THE EGA TAPES
Building an Environmental Majority
Conn Nugent [Nathan
Cummings Foundation, New York], Moderator: The name of this
session is "Building an Environmental Majority." Our aim
procedurally is to be brisk, provocative and participatory. I'm
going to outline for you the procedure for this morning. It is
different from the schedule and procedure that was handed out to
Voice: Louder please.
Conn Nugent: Okay. I will
outline the procedure. But first I'd like to offer some ways in
which the title of this session suggests how we can talk about it.
These suggestions are points of departure for the panelists and for
all of you because this is going to be a session that will involve,
I hope, as many of you as possible. We'll start with the premise,
as pronounced by David Suzuki and by Gar Alperovitz that the current
use of the earth by humans is unsustainable. And that the damage is
done through billions of microeconomic behaviors. And that
stopping, modifying or transforming those behaviors at any place
along the economic spectrum from the raw material to the land fill,
through the law or through culture, is what we do in this business.
The key word in the title, "building,"
denotes a continuing project, a series of actions rather than a
particular object. And building, I'd submit, begins now. That is
to say, where are we beginning? What measures, precisely what
measures, acting through what processes, will bring us from where we
are now to where we want to go? What are our strategies?
The second word is environmental. And
I think one of the profounder truths of those of us who call
themselves environmentalists is the essential unity of nature and of
things environmental. At the same time we have to recognize some
significant differences of phenomena lumped under the term
"environmental." One series of these phenomena might be described
as pertaining to the loss of nature itself, extinction of species,
the loss of ecosystems, loss of soils, loss of forests, and the
depletion of irreplaceable resources.
A second category of environmental
damage might be described as massive perturbations of the
atmosphere. The disappearance of the ozone layer, the imminence of
climate change are two clear examples of that.
And finally, what is often considered
to be, at least in the popular imagination, as the core of
environmentalism, what we might call despoliations of land, air and
water. Pollution, toxic waste and the manufacture, use, the storage
of hazardous materials. Generally speaking, human health is
popularly regarded to be affected only by that third category of
environmental damage, of despoliation of land, air and water. And
it is in threats to human health, I think as we'll see, that the
most easily attained popular majority beckons. Most of the damage
done to the environment is done through activities not generally
regarded as environmental: Driving to work, having lunch, moving
This final word in our topic is
majority. And by a majority I think we mean operable political
majority, the aggregate of forces, people, social institutions,
traditions, sufficient for a long-lasting change in the behaviors
that are doing the damage. The size and the cohesion of the
majority required for those long-lasting changes vary greatly, I
think, from issue to issue, and depending upon whether we're talking
about changes to laws, regulations, taxes and subsidies, or at the
harder but perhaps more important issues of culture change, either
through media or through the development of spirituality.
Having said all that, let me get back
to the procedure that we're going to follow. We're going to hear in
the first hour of our session from all four of our panelists.
Fifteen minutes each from Denis Hayes and Winona LeDuke; ten minutes
each by way of response from Carl Anthony and Lisa Goldberg. We're
going to take a break then and divide ourselves into six small
groups along lines that I'll describe later. Each of those groups,
after a forty-five minute talk, will reconvene back here, and
representative of each group will pose to the panel, one question.
One question from the group and then we'll try to use those
questions as the bases for an interchange among panels and between
panelists and all of you. So! We'll begin with our first speaker,
Denis Hayes: Can you hear me?
In the back?
Denis Hayes: [laughter] Perfect
answer. Kimery, who will shout I'm sure if she can't. Kimery, can
you hear this?
Kimery Wiltshire: I won't shout
Denis Hayes: Good, thank you.
There is a story, possibly apocryphal, about a young man some place
in Asia who was studying with a Peace Corps volunteer English as a
foreign language, and went up to his teacher once and said, I have
to ask your permission to be absent from class for a couple of
weeks. I want to back to my village. Then he sort of blushed with
pride and said, My wife is going to conceive a baby. The volunteer
thought about that a second and said I think what you mean to say is
your wife is going to give birth to a baby. But whichever it is, I
think you ought to be there.
The environmental movement was
conceived by a joining of the traditional conservation movement in
the United States with the forces of activism in the 1960s. And
looking at the hairlines in the room, most of us were there.
It was given birth to in a huge event,
Earth Day 1970, which allowed it to spring onto the national stage
sort of fully grown. It was the largest planned event in human
history with 20 million participants. And it ushered in a period of
almost unparalleled accomplishment for a social movement. In a
relatively brief period of time we saw the passage of the National
Environmental Protection Act, the creation of the EPA, the Clean Air
Act, the Clean Water Act, the defeat of the SST, a whole bunch of
acronyms: TOSCA, FIFRA, CERCLA, that resulted in tens of billions of
dollars being spent for programs that nobody can even remember the
And it resulted in the image, and it
was a correct image, of an unstoppable political machine. For a
period of about ten years the environmental movement could get
almost anything that it wanted.
Today that lobbying effort has been
broken down very substantially. We now have people running for
office as anti-environmentalists. And in Washington, what was
smoothly oiled machinery in the 1970s now is uncoordinated efforts
by groups that are competitive in the marketplace for members, often
don't even tell one another who they have been lobbying on an issue,
which results often in one Senator seeing six lobbyists on an issue
and another Senator seeing none. And the machinery, as well as the
momentum, of that first decade is falling into disrepair.
