EarthSave Nashville Dissolution - VeggieBoards
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#1 Old 08-02-2004, 11:38 AM
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For some time I had been trying to act as Acting Chair of EarthSave Nashville,

the Nashville chapter of EarthSave International(ESI), and as the webmaster of the EarthSave Nashville website.



As of May 2003, ESI announced new "rules" governing the relationship between ESI and the chapters. These rules amounted, in my opinion, to a dictatorship by ESI over the chapters and the treatment of the chapters as "colonies" of ESI, which would exist primarily to service ESI. For example, prior to the "new regime," if a person joined EarthSave through a local chapter, then 75 percent of the membership fee would go to the local chapter and 25 percent would go to ESI. With the "new regime," that split was reversed. ESI also seized the bank accounts of all the local chapters. In the case of EarthSave Nashville, this amounted to about $300. But in the case of other chapters, this amounted to $10,000 or more.



There were many other changes, adverse to the local chapters, that are perhaps too numerous to mention.



Since our chapter was operating on a shoe string before these changes, and still struggling to exist, these changes amounted to the last nail in the coffin, so to speak. None of the principal persons wanted to continue the organization under the terms of the "new regime."



During the (limited) discussion of the "new rules," several people from the local chapters mentioned that they would result in the chapters' dissolution. The people at ESI did not appear to care.



Another aspect of the situation had to do with the ESI Executive Director,

who was involved with a protest against former ESI President Howard Lyman.

She apparently had no compunctions about trying to humiliate Mr. Lyman, who had done great services for ESI and to the vegetarian movement, who was a co-defendant in the "Oprah" suit--having appeared on her program and having told her about the "cannibalism" of cows, thus partly prompting her "That just stops me cold from eating another burger" comment, which got her sued.



I guess my point is that I got the feeling that this person was/is a ruthless extremist whose judgement I could not trust, and who would ride roughshod over any and every other consideration to get what she wanted. I basically felt that I could not trust her, could not really communicate with her, and thus could not work with her.



I suppose I could write a book about what has gone on, but to make a long story short, let me conclude with just a few observations.



First, we have been deluged with requests from people that I would describe as "Takers." They wanted to know this, that, or the other. They had a need for some sort of information. But they were absolutely unwilling to provide anything in return--no membership, no monetary contribution, no information about themselves, etc. They just wanted to take, take, take and give absolutely nothing in return. This imbalance contributed to the decline of the organization.



Second, at a certain point in time, we were functioning fairly successfully as an organization, at least in my opinion. And then things seemed to fall apart. Why?



Well, part of the reason is that people were functioning in certain roles in the organization, and then they felt the need to leave. And they just left--period. No notice given, no provisions for finding a replacement, no information about bringing that replacement "up to speed." This contributed enormously to the decline and dysfunctionality of the organization. What I mean is, there were no "exit interviews." There was no giving of notice. There was no transmission of the information that it would be necessary for a successor in that role to know in order to be able to take over that function. I am told that "exit interviews" are common in the business world. But people "could not be bothered" when it came to EarthSave Nashville. So things fell apart. In many cases, when people left, they left in conjunction with a move or other such experience that made it impossible to contact them, even if someone from the local chapter wanted to. It was just dysfunctional to the max.



There are many other things I could say, and many other details I could give, and perhaps will be discussed below.



But basically it was a very disillusioning experience for me.
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#2 Old 08-02-2004, 02:31 PM
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I'm sorry to hear about all this. I really want to believe that ESI can make a difference on a broad scale.
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#3 Old 08-02-2004, 02:36 PM
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Is ESI a healthier organization because of these changes?
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#4 Old 08-02-2004, 04:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by epski View Post

I'm sorry to hear about all this. I really want to believe that ESI can make a difference on a broad scale.



ESI is still "there," but it seems (in my opinion) less concerned with spreading Robbins' message than in just keeping itself afloat. Maybe this is just a temporary setback due to the recession and so forth. But I tend to see it as a more serious and permanent reversal.
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#5 Old 08-02-2004, 04:53 PM
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Originally Posted by mikie View Post

Is ESI a healthier organization because of these changes?



