Wildflowers of the Pribilof Islands


Deeply embedded within grass-roots activism is the
adversarial nature of environmental defense, and the
oppositional role of the small non-profit organization
in calling attention to violations of public trust,
degradation of sensitive lands, and the pollution of air
and waterways.  Public demonstrations and advocacy
for environmental protection are known to elicit strong
opposition from commercial interests whose publicity fre-
quently trivializes activists as, "tree-huggers", "foes", or
"environmental scolds".   Other, more incriminating,
accusations follow when grass-roots leaders expose large-
scale assaults upon public health, or existing land-use
policies.  It is then conservation groups are likely to be
labeled "lawsuit extremists", "liberal wackos", or

When commercial interests acquire influence over broadcast
media through the release of politicized innuendo, or
inflammatory rhetoric, small environmental organizations with
limited resources find it difficult to respond effectively.   
Without funds for damage control and community outreach,
small and struggling groups become suspect and quickly
lose credibility and support.  Their slender budgets leave
few resources for countering dismissive or demeaning
attacks by corporate developers, local industry, or elected


The isolation of grass-roots protest groups, whether
through fear mongering, or other special-interest
strategies, effectively deprives local leaders of predictable
funding and they are soon excluded  from meetings and
contacts with city officials and urban planners.  Exhausted
grass-roots budgets may no longer underwrite town-hall
meetings, or finance public interest protests.  Without
adequate funds, community leaders are unable to initiate the
restraining orders necessary to halt traffic gridlock, air and
water pollution, or industrial encroachment upon open
space, residential areas, or ecological systems.  

With visibility diminished, and resources lacking for
even the most basic administrative necessities
(office supplies, telephones, or postal and internet             
services), grass-roots operations are either put on
hold, or permanently abandoned.  Lacking the vigilance  of
grass-roots leaders, the wheels of urban expansion are free
to advance into vulnerable areas, degrading natural
resources, jeopardizing health, and threatening the
extinction of indigenous species.


Even the scientific principles underlying grass-roots
efforts to protect the public are frequently subverted by
corporate or municipal influence, engendering a deep sense
of failure and futility among group leaders and their
Reference:   Environmental Science Derailed.
Failure of conscience and accountability by elected officials
to uphold public health and safety standards is widely
reflected in medical studies conducted within various
high-risk zones.  An important  function of The Environmental
Relief Center is the broad dissemination of research data
confirming the presence of hazardous conditions within local
communities.  To better facilitate public awareness and
response, the Center is also helping to develop working
alliances among conservationists, the health sciences, and
the field of environmental law.


Open space and local natural resources become
vulnerable to exploitation and pollution when grass-
roots voices are lost to public debate.   Not only do
neighborhoods and stake-holders lose dependable
advocates for environmental protections, they also
lose visibility and representation at city hall.  
When distrust of grass-roots organizations is reinforced
through media neglect, or unfounded accusations, and
nonprofit groups are deprived of customary funding,
leadership options become severely limited.  It is well
understood that grass-roots organizations must expend
a great deal of energy simply maintaining visibility in their


(a)  When televised reports of land-use conflicts  
are initiated by special interests, media coverage rarely
elaborates on the environmental crises at stake, failing to
thoroughly investigate and inform the public of substantive
commercial assaults upon public health, local resources, and
sensitive lands.

(b)  Following initial announcements of studies identifying
environmental hazards in high-risk zones, it is rare that news
reports refer to the medical and civic neglect of locally
identified populations suffering from chronic illness or

(c)  When town-hall meetings and demonstrations attract
large community groups, media attention is generally
focused on the confrontational sound-bite, or the
street-scene photo-op, rather than reports of environmental
hazards which are impacting local residents.  

(d)  In attempting to diffuse grass-roots controversy,  
commercial polluters are known to dispatch biased and
defensive accounts to the media, often touting civic
benefits, jobs, and renewed prosperity while claiming
victimization by "radical" environmentalists.  Such distortions
frequently appear verbatim in the media without
investigative reference to traffic gridlock, air and water
pollution, resource depletion, urban density, health impacts,
and other critical issues of public concern.   There is little
exploration of the technologies and environmental  
alternatives which would lead to innovative job growth, new
sources of revenue, and quality of life improvements.  


Land-use attorneys often resist the inclusion of local
conservationists in city-planning decisions.  Along with
highly paid lobbyists and corporate underwriters, land-use  
attorneys are known to function independently of the
democratic process, often working behind the scenes to
establish an
"alternative government" at city hall.  Closed-
door meetings which avoid public debate substantially
reduce local opposition, and predictable campaign
contributions assure the cooperation of elected officials.  
Such strategies clearly enhance the influence of those who
pay to play.
 "The Player" by Lewis MacAdams
It is well documented that large and unethical law-suit
settlements initiated by corporate interests have often
influenced grass-roots organizations to endorse the urban
sprawl they have previously opposed.
"Environmentalists Pay Price for Compromise"
"Court Sanctioned Secrets"
The Environmental Relief Center
Studio City, CA 91604
(818) 762-5852

G R A S S-R O O T S     D I L E M M A S
Photos from the Arctic Circle