The second area of enormous
accomplishment has been in the field of lawsuits. We've built in
the environmental movement a whole bunch of new organizations during
that same period of the late '60s and early '70s. The Natural
Resources Defense Council, the Environmental Defense Fund, the
Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, the Conservation Law Foundation. As
good as any law firms any place in the country, they chose their
litigation with enormous care and they were successful in case after
case after case. And advancing the movement, frankly, much further
than I thought that it could be advanced in the courts. That
similarly is running into some shoals now. Seventy percent of the
federal judiciary has been appointed by Reagan or Bush. If Bush is
reelected for four more years it's estimated that 90 percent of all
federal judges will have been appointed by Reagan or Bush. We have
had several who acted courageously and judiciously. We've had
landmark decisions that have been good by some of those judges. But
there are a huge number of them who are ideological extremists and
the litigation strategy now increasingly is focusing upon state
courts where the precedent doesn't carry kind of heft that it does
in federal courts. And many of these groups have turned away from
the courts as a principal strategy. SCLDF is now still principally
a litigating group. Most of the others are now working in things,
they all still file lawsuits, but the principal growth areas in all
of the other organizations are in something other than litigation.
A third source of enormous strength
for the environmental movement has been in the financial area. We
have had clout that grows out of numbers and out of dollars that are
collected. That has continued pretty much with some ups and down
through today. I will throw out just for the sake of controversy
the idea that that may be coming to a rapid decline. If the Clinton
- Gore team is elected we will almost certainly see what we saw in
the Carter years. People viewing this as a series of battles that
is now being fought by their elected representatives inside
government. Memberships tend to go down, and in particular
memberships that result in multiple contributions per year taper off
fairly dramatically. And I don't know that any of the large
national environmental groups have really begun planning for what
could be a fairly dry desert in terms of popular fund raising.
Something which may have real implications for some of us in this
room. It certainly has implications for the groups that need to
adjust to what could be a changed reality.
A big exception to that is in land
acquisitions. The Nature Conservancy, the Trust for Public Lands,
Conservation International, all are doing extremely well. They have
a stable source of funding. There are thousands of new land trusts
that have been set up across the country. We are acquiring vast
amounts of land and setting it aside. And I think that is likely to
continue. But it's not really a movement building kind of activity,
it's a lands preservation activity that appeals to a relatively
small fraction of the population, at least in terms of contributions
All movements ossify, whether it's the
religious movements, and the Reformation turning to a series of
religious bureaucracies; the American, the French, the Russian
Revolutions turning into a seres of bureaucracies; the labor
movement, as vital as any movement we've seen in America, turning
into a big bureaucracy. The Civil Rights Movement not turning into
a bureaucracy, but losing an awful lot of its passion and most of
its political clout. And the environmental movement similarly is
going through a phase right now, it seems to me, of having lost much
of the vitality and leadership that characterized its earliest
There can be revitalization of
movements. We're seeing it right now in many religious fields, and
this isn't necessarily a good thing. In my view it can be a
terrifying thing, but with the rise of fundamentalism around the
world, Islamic fundamentalism, Christian reborn fundamentalism, the
sorts of things that got into the Republican convention in Houston.
There may be ways to revitalize the environmental movement. But I
think we are more or less, within the next couple of years, going to
be at a crossroads where we head one of two directions: either we
could become a very effective, or continue to be, if you will, a
very effective special interest pressure group, or perhaps two or
three pressure groups that are focused upon relatively narrow areas,
a conservation area, a population area, a pollution-related kind of
area; or we might be able to build a broad revitalized majoritarian
movement with a positive vision of the world and a way to execute
that vision, and also mass support.
Today the broad perception of us by
power brokers in the United States is as a pressure group. And
there are many many many examples of this. There is none that is
clearer than the reaction of the Clinton-Gore campaign. This is the
first campaign ever to have an environmentalist, a strong, avowed,
articulate, enormously knowledgeable environmentalist on a national
ticket. It had been my hope that they would try to use the
environmental issue as a way to propel it into a top chair position
and to make it something that would reach out to the suburbs, that
would reach out to women, reach out to students. They have viewed
it much more as you traditionally view interest groups. They
appointed or they selected Gore for the Vice Presidential slot.
They left those of us that care deeply and who are card-carrying
environmentalists with no place else to go. And having done that,
they then reach out to try to reach the middle with a series of
other issues. modifying this and muting that, reaching, again, to a
middle ground, having sewn us up. The same kind of strategy they've
done, for example, with African-Americans. They've got no place
else to go, so you consider them solidified and you reach out to
other voters in non-threatening ways.
Interestingly, since James Baker came
to the campaign, he has shown far more sensitivity. It has not much
been known, but I expect it's going to become better known, perhaps,
as the fight over the suburbs goes, after the Perot entry in the
race, Baker has actually put a hold on everything that was done by
the Competitiveness Council, has reversed some decisions having to
do with the implementation of the Clean Air Act, is now thinking
about a dramatic reversal of the Wetlands Policy, and he views this
as an issue on which some number of voters are likely to have their
votes hinge, and he's trying to put them in a protective position.
He has written off the ten million card-carrying environmentalists,
but recognizes the power of this issue with other communities as one
of the three or four or five issues that could tilt the election.
I have a series of things that I like
to somewhat randomly suggest are important if we're going to make
the choice that I would like us to make to try to become a
majoritarian movement. And I'll race through them with some
swiftness, and with the recognition that we'll lose a lot of
subtlety and nuance and complexity in this, but that at least do it
with very broad brush strokes.
Robert Benchley, the humorist, when he
was at Harvard, ran a little experiment to see whether it was
possible for an undergraduate to get a Harvard degree without ever
attending a class. In four years, he attended no classes. He
merely went into his final examinations, which meant he took very
few courses on astrophysics or calculus and a lot of courses on
international relations and social thought and literature. Went
into the final exam on an international relations course and was
confronted with the question, Describe, from the point of view,
first of the United States and then from the point of view of any
two European countries, how their interests will be affected by the
proposed new North Atlantic International Fisheries Protocol.
Benchley was stunned. And he was trying to think of quote he could
pull in from John Stuart Mill to sort of relate to this stuff the
way he ordinarily did it. He knew nothing about it, this fisheries
protocol, and finally began writing. He says, "I must confess I
knew nothing about the proposed North Atlantic Fisheries Protocol
from the point of view of either the United States or Europe. So I
proposed to write about it from the point of view of the fish."
