- Executive Director of the Sierra Club
- Former Board member of the California League of Conservation Voters
- Former Political Director of Zero Population Growth (now known as Population Connection)
- Executive Committee member of George Soros’ organization, America Coming Together
A self-described "radical," Carl Pope has been the Executive Director of the Sierra Club -- one of America’s largest and most influential environmentalist groups -- since 1992. Prior to that, he had served the organization in various capacities since the early 1970s. Pope also has been a Board member of California Common Cause, the California League of Conservation Voters, the National Clean Air Coalition, Zero Population Growth (now known as Population Connection), Public Interest Economics, Public Voice, and the Wildlands Conservancy.
In the 1960s Pope was a supporter of Students for a Democratic Society. After graduating from Harvard College in 1967, he volunteered for the Peace Corps and spent several years working in India. That experience converted Pope to the environmentalist cause of limiting population growth, and prompted him to write his 1971 book Sahib, an American Misadventure in India. Ten years later, Pope published Hazardous Waste in America, which argued that U.S. authorities were not doing enough to protect American citizens from the health risks posed by toxic, corrosive, or infectious materials that had been disposed of improperly.
In 1986 Pope authored Proposition 65 -- the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act -- which, in November of that year, was enacted as a ballot initiative designed to protect California's water sources from contamination by carcinogenic chemicals. Critics have subsequently observed that this law encourages frivolous lawsuits while offering negligible health benefits to Californians.
Responding to his detractors, Pope says that "the extreme right hates environmentalism, because environmentalism says human beings are all in the same lifeboat together."
In 2002 Pope joined a number of fellow environmentalists -- including Brent Blackwelder, Denis Hayes, Randall Hayes, Fred Krupp, Mark Van Putten, and Kathleen Rogers -- in signing a letter urging President Bush to attend the Johannesburg, South Africa Earth Summit that September. The letter asked Bush to support such initiatives as “reduc[ing] United States emissions of carbon dioxide and other global warming pollutants,” and “increas[ing] U.S. assistance to developing countries to protect their environments and the global environment.” It also blamed globalization and capitalism for “the uneven distribution of … economic gains among and within countries, the growing pressure on natural resources, and increasing pollution.”
During the 2004 presidential campaign season, Pope served as the Executive Committee Treasurer of America Coming Together, the George Soros-funded organization that sought to rally minority voters in battleground states to thwart President Bush’s reelection bid.
Making the Sierra Club an agent of that same mission, Pope in 2004 collaborated with Sierra magazine’s senior editor, Paul Rauber, to co-author Strategic Ignorance: Why the Bush Administration Is Recklessly Destroying a Century of Environmental Progress.
Also during the 2004 presidential campaigns, Pope spoke alongside filmmaker Michael Moore at a pro-John Kerry rally at Portland State University. Organized by the Young Voters Project and the College Democrats, this event was financed by the Sierra Club, which, according to Pope, was endorsing Kerry because he “is probably the member of the United States Senate who has most steadfastly stated a really important truth: our continued dependence on fossil fuels and oil is bad for our national security, is bad for our economy, is bad for our health, is bad for the environment.”
In June 2006 Pope, along with United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard, announced that their respective organizations had formed an alliance aiming to “heighten public awareness about the job-creating potential of solutions to global warming,” and to “reform trade agreements so they include binding labor rights and environmental standards.”
That same year, Pope signed a statement that accompanied the documentary film The Great Warming, which was intended to serve as a rallying cry against climate change. The statement read, in part:
“The world’s scientists are in agreement: climate change is real, and we are largely responsible. America’s religious institutions, corporations, environmental and political leaders are in agreement -- we must recognize our moral responsibility to be good stewards of the Earth today and for all future generations.”
Other signatories included Brent Blackwelder, Robert Edgar, Kevin Knobloch, John Podesta, Kathleen Rogers, Sayyid Muhammad Syeed, Ted Turner, and Jim Wallis.
Pope maintains a weblog titled “Taking the Initiative,” where he disseminates his opinions on a host of subjects ranging from the political to the personal. In a May 2008 entry, he blamed "market fundamentalism and the privatization of world food security” for having created a food crisis, predicting that only by bringing its food production under the authority of the federal government could America sidestep a catastrophic famine. The following month, Pope expressed his opposition to offshore oil drilling by the U.S.
Pope has been a strong supporter of the environmental activist and self-declared revolutionary communist Van Jones, calling him "an extraordinarily important leader." When Jones -- amid controversy over his radical past -- was forced to resign his post as President Barack Obama's "Green Energy Czar" in September 2009, Pope characterized Jones (who is black) as a victim of the "old and ugly instinct" of racism. Too many Americans, said Pope, "are still uncomfortable with Barack Obama [and the fact] that we have a black president."
Over the years, Pope has contributed money to a number of political candidates, mostly Democrats. Among the recipients were Senator Barbara Boxer and Congressman Sam Farr, both of California. Pope also has made donations to the League of Conservation Voters Action Fund and the Sierra Club Political Committee.