Carl Pope
Key Player

Former board member, National Clean Air Coalition; former board member, California Common Cause; former board member, Public Interest Economics Inc.; former Political Director, Zero Population GrowthSierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope has served the organization in various capacities for roughly two decades, and was appointed to his current post in 1992. Most recently Pope has been engaged in internal power struggles against perhaps even more radical opponents. During the Club’s heated 2004 board of directors election, Pope referred to an insurrection campaign by Sea Shepherd Conservation Society director Paul Watson’s clique of anti-human activists a “virus” looking to “hijack its host to replicate itself.”

Pope fiercely attacks genetically modified foods, and is more than willing to use scare tactics to further his cause. On a Pew Charitable Trusts website, he makes the reckless claim that applications of agricultural biotechnology “promise ecological catastrophe.” Reminiscent of a 1950’s B-horror movie, Pope has also warned that modern genetic enhancement technology is creating “superpest” insects. The real super-pain for farmers remains lawsuit-happy activists like the Sierra Club, and its legal adjunct, the Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund.

And Pope has personally injected himself into the legislative strong-arm process. He co-authored California’s infamous “bounty hunter” toxics labeling law, Proposition 65. That gift to trial lawyers requires any product containing one of several hundred “known carcinogens” to bear a warning label — even though it may be used in concentrations so low that adverse health effects are essentially impossible. Pope’s friend and Sierra Club president Larry Fahn is executive director of As You Sow, a group that has made its reputation (and a small fortune) suing companies under Proposition 65.

Pope is as much a political power player as an environmentalist. He told the Club’s newsletter in 2003: “We have a mission, which is to stop George Bush.” To that end Pope acts as Treasurer of Americans Coming Together, a wealthy political action committee infused with millions of dollars from eccentric billionaire George Soros.