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Saturday, May 04, 2013

Contra Naomi Klein

After all these years I slipped and read something written by Naomi Klein.  I woke up in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep, so I surfed over to the Daily Kos (which reliably has new content since there are a lot of headliners and they work hard).  I read this post

Open thread for night owls: Some major eco-groups have big investments in fossil fuels

which I will quote at length.  I think I will put my comment first.

The quoted passage [see below] simply does not justify the headline. Klein provides no examples or major eco groups with investments in fossil fuels.  She notes major eco groups with investments.  She does not describe any investments in fossil fuel related program activities.  None at all.

I think the headline should be updated.  Rather than "some big eco groups" you should list the big eco groups in question.  If it happens to be that all big eco groups have investments in fossil fuels then it would be OK to write that, but it some do and some don't then you have to tell us which do and which don't.

You don't do that and neither does Klein.  She insinuates that they invest in fossil fuels somehow, but presents absolutely no evidence in support of that claim.  None.  Zero.

She also asserts "They led the climate movement down various dead ends: carbon trading ... ".  She does not describe any specific action which was part of such leading.  Nor does she explain why "carbon trading" is a dead end.  Maybe I shouldn't consider an extensive quotation with no criticism an endorsment, but I do.  I read this post as your denouncing cap and trade as a dead end.  Is this your view.

Also Klein does not describe any green policies which she supports and the big eco-groups oppose.  Here the logic can only be that the good is the enemy of the best, so supporting it is a distraction and therefore a betrayal.

In any case, the bottom line is that your post presents no evidence at all that "Some major eco-groups have big investments in fossil fuels" so I think you should change the headline.

OK the relevant part of the post.  Bold mine.
Naomi Klein tells Big Green to come clean on fossil fuels:
The movement demanding that public interest institutions divest their holdings from fossil fuels is on a serious roll. At last count, there were active divestment campaigns on 305 campuses and in more than 100 US cities and states. The demand has spread to Canada, Australia, the Netherlands and Britain. And though officially launched just six months ago, the movement can already claim some provisional victories: four US colleges have announced their intention to divest their endowments from fossil fuel stocks and bonds, and in late April ten US cities made similar commitments, including San Francisco (Seattle came on board months ago).
Naomi Klein
Naomi Klein

There are still all kinds of details to work out to toughen up these pledges, but the speed with which this idea has spread makes it clear that there was some serious pent-up demand. To quote the mission statement of the Fossil Free movement: “If it is wrong to wreck the climate, then it is wrong to profit from that wreckage. We believe that educational and religious institutions, city and state governments, and other institutions that serve the public good should divest from fossil fuels.” I am proud to have been part of the group at that worked with students and other partners to develop the Fossil Free campaign. But I now realize that an important target is missing from the list: the environmental organizations themselves. […]
One would assume that green groups would want to make absolutely sure that the money they have raised in the name of saving the planet is not being invested in the companies whose business model requires cooking said planet, and which have been sabotaging all attempts at serious climate action for more than two decades.
But in some cases at least, that was a false assumption. Maybe that shouldn’t come as a complete surprise, since some of the most powerful and wealthiest environmental organizations have long behaved as if they had a stake in the oil and gas industry. They led the climate movement down various dead ends: carbon trading, carbon offsets, natural gas as a “bridge fuel”—what these policies all held in common is that they created the illusion of progress while allowing the fossil fuel companies to keep mining, drilling and fracking with abandon. We always knew that the groups pushing hardest for these false solutions took donations from, and formed corporate partnerships with, the big emitters. But this was explained away as an attempt at constructive engagement—using the power of the market to fix market failures.
Now it turns out that some green groups are literally part owners of the industry causing the crisis they are purportedly trying to solve. And the money the green groups have to play with is serious. The Nature Conservancy, for instance, has $1.4 billion in publicly traded securities, and boasts that its piggybank is “among the 100 largest endowments in the country.” The Wildlife Conservation Society has a $377 million endowment, while the endowment of the World Wildlife Fund-US (WWF-US) is worth $195 million.
Let me be absolutely clear: plenty of green groups have managed to avoid this mess. Greenpeace,, Friends of the Earth, Rainforest Action Network, and a host of smaller organizations like Oil Change International and the Climate Reality Project don’t have endowments and don’t invest in the stock market. They also either don’t take corporate donations or place such onerous restrictions on them that extractive industries are easily ruled out. Some of these groups own a few fossil fuel stocks, but only so that they can make trouble at shareholder meetings.

Blast from the Past. At D

Note the problem. The proof that some Eco-Groups are part owners of the industry is that some eco groups own pubicly traded securities. The detail that not quite all publicly traded securties are shares of fossil fuel companies is ignored completely.  Klein makes a very specific claim about which publicly traded securities are owned by "some" green groups, but presents absolutely no evidence at all in support of that claim.

Note also the vague "led". Specific actions are not mentioned.  The claim that cap and trade is a dead end is not argued in the passage (it might be elsewhere but I will Not check).  It is simply asserted as if it were obvious.  Klein describes no green policies which she supports and which "some green groups" oppose.  The  argument that they have harmed the cause seems to be of the form that the good is the enemy of the best, that efforts to compromise with 60 Senators are a distraction and therefore bad.

I can't be fair to Klein without reading more and I won't read more, so I should stop here or rather I should have stopped just before "Note the problem".

I have no evidence and no doubt that Klein considers any policy which doesn't crush all large firms to be a "dead end," a distraction from the real issue and a betrayal of the cause --  the cause of protecting the environment in this case.  But the exact cause doesn't really matter much, because the solution is always the same -- to denounce huge firms and not to distract people from the urgent need to denounce with pointless efforts like trying to pass laws.

But I without reading more I can note proof that she makes a claim about partial ownership of the "industry causing the crisis" then presents evidence which absolutely does not demonstrate any such thing.

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