That has been a big part of what we've been doing. We have had a
lot of sensitivity to fish and to forests and to owls.
We need to more dramatically, overtly
and profoundly incorporate into what we are up to a sensitivity to
the point of view of people. We have been more indifferent than we
should have been about the pain that some of our policies have
caused. If you drive through the Southwestern part of the state of
Washington, you will pass hundreds and hundreds of little lean-to
houses with crudely stenciled signs out in front of them that have
painted across it, This Family Supported by Timber Dollars. We've
tended to view this as a fight against Plum Creek, a fight against
Weyerhaeuser. And the people who have been thrown out of work have
received less sensitivity from us than they should have.
And in the Clean Air Act there was an
effort proposed for political reasons, but I think nonetheless a
good policy approach by Senator Robert Byrd to have what was in
effect a Superfund for workers, the coal miners who would be thrown
out of work by the provisions of that act. The environmental
movement went along with that and then double-crossed Byrd in the
last two days of that fight, withdrew our support from the worker
retraining provision, and the Clean Air Act went through without
We can't continue to do that if we're
going to have the kinds of sensitivities that allow to build a
majoritarian movement--not necessarily because it's the majority of
people who are affected by these things. A few timber workers
here--in national terms--a few coal miners, but because the broad
middle classes that we have to reach are sensitive to those kinds of
issues. And most profoundly because we as a movement have to do
that because it's the right thing to do if we're to have a moral
core to us.
Second, this is the tough one. Partly
this is a symbolic one, but we have to recapture the use of the term
balance. It's might view that one of the great tactically, almost
strategic blunders of the anti-war movement was to give up the
flag. The pro-war people had the flag and we burned the flag. And
that was just stupid. And it just turned off a huge amount of the
public that could have been brought across by demonstrations, for
example, where we wash the flag. Sometimes that was done. But
these symbols are really important. When you look at the results of
the focus groups that Celinda Lake [of the Montana polling firm
Greenberg-Lake] conducted, that she will not be here to discuss, but
the results are very clear. Balance is the word right now that most
motivates people. What we are really talking about is balance.
We're not talking about something that's going to destroy the
economy. We're talking about something that will preserve it for
the long time. But we've got to get back that symbolic high
It is an area once again where the
Wise Use Movement right now is capturing some sources of support
that ought to be our supporters, because they're manipulating some
of those symbols more ably than we are.
Third, we need to focus on things that
are immediately relevant to people. The urgent issues as well as
just the profound long-term international cosmic issues. If you
look at people who say that they really care deeply about the
environment and place it ahead of other issues on their agenda and
you disaggregate that and say what are you really talking about,
they're talking about immediate threats to themselves, immediate
threats to their children. And have tended to focus ourselves upon
issues that arguably in the cosmic sense, in the long-term sense are
more important but in terms of political mobilization of the
majority are far less compelling. They are things that are
important issues on peoples' agenda, but they don't translate it
into a top chair political issue.
Next, we really have to focus upon
education. There is this documentary film entitled The Private
Universe that some of you have seen where the producer went to a
Harvard graduation and asked 23 gowned Harvard graduates to explain
on tape why is it hotter in the summer than in the winter. And two
out of 23 Harvard graduates knew the right answer. We talk about
now a society in which one out of three kids does not graduate from
high school. Virtually nobody gets to Harvard. Of the people who
get to Harvard, two out of 23 understand about the earth tilting on
its axis. How in the world are we going to be able to convince
people about some of the complex issues which we, having to do with
surface chemistry in the upper stratosphere, or how are we going to
have people in the position able to have the resilience in their
jobs to be able to adapt to a dynamic, changing world economy where
you may be cutting lumber one year and you may be involved in
something very different the next year? Education is an
environmental issue. And we need to put far more effort and energy
into it than we have.
Many states have passed these laws
saying that environmental education must be a part of secondary
education across the school system. We have one here in
Washington. The amount of money that has been appropriated for it
is zero. They passed the authorizing legislation but we're not
getting the job done.
Can I have, I'm running into my last
minute, but I will go into one paragraph on these others. Let me
first go on to another couple of minutes, stealing them from Celinda
if I might.
Third, fourth, and the next three
issues are somewhat more controversial, I think. An enormously
important value for a majority of Americans is freedom. And many of
the people including myself who got into the environmental movement
got into it to fight faceless bureaucrats at the Atomic Energy
Commission and the Army Corps of Engineers and the highway
departments across the country who were making mind-numbingly stupid
bureaucratic decisions. We and our values and our movement have
increasingly come to be thought of by many Americans as those
faceless bureaucrats who are now making decisions that are trampling
their freedoms. This is once again an area that we have to figure
out a way to create a context within which people making decisions
for themselves with an acute awareness of their own rights and
responsibilities spontaneously make the right decisions. That is
enormously complicated to get to in a once-sentence, you know, it
seems to me the most important element of it is to send them the
right price signals. We have to internalize those external costs.
And if people then recognize the full prices of what it is that they
are choosing to do, it will be much more likely of their own free
will to make the right choices.
Most controversial of all of them I'll
say is it may be, if we're going to become a true, long-lived
majoritarian movement, looking at different kinds of movements and
different cultures, that we may need something that there's no way
for any of us to guarantee will evolve, a charismatic leader. And
these movements have had a Jesus Christ or a Martin Luther, a Thomas
Jefferson, a Sitting Bull, a Mahatma Gandhi, a Martin Luther King.
We have none of those kinds of people in the environmental
movement. And that has been historically important in traditional
cultures. It is arguably even more important in a culture dominated
by the mass media, the People magazine, where everything becomes
personified with somebody who stands for something. It's enormously
vulnerable. You get the wrong person, and they find that flaw.
