizona during 2006 alone), Carl Pope had the effrontery to complain last year that the project might cause "the destruction of the borderlands region" [Parry and Thrust | Green groups challenge a bid to speed the border fence, By Andrew Murr, Newsweek, April 4, 2008].
The Sierra Club Stalinists have personally attacked genuine environmentalists (like your humble correspondent, among others) for merely pointing out their misdeeds and for working within the organization's dwindling democratic structure for reform.
It's a tragedy. Both the earth and America need extra care and attention. But instead both are being shafted by watermelon environmentalist groups like the Sierra Club, which now appeal to only a small, very liberal segment of the population.
There is something terribly wrong if greens cannot convince the country with logical arguments, but prefer extremists like Van Jones to be their messenger.
Brenda Walker (email her) lives in Northern California and publishes two websites, LimitsToGrowth.org and ImmigrationsHumanCost.org. She actually agrees that the country needs to rejigger its energy use to more sustainable sources, but not in the top-down government-spending approach of the Van Jones ilk. Rather than shoveling taxpayer money out the door to political cronies, why doesn't the Congress create business incentives for the greener future?