Sierra Club Sellout Worse Than Ever

[The Story So Far: VDARE.COM Democratic caucus member Brenda Walker observed the Sierra Club's drift from genuine environmentalism from the inside, as a member starting in 1984. In the late 1990s, she became involved with a reform group, known initially as Sierrans for U.S. Population Stabilization (SUSPS). For her concern, particularly her tough reports in VDARE.com, she was castigated as an evil outsider and threatened with a Stalinesque expulsion from the organization. Though she recently re-registered as a Republican, in order to vote for patriotic immigration reformer Duncan Hunter in the California Presidential primary, she assures Sierra Club Central that she is still the same tree-hugging defender of borders as ever. NOW READ ON!]

The top organization allegedly protecting America's magnificent natural heritage and vital resources does nothing of the kind.

The Sierra Club has evolved from being a nonpartisan defender of US land, water and wildlife to being left-wing globalists in plaid shirts and hiking boots, crippled by a failed ideology of progressive utopianism and a leadership increasingly corrupted by money and power.

That's bad news for our planetary home, which needs all the help it can get right now. Even if you discount the idea of climate change, the problems of pollution and resource overuse are becoming extreme.

  • The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is particularly repellant. It's a noxious floating stew of mostly plastic trash that has accumulated somewhere between California and Hawaii, is twice the size of Texas and weighs 3.5 million tons. There's so much that cleaning it up  "isn't an option"

  • Improved technology has spawned a level of environmental destruction unimaginable just a few decades ago. Thus factory fishing has caused the collapse of Newfoundland's Grand Banks off Canada's east coast, once the richest fishing grounds on earth. Now the cod have been wiped out with no sign of when, if ever, they will return.

But Establishment environmental awareness is oddly selective nowadays. There's hyper-concern with climate change in the media. But there's almost no attention given to other issues that are more immediate, e.g. the loss of a fishery that was a major food source.

As a result of ignoring the central issue of overpopulation, both global and domestic, the Sierra Club has painted itself into an intellectual corner: It advocates ever-stricter controls on consumption—but increased population growth quickly wipes out any advantage gained by reducing resource consumption.

The Sierra Club favors an expanded nanny state to cope with rapidly expanding population and its effects. But, as author Isaac Asimov remarked, "Democracy cannot survive overpopulation... The more people there are the less one individual matters."

Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope recently bragged on his blog about his recent trip to India, which included dispensing a cash prize—a new annual award of $100,000 to be given to an Indian organization creating green livelihoods. The Sierra Club is developing its own foreign policy. Pope is spreading money around like some Chicago ward politician looking for votes and influence.

That comparison is all too inappropriate. Recent actions from the Sierra Club's home office show a disturbing uptick in Pope's pursuit of power by suppressing democracy within the organization.

The Sierra Club has a membership of 1.3 million. Most are not engaged in its internal politics. They participate in the organization's many activities, ranging from hikes and local habitat restoration to political action. The Arizona Chapter has people getting active on right-of-way laws, the Arizona Game and Fish Commission, and many extremely boring legislative issues, but nothing at all about the biggest threat to Arizona's environment.

There is a yearly Board election where one-third of the 15 Directors are chosen. It has been a point of pride that the Sierra Club is a rare non-profit organization that has some degree of membership influence—at least on paper.

But even that pretense of democracy is increasingly battered. One sign of things to come occurred in 1999, when Sierra management sought to make referenda more difficult by more than doubling the number of petition signatures required to place an issue before the membership in the annual elections. The effort followed a bitterly fought ballot initiative in 1998 around the idea that immoderate immigration poses an environmental threat to the United States. (But the proposed changes to bylaws that would have lessened democracy went down to defeat.)

Pope and his management cronies have moved to consolidate power in several instances. Even "establishment types were horrified" at Pope's arrogance, according to one plugged-in member.

  • Project Renewal was launched in February to replace local committees with management-chosen activists who are presumably good at doing what they're told. [PDF]Such a basic restructure of power violates the whole foundation upon which many hard-working volunteers have participated for years. At recent count, 26 chapters had voted against Project Renewal.


  • The Sierra Club agreed to endorse Clorox's new Green Works cleaning products—for an undisclosed sum. This is the first product endorsement ever in the Club's history.

