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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Living on Earth Profile Series #10: Fred Krupp: Environmental Defender

Air Date: Week of

Fred Krupp, head of the Environmental Defense Fund, is the subject of this week's profile. EDF is finding the middle ground between business interests and the environment. Krupp considers himself a leader of "Third Wave" environmental activism. Amy Eddings has this profile.


CURWOOD: One environmental advocacy organization that's put a lot of pressure on businesses to make changes has been the Environmental Defense Fund in New York. The organization was born in 1967 out of a lawsuit to ban DDT, and it also went to court to get lead out of gasoline. But since Fred Krupp became executive director in 1984, the EDF has often headed to the boardroom rather than the courtroom to win changes that help both the environment and business. As part of our ongoing series on 25 important people related to environmental change, Amy Eddings has this profile of Fred Krupp.

(Sound of ocean waves)

EDDINGS: To many environmentalists, this is the sound of environmental policy at work -- clean, clear water. To Fred Krupp, this is the sound of environmental policy at work.

(Sounds of busy trading, discussion)

The sound of commodities traders. Krupp and his team of scientists, economist and lawyers at the Environmental Defense Fund in New York create what they call market-based solutions to environmental problems. Krupp thinks of the approach as the "Third Wave" in a changing environmental movement.

KRUPP: The First Wave of environmentalism started with Teddy Roosevelt deciding that we needed to protect some of the special places out West. And then, in the 60s, one of the most powerful voices of this century, Rachel Carson, wrote a book called Silent Spring. She alerted Americans to the notion that really the entire food web was at risk. And many laws were passed in the Second Wave of environmentalism to stop the worst abuses to the environment. The Third Wave of environmentalism, then, speaks to the idea that sometimes, it's possible for environmentalists and corporations to work out solutions to problems without even the need for government regulations.

EDDINGS: Last year, for instance, EDF helped convince the Walt Disney Corporation to relocate a theme park originally planned for a site in the historic Virginia countryside, where it would have brought traffic and pollution. It also brought together 5 large corporations, including the publishers of Time magazine to buy 1 billion dollars worth of recycled paper each year and help jump-start nationwide demand for the product. And in 1990, in a highly-publicized joint effort with McDonald's, EDF persuaded the fast food giant to stop using polystyrene foam containers for its hamburgers. Together, they came up with a solid waste reduction plan that includes composting food waste and wrapping hamburgers in paper. Bob Langert, McDonald's Director for Environmental Affairs says EDF helped the company meet environmental and business needs.

LANGERT: We changed from a white, bleached carry-out bag to a brown, recycled content bag. That is such a dramatic improvement for the environment, yet we're still delivering the same quality to our customers and we're actually saving money. And I thought the EDF was very effective in using that strategy with us.

EDDINGS: Krupp has cast his net even wider to include government regulators in EDF's collaborations, and in 1990, the effort resulted in a landmark acid rain amendment to the Clean Air Act. The law mandates a 50 percent reduction in emissions of sulfur dioxide, the pollutant that causes acid rain. But EDF helped develop an innovative measure that gave industries freedom to find the cheapest way to meet the new standards. It also gave industries, says Krupp, economic incentives to exceed them.

KRUPP: Some have said, why should environmentalists worry about the costs? Because when we're able to create incentives to develop new technologies, we're able to reduce not only the costs, but also the political costs, the political resistance to going further, faster, and gaining ambitious environmental results that we so much need.

EDDINGS: Although Krupp's philosophy has found supporters in Congress and the business world, it's been met with skepticism by some environmentalists who think EDF may be too closely allied to corporate interests. Krupp disagrees.

KRUPP: To develop win-win solutions does not mean compromising on their goals. Often it does mean being flexible on the means.

EDDINGS: The Environmental Defense Fund under Fred Krupp has not abandoned the "sue 'em and stop 'em" approach, and may even have to rely upon it more. If environmental regulations are rolled back, Krupp thinks there may be no incentive for business to cooperate in Third Wave fashion, but he's optimistic. Fred Krupp believes more people will see the logic of market-based environmental solutions, and hear the future the same way he does with this kind of environment (sounds of commodity traders) preserving this one (sounds of ocean waves). For Living On Earth, this is Amy Eddings in New York.



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