You tell me. They've closed their offices in California, fired their staff, and now operate out of a post office box in New York, near the residence of the Executive Director. It appears that the organization is being run by the Executive Director.



If there is data supporting the contention that ESI is now "healthier,"

I am not privy to it.
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#6 Old 08-02-2004, 05:12 PM
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An account of the protest against Lyman, which is sympathetic to the protesters, is on the web at:



http://www.friendsofanimals.org/action/fall2003/mw.html



Another account of the protest is available at:



http://www.animalrights.net/articles/2002/000244.html
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#7 Old 08-02-2004, 06:55 PM
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Another issue that came up during the Chapter's pendancy related to the contact information the chapter had for the people interested in our group.

ESI claimed at a certain point that this information was "proprietary" and that they owned it; ESI claimed the right to sell, exchange or share this information with third parties (like spammers) whenever it saw fit. They wanted the local chapter officers to sign a contract to that effect. Needless to say, no one at ES Nashville ever signed this contract.



This "proprietary" b.s. was one of the things that seriously disillusioned me with EarthSave. First, the contact information and e-mail addresses collected by the local chapter were collected at our initiative in order to contact and communicate with people. This was in no way suggested by ESI and had nothing to do with ESI. And yet, years later, they come up with this "contract," which is supposed to apply retroactively to all the information we have collected. Second, when we were collecting this information, we told people that it was for the purpose of enabling us to contact them. Period. A few people were reluctant to provide their e-mail addresses for fear that we would sell them to spammers. I thought that they were being paranoid, and assured them that we would never do something sleazy like this. Little did I know.



As far as I am concerned, the contact information provided by the people who contacted us is the "property" of the people who contacted us. All we (ES Nashville) have is permission (a "license" in property terms) to use the information to contact them. Since they never "conveyed" their property to us, we cannot "convey" it to ESI. If ESI wants the right to use this information as it sees fit, it should get this right directly from the original "owners" of this information. And yes, I would/would have been willing to transmit such a request on behalf of ESI to our contactees. But ESI never made such a request, trying to achieve its goals through this "back door" side contract with the officers of the local chapters.



I think if it were generally known that it is the de facto policy of ESI not to respect the privacy of people who contact them for information, then many people would simply not contact them for information, and their outreach and membership activities would be hampered accordingly. But they have no stated privacy policy on their website, nor anywhere else AFAIK. If they really want to be free to sell the information to third parties, why don't they explicitly and publicly state this on their website? It seems to me that they don't do this because they want to "have it both ways" and benefit from what is in effect a deception.



It is for this reason and others that I will not have any further involvement with EarthSave. I still believe in Robbins' message, but I don't believe in the practices that ESI uses to run the organization. It is unclear to what extent Robbins knows of or approves of ESI's administrative tactics. To the extent that he does know and does approve, then he has personal flaws and "feet of clay" in my book.



I think that if Nashville is going to have a vegetarian or pro-vegetarian organization that I am going to participate in, then it will have to be something independent and perhaps affiliated with the North American Vegetarian Society.
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#8 Old 08-02-2004, 08:26 PM
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Wow, reading the accounts of AR 2002 stuff took me back to my memories working in a food collective for many years.



People working for progressive causes need to first make progress in learning how to work with people.



There has has to be respect for other people, accepting people as they are, and a willingness to suck up some small differences to keep things moving.



All of this starts with a person learning to accept him/herslef.

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#9 Old 08-02-2004, 08:33 PM
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Jumping from Earthsave to McDougall sure seems like a step in the wrong direction. Getting a headache just thinking about that guy.



Sorry to hear about the problems Earthsave International is having though. I wonder what the Chicago chapter is doing.
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#10 Old 08-02-2004, 08:44 PM
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Originally Posted by kpickell View Post

Jumping from Earthsave to McDougall sure seems like a step in the wrong direction. Getting a headache just thinking about that guy.



Sorry to hear about the problems Earthsave International is having though. I wonder what the Chicago chapter is doing.



What is your problem with McDougall?

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#11 Old 08-02-2004, 08:57 PM
 
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Joe, I'm sorry about this. Earthsave had (has?) such great potential, but seems to have gone wildly astray. This is not the first such story I've heard re: affiliate/ESI relations.