Then suddenly that can destroy the movement if you place too many
chips behind them. That's why political parties have this
incredibly tough nominating process. It's where you discover every
conceivable flaw in somebody before he gets the nomination. And
conceivably the person can survive nonetheless. But there's at
least an argument to be made that the factionalize of a multiplicity
of the very very diverse and often antagonistic organizations are
terribly important for us as an interest group, it gets a great
marketplace of ideas going, but it may make it very difficult if not
impossible without some unifying personality that have a
I'm not convinced that's true, but
it's a decent hypothesis. Okay. They final, the final thing, if
I've got one more to go with, will be the most important of all.
People don't know where we want to go. And in fact many of us don't
have a very clear idea of where we want to go. We have been
enormously effective at stopping things and constraining things, but
we have not been very effective at coming up with an ideological
context that expresses our values in terms of the science of
ecology, with resilience and diversity and life as being dominant
values that play themselves out throughout society's structures.
More importantly, we don't have a vision of the kind of society that
we want to build. And we don't have any working models of how that
society would function. And I think probably the most important
thing that we need to give is something that is non-threatening,
something so that people can see an environmental, sustainable
future that they really want to live in. It isn't mud floors and
outhouses, but it's in fact a diversified, decentralized, resilient
society. and I think an important of that, for a final sentence,
would be we should choose some place in the United States and put
some substantial resources into building a sustainable city that
will be a model for the rest of the world. I personally hope it's
going to be the greater Seattle area. But one place or the other,
we need to build our future and then let it replicate itself.
Conn Nugent: Thank you Denis.
As Denis mentioned, Celinda Lake could not be with us today. Our
next speaker is Winona LaDuke.
Audience member: Please use the
mike, get that mike right up to your mouth because we can't hear you
Winona LaDuke: Okay.
Denis Hayes: Now he tells me.
Winona LaDuke: Can you hear
me? No? If I talk with this? Okay. Got to check it out with that
guy in the back. I'm going to say hello in my language:
Amwa-nishi-nabeg from the White Earth Reservation in Northern
Minnesota. And I was trying to, when I was thinking about what so
say to you all--well, first I want to thank you for inviting me.
And a lot of you have really supported a lot of native projects and
I want to thank you for that. I guess I was thinking about how
dangerously to live with my remarks. And I realize that about
two-tenths of one percent of all foundation money goes to Indians.
So I figured that I could live pretty
dangerously because we haven't got that much to lose right now.
[laughter] Anyway, the context I want to talk about is a little bit
different. I want to talk about a couple of things. I want to talk
about a redefinition of alliances, a redefinition of the context,
and I want to talk about evaluating the values of this society. And
I'm coming at it from a totally different vantage point.
Amwa-nishi-nabeg from the White Earth
Reservation in Northern Minnesota. I'm a community organizer. I
work on land rights and environmental issues. In a reservation
where a lot of our people hunt, 75 percent of our people hunt, 75
percent of our people trap or harvest from the land, we harvest wild
rice, that's about 50 percent of our people, they [indistinct].
We're working the economy that we've had for thousands of years.
That, I think, is indicative of sustainable economies. Perhaps
we're the only examples of sustainable economies which exist in
North America are those which exist in the indigenous communities
that have existed for thousands of years.
But my way of looking at things is
entirely different, than, perhaps, most people's ways of looking at
things. And that's not a context I want to talk about. I want to
talk about environmentalists that I know, from my experience, like
an 82 year old Indians woman who lives in Nastasanin, is what they
call it, but the government of Canada calls it Labrador. She's
standing, she's standing on a runway, facing down a fighter jet
that's coming towards her. This is a battle that went on four about
15 years where the Canadian government wanted to put a naval base on
their land. And have low level flights. She's Inuit. She wouldn't
be characterized as an environmentalist. But their struggle is very
much about the land and the people living on the land, and keeping
their ability to live there.
The other image is a 62-year-old
Western Shoshone woman. Her name is Mary Dann. She lives in a
place called Newe Sogobia, which is where the Western Shoshone have
lived for as long as they can remember. It's called Nevada by the
United States. The government wants to relocate the Shoshones and
take, essentially steal all their cattle, because the BLM says it's
their land, not Shoshone land. But the Shoshone, of course, don't
agree with that.
But their struggle, a community that
essentially is self-reliant, and if the government takes all their
cattle, it's about forcing a self-reliant community into
welfarization. In forcing them out of their own economy into the
peripheries of someone else's economy. I suggest that both
struggles are environmental struggles.
A third image I want to give you is
the image of a 30-year-old Blackfeet man standing on top of a
bulldozer that he borrowed. He didn't own it. In Southern Canada.
On the Blackfeet Reserve. They'd been fighting for years a dam
called the Old Man Dam. Any of you heard of the Old Man Dam? The
Old Man Dam. They've been fighting it for a long time. It's on the
Old Man River. And about 10 years ago, the uh, oh no, it was about
five years ago, the court ruled that they required an environmental
impact assessment on the dam. But they did not require a halt in
construction on the dam. So at a certain point things become moot.
And so the Blackfeet engaged in a kind
of unique form of tactics, and they dismantled the old diversion of
the river, that had been taken off their reserve. Brought most of
the river back into its original river bed, leaving the proposed dam
site high and dry.
It was an interesting tactic. It was
a tactic about the Blackfeet trying to just keep their way of
living. But I suggest it would not be broadly construed in the
environmental movement, that Blackfeet would be considered
environmentalists. But I suggest that they are.
The fourth image is this group of
native people in a lot of reservations in this country that are
fighting tribal councils and waste companies trying to dump on
Indian lands. A whole bunch of them. And a whole bunch of them
have been defeated by people with no money, no resources, no offices
and no phones, usually. But they just go out there and they
organize and they stop 'em. Those people are not classified as
environmentalists but I suggest that they are.
That is a little of my image of what
this struggle in about. It is also about redefining who your allies
are. And looking at the context of North America.
