Friends of the Earth

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Friends of Earth
Friends of the Earth (logo).svg
Focus Environmentalism and Human rights
Area served
75 national member groups
some 5,000 local activist groups

Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) is an international network of environmental organizations in 74 countries.[2]

Friends of the Earth was founded in 1969 as an anti-nuclear group by Robert O Anderson[3] who contributed $200,000 in personal funds to launch FOTE with David Brower, Donald Aitken and Jerry Mander after Brower's split with the Sierra Club. FOTE main mission was to lock up and prevent further development of nuclear energy.[4][5] Their first employee was Amory Lovins, who kicked off FOE in the UK. It became an international network in 1971 with a meeting of representatives from the U.S., Sweden, the UK and France.[6] For further historical details, see articles on the national FOE organizations.

FoEI is assisted by a small secretariat (based in Amsterdam, Netherlands) which provides support for the network and its agreed major campaigns. The executive committee of elected representatives from national groups sets policy and oversees the work of the secretariat. In 2010, Nigerian activist Nnimmo Bassey was elected to serve as chair of Friends of the Earth International.[7]

Campaign issues[edit]

Friends of the Earth considers environmental issues in their social, political and human rights contexts. Their campaigns stretch beyond the traditional arena of the conservation movement and seek to address the economic and development aspects of sustainability. Originally based largely in North America and Europe, its membership is now heavily weighted toward groups in the developing world.

The current campaign priorities of Friends of the Earth internationally are:[8]

The campaign priorities are set at the bi-annual general meeting of Friends of the Earth International.

In addition to the priority campaign areas Friends of the Earth International has a number of other campaign areas which are active internationally. They include:[8]

All FoE International campaigns incorporate elements of three core themes which are:[8]

  • protecting human and environmental rights
  • protecting the planet's disappearing biodiversity
  • the repayment of ecological debt owed by rich countries to those they have exploited.

Friends of the Earth groups[edit]

'Friends of the Earth' workshop, at Nambassa Festival 1978, New Zealand.

The Friends of the Earth in each country are themselves many-tiered networks reaching from individual activists up to the national pressure group which campaigns for environmentally progressive and sustainable policies. The groups and activists at all levels also carry out educational and research activities.

Friends of the Earth groups are required to act independently of party political, religious or other influences; be open, democratic and non-discriminatory in their internal structures; and be willing to cooperate with other organizations who are working for the same goals.[11] These are conditions of remaining a member of FOEI.[12]

The national groups work on the main issues affecting their own country and choose to participate in the international campaigns of FoEI which are relevant to them. In turn, the local campaigners can work on local, national and/or international campaigns.

Structure of the network[edit]

The member organization in a particular country may name itself Friends of the Earth or an equivalent translated phrase in the national language, e.g., Friends of the Earth (US), Friends of the Earth (EWNI) (England Wales and Northern Ireland), Amigos de la Tierra (Spain and Argentina). However, roughly half of the member groups work under their own names, sometimes reflecting an independent origin and subsequent accession to the network, such as Korean Federation for Environmental Movement (KFEM), Environmental Rights Action (FOE Nigeria) and WALHI (FOE Indonesia).

Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) is supported by a secretariat based in Amsterdam, and an executive committee known as ExCom.[13] The ExCom is elected by all member groups at a general meeting held every two years, and it is the ExCom which employs the secretariat.[14] At the same general meeting, overall policies and priority activities are agreed.

In addition to work which is coordinated at the FoEI level, national member groups are free to carry out their own campaigns and to work bi- or multi-laterally as they see fit, as long as this does not go against agreed policy at the international level.


Meat Atlas
'Friends of the Earth' publication Meat Atlas includes graphs on the consumption and production of meat

Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappé, 1971

The Meat Atlas is an annual report on the methods and impact of industrial animal agriculture. The publication consists of 27 short essays and, with the help of graphs, visualises facts about the production and consumption of meat. The Meat Atlas is jointly published by Friends of the Earth and Heinrich Böll Foundation.[15]

Climate change[edit]

Notable supporters[edit]

  • Mark Gordon, Wyoming state treasurer was his state's representative to Friends of the Earth board in the early 1980s.
  • Jay Kay, frontman of the funk/acid jazz group Jamiroquai, is known for donating a part of the profits earned from his album sales to Friends of the Earth and Oxfam, among other things.
  • Dominique Voynet, who ran in the 1995 and 2007 French presidential elections in the "les verts" parti, or Green Party, is a member.
  • Thom Yorke, lead singer of Radiohead, has publicly supported a number of Friends of the Earth campaigns.

Support for The Big Ask[edit]

Among those present at the launch of Friends of the Earth (EWNI)'s climate change campaign The Big Ask were: Jude Law,[16] Edith Bowman, Siân Lloyd, Ross Burden, David Cameron, David Miliband, Thom Yorke, Stephen Merchant, Michael Eavis, and Emily Eavis.[17]

Member organizations[edit]

We are fed up
We are fed up!-protests: Friends of the Earth Germany is part of the coalition which organises the demonstration.[18]

Video clips[edit]


  • Brian Doherty and Timothy Doyle, Environmentalism, Resistance and Solidarity. The Politics of Friends of the Earth International (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2013). [5]
  • Jan-Henrik Meyer, “'Where do we go from Wyhl?' Transnational Anti-Nuclear Protest targeting European and International Organisations in the 1970s,” Historical Social Research 39: 1 (2014): 212-235. [6]


  1. ^ "Friends of the Earth International is proud to announce Jagoda Munić as our new chairperson". Friends of the Earth International. Retrieved 2012-11-14. 
  2. ^ "About Friends of the Earth International". Friends of the Earth International. Retrieved 2009-06-25. 
  3. ^ Gibson, Donald (2002-01-01). Environmentalism: Ideology and Power. Nova Publishers. pp. 64, 65, 86. ISBN 1-59033-149-4. Retrieved 2013-08-06. Robert O Anderson... provided seed money for the creation of Friends of the Earth 
  4. ^ Washington Hunt, George (2009). "The Big Bad Bank". Retrieved 2013-08-06. Robert O. Anderson contributed $200,000 in personal funds to launch the radical environmental group, Friends of The Earth 
  5. ^ Washington Hunt, George. The Big Bad Bank. Retrieved 2013-08-06. 
  6. ^ FOEI History
  7. ^ Focus on Nnimmo Bassey and ERA, Friends of the Earth International.
  8. ^ a b c FoEI Campaigns
  9. ^ Jan-Henrik Meyer, “'Where do we go from Wyhl?' Transnational Anti-Nuclear Protest targeting European and International Organisations in the 1970s,” Historical Social Research 39: 1 (2014): 212-235.
  10. ^ Friends of the Earth Europe: New report – International ‘Meat atlas’, Jan 09, 2014
  11. ^ FoEI Membership Criteria
  12. ^ FOEI Membership Criteria
  13. ^ FoEI Secretariat
  14. ^ FoEI Structure
  15. ^ Meat Atlas, Friends of the Earth, download Meat Atlas as pdf
  16. ^ Radiohead's Thom Yorke to guest-edit Observer Magazine published March 20, 2008.
  17. ^ Friends of the Earth report of The Big Ask launch
  18. ^ Friends of the Earth Europe, We are fed up: 30,000 march in Berlin, 19 January 2014
  19. ^