How the Environmental Movement Became Just Another Washington Power Bloc
It’s not just a band of flannel-shirted environmentalists any longer; it’s become a big-money, major player in Washington power politics and American elections. (Starting today, the Washington Examiner is publishing a five-part special report in association with Pajamas Media on "Big Green.")
September 27, 2010 - 12:00 am
People hear “non-profit” and tend to think of ragtag operations run on a shoestring by selfless activists; the large, well-known ones are major corporations with multimillion dollar budgets, and people who operate multimillion dollar companies tend to have nice salaries and nice offices.
Increasingly, being an environmental activist, at least in the upper reaches, is becoming a well-paid, high-visibility job.
What these activist groups have to “sell” is their ability to get things done in Washington, which means their ability to get access to politicians. Environmental groups could offer this through access to their membership and by encouraging their members to support the politicians who were friendly to their issues. Voting power meant re-election for the politicians, re-election meant moving up the seniority ladder, and seniority meant exercising power — which made the politicians more attractive to the environmental groups. What’s more, for every elected politician, there are dozens of staff positions, committee staff, and dozens of staff positions within the non-profit groups.
Quickly, there arose an “environmental activism industry” — thousands of people whose livelihoods depended on environmental activism. The environmental activism industry, in turn, depended on one thing: the government’s power to effect change in the environmentalists’ favored direction.
Now, forty years later, we see the results. As the Examiner pieces today show, the environmental movement has become a billion-dollar industry, providing thousands of people with jobs, all devoted to managing — and, in general, to increasing — the government’s power.
There is “green power” — but it’s big government political power. There are “green jobs” — but they are for the politically connected people who direct and wield the political power.
And there are the rest of us, who wonder how such a worthy endeavor became just another power bloc.