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Environmental Groups I Support

My take on navigating the confusing world of environmentally focused NGOs
· environmentalism,giving,politics
Compared to other kinds of social causes, environmentalism appears to have a very large number of groups. If you support reproductive rights, it seems clear you should support Planned Parenthood. If you want to support cancer patients and research, then your obvious choice is the American Cancer Society.

Meanwhile, if you want to support some sort of environmental organization, there are many to choose from: Greenpeace, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Wilderness Society, World Wildlife Fund, etc. More recently, an entirely new category of environmental justice organizations have arisen, saying addressing environmental concerns should simultaneously issues of economic justice, racism, and social justice. They are generally organized around economically disadvantaged communities and/or communities of color who live near sources of oil, chemical, or other toxic pollution.


I rarely see much visible evidence that these groups work together in concert. They rarely mention other groups operating in a similar space to them in their marketing material or on their websites. For instance, the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and EDF all sent me messages last year about the Supreme Court putting a stay on the Clean Power Plan, but none of them mentioned how they may or may not be working with the others to reverse this. This troubles me because climate change is such a hard and intractable problem, the biggest environmental issue of the next hundred years, so there really should be more collaboration on this front. I often wonder whether such a proliferation of groups is helpful or productive for environmentalism. Since the Trump Administration took over, behind-the-scenes cooperation has increased. The Sierra Club has mentioned in a couple of conference calls that they are stepping up cooperation with other groups, although they did not mention the others by name.

One person I spoke to from Greenpeace said that one reason he believes so many groups exist is the environmental movement is relatively small and not as influential as business interests. So in order to bring more people on board and get them interested, there should be many different groups, each with many different goals and approaches to the environmental problem. One interesting tidbit I heard from a friend is that the Audubon Society attracts a fair number of people one would not consider to be classic environmentalists. Its membership is drawn from rural areas and several members are also active hunters.

Having many environmental groups to choose from means you as a concerned citizen have the ability to shop around for the one that fits your belief system most specifically. I often ask people which environmental organizations they choose to support so that I can get some idea of which organizations have a record of good actions. As you can probably tell, climate change is my biggest issue, so I want to support organizations that are focused on advocacy for stronger carbon emissions regulation or organizations that are working on tangible carbon footprint reduction projects. So without further ado, here are the ones I support:

1) Re-Volv crowdfunds money for installing solar panels on non-profits and co-operatives. Andreas and Sarah, the executive director and former associate director of partnerships and philanthropy, are friends of mine. I was inspired by their commitment to empowering individual citizens to do something about climate change through their crowdfunding platform. They are also operating in a unique niche, since non-profits and co-ops do not benefit from the subsidies that home owners and commercial businesses do, so traditional solar installers are much less likely to lease systems to them.

2) Sierra Club. John Muir is a personal hero of mine, since I would never have come into my own as an environmentalist were it not for access to Yosemite. I also like that a significant portion of their programming is dedicated to getting people into the outdoors through organized trips. I participated participated in their snowcamping section two winters ago. The club has a national organization, but regional and local chapters, with their own staffs, boards, and subcommittees. This allows the Sierra Club to advocate on issues at all levels of government. The Club is not without controversy (note: the link specifically discusses San Francisco's local chapter of the Sierra Club), and I wish the Club would change its position on nuclear power (I don't think we can quickly decarbonize without it). However, I believe this is not something that should turn you away from the organization, because this is something we can change: The most important part of the Sierra Club is that the national and chapter boards are both elected by their members. I took advantage of this in the last board election by asking if the candidates were willing to change the Club's position on nuclear, and voted accordingly.

3) Citizens' Climate Lobby. I joined CCL in 2017. Their goal is to get a carbon fee and dividend proposal passed in Congress. With chapters in every Congressional district, an approach to lobbying that emphasizes respect and empathy, and bipartisanship as a goal, I think they stand the best chance of getting the U.S. federal government to act on climate change in the current political climate. One of their initiatives has been the creation of a Climate Solutions Caucus in the House of Representatives, a bi-partisan group that requires an equal number of Democrats and Republicans. There are currently 62 members, so that means 31 Republican Congresspeople acknowledge climate change is a problem and are interested in a solution! Although I would encourage all of you to join your local CCL chapter, they also do need money to help finance the hiring of staff in Washington, D.C.

What environmental groups do you support?
Photo: High Sierra Trail shot of the Great Western Divide in Sequoia National Park