“Together we speak truth to power and expose those who endanger the health of people and the planet for corporate profit. We organize to build long-term political power and campaign to change the rules of our economic and political systems that create injustice and destroy nature.”-FOE website
Friends of the Earth is a multi-faceted organization that tackles an array of issues having to do with our environment and those living within it. This means protecting ecology, people and animals that are threatened and taking down what is causing the negative impacts on these victims. The multiple facets of this organization deem it a very appropriate group to be studying in Environmental Studies, since they stress interconnectedness, primarily the connection between people and nature. Throughout the Globalization course, we learned how destroying nature can destroy us, through negative impacts such as pollution, diminishing resources, and global climate change. Friends of the Earth strives to connect these actions to our health and hold those responsible for these actions accountable.
The issues that this organization focuses on are Oceans, Standing up to Trump, Climate and Energy, Finance and Economic Systems, Food and Agriculture, and Forests. The Oceans component aims to put an end to factory fish farming, the dumping and emissions of toxic waste from cruise ships, vessels and the like, and creating safe marine sanctuaries. The Climate and Energy component stresses the dangers of nuclear waste, fossil fuels and animal agriculture, primarily methane production by livestock, discusses the Public Lands & Waters Defense team as well as the concepts of International Sustainable Finance and Climate Finance. This component strives to target international companies contributing to climate change. The Finance and Economic Systems component focuses on trade, democracy- which incorporates food security, water security and climate change,- and international sustainable finance, issues with ECA’s and public energy financing overseas. The Stand up to Trump component focuses on the following agenda: Firing Scott Pruitt, Public Land Defense, Trump resistance, fighting to raise in entrance fees to 17 national parks from thirty to seventy dollars, protecting our EPA, withdrawal of Trump’s environmental advisor nominee and anti-science USDA nominee, and finally stopping the Trump administration from opening oceans to big oil companies. Food and Agriculture focuses on the current U.S Food and farming policy and working towards the goal of a food system that is sustainable, just, and healthy and without energy intensive factory farming. They oppose corporate power and the capitalistic goals of producing as many calories as possible as cheaply as possible, are protecting the safety of workers, public health, local economies, animal welfare and ecosystems. The final component, forests, focuses on issues such as the harmful impacts of palm oil production and other large scale plantations contributing to deforestation and loss of biodiversity, land grabs, endangered livelihoods of local communities and indigenous peoples, supporting projects, and implementing innovative methods.
Friends of the Earth utilizes the internet and participates in political and legislative processes that can raise awareness and face the issues they focus on. Their websites are full of resources & publications, related news, and the organization’s information. Their approach to solving the issues they target vary from as simple as emailing online petitions to more direct methods like organizing members to campaign in the field. They operate in a decentralized structure, with the international organization composed of autonomous organizations all over the world. The United States group is composed of a president & senior staff, board of directors, and supporting staff. From their website it states: “Our staff engages in hard-hitting advocacy campaigns by producing cutting-edge policy analyses, instigating lawsuits, targeting corporations, and organizing our members on the ground. This strong advocacy has been the key to our successful campaigns over our 48-year history.” (foe.org)
Since the organization functions on an international level, it provides a platform for those who want to make a difference not only in their local or national community, but globally. Their approach starts with educating their followers in order to acknowledge the issues that we all face. Most of the world’s current environmental issues are found in developing countries, where communities are threatened by capitalism and globalization, and most people are not able to handle the problem if at an external source, so Friends of the Earth spreads awareness and pressure political representatives to enact change to better society as a whole. FOE also has a sister group, FOE Action, that makes political endorsements, supports important candidates, and organize critical campaigns on the field. The organization would not get anything done without funding, so donations and celebrity supporters keep things running.
Friends of the Earth has over a million members across all 50 states and members all over the world with over 47 countries containing a chapter. They focus on advocacy campaigns, lawsuits, targeting large corporations, and organizing their members on the ground. They are very heavy on protests, some of them include their save the whales protest and their protest in front of a furniture store to end the harvesting of mahogany from rainforests. Founded in 1970, FOE has been a consistent voice in environmental activism and has adapted to new problems as they continue the fight against age old problems such as indigenous rights. FOE has become a bold and fearless voice in challenging elected leaders and public officials in issues like the Keystone Pipeline and the decision on Bears Ears. They specify issues such as Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, but also aim for systemic change that brings about a healthy relationship with our planet.
Background and context
Although today this organization fights for a wide array of environmental issues, its original mission was to stop the production of nuclear energy. The first location of Friends of the Earth was founded in 1969 in San Francisco. The organization gained international status by meeting annually with environmentalists from different countries. After some time, they agreed to campaign with them on certain important issues like whaling and nuclear energy. Shortly after, in 1971, Friends of the Earth went international and founded four organizations in France, Sweden, England, and the U.S. Ten years later, a small international Secretariat was set up. This at first consisted entirely of volunteers, who rotated from country to country. Soon, the organization grew to twenty five members, an Executive Committee was elected to oversee the issues worked on between meetings. Soon, Friends of the Earth had thirty one members from all over the world. Currently, there are 75 members in the Friends of the Earth organization internationally, working to protect the environment and to create sustainable societies (Source used:https://www.foei.org/about-foei/history). Today, Friends of the Earth has over 70 international locations dispersed throughout Africa, Asia, Europe, South America, and North America.
