Friends of the Earth

FRIENDS OF THE Earth (FoE) is a nongovernmental organization that focuses on the relationships between human rights, social justice, and environmental issues. The vision for FoE is "of a peaceful and sustainable world based on societies living in harmony with nature." FoE implements this vision by campaigning, undertaking education and awareness-raising programs, and by building networks and collaborations from grassroots to global levels. Founded in 1961, FoE's inaugural members included France, Sweden, England, and the United States. By 1981, a small International Secretariat had been established, and by 1983, FoE had 25 members, with an Executive Committee that worked on the issues in between meetings. All new FoE groups must adhere to strict criteria, ensuring consistency across the world in FoE actions and campaigning. Today, there are over 68 Friends of the Earth member groups, both national and local, that work toward implementing the FoE vision. FoE operates as a federation of autonomous environmental organizations from all over the world, and has a membership of 1.5 million in 70 countries.

FoE has a history of initiating many campaigns across many issues. For example, during the 1970s, FoE negotiated and worked on a campaign that supported protection of various whale species, without destroying economic livelihoods. In the 1980s, FoE undertook a number of tropical rainforest campaigns that helped to highlight the changing circumstances of the world's indigenous peoples living in these areas. In Europe, FoE focused on issues such as the effect of acid rain, air pollution, packaging, and biotechnology. In these contexts, FoE has often acted as the third party in court cases, raising awareness of and trying to change outcomes of some developments. For example, in the case Friends of the Earth Inc., et al. v Laidlaw Environmental Services (TOC), Inc. 2000, heard in the U.S. Supreme Court, FoE filed a citizen suit against Laidlaw. FoE alleged that Laidlaw was noncompliant with a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit granted to Laidlaw and sought declaratory and injunctive relief and an award of civil penalties.

While FoE campaigns on many issues, it is currently prioritizing climate change, which it believes is the biggest environmental threat to the planet. Initiatives have included: demanding strong national emissions reductions target; bringing lawsuits against major polluters, such as oil corporations; challenging a number of big oil projects around the world projected to accelerate climate change; and joining forces with climate-affected communities to facilitate a global movement that will redress social and economic equity issues between and within countries.

For example, in 2003, FoE launched a Climate Justice program. This program involves supporting people, and initiating legal challenges to governments, related to climate change. Challenges to date have been: against the Bush administration's export credit bodies for not doing climate change accounting when providing monies for fossil fuel projects, and, in 2004, against the German government for its lack of transparency in fossil fuel projects. FoE is also working with indigenous peoples, such as the Inuit, who are developing a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights against the United States, for violations of human rights due to climate change, especially in the areas of property, culture, and subsistence.

Finally, in 2006, FoE members from 51 groups gathered at the International Conference on Climate Change in Abuja, September 28-29, 2006, culminating in the Abuja Declaration. This document recognizes that in the context of climate change, there is a need to work toward alternative energy sources, and to pursue a different vision of an energy future. This vision incorporates the principles of abandoning the belief in export-led growth in favor of servicing local (basic) needs; restructuring the price and production of energy; developing a new approach to restructuring ownership of the energy regimes; and abandoning what FoE terms the "mistaken dichotomy" between development and environment.

The declaration calls on governments of all nations to take action on developing an alternative future. This includes calls for a global moratorium on new oil and gas exploration and development until full eco-resto-ration and reparations are implemented in communities already impacted by extractive industries, and for governments to develop cleaner energy sources.

SEE ALSO: Developing Countries; Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs); Oil, Production of.

BIBLIOGRAPHY. Friends of the Earth, (cited September 2007); Michael A. Toman and Brent Sohngen, Climate Change (Ashgate Publishing, 2004).

Melissa Nursey-Bray Australian Maritime College Rob Palmer Research Strategy Training

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