So close… and yet so far

Okay which song is the title of this post from. Can you sing it? Hint–it isn’t the title.

I remember the John D. and Catherine MacArthur foundation from the days that they were always sponsoring programs on PBS. (I told you I was a lefty–now do you believe me?) They’re also the folks who dole out the famous Genius Grants. I keep hoping…

They announced last week that they were narrowing their focus, henceforth to concentrate on climate change and the criminal justice system, two sectors that may in future be more closely related than you might expect, given what the Konsensus would like to do to skeptics.

They’re in the news today again. The headline in Crain’s Chicago Business reads “MacArthur Foundation Doles Out $50 Million Towards Climate Change.

Finally! Someone putting their money where everybody else’s mouth is. Are they going to buy solar panels? Wind turbines? A salt cavern for compressed air storage? A couple of run of the river mini hydro set-ups? Yay! Real progress!


The Environmental Defense Fund and the Nature Conservancy: $20 million in general operating support, including for their efforts to engage a cross-section of political and other constituencies and form coalitions

ClimateWorks Foundation: $3 million in general operating support, including for its efforts to mobilize philanthropy to prevent global climate change

Energy Foundation: $3 million in general operating support, including for its efforts to help develop an energy-efficient future and open markets for clean energy technology

Natural Resources Defense Council: $3 million in general operating support

Environmental Law and Policy Center: $1.5 million in general operating support, including for its public interest advocacy in legal and regulatory proceedings

Sierra Club: $15 million for the Beyond Coal campaign, which works to move the U.S. toward low-carbon and clean energy sources

EcoAmerica: $3 million for the MomentUs campaign to grow public support for climate action

Carbon Disclosure Project: $340,000 to accelerate implementation of effective carbon pricing

So, out of $50 million, not a penny goes towards reducing emissions or increasing energy efficiency. Not a penny goes towards getting air pollution out of the lungs of Indian women. Not a penny towards cleaner coal or phasing coal out in favor of natural gas or nuclear power.

All of it goes to help other environmental organizations pay their administrative bills or on marketing campaigns to remind us of how devastatingly horrible climate change will be and how we must do something–anything–to ward it off.

So close and yet so far. (Got that song title yet?)

To be honest, this is probably a smart decision–if the MacArthur Foundation is just getting involved in climate change, offering support to other organizations with more chops and a clear strategy is not a bad idea.

It just smells bad.

There’s a lot of English TV programs that would do well on public television. Just sayin’.


5 responses to “So close… and yet so far

  1. Watching PBS makes one a Lefty?! OMG, that must mean that back in my occasional TV-watching days, I musta been a Lefty, too;-)

    But that aside, speaking of the generosity of the MacArthurs via their foundations …

    Let us not forget that back in 2003, one of the beneficiaries of their magnanimity – via their jolly good Fellows program – was none other than that well-known “conservation analyst”, a reviewer of books he hasn’t read, and notorious forger par excellence … drum-roll, please … Peter Gleick!

    Can you even begin to imagine how much actual good the MacArthur gazillions could do (and/or have done) if they were directed towards ameliorating the health and well-being of those millions of refugees in the world today. A state they entered, in no small measure, thanks to the ineptitude and/or inadequacies of the UN – and of Obama’s “foreign policy” (to the extent that he actually has one that is worthy of being called such) in action.

  2. The corruption of NGOs into lobbying fronts is a tragic outcome of the climate obsession…. or is it?
    For an insight into just how corrupt many NGO’s have become, read:
    The economy of Palestine is largely based on NGO money.
    Something deeper is taking place. Something deeply disturbing to someone who cares about civil society, disclosure and accountability.
    The idea of Foundations being altruistic do-gooders is so early 20th century.

  3. A profile of a relatively recent NGO and its founder’s efforts to see that her intentions are actually carried out:
    The problem of NGO corruption is widespread, according to the article:
    “……Unfortunately, unlike a fine wine, donor intent does not seem to improve with age. It pales as the decades pass, and institutional memory of and attachment to a foundation’s donor’s vision fades away. Or perhaps physics provides a more appropriate analogy: the gravitational “pull” of whatever happens to be the dominant belief system among a foundation’s trustees and staff inevitably eventually alters—permanently—a foundation’s initial orbit.

    Whatever analogy you may prefer, an inescapable point in time seems to come where trustees (related to the founder or not) and staff alike feel they can blithely re-interpret, ignore, or evade the original donor’s intent.”

    My bet is that with interlocking boards, the relationships between those who administer and work in the NGO industry, and the mobility of people between donors, political groups (democrats and lefties), and recipients of Foundation money, that the hijacking of Foundations is nearly inevitable.
    This is in effect a form of white collar crime- conversion of charitable money into working capital for left wing political causes.

  4. The MacArthur Foundation is simply putting their money where it will have the most impact. The recipients will use the money to raise even more money and they will use that to lobby the government to spend an enormously larger amount of the taxpayers money.

    As most corporations know, every dollar spent on lobbying pays back many times over. That is why large, centralized governments, far removed from the people, work as well as they do.

    Of course, the government won’t spend the taxpayers money on helping people in the third world. They will spend it on ultimately ineffective “solutions” like windmills. But hey, at least we will be “doing something”.

    p.s. Surely, sarc tags aren’t needed here?

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