Quote of the Day

This is from a speech given by Adam Werbach, former head of the Sierra Club. It’s an interesting speech, and worth thinking about, but this quote about funders cracks me up (italics mine):

On a blustery day in New York City two years ago, I sat across the table at a noodle shop from Peter Teague, the director of the Environment Program at the Nathan Cummings Foundation. It was a restaurant that only New York could produce with perfect, spicy food on the table and a strange stickiness on the walls. I was just getting to know Peter, in the way that grant-seekers get to know grant-makers. These are always surreal encounters. You are expected to pretend to be the program officer’s friend and make small talk, tell them how smart they are for their other grants, which you’ve researched, and then show them how your program fits into their narrow grant guidelines. I call it the bingo gigolo experience. After having gone five years and raising a lot of money since I left the Sierra Club, I decided to finally just be honest.
“Peter,” I said, “Environmentalism is dead. There won’t be environmental programs at foundations in five years. I have some ideas of where we should go, but truthfully I don’t think anyone knows what to do right now.”
It seemed like the silence lasted for an hour; Peter, a lawyer, veteran foundation officer, former congressional policy maker, just looked at me. And — I kid you not — a cockroach fell onto the table from somewhere above. It looked at me.
I looked down into my soup immediately, feeling guilty that I had told the truth out loud — and even worse, to a funder. I can tell you from all of my grant training, that telling someone that what they’re doing is irrelevant doesn’t generally get you many grants. Lyn and I had just gotten married, and we were talking about having a kid. This was not the time to attack the customer — and that’s what foundations and donors and direct mail consultants are, the customers that pay the salaries of the environmental elite.

Tears of a clown, actually.

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1 Response to Quote of the Day

  1. SkookumPlanet says:

    Mad Mike
    A year of sciblogs writing has passed and I’m ending, at least for many months or longer, my serious fun here.
    I found this scrolling through your old posts. I read Werbach’s piece in Oct. ’05. I googled looking for the text of Shellenberger’s and Nordhaus’s Death of Environmentalism and found it, Grist, and the huge response to it there. In Nov. my response to the response, an 80-page essay, ensued which eventually led me here to do this, er, that, now.
    I’m amazed the sciblogs crew has any time to write, let alone write so well. This was an stand-out year for me personally and part of that was the book-length text I wrote! I hope it’s been useful to others because that was the point.
    Keep up the good work. Every ounce is needed. In many ways we’re smarter than our opposition. Now, if we would only act smarter . . .

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