In the introduction to his book “The Green Wave” about the fundraising prowess of the environmental community, Bonner Cohen notes that as environmental groups become more powerful, they often forget their original goal of helping the environment. He notes that even lifelong environmental activist like Michael Schellenberger and Ted Nordhaus lament the fact that even while these groups now “boast large professional staffs and receive tens of millions of dollars in donations every year from foundations and individuals,” in many ways “the environmental movement’s fundamental concepts … are outmoded.” They are focusing more on fundraising and their organization than improving environmental sustainability.
Now another committed environmental believer has added his voice to this chorus of concern: former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
In his memoirs released last year, Blair expresses his frustration with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), especially environmental groups. Discussing the climate change negotiations at the G-8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, he writes:
Over time, I’m afraid I came to dislike part of the NGO culture, especially the Green groups. NGOs do a great job, don’t misunderstand me; but the trouble with some of them is that while they are treated by the media as concerned citizens, which of course they are, they are also organizations, raising money, marketing themselves and competing with other NGOs in a similar field. Because their entire raison d’ etre is to get policy changed, they can hardly say yes, we’ve done it, without putting themselves out of business. And they’ve learned to play the modern media game perfectly. As it’s all about impact, they shout louder and louder to get heard. Balance is not in the vocabulary. It’s all “outrage,” “betrayal,” “crisis.”
Given his commitment to negotiate an agreement to follow the Kyoto Protocol, one can hardly question Blair’s sympathy for the greens. Yet, even he recognizes that environmental groups have strayed from their original intent, confusing power with movement toward the goal they claim to care about.