Environmental Defense and free market environmentalism

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Environmental Defense (previously known as the Environmental Defense Fund) has been one of the leading enthusiasts amongst American environmental groups for free market environmentalism.

In their 1996 book, Washington Babylon, Alexander Cockburn and Ken Silverstein described Environmental Defense as "Bush [I]'s favorite environmental group ... a more svelte and modish version of [Bush EPA head William Reilly's] Conservation Fund, packed with lawyers, lobbyists and scientists." (p. 202)

"Nurtured on generous infusions of corporate grants and donations, the Fund has grown into one of the most influential environmental groups in Washington. Operations are directed by Fred Krupp for the brawny sum of $125,000 a year. Krupp is known in some circles as the Michael Milken of the environmental movement, an allusion to the EDF supremo's tireless promotion of the pollution trading credits scheme, which allows industrial companies to sell their right to pollute to other companies through the Chicago Board of Trade.

"Waggish environmentalist have dubbed Krupp's pollution credits "cancer bonds". For his part, Krupp doesn't have much use for grassroots activism, which he sees as tarnishing the reputation of serious environmental groups. Krupp likes to proclaim that "what the environmental movement needs is more scientists and engineers and economists." He prefers to work with such allies of the earth as McDonalds and General Motors which are cordial to the idea that market mechanisms and technology can resolve nearly every environmental scruple...

"A milestone white paper on so-called free-market environmentalism called "Project 88", which EDF helped write for Senators John Heinz and Tim Wirth, argued that environmental regulations were economically onerous and often counter-productive. Hurt business, stifle economic growth and you deflate corporate interest in environmental quality. Such notions derive from the belief that environmentalism is a luxury concern which Americans turn their attention only in times of booming prosperity. ...

"'Project 88' became a bible for Reilly, and many of its key provisions later surfaced in the final version of the Clean Air Act. Heinz was killed in a plane crash in 1991 and a hefty chunk of his estate went to create the Heinz Foundation, which funnels millions of dollars to such groups as the EDF. Tim Wirth is now enconsced in the Clinton administration as an adviser on international environmental affairs...

"No sooner was the NAFTA agreement signed than Mexico denounced the US tuna law [mandating dolphin-free tuna] as a restraint on free trade and demanded its recission. ... the White House speedily assented, but said that some national environmental organizations would have to be wheeled forth to provide political cover against assaults from the volatile dolphin lobby. Enter the Environmental Defense Fund, a fanatical espouser of free trade as the salve for more or less everything, vociferously pro-NAFTA in 1992 and a long-time foe of the dolphin protection laws as "ideologically unsound."

"The crucial meeting to settle the dolphin's took place in the Mexican embassy in DC in July of 1995. Here US and Mexican government officials hunkered down with executives from the Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, World Wildlife Fund and the Center for Marine Conservation. Carefully excluded were pro-dolphin groups such as the Earth Island Institute and the Humane Society. ... Staffers from EDF and WWF would write the new bill ..., with help from Bud Walks [of the] Wise Use movement...

"Teresa Heinz... made her way onto the board of the Environmental Defense Fund and - in the late 1980s when the EDF was heavily involved in various Amazonian promotions and fundraising endeavors - used to sweep into the Western Amazon in great style, gazing with marked disfavor on the unruly rubber-tappers mustered at the Rio Branco airport to meet her. Frantic EDF staffers would plead with the seringueiros to shed radical buttons lest Teresa conclude that the EDF had fallen into bed with Third World revolutionaries, instead of promoting parks from which Indians and rubber tappers could swiftly be evicted."

Other SourceWatch resources

External links

  • Alexander Cockburn and Ken Silverstein, Washington Babylon, Verso, London and New York, 1996. ISBN 18960914275 (Hardback) and ISBN 2859840922 (Softback)