Ford Motor Company Funds Environmental Activists

And lobbies for Higher Gas Taxes while the Ford Foundation Funds Palestinian Organizations.

The Paragon Foundation Press Release
Alamogordo, New Mexico
For Immediate Release

By Laura Schneberger
Article made possible by a public education grant from the Paragon Foundation

It is hard to imagine Henry Ford approving the direction his great grandson is taking the once proud Ford Motor Company. While the Ford product is still an outstanding purchase for its durability and usability – the common man can no longer justify the expense of owning one.

It’s not that the vehicles are out of a working stiff’s price range; the fact of the matter is, many Ford fans feel contributing to the success of Ford Motor Company is simply not in their best interest. Many Ford owners belong to the nations agricultural community and Ford has recently changed its social activism agenda to exclude concern for the welfare and livelihood of rural Ford buyers. This major focus on social change began when Bill Ford, Jr. took over as CEO of Ford Motor Company just a little over a year ago.

In February, 2001, Ford provided the National Audubon Society with a 5 million dollar grant. Ford Motor Company says the grant was intended to fund environmental education and bird monitoring projects. Farmers and ranchers along the Klamath Basin know Audubon as one of the biggest of the non-government organizations that joined in the suit to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to shut down water in the Klamath Basin, in April of this year, to protect the suckerfish. A move that deprived over 1400 families of their livelihoods, will eventually cost them their homes and turn the area into a dustbowl. A move that destroyed habitat and killed countless species of birds dependent on the areas wildlife preserve. Klamath Falls is only the latest in a series of Audubon victims.

Laura Busby, of Marion, Arkansas says she will never buy another Ford. She told the company, "You should know that the Audubon society and the Sierra Club sued to stop the Main River Levee Project in the Mississippi River Delta. Ms. Busby predicts 4.5 million people have been put at risk because of the suit. "Allowing the Mississippi to flood naturally will cause a disaster that will take 300 billion dollars to clean up after," she says.

It doesn’t end there; the Ford Foundation also funds the Center for Watershed and Community Health in Oregon. One of the major goals of this organization is to ensure the survival of the dubiously endangered Coho salmon. Klamath Falls farmers, like Stanley Meager, are undoubtedly familiar with this organization. In a May 15th letter to Ford, Mr. Meager told the company, "I have been a Ford man all my life, I am now 59 years old, but that has come to an end. You are supplying my enemies with the means to destroy my home and my way of life, I refuse to aid in this travesty of injustice."

Ford also gave 10 million to the international headquarters of the Forest Stewardship Council. The grant was provided to expand its forest certification program. "This major grant will strengthen our ability to expand holistic forest stewardship worldwide and to meet the growing demand for FSC certified products," said FSC Executive Director, Maharaj Muthoo. "It also assures that this work will continue to contribute not only to preserving the planet’s living legacy but also to improving the lives and incomes of millions of people in forest dependant communities."

Lofty goals, but according to a list of certified forests compiled on their web site, the FSC has consistently refused to certify federal land forests in the United States. Removal of timber harvest, from the Pacific Northwest down through the Southwest, has devastated thousands of individuals, wreaked economies, and created poverty in forest dependant communities. When a forest is certified by FSC it is deemed environmentally correct and supposedly, will have a better market for lumber than a forest that is uncertified. A lot of power for a non-government organization to be wielding.

Each year The Ford Foundation sends over 30 million dollars to environmentally friendly, non-government organizations. NGOs like the Rainforest Alliance initiative, Ecotrust, Certified Forest Products Council, World Wildlife Federation, Environmental Defense Fund, Environmental Law Alliance, and Environmental Justice Fund, all have acted in ways that have had a profound negative impact on the rural economies of the United States.

On February 8, 2000, John Elkington, Chairman of Sustainability, a leading global organization counseling companies on the subject of sustainability, interviewed Bill Ford, Chairman of the Board of Ford Motor Company, about Ford’s corporate responsibility:

Mr. Elkington asks, "Didn’t Ford try to lobby for higher gasoline taxes several years back?"

BF: "Yes, we did."

JE: "Were you surprised it didn’t work politically?"

BF: "No. Sadly, there’s no political will to do that."

JE: "Would you try again?"

BF: "We certainly would support it. The real issue, though, is that we can’t be in the business of dictating what the customer wants to buy. What we can do is make sure that whatever customers buy is done as responsibly as it possibly can. I’ll give you an example, the Excursion, which many environmentalists point to as the ultimate bad vehicle. The Sierra Club affectionately calls it ‘the Ford Valdez.’"

Bill Ford happily admits to a long association with environmental organizations, even the radical ones. He was a key speaker at the 5th Annual Greenpeace Business conference in London, where he made it clear who he was. He states, "We’re at a crucial point in the world’s history. Our oceans and forests are suffering, species are disappearing and the climate is changing. Around the world, billions of our fellow human beings lack the most basic requirements of health and dignity."

Since Bill ford took over as Chairman of Ford Motor Company another startling fact has come to light. Among the hundreds of grants given out by the Ford Foundation every year and recorded in the Ford Foundation grants database, the year of 2001 showed a dramatic increase in funding for Palestinian organizations. There are at least 20 Palestinian organizations in the Foundations database. Though many are legitimate beneficiaries of corporate funding, several of them cannot be reached since the September attack on the nation’s airlines, the Pentagon, and the World Trade Center.

In this time of uncertainty, Ford and other cooperate philanthropists, need to be clear on whom they are funding.

The 40,000-dollar grant Ford gave to the West Banks Hawwa Center for Culture and Arts, purpose was to strengthen its ability to respond to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Ghada Abed Al-Hadai, the head of the Center has been publicly quoted as saying, "The current crucial situation demands a complete readiness for the next step towards Al-Aqsa Intifada." Mrs. Ghada mentioned the role of women in all the steps of the Palestinian struggle against the Israeli Occupation Forces.

Tamer Institute for Community Education (West Bank), located in Cairo Egypt, received 300,000 dollars from the Ford foundation in 2001. The purpose of this grant was to strengthen the role of young people as agents of social change within their communities. Though there is a link on the Foundation’s website to access the organization, it has recently become unavailable.

Ford Motor Company would probably plead ignorance and innocence to funding organizations that do not promote peace in the Middle East. Just as they have when confronted with the facts of what their environmental giving has done to rural America.

Bill Ford, in an interview with Time Magazine said, "For some companies, the issue is basic human rights. For Ford Motor Company, it will be revealed more subtly, as we explore our impact on communities beyond the gates of our factories or those of our suppliers. The landscape of accountability has changed and so has the criteria for leadership."

At this time, Ford Motor Company’s leadership certainly seems more inclined to care about the opinions of radical environmentalists and human rights in the Gaza Strip than the human rights of American citizens.

The views expressed in this article are not necessarily the views of the Paragon Foundation. This article is provided in the interest of public education. The Paragon Foundation may be reached at 1-877-847-3443.

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