Green delusions


Audubon's equivocations in Arizona are just the tip of the iceberg (HCN, 10/12/09). In the last decade, mainstream environmental groups have been co-opted, again and again, by wealthy entrepreneurial "benefactors." Often these benefactors leverage their massive donations into a seat on the group's board of directors, where policy is set.

Even as human-caused climate change pushes our planet toward a catastrophic "tipping point," mainstream environmentalists insist we can actually spend our way out of it with "green technology." Why? Simply because they are funded –– and in many cases dominated by –– America's most successful capitalists, whose core beliefs require an ever-expanding free-market economy.

Even smaller regional groups here on the Colorado Plateau, like the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) and the Grand Canyon Trust (GCT), are tapped into the benefactor pipeline. And the hypocrisy is almost incomprehensible. In 2007, two of SUWA's board members had to resign after going to prison for securities fraud. In its most recent newsletter, the GCT's executive director wrote, "Public opinion in America today seems divided on the consequences of shifting to an economy featuring green technologies, renewable energy, and restoration of the places that have been damaged during our collective orgy of fossil-fueled development."

Yet one of the Trust's most powerful contributors and board members, private equity guru David Bonderman, is currently overseeing the construction of three coal-fired power plants in Texas. When his company acquired the utility in 2007, it reduced the number of proposed coal plants and promised "state-of-the-art" technology. But the reductions were based on profit motives and cost reductions, not to save the planet. The "concessions" were made to neutralize opposition from the environmental community.

James Hansen, perhaps the most respected climatologist in the world and a man who, I am sure, must be held in high esteem by the Trust and other green groups, says: "Coal is not only the largest fossil fuel reservoir of carbon dioxide, it is the dirtiest fuel. ... The dirtiest trick that governments play on their citizens is the pretence that they are working on 'clean coal' or that they will build power plants that are 'capture-ready' in case technology is ever developed to capture all pollutants. ... Coal-fired power plants are factories of death."

Mainstream greens are even turning a blind eye to the biggest sell-out of public lands since the construction of the transcontinental railroad. "Green companies" are scrambling to acquire sites for "alternative energy" developments that promise to transform the American landscape into what a friend calls "a techno-lithic wasteland." And yet, mainstream environmentalism rarely raises a finger to protest the consumption of energy. They cling to the fantasy that we can simply find a more efficient way of maintaining our lifestyle.

The idea that buying a Prius and using  "green" grocery bags and building 100,000 windmills can actually save us is worse than a joke; it is a lie. We are deluding ourselves, and our "environmental leaders" are the most deluded of them all.

Jim Stiles
Monticello, Utah