If you follow the money in the Australian environmental scene you will find that at the end of many a cul-de-sac and dark alley there is a cluster of unaccountable American foundations. The two most prominent of these are the Rockefeller Funds and the Pew Charitable Trusts, both founded on big oil money back in the early 20th century. They represent ultra wealth transferred from corporations designed to turn a profit to foundations designed to last forever. These American foundations and their Australian counterparts like the Poola Foundation are designed, we are told, to support innovation in the non-profit sector.
My intuition tells me that many foundations exist to capture the resistance, to stymy militantism, and to feed into the messaging sphere ideas that are anti-revolutionary. After 20 years of wondering why the environmental movement was so profoundly ineffective, and being a person who always tried hard to do the right thing, I joined the action only to have my spidey senses constantly tingling. The last few years have been both strange and exhilarating. I have a sense that in my small, militant, volunteer group I am working with good and fearless people, but I also have a sense that in the wider movement I am surrounded by a herd of captives to climate alarmism. I have come to believe quite firmly that foundation money catalyses ineffectiveness, that self censorship has constrained innovation and militancy at the behest of conditional funding.
Self censorship is a powerful force, the result of the misapplication of intuition and the imperative to self aggrandise. Self censorship means choosing not to pursue the truth, a form of pragmatism that has helped activists maintain employment by satisfying an organisational remit communicated through funding arrangements and alliances with similarly funded groups. It leads to many important things being unsaid, many independent lines of inquiry being left unpursued. It is what is unsaid by key public figures like Greenpeace CEO David Ritter that signify a lack of real commitment to uncovering the truth. Silence around key issues makes me suspicious. In exploring this apparent inability to speak forthrightly about political will and the pervasiveness of political corruption and crony capitalism I have observed the same kind of structured obfuscation that delivers plausible deniability to the very powerful. David Ritter’s op-ed pieces of late display a kind of flaccid populism while avoiding the heart of the failure to achieve what it seems the general public want, real action. Last month in his response to the #australiansforcoal campaign he argued that the coal industry was in “values freefall”. This assertion implies that the coal industry recently held to values lofty enough to fall from and achieve terminal velocity. Given that the coal industry is arguably one of the top three dirtiest industries in the history of industry – right behind oil and war – it seems crazy to assert they ever held values – other than the profit imperative – that weren’t imposed on them through regulation. Clearly missing from his message was the pervasive political corruption, collusion, and obfuscation displayed by both the ALP and LNP. He has since included this messaging in his twitter feed but it seems the flaccidness remains.
David Ritter is the target of my derision because of the position Greenpeace holds in the fight against big coal in Australia. Greenpeace, while ostensibly being funded by a passive supporter base, are the hub in a wheel spoked with foundation funding. Greenpeace claims independence but maintains profound and enduring relationships with the Rockefeller funds. While working for Greenpeace, John Hepburn the current executive director of The Sunrise Project helped craft the master plan for the fight against coal mining in Australia. The ‘Stopping the Coal Export Boom’ funding proposal was produced with the generous support of the Rockefeller Family Fund along with the home-grown Graeme Wood Foundation. This master plan has seen Bill McKibben’s 350.org which is funded by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund insinuate itself quite rapidly in Australia. Bill McKibben is known for deflecting questions about his funding and for his reluctance to speak up on absence of political will. 350.org has as its purpose the channelling of activism toward reinforcement of carbon economics through generalised resistance against fossil fuels. In the minds of 350.org members climate trumps all other concerns because “if we destroy the world there will be nothing to save”. This argument is both absurd and powerful, a very unfortunate combination.
Climate messaging has taken over the environmental movement in Australia and it is foundation funded entities with the assistance of Greenpeace and its ‘proof of concept’ corporate militantism that have made this possible. Greenpeace recently commissioned a report on the investment prospects in the Galilee Basin coal mines. They engaged the partly Rockefeller funded Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis who produced a report that is designed to impact on market sentiment. The reports authors Tim Buckley and Tom Sanzillo argue that Galilee Basin coal mines are unviable, but what they and those promoting the report don’t speak about is the political will of governments, business, and their cronies. It seems that the Queensland government’s repeated commitment to getting these mines up is less relevant than the assertion carried by a report delivered from the same font of funding that feeds the collective effort.
Activists used to fight fossil fools to protect habitat, fauna, water, and rural livelihoods. Now climate activists who once-upon-a-time would support communities to power down with low energy light bulbs etc now engage in fighting fossil fools to get brand exposure and to reinforce the perceived need to fall in line with the latest IPCC report. Climate activism, now that we all know how to use less energy, is about achieving a modified business as usual.
So how much is a pittance? At a guess 6 to 10 million AUD, a mere drop in the ocean. The coal lobby and their media cronies describe the anti-coal campaign as “well funded and resourced”, this is clearly not true. Funnily enough the small, true grassroots groups struggle to get even meagre funding. John Hepburn’s The Sunrise Project caps grants for grass-roots groups at $5000 AUD with the condition that funds are used to “protect our land, water, community health and the global climate from the negative impacts of the fossil fuel industry”.
Sadly the modern climate activist is working to reinforce ideas and messaging that may or may not lead to some real action. We need real action!
Here are what I think are the most honest, powerful, soulful, and inspiring thoughts, ideas, and actions around these issues:
Tim DeChristopher – “The Climate Movement Right Now Does Not Value Truth”
MacDonald Stainsby – What We Talk About When We Talk About Foundation Funding
Charles Eisenstein challenges our obsession with climate change at the expense of all other values.
Train blockade: Maules Creek protesters take campaign to the coal port
Derrick Jensen – Beyond Hope