Editorial: EarthAction’s global reach

Last modified: Sunday, January 27, 2013

As Lois Barber sees it, the world is full of serious problems. The challenge lies in finding the right ones to fix at the right time. For 20 years, the nonprofit group Barber founded, EarthAction, has been doing just that, building an impressive resume that has helped protect the environment, human rights and promote justice around the world.

Based in Amherst, EarthAction grew out of the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Since then, Barber, its 66-year-old executive director, and her team have built a global network of 2,600 organizations in 165 countries and helped carry out 90 campaigns.

Among its most recent successes was helping villagers in Cambodia coordinate a campaign to protect old-growth forests that the government had eyed for destruction. In October, that country’s prime minister announced that it was cancelling plans to make over 100,000 acres of these forests available to agribusiness to plant palm oil trees.

We like the way EarthAction goes about its work. Rather than lead the charge from the front lines, EarthAction is a rear-guard mobilizer. The organization serves as a resource for groups pushing for change and protections, whether it be sacred sites vulnerable to mining in Mexico, disappearing languages in Siberia, or threatened rainforests in South America and Africa.

Aiding by interns from the Five Colleges, EarthAction helps groups and organizations primarily by disseminating kits that provide background information on issues as well as the names of key players to contact. These well-researched kits, of which nearly a million have been distributed since its founding, are written in several languages.

Timing is everything when EarthAction gets involved with a campaign. As Barber put it in a Gazette story marking her group’s 20th anniversary last month, “You have to know when to influence what happens. You have to know the right message and when to send it to people who can make things happen.”

Local groups in regions stricken by war, poverty, or corrupt governments often don’t have the resources they need to drive change and make their worlds better. EarthAction provides a vital service in bridging this divide with one of the most powerful tools known to mankind: information.

In addition to working on campaigns in various countries, EarthAction has been an important player and voice on big-picture global issues.

They include creating a coalition of businesses, policy-makers and others to create effective renewable energy policies, building support for the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, a treaty aimed to protect soil fertility in dry regions and disseminating approximately 20,000 action kits on the issues of protecting children from armed conflict and child labor. Climate change is a front-burner issue for the group.

For two decades, EarthAction has provided meaningful contributions to easing the world’s problems. It helps bring people together in places where problems can tear them apart.


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