Is there hope of salvaging the remaining members into some other sort of AR/veg group?

The ones I pity are the ones who never stick out their neck for something they believe, never know the taste of moral struggle, and never have the thrill of victory. - Jonathan Kozol
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#12 Old 08-03-2004, 01:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beforewisdom View Post

Wow, reading the accounts of AR 2002 stuff took me back to my memories working in a food collective for many years.



People working for progressive causes need to first make progress in learning how to work with people.



There has has to be respect for other people, accepting people as they are, and a willingness to suck up some small differences to keep things moving.





I agree, but I don't see many people having such concerns themselves. They seem quite self-satisfied.



Also, I don't know how people really "learn" these things. Is there a book? A course? I guess I am kind of clueless. What would you recommend?



I've seen people treat other people like dirt, even when they needed those people to achieve what they needed to achieve with the organization. In other words, not only nastiness, but irrational, illogical,

shoot-yourself-in-the-foot nastiness.
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#13 Old 08-03-2004, 02:07 AM
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Originally Posted by kpickell View Post

Jumping from Earthsave to McDougall sure seems like a step in the wrong direction. Getting a headache just thinking about that guy.



ETA: The chapter website information is now back up. The forwarding to McDougall (or however technically the McDougall content was displayed) appears to have been a glitch related to VegSource adding/changing servers.







Quote:
Originally Posted by kpickell View Post


Sorry to hear about the problems Earthsave International is having though. I wonder what the Chicago chapter is doing.



I don't know, but I assume that the larger and well-established chapters will be better at coping with the ESI b.s. than the smaller chapters are or can be.
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#14 Old 08-03-2004, 02:10 AM
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Just checked and chicago.earthsave.org jumps straight to McDougall's site too. That really sucks. Earthsave had some nice retreats, good events, and monthly events with good speakers too. I hope the core group is able to reform under some other form. Same with all the subsets I guess.



ETA: Spoke too soon. Google search reveals the Chicago group is now participating as vegchicago.com
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#15 Old 08-03-2004, 02:20 AM
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Is there hope of salvaging the remaining members into some other sort of AR/veg group?



Well, yes and no. There are still two functioning veg groups in Nashville.

One is an informal coalition of people who support my friend Gabrielle Mittelstaedt, the former owner of the Peaceful Planet vegan restaurant. I am involved with helping her with her bi-weekly luncheons. It is possible that she might open a new restaurant, but that is unclear.



The second de facto veg group is our "wholly macro" macrobiotic group, led by Ginny Harper, which has macrobiotic potlucks every two weeks. These potlucks are de facto vegetarian, and practically vegan.



Whether people might be willing to coalesce into a new group is unclear. One major problem we have had is finding a place to meet. Gabrielle allowed us to meet in her restaurant when it was open, and she said she would do the same if she opens a new restaurant, but as of now, we do not have a place to meet. It also seems that we would have to run the organization a lot differently if we were to start up a new one.
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#16 Old 08-03-2004, 05:00 AM
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Originally Posted by Joe View Post

I agree, but I don't see many people having such concerns themselves. They seem quite self-satisfied.



Also, I don't know how people really "learn" these things. Is there a book? A course? I guess I am kind of clueless. What would you recommend?



I've seen people treat other people like dirt, even when they needed those people to achieve what they needed to achieve with the organization. In other words, not only nastiness, but irrational, illogical,

shoot-yourself-in-the-foot nastiness.



Hi Joe;



Being "self satisfied" is not equivalent to "accepting yourself".



Beyond that I don't have an easy answer for you.



I don't think a course, or group therapy for organizations is the answer.



The movement has to see working well with others as an issue.

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#17 Old 08-03-2004, 08:43 AM
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Just checked and chicago.earthsave.org jumps straight to McDougall's site too. That really sucks.



It looks like if you click on the links for any of the US chapters listed on



http://www.earthsave.org/chapters.htm



you get the same McDougall page. So maybe something is wrong with the website or something, and it had nothing to do with our chapter's problems.



ETA: It looks like VegSource has gone to a new server, so maybe the things with the EarthSave chapter pages are some sort of technical glitch.



http://www.vegsource.com/talk/pub/messages/38788.html



Quote:
We moved from one server to two and got a 100mpbs connection instead of 10mpbs or whatever it is. Faster! And we're spreading the load. Glad folks are happier.



