In 2010 the Hoosier Environmental Council re-branded and re-imaged itself to appear more broadly appealing, especially to the corporate mindset. Its new slogan appears on its letterhead and website masthead.
It suggests a warm and fuzzy feeling of inclusiveness and collaboration. It’s a slick brand identity. But it’s bunk, as recent experience re the planned reservoir reveals.
The HEC has acted in an aloof, imperious, and self-aggrandizing way since the beginning of the dam review process in April of last year. It started with the phone calls and requests for assistance over a year ago from several Heart of the River coalition participants. Their calls were ignored or deflected. Worse, HEC’s executive director even suggested to one caller that perhaps a compromise “green dam” might be appropriate.
More recently, we saw in HEC’s recent news proclamation concerning the planned dam, that HEC is “all about HEC”. It didn’t even mention the HTR coalition— our grassroots coalition which has worked for 14 months to organize, outreach, research, and educate. Neither did the HEC’s accompanying lengthy position paper. There was not one word of acknowledgement for the grassroots volunteer group which has led the charge and done a tremendous amount of arduous early spade work. And not one mention of concern for the many residents who would be displaced by this land and water grab. HEC’s proposal seeking funding for the design charrette (a portion of which was read over the phone to me) repeatedly emphasized that the project would aid HEC’s development efforts to increase fundraising.
Of course, advocacy organizations are free to take their positions independent of what other groups might do. In that sense, it’s understandable for the HEC to seek to appear that it has taken its position of opposition as an independent entity– despite the fact that 13 prominent conservation groups of various stripes have already taken positions of opposition.
As we also know, the big environmental organizations need a constant infusion of dollars to fund their activities and staff, and thus it’s no surprise that the HEC would resort to such self-aggrandizing tactics. In most of its communications, it boasts that it’s “the largest environmental organization in Indiana”. Yet neither its large relative size nor its slick PR slogan instills much credence that the HEC actually operates in a collaborative way.
I’m recalling Deliverance, the famous 1972 film about a last canoe trip before an imminent inundation of the river caused by the construction of a dam in Georgia’s backwoods north of Atlanta, and Lewis’ (Burt Reynolds) blunt response to an unacceptable $50 offer by a local man to drive their two cars downstream to the take-out. His reply: “Fifty, my ass!” That aptly captures my reaction to the HEC’s “all. together. now.” slogan. As a former HEC board president, I’m disappointed to see the organization resort to such misleading claims of inclusiveness and collaboration.