It is a cliché: People who live in glass houses should not throw stones. But it is an altogether fitting one for events that are suddenly unfolding in North Carolina.
A coalition of area environmental groups is organizing a forum this Friday at the University of North Carolina Wilmington as part of what seems to be a benign effort to raise concerns over the growing wood-products industry in North Carolina.
The groups hosting the event, including Dogwood Alliance and the Southern Environmental Law Center, contend that they are motivated by concerns over damage they claim is being done to the environment by industry, particularly the forestry products industry.
As a progressive who supports environmental causes, I generally applaud most reasonable efforts to improve the quality of our air, water, land and other natural resources, especially after crisis in Flint, Michigan, and “Cancer Alley” in Mississippi. But as an African American, I am wary of the dark sources of so much of the funding for groups like the Dogwood Alliance and the Southern Environmental Law Center.
As I and others have written in the past, a number of environmental groups have received millions of dollars from wealthy donors who believe that restriction on immigration and population control are solutions to our environmental problems. The groups include the North Carolina based Dogwood Alliance and Southern Environmental Law Center.
One controversial donor is Fred Stanback Jr., a multi-millionaire from Salisbury, North Carolina and self-styled environmentalist who believes that restriction on immigration and population control can make our planet more environmentally sound.
Stanback has been a major funder of groups like the Dogwood Alliance and the Southern Environmental Law Center – sometimes directly and sometimes indirectly. At the same time, he is supporting a network of groups that share his more dangerous views on immigration and population control.
Much of his financial support for such groups flows through the Foundation for the Carolinas, one of the most respected philanthropic organizations in the region and beyond.
On the surface, The Foundation for the Carolinas is an unlikely intermediary, given its history of supporting laudable causes, from colleges and churches to programs for the poor.
Stanback has apparently employed the Foundation to achieve his ends because the foundation is a so-called donor-advised fund that gives donors the ability to recommend how their donations are spent.
The Foundation has provided $15 million over the last decade to fund anti-immigration groups like NumbersUSA, Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), the Los Angeles Times has reported. Some of these anti-immigrant groups, such as FAIR, are labeled as extremist “hate groups” by watchdogs such as the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
In addition, the Foundation has also contributed $25 million to groups supporting population control, according to a review by the Los Angeles Times of the organization’s tax records and other documents.
In that context, I have concerns about the groups behind Friday’s forum which is seemingly designed to raise questions about “social issues” of the wood-products industry, which may in fact have legitimate issues that do need to be addressed.
In particular, I find it troubling that since 2014 the Dogwood Alliance has taken in $2 million from Foundation for the Carolinas, while the Southern Environmental Law Center has taken $57 million from the Foundation. In that same period, Stanback gave the Foundation $397 million, underscoring the critical role he plays in financing foundation and non-profit giving, according to tax records.
Groups who do not share the same hateful views of these anti-immigration groups but do share the same funding source have an obligation to disavow purveyors of hate – as well as an obligation to stop accepting money from individuals who mask a sinister agenda with claims of concern over the environment.
For the sake of all Americans – and the credibility of the environmental movement — these groups should stand up against these dark forces now before it is too late.
And maybe these groups should stop throwing stones until they get their own houses in order.