Doomed Planet

The Left’s Long March Tramples Rotary

I guess it had to happen – the green/left has now captured Rotary International, headquarters for 1.2 million members of 35,000 clubs. Rotary leaders and activists have side-stepped Rotary’s constitutional ban on engaging in politics, and swung Rotary against fossil fuels and cheap coal and gas-fired electricity.

Rotary’s switch illustrates Quadrant’s John O’Sullivan’s First Law that “All organizations that are not actually right-wing will over time become left-wing.”[i]

From last month, and for the first time, Rotary Foundation’s $US1.1 billion fund began accepting applications from clubs for international climate projects. These are premised on “climate change and climate disruption” and can include renewables for villages, support for communities hurt by alleged global-warming-influenced droughts, storms and floods and promoting “community-based advocacy initiatives” for the environment.

Rotary’s creators were determined it should and must stay out of politics. The Standard Constitution , proving as effective as wet Kleenex, says clubs

shall notexpress an opinion on any pending controversial public measure” (Article 14/1)

♦ “shall neither adopt nor circulate resolutions or opinions and shall not take action dealing with world affairs or international policies of a political nature.” (Section 3,1a: “Non-Political”).

♦ “shall not direct appeals to clubs, peoples, or governments, or circulate letters, speeches, or proposed plans for the solution of specific international problems of a political nature.” (Section 3, 1b). (My emphases).

The paradox is that Rotary International would inflict added harm on close to a billion Third- and Fourth Worlders with higher costs for fossil fuels.[ii] These mainly-African unfortunates toil without electricity and mechanisation. The Rotary activists accuse their defeated conservative opponents of being “politicizers” for resisting green/Left illusions about climate “disruption”. It’s as if they themselves are non-partisans innocently seeking overthrow of centuries of capitalist progress. The activists are literally rejoicing at Rotary International’s “glorious announcement”. They cite Mexican Rotarian Salvador Rico

I am in tears of joy, gratitude, and full of hope! I know that we are going to save the planet, all living beings, and all of humanity!

 Things aren’t actually so rosy at the Rotary fund:

Foundation Funding Crisis: For the second time in two years the World Fund is likely to run out of money to provide matching dollars to Global Grant applications. Last year the funds ran out in May but this year the outlook is more dire … To compound the problem there will be a big waiting list of projects for the new area of focus supporting the environment.”  

 Meanwhile outdoors, there’s another temperature pause under way (no global warming for seven years). “Science” journal conceded last month that the climate models exaggerate actual and forecast warming, the UN’s 26th annual gab-fest in Glasgow is unravelling like all its 25 predecessors, and Chinese and Indian coal power is swamping everything the West does on renewables.

Climate aside, Rotary’s actual emergency is that membership has stalled at 1.2m for 20 years, diminishing its community presence. Fortunately the 35,000 Rotary clubs operate almost independently. A club can plug on with its art shows and sausage sizzles, and spend the money on whatever good works it prefers. The problem is that Rotary’s official tone has changed, and the activists will now widen their political breach.  

The shift to “progressive” is already under way. Rotary’s big conference last June was “inspired” by speaker Ms Vanessa Nakate from Uganda, young, black, female and a climate-doom fanatic on the  junket circuit.

In Uganda, however, there are priorities other than 1degC century’s warming. Only 10 per cent of peasants have mains electricity while girls are openly sold for the sex trade. Ms Nakate presumably opposes her desperate country’s $US16 billion development of its proven oil and gas reserves. She likes COVID lockdowns  for a “complete turnaround” in climate lifestyles even as lockdowns worsen starvation in Kampala slums.

Ms Nakate is a  revolutionary leftist on the governing council of Progressive International. Its manifesto includes:

We are workers, peasants, and peoples of the world rising up against the reactionary forces of authoritarian oligarchy … Our aim is to break with the patriarchy while disrupting the binary structure of gender on which it relies … Fossil fuel industries are driving us into climate catastrophe … Capitalism Is the Virus. We aspire to eradicate capitalism everywhere.

Likewise, Rotary is now striving to align its goals with the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030.   UN bun-fights among 120 NGOs in 2015 whittled 1400 proposed goals down to 17 feel-goods plus 169 targets. Denmark’s Bjorn Lomborg has eviscerated the SDG follies.

The Rotary Action Group, with its 1300 members in 70-80 countries,[iii] wants connections with the UN Environment Program (UNEP), a body founded by the UN’s Maurice Strong, who was caught red-handed in 2005 over an illicit South Korean cheque for $US998,885.

Australians helped push Rotary’s switch to woke.  President (2017-18) Ian Riseley, who chaired the Environmental Issues task force, hails from Sandringham, Melbourne. Dr Chris Puttock, chair of the Action Group, is Maryland-based but worked for 35 years in Australia.  Melbourne PhD candidate (RMIT) Patricia Armstrong is chair-elect.