This environmental, grassroots organization has done a wide range of protests, demonstrations, petitioning, and lobbying. Most of their first campaigns related to nuclear energy; however, that quickly changed as other environmental problems occured. Some of their protests throughout the years included the Save the Whales protest, Friends of the earth had campaigned in favor of this issue since the 1970s, prior to this protest that took place in 1990, their 2003 mass parade through London for GMO-free food and farming, protesting the impact of the demand for palm oil in 2004, and Paris Climate Talks in 2015
The Friends of the Earth organization has made it their mission to expose the truth of people and corporations that hold power being responsible for causing negative impacts on the health of people and to the planet for the sake of corporate profit. They focus on building long-term political power and their campaigns aim to change the rules of our current economic and political systems that create injustice and destroy nature. If the values of the Friends of the Earth organization was compared to the curriculum of the International Environmental Issues and Globalization course, one would find that their values are very similar.
There is a huge need for an interconnected, intersectional approach when combating environmental issues. Much of the American population, maybe some of the students enrolled in this course, most likely have believed that nature and humans exist on separate planes. This misconception has paved the way to a dissociative relationship on the human’s part, making it easy to remove emotions from the matter and move full speed ahead in the process of demolition, with either active or passive participation. Examples of this dissociative process can be especially observed when one looks at The Friends of the Earth’s work with forests, oceans and climate.
For example, regarding the organization’s research on forests, deforestation is a key example of the dissociative process. All people are aware of where their paper, and other products made from trees, comes from, however, they do not actively think of it or consider the negative impact on ecosystems or the planet. Often forests are seen as an endless resource that cannot be depleted. When people do consciously seek out, or awkwardly and reluctantly stumble into, emotional connections to the issue they often see this process as simply the way things have to be, they focus on making ends meet in their lives and feel they cannot do anything else. Likely, many people enrolled in this course feel this way.
Also in similarity with the International Environmental Issues and Globalization course, the Friends of the Earth organization keeps a close, observant eye on capitalism. A common concept the organization likes to stress in their constant plight of taking down big corporations is the traditional capitalist ecology of producing as much as possible for as cheap as possible. As discussed The History of the World in Seven Cheap Things, this method can produce harmful products, exploit land and people, and contribute to global catastrophe.
The Friends of the Earth’s public activism seems to have gone extraordinarily well thus far. With an ongoing Save the Whales campaign for twenty years, a gathering in front of a department store to protest the harvesting of mahogany from rainforests, even a national competition among public schools for a chance to win free solar panels, the organization definitely covers lots of ground and is very effective.
Finally, Friends of the Earth is an expert on reach out to important people. With the endorsement, support and publicity stars like Thom Yorke and Mark Ruffalo provide, the organization is able to become even better known and have many types of people supporting their message.
What is important about this movement is that it is international, and it is also broad in the issues it covers and what it seeks to accomplish. Friends of the Earth also approach issues by observing the framework in which they occur in as well as societies as a whole. What is very important to their belief system is not partnering with corporations or political interests. Instead, they like to target corporations and politics for harming the environment in various sorts of ways.
Room for Improvement:
Friends of the Earth has been around for quite some time now, so they are a pretty well-established organization. However, there are some places where they could afford some improvement. The most important one is that they need to be focusing more on changing policies, rather than fixing environmental issues as they occur. They are not addressing the systemic problem, but rather they are addressing specific problems. Another issue they could work on as well is not overloading followers with petitions or donation requests through email. For most people when organizations are constantly asking for various things like money, it is usually a major turn off in regards to them wanting to give the organization support.
“Homepage- Friends of the Earth.” Friends of the Earth, foe.org//
“Home.” Friends of the Earth International, www.foei.org/.
Humphreys, D. (2013). Deforestation. In The Handbook of Global Climate and Environment Policy (pp. 72-88).
Moodie, Alison. “How Environmentally Friendly Is Your Cruise Holiday?” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 12 June 2016, www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2016/jun/12/cruise-ships-environment-ocean-liners-emissions-waste.
Patel, Raj, and Jason W. Moore. A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things: a Guide to Capitalism, Nature, and the Future of the Planet. Black Inc., 2018.
“Should We Buy Products with ‘Sustainable’ Palm Oil?” Their Turn, 7 Apr. 2015, theirturn.net/2015/04/02/sustainable-palm-oil/.
Turner, Tom. David Brower: The Making of the Environmental Movement, University of California Press, 2015. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/humboldt/detail.action?docID=2006721
“8 Reasons Why Scott Pruitt Should Not Head The EPA (As Heard At His Confirmation Hearing).” Earthjustice, 17 Feb. 2017, earthjustice.org/features/highlights-from-scott-pruitt-s-confirmation-hearing.