I think that the myth of America is
very about that indigenous people do not exist. And I want you to
think about that real carefully. Because I don't think it's true.
I want to suggest to you that in a North American context, inside
the United States, Indians have about 4 percent of our original land
base left. That's what's called the Indian reservations. We're
very much as islands in a continent.
But, in Canada, it's different. Those
of you who are from Canada--you all know where Canada is, right?
It's the country to the north. [laughter] What is it, one out of
seven Americans can't identify the U.S. on a world map. It's
something like that. So Canada is the country to the north. When
you go north of the 50th parallel in Canada, the majority population
is native. So that's a little bit north of Edmonton. The majority
population is native. That's about the upper two-thirds of the
Canadian land mass.
So, in terms of land occupancy on the
North American continent, as you count that then you start looking
at places like the Southwestern United States, native people
constitute about a third of the occupancy in North America.
That's how we understand it. If you
look at it in a Western Hemisphere perspective, you have to
understand that countries like El Salvador, Guatemala, Bolivia,
Peru, Ecuador, native people are the majority. So Americans are
only a small part of a whole. And I think that when we start
looking at where we are going and how we're going to live here, that
we have to kind of redefine some of those relationships.
But underlying it I see that there is
a rift that exists in this America. And it is something that
continues to exist. It has to do with a concept of conquest. This
is a society based on conquest. That underlies and permeates
American values. The idea of the West, a frontier, a constant
frontier, that is very much American. And it sets an adversarial
relationship between the natives and the settlers. That
relationship has existed for 500 years. And it continues to exist
And so what has happened is that
people who live in this American society have very much defined
themselves historically, because it permeates American consciousness
in an adversarial relationship to the native. It is a historical
relationship and it exists today. I suggest that we have to
challenge that. And we have to undo that.
That somehow the settler has to quit
being the colonizer and has to figure out how to live here. I would
suggest that conquest is unsustainable, no matter what it's
underlying issues. The only thing that's sustainable is community.
And that existed thousands of years here and that's what we have to
figure out how to build.
So in the context of where we are now,
I just want to say about indigenous people, I told you where we are
geographically and to the population, but in terms of the
environmental issues that are facing the world today, we are central
to those issues. Over 50 million indigenous people inhabit the
world's rain forests. They are not uninhabited. They're
inhabited. A million native people are slated to be relocated for
dam projects in the next decade. 72 percent of the 135 or so wars
going on in the world today are wars between states and nations:
states trying to annex the lands, resources, territories and peoples
themselves, indigenous peoples.
The majority of atomic weapons that
have been detonated have been detonated on indigenous peoples. In
North America that same relationship exists. It is the relationship
that fundamentally people in your position, people in all of our
position, need to question. It is a relationship between a society
which continues to consume beyond its needs and the people who have
the resources that society requires.
Today we're in a situation in North
America where Indian people inside the United States have two-thirds
of the uranium resources of the United States. One-third of all
Western low-sulfur coal is on Indian reservations. We are the
people who live in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. That is not
uninhabited. It is inhabited by us. We are the people who host the
single largest hydroelectric project in North America, the James Bay
Hydroelectric Project, Phases I and II. And a whole set of dams
that go all the way across north of Canada. Understand the
continental perspective of it, because it's not just one dam, it's a
whole set of dams. And what happens in Canada, for instance, is
that most of the roads go north-south. They haul the resources from
the North to the South, to American markets, and to this country.
So Americans are totally complicit in the whole ecological
destruction which goes on on the continent. It is not unrelated.
It is totally related.
And the demographics of it have very
cruelly to do with our communities. It also has to do with nuclear
waste. Fifteen to eighteen recipients of the dubious honor of
having nuclear waste research grants are Indian reservations. And
we have the whole host of toxic waste dumps proposed for our
communities. All of which so far we've defeated. That is what is
going on in our communities.
And that is very much, I think, the
struggle that needs to go in the environmental movement in this
country. It's kind of redefining some of the relationships. It's
understanding the centrality of people of color and indigenous
people to this whole environmental struggle.
It is not just about people who are
living in urban areas. It is also about people who retain the way
of living on the land and have lived there for all these times.
Because it is my experience that the historical relationship between
this society and indigenous peoples is the relationship which
continues. And that what we need to do is to really look at that
relationship and what it means for the society. It's my experience
that a society which in a way understands the relationship of
extinction of species and extinction of people. And that is what
this has been about for 500 years.
I would suggest that 1992 is the time
to end conquest. And it's the time to redefine the relationship of
this society to the land. And that is essential for all of us who
are engaged in environmental work, is to end the adversarial
relationship and to begin to build a relationship which is based on
I'm going to talk a little bit about
some of the values that it's our experience are those values. We
have, you know, we're different than y'all. That's kind of an
understatement. Anyway. But, you know, the thing is that most
Americans know very little about Indians, so they don't know
anything about our values. You know, if I ask y'all, I suppose
you're smart. I talk to a lot of colleges and I ask them if they
can name 15 different kinds of indigenous people in North America.
And I tell you, most college students cannot. Now y'all are much
smarter, so I'd ask you 25 or so. But we'd be pushing it. There's
over 700 native communities in North America. So, you know, there's
a lot of, lot of thinking to do. But because of it, that has a lot
to do with this whole myth of this America, you know. Because we
don't think about Indians, but we'll think about the myth of
America. We'll think about if you don't have a victim, you don't
have a crime, and you don't have, there's a whole lot of stuff, of
discovery and all those things.
But anyway, what I want to say is,
that some of our values, I think, would be things that might help
you in thinking about this new vision that Denis is talking about.
Us all articulating a vision of where we want to go.
