Environmental Groups and Humanitarian Organizations

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Environmental groups and humanitarian organizations exist to help people and the planet they live on.

The following brief overviews profile conservation and environmental groups protecting the Earth from humanity’s inhumanities, and humanitarian organizations protecting its people from the same. It’s a mere sampling — an appetizer for the concerned — of the many deserving groups that, taken together, may represent a movement that could prove to be the plant and civilization’s only defense. If space allowed, we could continue the list almost indefinitely, because there are a great many fine groups out there. Please forgive us if your favorite cause isn’t represented here.

Read through the lot, and if your heart, head, and budget allow, feel free to adopt one or more of these movements by contributing financial or moral support.

Akwesasne Notes

Akwesasne Notes is a 32-page, magazine format, bimonthly newspaper serving as the official voice of the Mohawk People of Akwesasne (the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation) — an area that spans the New York/Ontario/ Quebec borders. Notes has been in print for 16 years and has readers on every continent.

The Akwesasne philosophy is so broad that it’s difficult to pigeonhole. Perhaps Mark Narsisian. the Notes business manager, best summarized it when he wrote, “It is our ancient philosophy as Iroquois People that all peoples of the Earth are entitled by right of birth to exist as diverse and distinct cultures.”

Akwesasne Notes editor Alex Karoniaktakie adds, “We seek a world unity through cultural diversity, not corporate conformity.”

Akwesasne Notes is a well-written, graphically appealing nonprofit publication concerned with furthering the rights and assuring the dignity of indigenous peoples worldwide. And it is dedicated to opposing the subjugation of Planet Earth to corporate financial whims.

Notes won numerous journalistic honors during the 1970’s and is a member of the Alternate Press Syndicate. U.S. subscriptions begin at $8 per year; Canadian rates start at $10. Readers who can afford it are asked to send a few dollars beyond the price of a subscription so that the paper can be provided free to those who can prove that they cannot afford to pay but nonetheless wish to be a part of the Akwesasne movement. Tax-deductible contributions (as opposed to subscription payments) should be made payable to Akwesasne Notes/The Youth Project.

Amnesty International

Amnesty International (AI) — the 1977 recipient of the Nobel peace prize — seeks the abolishment of torture and the release of prisoners detained by governments anywhere for their beliefs, ethnic origin, religion, or similar unsound reasons, provided the prisoners have neither used nor advocated violence. AI terms such persons “prisoners of conscience.”

The group’s work is based on the principle of international responsibility for the protection of human rights. Since its founding in 1961, AI has intervened on behalf of more than 20,000 prisoners in over a hundred countries. Since 1980, the organization has acted on 2,687 cases in 45 countries. Members send letters, cards, and telegrams to, and on behalf of, political prisoners. Group members also collect signatures for international petitions and raise money to send relief — such as medicine, food, and clothing — to prisoners and their families.

Worldwide, AI boasts 250,000 volunteers in 130 countries, with 13,000 Americans among their number.

Those who contribute any amount to AI receive three issues per year of AI-USA’s publication Matchbox. Memberships begin at $20 for an individual and $30 for a couple; members receive Matchbox plus eight issues annually of Amnesty Action, which highlights AI’s “prisoner of the month” — a person designated to receive a deluge of letters and attention from AI members.

The organization also publishes books. Its latest is Torture in the Eighties, available by mail for $5.95 plus $1.00 postage.

Earth First!

The Earth First! (always with the “!”) dictum is “No compromise in the defense of Mother Earth!” Dave Foreman, one of the founders (in 1980) of this “non-organization” and editor of Earth First!, the movement’s fine newspaper, summarizes the group’s stance:

“Our primary goal is the preservation of natural diversity. This means the development of an ethic of ‘deep ecology’ (biocentrism) and the withdrawal of human industrial civilization from vast areas (several-million-acre preserves) of Earth’s surface. Our biggest triumph to date was the successful nonviolent blockade of, and lawsuit against, the U.S. Forest Service’s efforts to construct the Bald Mountain logging road into the North Kalmiopsis Roadless Area in Oregon.

