Friends of the Earth (FOE)

Friends of the Earth (FOE)


* Uses “policy analysis and advocacy campaigns” to “effect policy change” at the state and federal levels
* Opposes U.S. energy independence
* Contends that greenhouse-gas emissions associated with human industrial activity are largely responsible for global warming
* Aims to create a more “environmentally sustainable and socially just world” by “transforming financial and economic systems” that allegedly degrade both the natural environment and social justice

The U.S. branch of Friends Of the Earth (FOE) was founded in San Francisco in 1969 by former Sierra Club executive director David Brower. It is part of a worldwide, Netherlands-based FOE alliance of some 2 million members in 74 countries. From 1994-2009, the president of FOE-America was Brent Blackwelder. The current president is Erich Pica.

In an effort to create “a more healthy and just world,” FOE uses “policy analysis and advocacy campaigns” to “effect policy change” at the state and federal levels. A major objective is to eliminate “the economic drivers that are encouraging environmental degradation.”

FOE’s work is committed to three major principles:

  • Sustainability: This refers to using the earth’s resources “in a way that ensures they will still be available for future generations.”
  • Systemic change: Claiming that “the world’s problems are too great for tiny fixes around the edges,” FOE refuses “to allow corporations to continue to profit by destroying the environment.” “We must hold them accountable for the costs their pollution creates,” says the organization.
  • Connectivity: FOE maintains that “safeguarding the planet and its resources” is “intrinsically connected to the global struggle for social and economic justice,” commodities that allegedly are threatened by “the powerful” who “continue to pillage the planet.” Along these lines, FOE has drafted an Anti-Oppression Statement asserting that: “all forms of life on earth are sacred and interconnected”; “all systems of oppression [are] interrelated”; and “racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, religious discrimination and all other forms of oppression affect and implicate each of us.” Further, the Statement demands special protections for “historically marginalized and oppressed people, including youth, women, queer folks, and people of color.” These groups, says FOE, are routinely “targeted by polluting industries and others who harm the environment for profit.”

FOE currently operates four major programs:

(1) The Climate & Energy program is rooted in the premise that greenhouse-gas emissions associated with human industrial activity are largely responsible for what FOE describes as the potentially catastrophic phenomenon of global warming. “The climate crisis is the definitive challenge of our time,” says FOE, “and our reliance on fossil fuels is driving it.” Seeking to “end our unhealthy dependence on dirty [energy] sources including coal, oil, nuclear and biofuels,” FOE favors “wind, solar and geothermal power” instead. It also aims to eliminate government subsidies for oil companies. In 2003, FOE filed a lawsuit seeking to force the Environmental Protection Agency to further “regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases as air pollutants and contributors to global warming.”

(2) The Food & Technology program, which professes to put “people’s health before corporate profits,” impugns “corporate agribusiness” for its ever-increasing use of “toxic chemicals and risky technologies to produce our food.” Moreover, the program pushes for “proper government oversight” of synthetic biology; strives to keep genetically engineered foods, which only “benefit a few biotech corporations,” off of grocery store shelves; and advocates for policies to protect the public from the risks posed by the use of “potentially toxic” nanomaterials in consumer products like cosmetics and sunscreens. Meanwhile, FOE’s “Our Good Food, Healthy Planet” campaign aims to dramatically reduce people’s consumption of animal products, on the premise that “a diet with less meat and more plant-based, organically grown, unprocessed foods is better for our health and better for the planet.”

(3) The Oceans & Forests program works to “address the root causes” of forest destruction and the “marginalization of forest-dwelling communities.” It also has helped impose regional, national and international limits on air, water and oil pollution from cruise ships, cargo ships, oil tankers, ferries and recreational water craft.

(4) The Economics for the Earth project aims to create a more “environmentally sustainable and socially just world” by “transforming financial and economic systems” that allegedly degrade both the natural environment and social justice. In FOE’s view, such systems are those founded upon laissez faire capitalism. To punish the polluters that allegedly thrive as a result of free markets, FOE promotes tax policies that “make polluters pay for the costs of their pollution,” “encourage investment in clean alternatives,” and “ensure adequate funding for government to protect public health and the environment.” In addition:

  • FOE’s “Fair Trade, Not Free Trade” campaign demands that foreign workers who produce various consumer products that are sold in the U.S., are “justly compensated” in terms of pay, benefits, and working conditions.
  • FOE believes in using environmental policy as a vehicle for wealth redistribution on a massive scale: “We work to ensure that the wealthiest industrialized countries, which have done the most to cause climate change, do their fair share to solve the problem, in part by providing financial assistance to developing countries so they can grow their economies with clean energy sources and so they can more effectively cope with climate change impacts.”
  • FOE advocates the passage of election and campaign-finance laws that “reel in the unbridled influence of big money in politics.” Toward that end, the organization calls for “prioritizing the voices of voters over [those of] corporations”—an allusion to the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United, a decision (detested by FOE) that nullified a provision of federal law barring corporations and unions from paying for political ads produced independently of candidates’ campaigns. “One important way to clean up the electoral process,” says FOE, “is by providing public money for use in election campaigns. Public funds allow candidates to rely less on polluter money to pay for campaigns.”

Among FOE’s leading donors have been the Beldon Fund, the Bullitt Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Columbia Foundation, the Compton Foundation, the Educational Foundation of America, the Energy Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Foundation for Deep Ecology, the MacArthur Foundation, the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, Pew Charitable Trusts, the Public Welfare Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Scherman Foundation, the Turner Foundation, and the W. Alton Jones Foundation (now called the Blue Moon Fund).

For additional information on FOE, click here.

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