I just going to talk a little bit
about a couple of them. The first thing I want to talk about is
that in my community, and in other indigenous communities, it's my
experience that we have a perception that natural law is
preeminent. It is superior to the laws of nature, it is superior to
the laws of states, of counties, of cities, of nations. Natural law
is preeminent. And that the openly as individuals and collectively
as societies have to be and are accountable to that natural law. I
suggest that that's different than this society. I think that this
society has a perception someplace in it that there's man's dominion
over nature and that technology will save us. I think that that's
different than natural law.
We have a second concept which
characterizes our way of living in accordance with natural law which
is called Minowa Towat To See Wan in my language. And what it means
is live the good life. It also means continuous rebirth. Because
in my way of thinking in my societies, our way of understanding
them, we think cyclically. All things which are natural are in
cycles. Our bodies, tides, moons, seasons, all those things, time,
all those things are cyclical.
So we have continuous rebirth. We
have death, but we have a rebirth. I'd suggest that that's
different than the society's, the values of this society. I think
that this society--I went to school here--has a perception of time
being linear. It's taught on a time line which begins in 1492
usually and continues from there on out. [laughter] And there are
certain values that go along with that. Ideas of progress and
development, the things which you want, indexes of success, and
perceptions, for example, that some peoples are primitive and other
peoples are civilized.
And I suggest that that's a totally
different way of looking at things and it's not inclusive because
it's a set of values that go along with that.
The third thing is that in our society
when I harvest wild rice in my community or do things like take
deer, when I take something and harvest something from our
ecosystem, I always pray, I offer sema. We have a concept, a value
system that's based on reciprocity, which is when you take you
always give back. So it's an equal part of the relations with the
creator and the whole ecosystem. And because of that what we have
is a recognition that when you take you always give back so that you
can stay in order with the ecosystem. You can continue to harvest.
And you only take what you need and you leave the rest.
I'd say that's different than
America. I think there's a perception in this country that you take
as much as you can. And that has to do with conquest. And I'd
suggest that that is perhaps not sustainable.
Those are some differences. And I
just wanted to outline them because I think that one of the
fundamental changes that we face is a change in values. That we
need to look at the change in values. And I think that we need to
look at how to bring society back in order with natural law.
So I guess that what I want to say in
closing is that this new vision that we talk about and that Denis is
talking about has to be inclusive. It has to allow for cultural
diversity as well as biological diversity. It has to recognize that
Americans are only a very small part, and that the majority of the
world does not subscribe to American values. And that our values
are perhaps as valid and also might have something to add to this
I think this thing, place where we're
going also has to do with reducing our consumption because conquest
isn't sustainable. It requires constant consumption of other
peoples' resources. Constant intervention in other peoples'
And finally I think it fundamentally
has to do with us collectively figuring out how to bring this
society into order with natural law. Because I think that perhaps
that is the only sustainable thing. That's what I want to say.
Conn Nugent: Thank you very
much. We're now going to hear for ten minutes each from Carl
Anthony and Lisa Goldberg. Carl?
Carl Anthony: I don't whether,
can you hear me? I listening to Denis's comments, and then
listening to Winona, I found myself feeling that I was in the middle
of a big struggle between the Western European view of the world and
the indigenous view of the world. And it reminded me of an
experience that I had in Harlem in the 1960s when there was a great
insurrection and people, the African-American people were very very
very angry. And people were mobilized on the streets and they were
throwing bricks and bottles. And we passed a little Chinese
laundry, and there was a sign in the window of the Chinese laundry
that said Me Colored Too.
Well, I think this, this is a good
symbol because we should remember that a majoritarian culture is not
simply about numbers, but is about relationship. And we have been
involved now in the environmental movement with the growing
awareness of the linkages between people and the biosphere, people
and each other. And I think that as African-Americans we have been
involved in many of these struggles.
We come to this particular forum in
this particular context perhaps a little bit later than the
indigenous people do. From I think the perspective that I share,
and certainly I can't speak for the African-Americans and Latino
populations who live in cities, the Asian-American populations. I
can't speak for many of them, but I can speak for myself and my
colleagues in the environmental justice movement. And I think our
perception is that we really do have to align ourselves with the
struggle of indigenous people in transforming the society into
something that can make it possible for us to live on the planet.
I want to make a few comments some of
our more recent sense of history and also put that into a larger
context. In 1964 a thousand students came down to Mississippi came
down to join the protests, the voter registration drives with the
blacks in Mississippi. A few people lost their lives. Some of you
may remember the names of Schorener, Cheny, Goodman. And at that
point in 1964, I believe that the majority of Americans would have
said that they were really in favor of civil rights, that they were
in favor of the struggle of African-American people to get access to
public resources and so forth.
Tow years later, the Student
Non-Violent Coordinating Committee adopted a new slogan to replace
their old slogan of freedom now. That slogan was black power. They
asked the white students to leave, to go back to their own
neighborhoods and to organize on their own issues. Many people had
their feelings hurt. The dropped out of the civil rights movement.
They joined the anti-war movement and eventually what became the
But the linkage between the civil
rights movement and the environmental movement is really still
pretty murky. It's still unwritten. In the early 1970s, the
environmental movement gained from the demise of the civil rights
movement because it was a symbol of hope in contrast to the despair
and separatism that characterized the radicalism of the late 60s.
And I think this is really something
important to remember. That as we face these issues that we have to
deal with that we must remember the importance of hope. Denis Hayes
reminded me in his remarks about the parallels between the civil
rights movement and the, and the environmental movement. We had
many many of the same issues facing us. People didn't like busing.
People didn't like affirmative action. Labor unions were upset
against hiring goals.
And looking back over that time I
don't, it's hard to imagine how we could have done things
differently. Because I think that we were trying to put forward a
view that was not quite popular and was not quite well understood.
And I think the parallels here with the environmental movement, the
insistence on the importance of the biological integrity of the
basis of civilization, on the importance of recognizing our
But I think in looking back there was
in fact a great deal of single mindedness in this. It's hard to
imagine how we could have done it differently. Because if we hadn't
done it people wouldn't know about climate, the climate change.
