Earth Island Institute

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The Earth Island Institute is non-profit environmental group founded in 1982 by David Brower.[1] Located in Berkeley, California, it supports activism around environmental issues through fiscal sponsorship that provides the administrative and organizational infrastructure for individual projects. As of 2010, Earth Island Institute's total net assets were $7.1 million.[2]

Earth Island Institute logo.

Earth Island Journal[edit]

Earth Island Institute publishes a quarterly periodical entitled Earth Island Journal. Content is largely dedicated to investigative pieces and showcases environmental grassroots movements. The publication has received industry awards for "uncovering stories ignored by larger media outlets." Funding for the journal is sustained through subscriptions and the Institute’s Green Journalism Fund.[3]

Earth Island Journal has been published by the institute for 20 years.[4] It includes environmental reporting and commentary from around the world.

Brower Youth Awards[edit]

Earth Island has presented the Brower Youth Awards, named for founder David Brower, to six young environmental leaders since 2000.[5]


The Borneo Project[edit]

The Earth Island Institute has taken on a number of projects, one of which is The Borneo Project, at the helm, director Jettie Ward.[6] The goal of the project is to provide international support for indigenous and locally led campaigns to protect rights in Borneo and to advocate for mechanisms that will support communities in conserving their forests.

In which case, it must be understood that The Borneo Project does not initiate its own campaigns, instead it responds to the needs of its local partners, to provide whatever support best suits their programmatic and campaign needs. This comes in the form of providing small grants, online actions, sign on letters, and international advocacy on forest and climate issues. The local partners and allies in Malaysia and Indonesia that The Borneo Project is in contact with include the Borneo Resources Institute (BRIMAS), Partners of Community Organisations (PACOS), Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM or Friends of the Earth Malaysia) and Uma Bawang Residents Association (UBRA).[7]

Borneo REDD program[edit]

One of the ongoing programs of The Borneo Project is conservation of the Earth's climate by supporting and working on international policy for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD). In Borneo, forests are being destroyed through logging and burning, releasing the climate-changing greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The destruction of forests is responsible for up to a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions – more than every plane, car, truck, ship, and train on the planet combined.[8] The Borneo REDD program is an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Borneo and alleviate poverty in the communities that live in and rely on the forests of Borneo.

REDD is currently only a small part of the global market for carbon, and REDD carbon credits are mostly sold to companies and people who are interested in reducing their emissions voluntarily.[9]

Dolphin-safe labeling[edit]

Earth Island Institute is the standard-bearer for dolphin-safe tuna labeling in the United States. The organization works on behalf of the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to certify or reject domestic tuna as dolphin-safe.[10][11]

Incubator projects[edit]

Earth Island Institute sponsors a number of fledgling activist groups which it refers to as "Incubator Projects." Many have gone on to become independent 501(c)(3) organizations while others remain under the umbrella of the institute. For example:

  • The Mangrove Action Project was originally part of the Earth Island Institute, but became a separate organization in March 2007.
  • In reverse, the Center for Safe Energy was an existing organization founded in 1989 that was subsequently assumed into the Earth Island Institute umbrella in 1995.

[5] Projects include:


2013 Solomon Islands dolphin massacre[edit]

In January 2013, Fanalei villagers on the island of Malaita in the Solomon Islands slaughtered close to 900 dolphins in retaliation for a payment dispute with Earth Island Institute. The dolphin slaughter occurred after villagers refused to renew a memorandum of understanding with Earth Island Institute that expired in April 2012.[12] Villagers claim EII promised them $2.4 million Solomon Island Dollars (about $335,000 U.S.) to stop trading dolphins and dolphin-derived products for two years, but only received $700,000.[12]

Chairman Atkin Fakaia of a local villagers' association claimed that villagers had to kill the dolphins to trade the meat and teeth for money to survive in the local economy. Earth Island Institute Director Lawrence Makili accused the association of mishandling the first $300,000 invested under the original MOU. Makili accused the villagers' association of seizing funds and failing to distribute them.[13][13]

Dolphin safe label[edit]

Earth Island Institute’s Dolphin Safe Label certification has come under increasing scrutiny as both the director of the Institute and its critics have called the program unmanageable: [14]

In an interview with Radio Australia last year, Mark Palmer of EII confirmed that it is mostly the case that EII monitors do not go on board of the vessels, and their organization does not have the kind of resources to put observers on the "many thousands" of ships that are out there catching tuna.[15]

Additionally, environmental groups have criticized Earth Island Institute’s support of U.S. policies that do not require independent, on-board observation and instead only rely on self-certification by fishing captains, and that even where they may at some point in the future require independent observers, the lack of uniformity in tracing and verifying certifications in different countries means non-certified products can become certified if they are simply taken to the right port.[16]

The program is additionally criticized for the broad confusion among U.S. consumers over the meaning of dolphin-safe labels. Studies suggest that as many as a quarter of U.S. consumers believe the term "dolphin-safe" means no dolphin meat is contained in the tuna can.[14]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]