Friends of the Earth (US)

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Friends of the Earth U.S. is a non-governmental environmental organization headquartered in Washington, D.C. with an office in Berkeley, CA.[1] It was founded in 1969 by noted environmentalist David Brower. The president of the organization is noted environmental advocate Erich Pica. Friends of the Earth U.S.’ stated mission is to “defend the environment and champion a healthy and just world,” and lists its three guiding principles as sustainability, connectivity and systemic change.[2] Friends of the Earth U.S. campaigns on issues including climate change, pollution, nuclear technology, genetic engineering, deforestation, pesticides, food and agriculture and economic policy.[3] It is a founding member of Friends of the Earth International, the world's largest grassroots environmental network.[4]


Friends of the Earth U.S. was founded in California in 1969 by prominent environmentalist David Brower after he left the Sierra Club.[5] The organization was launched with the help of Donald Aitken, Jerry Mander and a $200,000 donation from the personal funds of Robert O. Anderson.[6] One of its first major campaigns was the protest of nuclear power, particularly in California.[5] Friends of the Earth International was founded in 1971 and today is a network of environmental organizations in 75 countries.[7] In its early years, Friends of the Earth US was headquartered in San Francisco, CA, but it was a largely decentralized organization, giving significant power and freedom to its local branches.[5] In 1971, Friends of the Earth U.S. successfully campaigned against federal funding for supersonic transport commercial airlines, and overland commercial supersonic flights were banned as well.[8] In the early 1980s, the organization campaigned against the World Bank, claiming it was financing projects that caused tropical deforestation, among other environmental concerns.[8] They also pushed for the 1981 moratorium on new offshore oil leasing in California, which remained in effect until 2008, when Congress did not renew it.[8] The organization merged with the Environmental Policy Center and the Oceanic Society in 1989.[5] After the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Friends of the Earth U.S. successfully campaigned for the passage of the Oil Pollution Act in 1990.[8][9] In 1992, they teamed with the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe in Washington State to help pass a federal law to protect salmon runs.[8] In 2003 the organization worked to draft and pass the Clean Car Law in California.[8]

Friends of the Earth, Inc. v Laidlaw Environmental Services, Inc.

In 1999, Friends of the Earth represented residents near the North Tyger River in South Carolina in a case against Laidlaw Environmental Services, Inc. The case addressed the industrial pollution of the river. Although Laidlaw claimed that the case was moot, since the factory responsible for polluting the river had been closed, the Court held that the plaintiff had standing to sue because the residents alleged that they would have used the river for recreational purposes, but could not because of the pollution. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the majority wrote that the “aesthetic and recreational values of the area” had been lessened because of the defendant’s repeated violations of its clean water permit.[10]

Projects and Campaigns

Friends of the Earth U.S. runs campaigns that generally fall into four major categories, supporting the organization’s overarching principles: promoting sustainability, fighting for worldwide social and economic justice and encouraging systemic change for lasting results.[2]

Climate and Energy

Rally against the Keystone XL Pipeline in Washington, DC

This project has several campaigns, all related to reducing pollution and carbon emissions and encouraging the use of renewable energy sources.[11] One campaign protests the extraction of crude oil from the Athabasca tar sands in Canada’s Alberta province.[12] The controversial Keystone XL pipeline would carry oil from these tar sands to refineries along the Gulf Coast.[13] Friends of the Earth U.S. opposes the construction of this pipeline.[14] Friends of the Earth also works with the international community to urge countries around the world to support strong, fair and aggressive climate policy. Part of the 75-country Friends of the Earth International federation, the organization is an accredited observer organization within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Part of the overall energy program aims to prevent the construction of new nuclear power plants, protest federal subsidies for the nuclear power industry and shut down existing reactors.[15] The campaign is currently trying to shut down the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in San Luis Obispo County in southern California.[15] It is located near several active fault lines including the Shoreline, Hosgri, San Luis Bay and Los Osos.[15] Friends of the Earth U.S. was originally founded to protest the construction of these nuclear reactors.[15]