They wouldn't know about global warming. They wouldn't know about
the resource depletion that we know about today.
But I think Denis's point is also well
taken that there has been a sense of blindness in this that we need
Since 1990 there's been a groundswell
within communities of color to look at environmental issues. Some
of you may recall that in 1990 the United Church of Christ with the
Southland organizing project and a number of other organizations,
the Gulf Coast Tennis Union wrote letters to the environmental
leaders of the Big Ten environmental organizations and accused them
of racism based on the composition of their staffs, their boards and
the policies that they set forward.
I must say that in the last two years,
many of the organizations like NRDC, the National Wildlife
Federation, Sierra Club, EDF have now begun to undertake hundreds
and hundreds of exchanges with communities all over the country and
dozens of projects now are under way which reflect at least
awareness of the importance of cultural diversity.
The first national People of Color's
conference was held in 1991, which adopted a series of principles of
environmental justice. And I think some of you had a chance to read
those. I think it's very important, it's time for this community
and the mainstream, the so-called mainstream environmental movement
to really totally embrace this struggle for environmental justice.
I know that some people have
grudgingly said well, but social justice is really not an
environmental issue. We really need to take them separately. But I
think if we're going to really have a successful majority, build a
successful majoritarian movement we really do have to embrace the
principles of environmental justice.
We need to rethink the relationships
between the environment and economics. We need to, we need to
really begin to heal the divisions between the suburbs and the inner
cities, between the suburbs, uh, between the cities and land-based
communities. I think our vision of what a sustainable city is has
to be a city that does not deplete the resources of the places
Winona LaDuke was talking about, and in fact can exist comfortably
with that, so that we don't have environmental refugees coming from
land-based cultures to simply make more poor people in our cities.
In conclusion, what I would like to
say is if we want to build a majority movement, we must broaden our
agenda to include the issues of working people, the issues of
occupational health and safety and we must keep hope alive. In the
midst of despair we must learn how to turn our attention to examples
that point the way to a new future. Lou Gold's illustration of what
sustainable forestry could be like, Ralph Cavanaugh's work on
transforming utility systems that provide electricity, the Zuni
reservations which are demonstrating new ways to continue
sustainable practices which are thousands, hundreds of years old, to
the work of the alliance of the Neighborhood Funders in the
Environmental Grantmakers which points the way to new land use,
transportation, energy strategies for the poor and stirrings for the
Thank you very much.
Conn Nugent: We're trying to
present a spectrum of perspectives here in this first hour and to
finish it up and before we break into small groups for your own work
on this subject I like to ask Lisa Goldberg to speak.
Lisa Goldberg: Conn said that
because I'm going to do something a little bit different. I came
here as a respondent. I work for the Revson Foundation in New York
[Assets 82,731,152]. So my thought was to talk a little more
specifically to all of us as funders, thinking about what we're
hearing here, and maybe suggest some ways that we can apply a little
more directly in the next couple of years to our own work.
That's what I've been thinking about
here. And I thought I would just pass along some opening thoughts
and maybe we can talk more about this later.
I think a lot of about something that
someone said to me when I first started working at the foundation.
There are thinkers, there are doers and there are funders.
And sometimes mixing up the different
roles, I was very offended by that, by the way, at the beginning.
But as I have been in this field I think there may be something to
I think the role of foundations in
social movement work is ambiguous at best. There's been a lot of
study of the civil rights movement and the role of funders in it
with very mixed feelings. People often say that by the time we get
to the social movement, the movement is over. But I'm not sure I
believe that either.
In any event, I think we have to look
carefully at ourselves and be as self-critical as we can about the
role we do play. I have in the past liked to say that I think the
most important public policy impact that foundations have had,
probably in the last generation, is when foundation money was given
to Justice Fortas, which caused him to step down and led almost
directly in some ways to the Supreme Court we now have. But that's
a little bit, a little bit over the top. [laughter]
Celinda Lake was supposed to be here.
And Denis referred to some of the things that she's been finding
out. I don't believe any more than most of you, I'm sure, that
polls or focus groups are the answer. But they're sure out there.
And we're hearing an awful lot of different things about how people
are feeling. And Denis and Winona and Carl all referred to some of
those things. And I think they're important for us to keep in mind
as we think about creating the kind of vision that people have been
talking about and what as funders our role is in doing that.
You know, Celinda is telling us, as
are the other pollsters, that this is a confusing time. The country
really is in flux. There are a lot of tensions out there. Denis
referred to the balance tension between economy and the
environment. The great majority of Americans want to believe that
it is economy and environment, not economy versus environment. But
it really depends how you ask the question.
People say they're willing to pay for
it. The question is how much? Ten cents on gasoline? Okay. Fifty
cents? Unh-uh. Seventy-five dollars to retrofit a refrigerator?
Good enough. Hundred dollars? Unh-uh.
Jobs sounds really different to people
than the economy and growth. Growth and environment? Yes. Losing
jobs? Unh-uh. And I think we have to keep that really in the front
of our minds in terms of how we talk to people and how people hear
what this movement has to say. I think people feel too distanced
from the issues. Denis has picked out the need to have immediate
issues as well as long range.
The sad truth is that nobody in this
country wants to be labeled an environmentalist any more.
Environmentalist has gone the way of feminist. These are now very
loaded terms that have been shifted in the public conscience.
And a commitment to looking at
language and thinking about what you want people understand when you
talk is something very important in this.
The other things that people talk a
great deal about are equity and efficacy. I mean, they don't use
those words, those are jargony words. But people want
responsibility to be broadly spread. They want to know that other
people are doing what they're doing. And they want to know that
what they're doing matters. And I'm not sure that we have been as
good as we should be in showing people that what they do matters.
Everybody wants to recycle, but nobody
understands what they can do beyond that and perhaps not putting oil
down into the sewer system. To really make a difference, and that's
what people seem to want.
