The green movement is “out-of-touch, ineffective and bureaucratic”, according to the campaigner who spent a decade leading Friends of the Earth in the UK , which celebrates its 40th anniversary on Wednesday.
“Worryingly, in every major green group, managers, administrators, communicators and fundraisers outnumber campaigners and researchers. Interminable meetings, not action, are the order of most days,” wrote Charles Secrett, FoE executive director until 2003, in an article for the Guardian. He estimates UK groups like FoE, Greenpeace, RSPB and WWF, which have millions of members, spend over £100m a year. His comments have drawn an angry response from those leading today’s groups.
With climate change having dropped down the international political agenda, and the global financial crisis prompting leaders and businesses to question green spending, the environmental movement is at an impasse, argued Secrett.
“The evidence of failure is there for all to see, as environmental problems are getting worse, not better.” Previous dips during recessions have seen the movement bounce back stronger than before, he said, but warned: “It is very tough now. There is no time left as the degradation of the environment has reached a tipping point.”
Secrett praised new groups like UK Uncut, which has taken direct action on tax avoidance, and online campaigns like 38 Degrees. But he said groups, new or old, running their own single-issue campaigns in parallel would never achieve the critical mass needed to push humanity onto the path of sustainable development, by tackling global warming and the loss of habitats and the animals and plants in them.