Executive Director Pope was quoted defended his decision in the New York Times [Clorox Courts Sierra Club, and a Product Is Endorsed , by Felicity Barringer, March 26]:

" 'I won't pretend it's not internally controversial; it is. But we decided it was more important to try to create this marketplace' than to keep the peace.

"The major task, he said, was ensuring that the products' ingredients met the Sierra Club's requirements for being called 'natural', a term that has no federally approved definition when it comes to cleaning products."

There is big money for product endorsements in today's green marketplace. In March, the Audubon Society signed a deal with Toyota worth $20 million to "fund conservation projects".

VDARE.com readers know that this latest Sierra money-grubbing episode is not the first. In 2005, I analyzed an LA Times story explaining the reason for Carl Pope's surprisingly shrill response beginning with the 1998 Club election where mass immigration considered by the membership. It said in part:

"[Hedge fund entrepreneur] David Gelbaum insisted that he played no role in the election. He dismissed allegations that he is calling the shots at the club in any other way.

" 'None of that is true," he said. 'I'm not some Svengali. I'm not that engaged.'

"But he said Pope long had known where he stood on the contentious issue. 'I did tell Carl Pope in 1994 or 1995 that if they ever came out anti-immigration, they would never get a dollar from me.'

"Gelbaum, who reads the Spanish-language newspaper La Opinión and is married to a Mexican American, said his views on immigration were shaped long ago by his grandfather, Abraham, a watchmaker who had come to America to escape persecution of Jews in Ukraine before World War I.

"'I cannot support an organization that is anti-immigration. It would dishonor the memory of my grandparents.' " [The Man Behind the Land, By Kenneth R. Weiss, Los Angeles Times, Oct 27, 2004]

After putting the atavistic anti-American impulses of a wealthy plutocrat above America's environment, the Sierra Club received over $100 million from him. To protect the secret as they pursued more money, Pope and his henchmen accused insurgents of being racists for advocating the same position that had been the Club's official policy in 1989: "Immigration to the U.S. should be no greater than that which will permit achievement of population stabilization in the U.S."

So the Clorox arrangement had its precedent. What's the big deal about a little product endorsement when Sierra management has already demonstrated it can be bought? Show Carl the money!

The Clorox deal did cause an uproar within the Sierra Club. The controversy was apparently responsible for the scandalous suspension of the entire Florida chapter:

"The biggest environmental group in the US has expelled the leaders of its Florida chapter weeks after the local activists accused the group's directors of selling out in a corporate endorsement deal with a bleach manufacturer

Sierra will receive a portion of the sales from the new Clorox products, called Green Works and made from mostly plant-based ingredients.

"However, Clorox has a history of being hit with environmental violations for its less green products – in December, just before Sierra agreed to its endorsement, the company was fined $95,000 by the US government for donating illegal Chinese pesticides to charity…."[US environmental group expels Florida chapter amid endorsement row, By Elana Schor, Guardian, UK, April 7 2008. ]

Bad luck in timing there. But more importantly, what a tawdry spectacle to see a once-honorable organization selling the good name that took a century to build. And it gets worse:

"In addition, the Sierra executive director sent a letter to activists saying the Green Works cleaners 'have been vetted by' the group's Toxics committee, suggesting official approval was given.

"However, Jessica Frohman, who chairs the Toxics committee, said it did not officially sign off on the products. 'I don't want people to think we approved this when we did not,' she said.

"After the Floridians' removal, leaders of other state Sierra chapters got a letter from national president Robert Cox [Email him] warning them not to 'seek public media coverage' of the fight using the group's name."

The Scots immigrant John Muir founded the Sierra Club in 1892 with other friends of wilderness "to make the mountains glad."

Sadly, today's Sierra Club is welcoming foreigners who have no such love of nature, but show their disdain for America and its natural heritage by despoiling the border areas with piles of garbage as they enter illegally from California to Texas.

John Muir would be disgusted by what the Sierra Club has become.

Brenda Walker (email her) lives in Northern California and publishes two websites, LimitsToGrowth.org and ImmigrationsHumanCost.org. Her Sierra Club membership is currently in self-imposed suspended animation.