Quote:
Originally Posted by kpickell View Post


ETA: Spoke too soon. Google search reveals the Chicago group is now participating as vegchicago.com



I think that is a separate page listing veg restaurants in Chicago and not meant to be a replacement for the EarthSave Chicago page.
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#18 Old 08-03-2004, 11:37 AM
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Is there hope of salvaging the remaining members into some other sort of AR/veg group?



One other thought I had on this question relates back to the the issue of ESI's so-called "proprietary" rights to the chapters' contact information, and their wanting us to sign a contract to this effect.



It seems to me that one of the effects of signing such a contract might be to impair the possibility of people wanting to form an independent group from using the contact information to organize such a new group. Put another way, I think that people became affiliated with ES Nashville to promote vegetarianism, and should be free to leave ES and form a new group, if that better serves their purposes.



Another thing that bothered me about the "contract" is this. ESI has rules and has chapters, which have "charters" from ESI. If the chapters do not follow ESI's rules, ESI has the right to invalidate or remove their charters. Fine. So, what do they need a "contract" for? It seems to me that the effect of signing this contract would be to subject local chapter officers to personal legal liability. Since these are unpaid positions, why would anyone at the local level agree to that? You have to subject yourself to a lawsuit for the "privilege" of serving as an unpaid chapter officer for EarthSave? I don't think so.
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#19 Old 08-03-2004, 01:23 PM
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Here is a list of EarthSave Chapters and Branches that were listed in the Spring 2002 EarthSave Magazine but that are not listed any longer on the "Chapters" webpage. Listed alphabetically by State.



Chapters:



Alaska--Anchorage



California--Orange County



Florida--Space Coast



Indiana--Bloomington



New York--Hudson Valley



Ohio--Cleveland



Oregon--Portland [Chapter included Portland, OR and Vancouver, WA]



Tennessee--Nashville



Washington--Seattle



[I.e., 9 out of 24 chapters listed in 2002 now closed. During this time, it appears that one Chapter was added, in Humbolt County, California.]



Branches:



California--Sonoma County



District of Columbia



Florida--Treasure Coast; Orlando



Montana--Missoula



North Carolina



Oregon--Southern Oregon



Pennsylvania--Philadelphia



South Carolina--Charleston



Washington--Snohomish



[I.e., 10 out of 16 branches listed in 2002 now closed. During this time, it appears that one branch was added, in Southeastern Pennsylvania.]



Thus, on a net basis, it appears that there has been a 33 percent loss in US chapters and a 56 percent loss in branches over about the last two years.
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#20 Old 08-05-2004, 09:45 AM
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The situation regarding the chapters' websites seems to have been a temporary technical glitch related to Vegsource adding/changing its servers, and has now been resolved, i.e., the chapter information is now displayed on the websites.
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#21 Old 08-05-2004, 10:10 AM
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One other comment about the Howard Lyman protest.



It is one thing to make some sort of protest or complaint based on his remarks. Yes, the protesters had a right to do so. The people concerned about these remarks could have talked with Howard after the presentation or something similar. But to have been so intolerant of his freedom of speech as to have staged a protest during his talk was quite another thing altogether. They attempted to disrupt his speech. By what right? By the right of arrogance and self-righteousness, in my opinion.



If the Executive Director of EarthSave had so little regard for someone like Howard Lyman, but treated him like dirt under her heel, why should I trust her to have any regard for me or for the needs and interests of our ES chapter?



I am also put off by what I see as the injustice of the protest against Howard Lyman based on a few remarks about Charlotte Ross as "the shape of the movement." Who got Charlotte to bare her butt for the poster? Ingrid Newkirk and PeTA. So why not protest against Ingrid Newkirk and PeTA? Well, because Ingrid Newkirk is a woman, so she gets off scot free morally according to the de facto tenets of what often passes for "feminism." So Howard Lyman, because he is a man, becomes the "scapegoat" for Ingrid Newkirk's sins--if they are sins.



Sorry, but I don't buy into this. The Executive Director of EarthSave can take her self-righteousness and shove it, as far as I am concerned.
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