The biofuels campaign protests the use of and subsidies for ethanol and other biogenic fuels as forms of alternative energy.[16] Friends of the Earth U.S. also opposes the Renewable Fuel Standard, which dictates that increasing quantities of biofuels be used annually, and the EPA’s approval of high ethanol content E-15 gasoline.[16] The organization is also involved in negotiations for an international climate agreement.[17] Its goals include a reduction in carbon emissions, prevention of deforestation and assisting other countries to cope with the impacts of climate change and support renewable energy initiatives.[17]

Food and Technology

This project oversees campaigns related to agriculture and food processing techniques.[18] One campaign is concerned with enacting stricter regulation over the emerging field of synthetic biology.[19] Synthetic vanillin is one specific product that Friends of the Earth is concerned with, as its production has been associated with the destruction of endangered rainforests.[20] Related efforts advocate for labeling and stricter regulation of genetically engineered food, or GMOs.[21] Friends of the Earth U.S. is campaigning against AquaBounty Technologies’ genetically engineered salmon that is claimed to grow twice as fast as natural salmon.[21][22] It is the first type of animal genetically engineered specifically for human consumption.[21] The nanotechnology campaign favors more industry regulations intended to protect workers and consumers and minimize the potential environmental impacts of production.[23] The campaign also advocates for the labeling of products that contain nanomaterials such as nano-silver, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.[23] Additionally, the organization demotes the practice of factory farming, a practice where animals are raised in high stocking densities. The campaign asserts that these intensive farming techniques are unhealthy for the animals and for humans and are not sustainable.[24]

The organization’s Bee Action campaign looks to address the causes of the dwindling honey bee population.[25][26] As bees pollinate one third of our food supply, Friends of the Earth and many others view their decrease in number as a serious threat.[25] The organization claims that the major is the widespread use of neonicotinoid pesticides in commercial agriculture.[25] These pesticides became very popular in the past decade, but studies have shown that they can lead to Colony Collapse Disorder in bee hives.[25] Major chemical manufacturers such as Bayer, Syngenta and Monsanto have disputed these claims, asserting that other factors such as mite infestation are to blame.[25] Recently, retailers such as Home Depot and BJ’s Wholesale Club have pledged to stop selling plants treated with these pesticides, and neonicotinoids have been banned by the European Union.[25]

Oceans and Forests

The Oceans and Forests program contains a number of campaigns covering topics ranging from international deforestation to marine pollution.[27] The organization’s international forests campaign works against the increasing trend of deforestation that is responsible for a significant portion of global greenhouse gas emissions.[28] The palm oil industry has been cited as the driving force behind much of this deforestation, as well as the displacement of local farmers and communities through sometimes secretive land deals between investors and governments, also called land grabs.[28]

The Oceans Program work addresses the pollution produced by cruise ships and other ocean-going vessels.[29] The cruise industry has been criticized for the environmental impacts of their ships such as carbon emissions, air pollution, disposal of sewage and wastewater, and oil spills.[29][30] There have been technological advancements such as dockside electric power that can help reduce a ship’s emissions, but they have not been widely adopted in the industry.[29] The shipping industry specifically is said to produce a greater amount of air pollution due to its widespread use of bunker fuel.[31] This campaign has worked to pressure the International Maritime Organization to tighten and enforce international ship emissions standards including the Polar Code.[31][32] There is also a campaign to support and protect National Marine Sanctuaries and a campaign to stop the proposed increase in the export of fossil fuels from the Pacific Northwest.[33]

Economic Policy

Friends of the Earth, US rally in Ecuador against Chevron.

