Greenwashing the Climate Change Message
South Bay 350 Organizer, Joe Galliani asks the COG General Assembly about their greenwashing.
I attended the 15th Annual General Assembly of the South Bay Cities Council of Governments – the COG – in Carson today and that’s the paper placard that was on my table for the day’s program,
“Why Must We Care? – The Cost of the Changing Environment to the South Bay”
I was there with three of our Advisory Board members and none of us were happy about seeing great speakers like Jonathan Parfrey the Executive Director of Climate Resolve and Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, the Director and County Health Officer, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health used for greenwashing cover by three of our local fossil fuel companies – Chevron, AES Redondo Beach and E&B Oil.
We can understand why these polluters and climate changers want to buy more influence with the COG and the many elected representatives and city staff members in attendance. But what we cannot understand is why the COG is willing to compromise its own values for five grand a pop.
When we brought our displeasure to the COG’s long term Executive Director, Jacki Bacharach, she had no opinion on the subject and instead asked the COG’s Board of Directors, lead by Board Chair, Dan Medina, the Mayor Pro Tem of Gardena, to review the matter. We asked Dan this morning what he thought and what the COG Board had to say and he told us that the Board looked at the situation and determined that they have no problem taking money from fossil fuel companies to help fund their climate change event.
Fair enough. Good to know where the COG stands on this. No surprise, Jake. It’s still Chinatown.
Here’s where South Bay 350 stands. We sent the following email to keynote speaker, Jonathan Parfrey, yesterday and then spoke with him about it this morning:
From: Organizer Joe <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Thu, Feb 27, 2014 at 11:50 AM
Subject: Tomorrow’s General Assembly in Carson
Greetings From the South Bay Jonathan,
I’m excited about seeing your presentation tomorrow at the South Bay Cities Council of Governments (COG) General Assembly.
I have been the organizer of the South Bay 350 Climate Action Group since 2009 and we have worked with the COG on climate, renewable energy and emissions reduction issues throughout. So the topic of specific climate impacts coming to the South Bay is something I work on and talk about daily. I am so appreciative of the work you do and the work Alex Hall has been doing.
But many of us in the South Bay environmental community are upset that the three “benefactor” sponsors for your talk and for the overall topic of “The Cost of the Changing Environment” are three fossil fuel companies – Chevron, E&B and AES.
Chevron is one of the world’s largest polluters and greenhouse gas emitters. They use donations to local school and community groups to greenwash their image and the topic of their contribution to climate change is never discussed as a result.
E&B Natural Resources is an oil company attempting to overturn a ban on oil drilling in our South Bay city of Hermosa Beach. A very active grassroots effort by the Stop Hermosa Oil Drilling/Keep Hermosa Hermosa group is using banners, t-shirts and bumper stickers against a multimillion dollar ad and marketing campaign in favor of drilling.
And the AES natural gas power plant in Redondo Beach is fighting the city council and the NO Power Plant citizens group who are working to retire this superfluous fossil fuel plant in the middle of a residential and harbor neighborhood.
We think it is inappropriate, to say the least, that three fossil fuel companies who wreck the climate for profit will use their paid sponsorship for tomorrow’sevent to greenwash the topic and your message.
We sincerely ask you to please discuss the carbon budget and how long we can keep burning fossil fuels at current and projected burn rates before we reach 2C degrees of warming. We ask that you connect the fossil fuel products that Chevron and E&B produce, and the emissions the AES plant produces to CO2 levels at 400ppm and accelerating impacts of climate change. I hope you will be receptive to questions in this area.
I work full time every day here in the South Bay communities to hasten our transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. I left a high paying position with CBS in October to do this work pro bono because of my sense of urgency on climate. I so appreciate the work you and Climate Resolve do and the research and tools you provide for people like me and my colleagues at 350.org.
Thanks for your time and consideration.
I was excited to meet Jonathan Parfrey before the conference began. He graciously acknowledged receiving my email and said he understood what I was talking about. He was warm and sympathetic and asked me if I knew who Jess Unruh was. I was delighted to admit that I did know Big Daddy Jess Unruh, as I am a great fan of California history.
“Well you know what Jess said about things like this,” Parfrey said.
“If you can’t eat their food, drink their booze, screw their women and then vote against them, you have no business being up here.” (In reference to the state Senate and Assembly in Sacramento.)
I nodded in recognition of one of my favorite from the man who once also coined the phrase, “Money is the mother’s milk of politics.” I told Parfrey that I understood what he was saying and that that might be the rule for politicians, but that I wasn’t running for office and I had different rules that required me to speak out about it.
Make no mistake about it, Jonathan Parfrey deserves better.
He’s a brilliant and accomplished renaissance man whose work many of us have long admired. Beyond his role with Climate Resolve doing terrific work on L.A. based climate change adaption, Parfrey is the immediate past-president of the Los Angeles League of Conservation Voters and also a founder and Vice Chair of CicLAvia. He is also a founder of the Los Angeles Regional Collaborative for Climate Action and Sustainability and the statewide Alliance of Regional Collaboratives for Climate Adaptation. Among many other roles he served for seven years as Los Angeles director of Nobel Peace Prize-winning organization, Physicians for Social Responsibility.
So I think it disrespects the work he does to have it sponsored by the very people who make his work on climate change necessary.
And we all have a right to expect a whole lot better from the COG, from Jacki Bacharach and from Dan Medina. COG leadership is several steps behind in helping us make the transition from fossil fuels to 100% renewable energy – no surprise when your most reliable and consistent outside funders are fossil fuel companies. It’s time right now for “business as usual” to end and a new smarter, brighter, fresher era to begin. Because as anyone who knows anything about climate change forecasts knows for sure – business as usual is the path to hell and high water.