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Established in Michigan in 1987, the Beldon Fund was originally financed by William Upjohn and John R. Hunting, the founders of Steelcase, a manufacturer of office furniture. John R. Hunting is the Beldon Fund's current Chairman of the Board. He is also one of the leading contributors to so-called "527 organizations" in the United States today. Mr. Hunting has made contributions to such 527 organizations as America Votes ($125,000); New Democratic Network ($120,000); the League of Conservation Voters Action Fund ($100,000); the State Conservation Voters Action Fund ($98,000); and Grassroots Democrats ($50,000).
One of the Beldon Fund's notable Trustees was Patricia Bauman, who is also the Manager of the Bauman Family Foundation, a board member of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a member of the Pew Environmental Health Commission, and the Chairman of the Preamble Center. Another Trustee is Gene Karpinski, who also serves as the Executive Director of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.
According to its mission statement, the Beldon Fund sought "to build a national consensus to achieve and sustain a healthy planet" by means of "supporting effective, nonprofit advocacy organizations." The Fund's philanthropy was directed primarily toward organizations committed to the anti-capitalist agendas of radical environmentalism, whose ultimate goal, as writer Michael Berliner has explained, is "not clean air and clean water, [but] rather . . . the demolition of technological/industrial civilization."
The Beldon Fund focused its support on two program areas:
The "Key States" program earmarked considerable sums for environmentalist organizations based in what the Fund considers key, or crucial, states -- particularly Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina and Wisconsin -- which "hold the key to bringing about rapid, real change on environmental issues and policy in the United States."
The Beldon Fund's other area of emphasis, the "Human Health and the Environment" program, was subdivided into three areas of grantmaking: (1) New Advocates ("to encourage new-constituency groups to speak out, become advocates for environmental health, and work for lasting improvement in health protections"); (2) Human Exposure to Toxic Chemicals (strives, through the use of mass media, to warn the public about what it considered the dangers of pesticides that farmers use in their work); and (3) Environmental Justice (to "train a cadre of young leaders from the environmental justice movement in advocacy skills, and to provide them with the tools they need to lead the diverse constituencies engaged in environmental issues”).The term "environmental justice" first entered the activist lexicon in 1982, when protest groups tried to block a hazardous waste landfill. The concept has since broadened to embrace the idea that environmental justice is necessary to remedy the racism that allegedly pervades every facet of American society, including air pollution, water pollution, and the ill effects of hazardous-waste disposal practices—all of which supposedly take a disproportionate toll on black and minority communities. For more than a decade, sensational references to "racial genocide" and "cancer alleys" abounded in the media. By 1992, there were at least ten minority-based environmental groups denouncing the "radioactive colonialism" and "garbage imperialism" that ostensibly threatened black lives everywhere. Two years later, President Clinton issued an executive order directing every federal agency to make the enforcement of "environmental justice" a top priority. Empirical evidence has since shown that all of the early studies claiming to have found evidence of environmental racism made critical methodological errors; and that not only is it untrue that hazardous-waste landfills tend to be situated near minority neighborhoods, but fully 78 percent are in areas with more white than nonwhite residents.
One notable Beldon Fund donee was the Environmental Grantmakers Association (EGA), an umbrella group of approximately 180 member organizations, among which are such corporate members as Atlantic Richfield Oil Company, American Express Company, Chevron Oil and Chemical Company, General Electric, IBM Corporation, Merck Chemical Company, and Turner Broadcasting. The membership of such corporations in the EGA is notable because the environmentalist movement typically criticizes these very companies for being "corporate polluters."
In its later years, the EGA spent vast sums of money on efforts aimed at discrediting the "Wise Use Movement" (WUM) -- an initiative (first developed in the late 1980s) of farmers, ranchers, fishermen, mineral prospectors, timber workers, motorized recreation vehicle clubs, miners, trappers, property rights groups, and others whose livelihoods are contingent on the availability of natural resources. The WUM advocates responsible use of natural resources, and stands opposed to the radical environmentalists' wish to cripple or destroy entire industries whose activities center around such resources.
In 1992 the EGA held a closed-door meeting titled "The Wise Use Movement: Threats and Opportunities." This seminar's participants brainstormed ways in which they could publicly characterize the WUM as a hodgepodge of "command and control, top-heavy corporate-funded front groups," and talked of ways to compare it in the public eye with the Unification Church, the John Birch Society, Lyndon LaRouche, and other extreme movements.
Among the Beldon Fund's many leftist grantees were: Alliance for Justice; Defenders of Wildlife; Earth Day Network; Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund; Earth Share; the Environmental Defense Fund; Environmental Media Services; the Environmental Working Group; Friends of the Earth; Greenpeace; the League of Conservation Voters; the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. (global warming); the National Religious Partnership for the Environment; the National Wildlife Federation; the Natural Resources Defense Council; Physicians for Social Responsibility; Project Vote; the Proteus Fund; Public Citizen; the Sierra Club; the Tides Foundation and the Tides Center; the Union of Concerned Scientists; the USAction Education Fund; the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG); the Waterkeeper Alliance; and the Wilderness Society.
The Beldon Fund closed down its operations in 2009.
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