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|75 national member groups|
|some 5,000 local activist groups|
Friends of the Earth was founded in 1969 in San Francisco by David Brower, Donald Aitken and Gary Soucie after Brower's split with the Sierra Club due to the latter's positive approach to nuclear energy. The founding donation of $500,000 (in 2019 USD) was provided by Robert Orville Anderson, the owner of Atlantic Richfield oil company.
FoEI currently has a 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 2016, Uruguayan activist Karin Nansen was elected to serve as chair of Friends of the Earth International.
Friends of the Earth (International) is an international membership organisation, with members spread across the world. Its main parent body, Friends of the Earth (EWNI) is primarily an advocacy group, with most of its activities focused in UK. Its advocacy programs focus on environmental issues, highlighting their social, political and human rights contexts. Their campaigns mostly take place in the United Kingdom, with a few activities in USA and Europe through their sister agency Friends of the earth (International). The international wing of Friends of the Earth is headquartered in Amsterdam, Netherlands for tax reasons.
As per its website, the current campaign priorities of Friends of the Earth internationally are: economic justice and resisting neoliberalism, forests and biodiversity, food sovereignty and climate justice and energy (Including releasing the song "Love Song To the Earth"). The campaign priorities of FOEI are set at its bi-annual general meeting. Additionally, FOEI also plans campaigns in other fields like desertification, Antarctica, maritime, mining and extractive industries and nuclear power. In 2016, FOEI also led a campaign on the consumption and intensive meat production (Meat Atlas)
FOEI claims that it has been successful as it has eliminated billions in taxpayer subsidies to corporate polluters, reformed the World Bank to address environmental and human rights concerns, pushed the debate on global warming to pressure the U.S. to attempt the best legislation possible, stopped more than 150 destructive dams and water projects worldwide, pressed and won landmark regulations of strip mines and oil tankers and banned international whaling. Its critics claim that the organization only tries to obtain media attention, but does not stay with locals to actually solve complicated problems, and that it prevents development in developing countries. They have also been critical of its policy to accept high levels of funding from companies and charities related to oil and gas.
In October 2018, it was announced that Aliko Dangote, Africa's richest man, was planning to build a $12 billion oil refinery on 6,180 acres of swampland in Nigeria. This would make it the world's largest refinery. By 2022, the refinery would process 650,000 barrels of crude oil daily. Nigeria is already Africa's largest oil producer, though the refineries present are of low quality, and so most of the oil used within the country is imported. Because the refinery would be built so far from the Niger Delta, where most Nigerian oil is extracted, two undersea pipelines will be used to carry petroleum the 240 miles to the Lagos-based refinery. Pipelines that already exist in Nigeria are under security, and some have been blown up by angry citizens and members of a rebel group called the Delta Avengers, who are angry about the pollution and poverty associated with and stemming from the oil industry. In addition, this refinery would likely give Dangote a monopoly on Nigerian oil.
On December 11, 2018, FOE Africa began protesting outside of an event hosted by the Shell corporation. Activists found that Shell helped draft a portion of the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015. Shell, an oil drilling company, influenced the guidelines on greenhouse gas emission allowances and restrictions. At the protest, Rita Uwaka of Nigeria's branch of FOE said: "It's like hell on Earth. I represent communities in the Niger Delta who are impacted by these big polluters...Having these big polluters come in here as a saint is not only a slap on us as delegates of COP. It's also a slap on Mother Earth."
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 carry out educational and research activities.
As per their website, 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. These are conditions of remaining a member of FOEI.
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.
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 Pro Natura (Switzerland), the Korean Federation for Environmental Movement, 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. 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. 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.
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.
Among those present at the launch of Friends of the Earth (EWNI)'s climate change campaign The Big Ask were: Jude Law, Edith Bowman, Siân Lloyd, Ross Burden, David Cameron, David Miliband, Thom Yorke, Stephen Merchant, Michael Eavis, and Emily Eavis.