Several things about this organization make me wonder what its donors are thinking, or if they can think at all. Pachamama's financial statement for 2013 shows that it spends 12% of its budget on fundraising and 7% on general administration. That 19% is a high figure just for overhead. Charity Navigator gives them a high rating for accountability with a moderately high financial score, which surprises me given that large overhead. Pachamama does not participate in Guidestar's non-profit rating scheme, which makes its effectiveness more difficult to ascertain.
Indigenous Amazonians were on parade at this luncheon, playing pan flutes and dispensing blessings in an incomprehensible language. The organizers played several videos about the alliance's work. These were slickly produced mashups devoid of narrative structure or accountable details. No one in the audience seemed to mind. They were too enthralled with the "human petting zoo" of the visiting indigenous people to realize they were being manipulated. This organization proudly introduced some kind of online training course designed to do . . . something or other, like raise even more awareness than they've already raised. All of this raising awareness is of course designed to raise money.
Even a teenager got into the act, bragging to the audience about her monthly donations to Pachamama (apparently from her parents' money, since she mentioned no income stream of her own). I marvel at the indulgence of affluent Bay Area parents, encouraging their children to be irresponsible with a generous sponsor's money.
I ignored the maudlin spectacle and tried very hard not to applaud the banal statements from non-thinkers on the podium. I gave in to brief applause a couple of times because bad habits are hard to break. I am results-oriented and I needed to see Pachamama's results. Those results are mind-numbingly bad. Pachamama has lobbied the Ecuadorian government to stop an oil company from exploring in two blocks of the rainforest. Never mind that this development would bring millions of dollars to the region and lift indigenous Amazonians out of poverty.
The founders bragged that they they were developing eco-tourist programs as an alternative to petroleum production. It's easy to do the math with their program details. One dingbat volunteer claimed that they charge about $4500 for one eco-tourist ticket, taking ten people per trip, with about ten trips scheduled per year. That's about $450K in gross revenue per year, compared to the millions the local tribes could earn if those oil blocks are open to foreign direct investment. Pachamama's intransigence keeps their erstwhile clients impoverished.
Pachamama's promoters claimed with pride that they built an airstrip to facilitate these eco-tours, supposedly mitigating the deforestation that paving a road through the Amazon rainforest would have required. They failed to calculate that moving human passengers by air uses far more petroleum and produces far more air pollution than moving them by bus on a road. This nearsightedness is lost on social justice warriors. I must have been the only attendee to grok the irony of eco-tourism that accelerates the local consumption of petroleum.
Ecuador already subscribes to the United Nations Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) program for developing countries. It does not need a bunch of Bay Area do-gooders complicating its search for sustainable development in the Amazon rainforest. The Ecuadorian government shut down Pachamama's operations in its country last December precisely because it was so disruptive. The bleeding hearts in the Festival Pavilion were getting teary-eyed at their inability to keep low-income people locked into prehistoric lifestyles.
Multinational energy companies know they are under scrutiny for their environmental practices, which is why they spend lots of money to get the projects right. The obvious solution to sustainable development in the Amazon basin is to allow energy supermajors the ability to manage their onshore production blocks like timber REITs, giving shareholders a stake in the forest's sustainability. Anti-development nuts won't like it because they could no longer gawk at poor Amazonians during eco-tours.
I will not attend any more of these stupid events, despite the enticement of free food and hot babes. The free lunch of greens and sweet potato cakes was a vegan's dream. I barely noticed it going down and I spent the rest of the afternoon longing for glorious meat protein. The dessert tables afterwards were full of cookies and brownies that were definitely not from a rainforest. Those natives don't know what they're missing by spurning development for boutique eco-tourism. The young babes in attendance caught my eye because I can't ignore tight skirts and shapely legs. My objection is that those hot body parts were tied to non-functioning minds. One gal held up two potted plants in front of her well-rounded mammaries and asked me, "Aren't these beautiful?" She meant the plants, but I focused on her more important natural goods.
I consider Pachamama Alliance to be an exemplar of the Bay Area's lamest natural impulse. Dimwitted busybodies with more money than they deserve elevate feeling over thinking. The other pressure groups present at the luncheon shared the same cognitive flaw. Citizens Climate Lobby demands a halt to the economic development and energy use that makes their outreach possible. The "anti-corporate personhood" movement failed to recognize that a wealthy elite has directed America's institutions since the Founders put pen to parchment. The attendees themselves arrived at this event mostly in private automobiles burning hydrocarbons! I did more to conserve energy use than any of them when I took the SF Muni bus to Fort Mason. I have once again demonstrated my intellecutal and moral superiority over the Bay Area's non-thinking elite. The world needs more Alfidi Capital and less Pachamama Alliance.