- Founder and former president of the Rainforest Action Network
- Believes that capitalism is inherently destructive of the natural environment
Born in West Virginia in 1950, Randall (Randy) Hayes earned a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University (BGSU), where, during the course of his studies, he met the Beat Generation poet Gary Snyder and became enamored of the Beat Culture's radical remnants. After leaving BGSU, Hayes lived for awhile on a Hopi Indian reservation near Flagstaff, Arizona. There, he founded “Friends of the Hopi,” a group that sought to outlaw coal mining on tribal land. In 1973 Hayes enrolled at San Francisco State University, where he went on to earn a master's degree in environmental planning. His master's thesis was a documentary film titled The Four Corners (1983), examining how coal and uranium mining on the Colorado Plateau were allegedly harming the region's American Indian population.
Hayes continued to work as a filmmaker after completing his graduate program. In 1985 he founded the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) and subsequently served for some time as its president; today he sits on RAN's board of directors.
Between the 1980s and the mid-2000s, Hayes served variously as the president of the City of San Francisco Commission on the Environment; the director of sustainability in Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown's office; and a staffer at the International Forum on Globalization, a think tank consisting of some five-dozen anti-capitalist organizations from around the world. When he was hired by Mayor Brown in 2004, Hayes stated: “I really do believe we can build a new army for the Earth and do it from city government. You'll never really save the [South American] rain forest until you build a sustainable society in the industrial North.” “Those in the industrial North,” he said on another occasion, “have their foot on the throat of the rainforest.”
Hayes has long detested capitalism, which in 2002 he called “an absurd economic system [that is] rapidly destroying nature.” “The industrial age of economic globalization could also be called the age of extinction,” he added.
On March 14, 2002 in Baltimore, Hayes presented a paper at the Johns Hopkins Symposium on Foreign Affairs, titled “Restructuring the Global Economy.” Proceeding from the premise that capitalism is inherently destructive of the natural environment, this paper emphasized the importance of finding “alternatives to a capitalistic economic system” and explored the question: “Can capitalism be radically improved, humanized, and ecologized?” Moreover, Hayes called for the implementation of “something akin to another Marshall Plan” that would “restructur[e] the rulemaking processes for the global economy [and] provide a roadmap to help reverse dangerous trends and get us to a better world.” Ron Arnold, executive vice-president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, noted that “it is ironic that Hayes named his proposal -- which would prevent the spread of capitalism and eliminate free-market economies under United Nations control -- after the [original] ... Marshall Plan” of 1947 that “ended up pumping vast amounts of American money into war-torn Europe to prevent the spread of communism and to [promote] political democracy and free-market economies.”
Also in his Baltimore presentation, Hayes identified what he regarded as some of the “root causes of the social and ecological crisis” which America was facing. These included: “anthropocentrism, the assumption of human superiority over nature”; “unlimited, linear economic growth in a world dependent on nonrenewable resources and closed loop cycles”; “technology worship”; “modern chemistry, the invention of substances [like DDT and PCBs] that cannot be returned productively into the planet's natural cycles”; the “domination of mass media (particularly TV and advertising) by viewpoints that serve the interests of the industrial world”; and “the concentration of power amongst corporate executives and owners.”
In 2002 as well, Hayes joined such prominent environmentalists as Carl Pope, Denis Hayes, Fred Krupp, Mark Van Putten, Kathleen Rogers, and Brent Blackwelder in signing a letter that urged President George W. Bush to attend an upcoming Earth Summit in South Africa, and to support initiatives that aimed, among other things, to: (a) “reduce United States emissions of carbon dioxide and other global warming pollutants,” and (b) “increase U.S. assistance to developing countries to protect their environments and the global environment.” Moreover, the letter blamed globalization and capitalism for environmental degradation and social strife around the world, stating: “While actions to reduce barriers to trade and investments have stimulated economic growth, there are deep concerns about the uneven distribution of these economic gains among and within countries, the growing pressure on natural resources, and increasing pollution. The failure to address these tensions provides the impetus for unrest, social conflict and violence.”
In 2004 Hayes spoke openly about the potential for using environmentalism to promote economic transformation and the demise of capitalism. Early in that year's presidential campaign, for example, he supported the candidacy of Congressional Progressive Caucus member Dennis Kucinich, stating: “Economic policy turns out to be the most important environmental policy. Kucinich is the only presidential candidate calling for the elimination of the World Trade Organization. That alone would do more to support nature's needs than any other environmental action."
In October 2004, Hayes joined such notables as the Marxist anti-war activist Stan Goff and Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney in signing the 911 Truth Statement, which called for “immediate public attention to unanswered questions suggesting that people within the current [George W. Bush] administration may indeed have deliberately allowed 9/11 to happen, perhaps as a pretext for war.”
In 2012 Hayes collaborated with environmentalist Brent Blackwelder and Center for Food Safety executive director Andrew Kimbrell to establish Foundation Earth, a think tank aiming to help cultivate “an earth-centered economy” by means of “economic system changes and transformation.” The environmental news website EcoWatch affirms that Foundation Earth indeed supports “major societal transformation, not incremental reform.”
In addition to his work with RAN, Hayes at various times has served as the U.S. national director of Direction Conservation; the USA director at the World Future Council; a board of directors member for at least eight non-profit organizations, including the Turning Point Project and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (an eco-terrorist group founded by Paul Watson); and an advisory board member for numerous groups, including the Presidio School of Management’s green MBA program.
Hayes derives great pleasure from his status as a controversial figure, as evidenced by the fact that he once stated: “I'm somewhat of a lightning rod. I get called a radical a lot. Webster's definition of radical is 'a root.' Radicals get to the root of the problem. From that perspective, I'm proud of that label.”
For additional information on Randall Hayes, click here.