“Being a non-organization, we don’t have membership rolls. We’re a movement: Earth First! are individuals, and each is his or her own leader. There are no dues other than the $10 annual subscription to Earth First!, our newspaper, which is issued eight times a year, on the old European earth holidays. The paper is primarily a forum for the exchange of ideas on environmental activism. We pay no office rent, and no one gets a regular salary; all of our income goes into publishing Earth First! and funding environmental action. Contributions to our Earth First! Foundation are tax-deductible.”

For more insight into the history and workings of Earth First!’s brand of environmental concern, review Edward Abbey: Wilderness Writer and Explorer. And if you can find a copy of the December/January 1983 issue of Outside magazine, check out the article “The Real Monkey Wrench Gang.”

There can be no doubt that these men and women have the strength of their convictions. In a very real sense, they are heroes and heroines.

EnvironmentalAction Foundation

The Environmental Action Foundation (EAF) and its sister organization, Environmental Action, Inc. (a lobbying group), publish Environmental Action magazine. Their most recent coup was the disclosure last June, by EAF economist Richard E. Morgan, that American power companies are holding over $25 billion in unpaid federal taxes collected from ratepayers during the past 30 years. We’ll let Alden Meyer, EA director, tell the rest of the EA/EAF story:

“Environmental Action was founded in 1970 by the organizers of Earth Day. We have been a key group in all of the landmark environmental fights: against the SST, the B-1 bomber, and the Clinch River breeder reactor; and in support of the Clean Air and Clean Water acts, SuperFund, Occupational Safety and Health Act, Toxic Substances Control Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, and many others.

“One can join EA with a $15 membership contribution. This brings a year’s subscription (ten issues) to the highly acclaimed Environmental Action magazine and an opportunity to join EA’s activist list (people who are alerted when important environmental legislation hits Capitol Hill), as well as tree books and resources.

“Contributions to EA are not tax-deductible. However, many of our members make tax deductible contributions to our sister organization, EAF, which provides information and technical assistance to individuals and groups working on pollution and energy issues at the state and local levels.”


Like Earth First!, Greenpeace deserves special admiration: Its volunteers actually lay their freedom and lives on the line in an ongoing effort both to protect the environment and to draw public attention to critical ecological issues.

Greenpeace goals include a worldwide halt to the commercial slaughter of whales, dolphins, and seals; an end to the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the consequent generation of nuclear wastes; the protection of endangered species; the introduction and implementation of clean air regulations that will result in an end to acid rain; and an international ban on the dumping of hazardous wastes into the oceans.

On each of these issues (and many more), Greenpeace volunteers — operating with the financial and moral backing of Greenpeace members and supporters in the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Holland, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, and Canada — have made great progress. Greenpeace even has its own “eco-navy” — including everything from a fleet of inflatable rubber boats up to a converted minesweeper — which it deploys with skill and daring.

All donations to Greenpeace are tax-deductible, and donors will receive the Greenpeace Examiner (a quarterly newsmagazine), along with special information mailings and action alerts. There is no minimum donation required to qualify as a member.

This group of dedicated environmental workers most certainly lives up to its slogan, “Greenpeace puts itself on the line.” (How would you like to have irate whalers fire rifles and harpoons over your head while you are in a rubber raft, trying to disrupt their activities?)

National Parks andConservation Association

Since its establishment in 1919, the National Parks and Conservation Association (NPCA) has been both an advocate and constructive critic of the National Park System. (For example, in 1982 NPCA participated in a lawsuit that forced the NPS to remove from Mammoth Cave National Park a facility that was polluting the cave system.) We’ll let NPCA Program Assistant Kathy Sferra take it from here:

“NPCA has worked to preserve pristine natural ecosystems in national parks by opposing such incompatible uses as logging, mining, sport hunting, commercial development, dams and reservoirs, and unnecessary roads. NPCA is also working to strengthen the Clean Air Act.