This project works to change the United States and international economic policy to be more environmentally friendlyand supportive of human rights.[34] The Earth Budget campaign works to revise the U.S. tax code in a way that can benefit the environment.[35] It protests subsidies for fossil fuel industries and other environmentally destructive practices.[35] The campaign also works to divert federal funds for sustainable energy and public health programs.[35] Work in this area also looks at international trade agreements and regulations.[34] The organization is protesting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which it claims could result in provisions that could jeopardize the environment as well as consumer rights.[36][37] They are concerned about deregulation of mining, land use and biotechnology, among other things.[36] The campaign also protests the investment chapters of trade agreements, which in the past has allowed corporations to sue governments if they assert that government regulations hinder their potential profits.[36] Lawsuits of this type include Renco v. Peru, Chevron v. Ecuador and Metalclad v. Mexico.[36] The campaign also targets some World Trade Organization agreements that are said to strike down environmental regulation to encourage profits.[38][39]

There is also a campaign to reduce the role of corporate funding in political elections and the corruption it can potentially cause.[40] It is specifically concerned with the contributions of groups like the fossil fuels lobby, who sometimes try to influence environmental legislation.[40] Friends of the Earth U.S. advocates for the use of public funds in the electoral process to lessen the influence of corporate interests.[40] Another campaign advocates for the use of public funds from developed countries to help developing countries cope with the effects of climate change and adopt sustainable practices.[41] The organization suggests the use of a Robin Hood tax, which would tax transactions in the financial sector, to fund this venture.[41] They also support revising the tax code to close offshore tax havens and similar loopholes.[41] The campaign also aims to make sure that the Green Climate Fund, recently established by the UNFCCC, is socially just and sustainable.[42]

In 2012, Friends of the Earth partnered BankTrack to assess the environmental and social standards of the China Development Bank. Because of China’s growing role in international development finance, the bank is the world’s largest development bank by total assets.[43] The report examines how funds were raised and distributed, includes case studies and outlines best practices for development banks. Although the framework of the report criticized the bank’s involvement in environmentally harmful projects, the report also recognized the potential of the bank to finance environmentally beneficial projects.

Recent achievements

Friends of the Earth U.S. has claimed victories on a number of issues in recent years.[43] In 2013, they successfully campaigned to permanently shut down the San Onofre nuclear power plant in southern California.[8] The same year, they successfully pressured MidAmerican Energy Company to abandon its plans to build new nuclear power reactors in Iowa; it instead announced a new $1.9 billion investment to expand to its wind generation fleet.

After Friends of the Earth campaigned against the genetic engineering genetically engineered Arctic Apple, in 2013 McDonald's and Gerber pledged not to sell or use the product. The organization has also consistently protested the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.[8] This campaign, along with the efforts of other protestors and environmental organizations, helped to pressure the Obama administration to order a new review of the potential environmental impacts of the pipeline in 2012, further delaying its construction.[8] The same year, they backed a bill drafted by Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Keith Ellison which aimed to cut federal subsidies for the oil industry.[8]

Friends of the Earth U.S. also worked with other environmental organizations to pressure major grocery store chains such as Safeway,Kroger and Whole Foods Market to pledge to not sell AquAdvantage genetically engineered salmon, should it receive FDA approval.[8] In 2012 the Emission Control Area, which restricts airborne emissions from ships in certain sea areas, went into effect in North America after Friends of the Earth U.S. advocated for it for many years.[8] Friends of the Earth also successfully advocated for a ban on the dumping of sewage and other wastewater from cruise ships and large ocean-going vessels in the five west coast National Marine Sanctuaries. Friends of the Earth U.S. also campaigned against the release of genetically engineered mosquitoes in Key West, Florida, and sued the FDA to further study the potential toxicity of nanomaterials in some sunscreens and other cosmetic products.[8]


  • Friends of the Earth Action (FoE Action) is the political and legislative sister organization to Friends of the Earth U.S. Friends of the Earth Action makes thoughtful political endorsements, provide direct support to candidates, and place environmentalists in the field for critical campaigns.
  • The Citizens Trade Campaign (CTC) was founded in 1992 in response to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), aiming to reform free trade policies. Friends of the Earth is one of eighteen national member organizations.
  • The Green Scissors Campaign and report are published by Friends of the Earth and Taxpayers for Common Sense. The report, written in collaboration with other environmental, taxpayer and consumer groups, outlines how the government can eliminate harmful agriculture, energy, infrastructure and public lands projects.
  • Friends of the Earth was one of the founding campaign members of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics in 2002. The Campaign seeks to phase out the use of chemicals in health and beauty products to protect the health of consumers and workers.