Where are the opportunities? People
do really, by and large, recognize environmental issues as
important. After a lull in the 80s, it is at least on the screen to
most people. Kids seem to, according to their parents, know a great
deal more about this. They are in fact in some ways, as they did
with other issues like smoking, starting to have an impact on their
parents. And I think the educational links particularly for young
people that's very targeted. It's important.
There are clearly regional
differences. Some areas of the country have much higher
understanding and will vote for this. There are some messages that
work. Economy and environment. Empowering people to participate in
it. And attaching it to other issues. That's the other thing that
Celinda and other people are finding out. Health is a great lever
in this. It's a real connection. And I think economic development
is another real connection. I'm going to say a little bit more
about that in terms of funders in just a minute.
What I guess I'd like to ask you to
think about is, I've been trying to think of a framework in terms of
social change. My foundation has been involved in a variety of ways
of thinking about this in some areas over that past couple of
years. And as a former psychologist I think about it a lot. Where
I think there is a spectrum, is we start with thinking about
changing how people think about a thing. I mean cognitive change in
the jargon, if you will. And that really is public education.
And then I think in some ways we just
stop there. I think we don't really think about what's the next
part. Changing specific action, which sometimes can lead to
changing long term behavior. Sometimes we do mount campaigns that
are concerted to change specific actions. In a drought, for
example, we can get people to change their behavior. But I think we
often don't think about the ways that that can lead to longer term
behavioral change, which in turn actually is a cause of attitudinal
Then of course you get to the really
hard stuff that Winona was talking about, which is value change. I
mean value change in this society is really hard. Low success
rate. Long period of time. And I think that the environmental
movement needs to really confront some of the values that are very
deep seated, that we don't often think of as environmental values
that Winona was talking about.
Technology will save us is one.
Progress means greater consumption. That's another. Freedom, as
Denis said, above all, rather than community. I mean these are very
deeply held belief systems. And unless you recognize that that's
going to be part of any long term change in the environmental area
and in most other areas that we care about, I'm not sure we're going
to get very far.
So let me just throw out a couple of
things I was thinking about from my work when I go back from
Wisconsin that as a funder I want to keep in the front of my mind
instead of the back.
One is, I want to start thinking about
environmental change a lot more strategically, both in terms of my
foundation, and collectively. I mean I'm very heartened by what Ed
got up and said about joint venture and some of the health
connections and some of the other things. But I think in that
regard we have to be a lot more hard headed about where we want to
go and think about the kinds of changes that we're really trying to
If you're trying to build an elite
majority for change, then you're talking about 5 percent of the
population max. If you're trying to build an electoral majority
you're talking 27 percent to get landslide if you have a 51 percent
turnout. How much of a percentage if you want mass behavioral
change? I don't know. Maybe a hundred percent. And that's a whole
lot different in terms of approach.
But some of the strategies and tactics
that are available to us are really quite clear to us, but as Denis
said, we've always relied for example as foundations on litigation.
One of the contributions of the foundation field was the
underwriting of those litigation groups in the late sixties and
early seventies. To some degree, foundations created the public law
movement by supporting it. The Ford Foundation in particular. But,
given the federal bench, and given the state bench, do we really
want an outside strategy now?
Same thing with public education. I
mean, how do we get people information? Are we thinking of all the
channels of communication we really need to use? Are we working
what we know about how people learn and understand things? I want
to go back and think more creatively about addressing these tensions
and these balances, not pretending they don't exist.
I think what Carl said is right. Two
worldviews we heard from Denis and Winona. How do we make them less
in tension and more in harmony? How do we bring in as many views as
we can. I think that there's no time personally to be exclusive. I
don't think we can afford to exclude anybody from these discussions.
I'm going to go back and urge my board
to think about the realities of the political and social situation.
I mean, I think as Denis said, if we have new administration, it's
going to have its own consequences. One of them may well be
inertia. I mean we didn't do very well in 1980 when we had a new
administration. We had four or five for every one said Oh my god,
what do we do now? That's something to be thinking about.
I think we have to be opportunistic in
our funding. Some of the things that are going to come up, I mean,
on Denis's idea of creating a vision, a real live vision of where
people want to live. That's an interesting idea. How many program
areas does it fit into here? Not too many. I mean I think we have
to really be thinking more creatively and in more cross-cutting ways
than we have before. I think we have to think short term and long
term. And I guess I keep, I try to keep in mind myself two stories
from colleagues. One was that uh--I think it's important to
remember that none of us has the answer. If any of us did have the
answer, we might not be talking about this.
Bruce Williams, he used to be at the
Rockefeller Foundation, used to say that evaluating program was
really difficult. And the only program he really knew was working
was the prevention of nuclear war program. And when he woke up in
the morning and saw the world was still here, he said Gee, that
program's good. [laugher]
So I think it's really a good lesson.
The other is some of you may know Dick Boone, who used to run the
Field Foundation, and he likes to say these days that it was also
important to keep in mind that indeed there are no quick fixes and
that a little bit of money does not go a long way.
So, let's come back to some of the
Conn Nugent: It's time for
you, please, to tackle these and any other angles on the subject you
can think of. We're going to break up into six small groups. We're
going to do it by the established method of birthday months. Those
of you born in either January or February are going to be with Jack
Chin. Stand up, would you Jack? Jack will be with you January
Februarys in this corner of the room.
Those of you born in March and April
with Ed Miller in the rear of this room on this side. Those of you
in May or June with Chuck Savitt. Chuck, are you here? Raise your
hand. Chuck Savitt. You'll be down in front here. July and August
with Jenny Russell in the rear of this room this side. And out on
the dock, September October in with Julia Parsons. In that dock.
Sorry, dock, excuse me, porch, balcony, balustrade. November
December with Ann Crumble over in that direction outdoors.
Be back here please in 45 minutes.
We're going to reconvene at 10:45.
END OF TAPE
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