“As an example of the many NPCA successes, in 1981 we learned that the National Park Service had been ordered by the Reagan administration to build a case to de-authorize at least five National Park System units. NPCA’s initiative led to oversight hearings in which Secretary Watt was forced to back down from his de-authorization plans.

“NPCA’s active members and supporters total more than 45,000. We publish a bimonthly magazine, National Parks, which is designed to educate its readers on current issues, environmental problems, and the beauty of our country’s parks. In addition to the magazine, members receive ‘Citizen’s Action Guides’ and `NPCAlerts’ on important issues. Dues range from $13 for students and senior citizens to $200 for sustaining membership. Regular associate memberships are $18. Dues in excess of $7 and all contributions are tax deductible.”

The Nature Conservancy

Since 1950, The Nature Conservancy and its 200,000+ members have been involved in the preservation of nearly two million acres of prime wildlife habitat in 50 U.S. states, the Virgin Islands, Canada, and the Caribbean. You may well ask just what do they do to “preserve” this land and its wild inhabitants?

Well, for the most part, they buy it. (Much is also donated and willed to them.) We like that approach; it could be compared to the activist tactics of Greenpeace and Earth First!, but instead of personal, physical action, the conservancy practices monetary environmental activism. It works.

The Nature Conservancy’s efforts are currently being focused on their monumental National Wetlands Conservation Project — a five-year, private/public effort to conserve endangered water-related ecosystems in the U.S. Start-up funding for the Wetlands Project was provided through a $25 million grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation (the largest grant ever made by a private foundation for conservation purposes), but the conservancy must raise an additional $50 million in public and private funds over the next five years.

If you wish to help, you can earmark contributions to go to either the Wetlands Project or the General Fund (the latter will be used to defray the organization’s ongoing operating expenses).

People forthe American Way

A censor is a man who knows more than he thinks you ought to. — Granville Hick

Formed in 1980, People For The American Way is a 100,000-member, nonpartisan educational organization whose purpose is to promote and protect the individual rights and personal freedoms of all Americans. Censorship is one of the group’s main areas of concern. Executive Director Anthony Podesta explains:

“Through mass media education campaigns and citizen action programs, People For promotes respect for diversity among Americans and opposes extremist proposals that would impose one narrow way of believing, thinking, working, and living on all people. We are committed to the basic promise of liberty and justice for all, individual freedom of thought and expression, religious liberty and separation of church and state, support for individual and family rights, and constitutional democracy — in short, majority rule with protection for dissenters and minorities.”

Contributions are tax-deductible and entitle you to receive the Quarterly Report, which keeps members up-to-date on the organization’s efforts. People For also offers Protecting the Freedom to Learn: A Citizen’s Guide (125 pages, $9.50 postpaid), which provides suggestions on how to support your public schools and libraries.

Planned Parenthood

The Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. (PPFA) is the nation’s largest nonprofit voluntary health agency. Its membership consists of an elected volunteer board of directors plus 191 affiliates. PPFA is a member of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, with member organizations in 95 countries and headquarters in London.

Planned Parenthood provides its services through more than 700 clinics located in communities throughout the country. These clinics offer women’s health services that include pregnancy testing, VD testing and treatment, birth control, pelvic and breast exams, pap smears, and medical consultation, plus premarital education, counseling, and referral services for both sexes. Planned Parenthood charges its patients on a sliding fee scale: The less income a woman has, the less she pays. As a result, thousands of people annually receive first-class diagnostic treatment, and these are largely women who otherwise would have to live (or die) without it.

PPFA depends on medical fees and contributions for its financial support, and relies heavily on volunteers to staff its programs. If you wish to volunteer your time, make a financial contribution, or avail yourself of Planned Parenthood services, contact the PPFA clinic nearest you or Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. 


SEEDS, a hunger-relief organization that was launched in 1977, publishes a magazine with the same name. We’ll let Gary Gunderson — SEEDS editor and one of the group’s founders — tell you about the organization’s work:

“SEEDS focuses on informing, mobilizing, and enlarging the community of people who respond to domestic and world hunger. Our office is on the top floor of a church, and we are unabashedly Christian, though many of our supporters hold opposing worldviews; relieving hunger is our reason for being.