See also



  1. "About Us". Friends of the Earth. Retrieved 11 March 2015. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "What we stand for". Friends of the Earth. Retrieved 11 March 2015. 
  3. "Projects". Friends of the Earth. Retrieved 11 March 2015. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 "The Decline and Fall of Friends of the Earth in the United States". Retrieved 11 March 2015. 
  6. "The Big Bad Bank - Presented by George Washington Hunt". Retrieved 11 March 2015. 
  7. "History". Retrieved 11 March 2015. 
  8. 8.00 8.01 8.02 8.03 8.04 8.05 8.06 8.07 8.08 8.09 8.10 8.11 8.12 "Achievements". Friends of the Earth. Retrieved 11 March 2015. 
  11. "Climate and Energy". Friends of the Earth. Retrieved 11 March 2015. 
  12. "Tar sands". Friends of the Earth. Retrieved 11 March 2015. 
  13. "Keystone XL pipeline". Friends of the Earth. Retrieved 11 March 2015. 
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 "Shutting down Diablo Canyon". Friends of the Earth. Retrieved 11 March 2015. 
  16. 16.0 16.1 "Biofuels". Friends of the Earth. Retrieved 11 March 2015. 
  17. 17.0 17.1 "Climate negotiations". Friends of the Earth. Retrieved 11 March 2015. 
  18. "Food and Technology". Friends of the Earth. Retrieved 11 March 2015. 
  19. "Synthetic biology". Friends of the Earth. Retrieved 11 March 2015. 
  20. "No Synbio Vanilla". Friends of the Earth. Retrieved 11 March 2015. 
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 "Genetic engineering". Friends of the Earth. Retrieved 11 March 2015. 
  23. 23.0 23.1 "Nanotechnology". Friends of the Earth. Retrieved 11 March 2015. 
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 25.3 25.4 25.5 "Bee Action campaign". Friends of the Earth. Retrieved 11 March 2015. 
  27. "Oceans and Forests". Friends of the Earth. Retrieved 11 March 2015. 
  28. 28.0 28.1 "International forests". Friends of the Earth. Retrieved 11 March 2015. 
  29. 29.0 29.1 29.2 "Cruise ships". Friends of the Earth. Retrieved 11 March 2015. 
  31. 31.0 31.1 "Oceangoing vessels". Friends of the Earth. Retrieved 11 March 2015. 
  33. "National marine sanctuaries". Friends of the Earth. Retrieved 11 March 2015. 
  34. 34.0 34.1 "Economics for the Earth". Friends of the Earth. Retrieved 11 March 2015. 
  35. 35.0 35.1 35.2 "Earth Budget Campaign". Friends of the Earth. Retrieved 11 March 2015. 
  36. 36.0 36.1 36.2 36.3 "Trade". Friends of the Earth. Retrieved 11 March 2015. 
  38. "World Trade Organization". Friends of the Earth. Retrieved 11 March 2015. 
  40. 40.0 40.1 40.2 "Clean elections for a clean planet". Friends of the Earth. Retrieved 11 March 2015. 
  41. 41.0 41.1 41.2 "Climate finance". Friends of the Earth. Retrieved 11 March 2015. 
  42. "International finance". Friends of the Earth. Retrieved 11 March 2015. 
  43. 43.0 43.1 "Updates: news releases and updates". Friends of the Earth. Retrieved 11 March 2015. 

External links

Template:U.S. anti-nuclear