We publish the bimonthly magazine SEEDS and the newsletter ‘Sprouts’. We also put out a few books — such as our current release, A Guide to World Hunger Organizations, which advises people how to give wisely. We offer workshops on providing shelter for the homeless and other practical relief measures. Everything SEEDS does offers a handle for personal response and action.

“SEEDS was honored in 1982 with the first annual Hunger Media Award for best magazine coverage of hunger issues. We mail SEEDS to just under 5,000 paid subscribers. Our readership has doubled during the Reagan administration years — at least in part because of the large numbers of hungry people showing up on America’s doorsteps. Our primary commitment for the coming year is to help mobilize the scale and type of response that can end Africa’s crushing hunger crisis and help move the African people toward the self-sufficiency they clearly would prefer to our charity.”

You can subscribe to SEEDS for $10 a year. Contributions over the subscription price are tax deductible. They’ll be happy to send you a sample copy for $1.00.

Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is the “biggie” of environmental groups. It was founded by John Muir in 1892 and currently boasts some 350,000 members, 54 grass-roots chapters, 298 special groups, 180 staff members, ten regional conservation committees, and ten field offices.

In a letter to members, President Denny Shaffer says, “The Sierra Club is truly a unique organization, combining environmental lobbying, litigation, outings, book publishing, and most important, grass-roots activism. The club’s work is accomplished, in large part, through the unpaid, volunteer activities of its members. In the past two years our membership has doubled,  making the Sierra Club the fastest-growing conservation group in the world. This tremendous growth is a testament not only to the club’s 92-year tradition of conservation effectiveness but also to the increased need for a strong Sierra Club: The Reagan administration has challenged virtually every program designed to protect our environment, wilderness areas, and public health.”

A complete list of the Sierra Club’s achievements would fill many more pages than we have available here. Its current legislative priorities include the reauthorization of the Clear Air and Clean Water acts, increasing the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency monitoring minerals leasing on public lands, and pushing through the largest number of wilderness bills (30) since the Wilderness Preservation Act of 1964.

Sierra Club membership is $29 per year and includes a subscription to the excellent Sierra magazine, plus a variety of special mailers and “action alerts,” which are published as needed.

Zero Population Growth

There are nearly 4.8 billion people crowding the world today. That figure represents a doubling since World War II. At the current rate of growth, the global population will double again within 40 years (it’s increased nearly 85 million in the last year alone).

Sound like a problem? Overpopulation is, in fact, the problem of our time …and the cause of a majority of the world’s other, lesser-by-comparison, troubles and threats. Someone should do something about it.

And someone is trying to. Zero Population Growth (now Population Connection) is now in its sixteenth year of struggling for reproductive sanity in the world. In 1968 when population biologist and writer Dr. Paul Erlich and a handful of other concerned people formed ZPG, the U.S. fertility rate (the average number of children per childbearing woman) was 2.5-or .5 above ‘`replacement level.” By the early 1980’s, the fertility rate had fallen to 1.8 …and ZPG played a large role in bringing about that reduction. But today the preponderance of teenage girls and older “baby boom” women having children is combining with a high immigration rate to reverse the trend — meaning that the U.S., contrary to popular belief, is not even close to reaching ZPG. It is, in fact, among the fastest-growing of industrialized nations.

ZPG believes that the well-being and even the survival of humanity depend on the attainment of a balance between the Earth’s resources, population, and the environment.

Membership is open to any and all 4.8 billion of us and is currently about 15,000. All contributions to ZPG are tax-deductible. And contributors receive the bimonthly newsletter “ZPG Reporter,” which contains information on the activities of the organization, as well as current population news. Members also receive action alerts, which inform ZPG’s network of activists about important population-related legislation being considered by Congress, and suggest ways for members to make their voices heard.