Rotary leaders and activists alike have relied on long-debunked tales of starving polar bears, drowning coral islands, and millions of imaginary climate refugees.[iv] The Rotary Environmental Action Group founder/leader Karen Kendrick-Hands of Wisconsin is still pushing the melting-Himalayan-glacier errors from the IPCC 2007 report. Publishing that alarmist nonsense almost got IPCC chair Rajendra Pachauri fired and forced a corrective audit of IPCC processes.

The 2018-19 president Barry Rassin’s oft-repeats claim that the Bahamas will be under water in 50 years from the two metres of rising seas by 2100. The IPCC models’  likely range is actually 0.26 to 0.82 m by 2081-2100.

Action Group’s leader Dr Chris Puttock led off a major presentation in June with someone’s pic of three fat polar bears on a beach. As a polar bear whisperer, he explained,

These three polar bears look as though they’re asking someone for ice, perhaps. The ice is disappearing for these polar bears and it is not there for them. This is something humans are doing to the world to endanger these species.

In the real world Polar bears are thriving  and any ice loss is no bother to their hunting. The rest of his talk was equally misguided.

Puttock’s Action Group has provided a climate homework list for Rotarians. First-up book is Farewell to Ice by Cambridge’s ice “expert” Professor Peter Wadhams, who has been mercilessly mocked for predicting an ice-free Arctic by 2013, then by 2016 etc. In fact the 2020 minimum extent was 3.74 million square kilometres. The other books are equivalent.

Rotary’s new politicking was engineered partly via an overtly political campaign group, Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL), 120,000-strong and founded by wealthy ex-Rotarian Marshall Saunders. CCL’s signature plan is for carbon taxes raising $US700 billion a year by 2035 (in 2012 dollars), and offsetting monthly “dividend” cheques to US households. Mysteriously, 60 per cent would be net better off; the other 40 per cent will rue the program.

An adoring profile in the official Rotarian Monthly says “the Rotary ethos remains central to his mission and methods” and describes Saunders as “one of the great souls of the planet”.  The magazine lamely excused CCL’s politicking because it “brings an even-handed approach to advocacy” with its “friendly persuasion” of legislators. CCL’s advisory board includes James Hansen, whose predictions to Congress in 1988 (accompanied by media fraud and since falsified) kicked off the global warming scare.

Rotary’s Karen Kendrick-Hands briefed CCL members on getting at Rotarians. One of her slides for CCL reads,

Acknowledge that you understand that the club can’t endorse, but invite the community leaders in climate change to join CCL in its quest for solutions.

She conceded, “I almost get tarred and feathered as a guest talking about climate change to conservative clubs; it was not very fun.” Hendricks-Hands, from the 500-strong Madison, Wisconsin, club, thinks warming “is the fundamental deciding issue of all time.” She claimed to CCL that although Rotary bars politics, members are also urged to be active and informed citizens, and they need to reclaim their political will to fight climate change. “I would not bother with the science”, she told CCL. Instead she provided them with memes for Rotarians , such as:

♦ Polio eradication projects: Polio is faecal borne. Climate-change induced floods will redistribute the faeces through village environments. “If you can’t conquer climate change your water supply is not safe, it will up-end your campaign to eradicate polio.”[v]

♦ Clean water projects:“If your water projects depend on melt-off from the Himalayan Glaciers and there are no more glaciers [because of climate], your water project is toast.”

♦ Peace-building projects: “How do you help the world find peace, when climate change is causing millions of climate migrants to go on the march?”

♦ Dumping diesel generators: “Rotary would do a huge service to the world if it moved every water project from a diesel pump to wind or solar.” 

A big fan of teen Greta Thunberg[vi], Kendrick-Hands finished:

I know Rotary can’t endorse these things. If every CCL [group] makes sure they have a member in every Rotary Club, that is the best way to reach to the grasstops that Rotary connects with. It is not poaching, it is encouraging people whose values do align to go ahead and join [CCL].[vii] (at 26.40)


Gaming the process

The leadership has been itching to get into climate advocacy for years, so Kendrick-Hands  was pushing against an open door. Rotary sent her to Katowice, Poland, in 2018 as its first-ever delegate to the annual UN climate talks. Katowice relies on electricity from brown coal. This reliance so appalled her that she described her trip to Katowice as “into the belly of the beast”. I hope she wouldn’t say the same about my brown-coal-powered Melbourne.

In 2015 Rotary International (RI) approved her group. A series of Rotary presidents then personally endorsed the climate-apocalypse led by the  president from Melbourne Ian Riseley. He headed a  task force on the environment “which championed the new area of focus”, rather than audit it.

The Action Group in early 2020 urged that environmental causes should be added to the six other causes that Rotary funds with Global (i.e. international) Grants to clubs for their projects. Anti-emission politics was buried in fluff about useful but micro projects. In the paper’s 1200 words “climate change” is mentioned only twice.

COVID sidelined the process but after a scrabble the leaders of Rotary and its Foundation unanimously approved the new focus in the closing hours of the 2020 international Rotary conference. This announcement side-stepped controversy by not mentioning “climate change” at all. A few months later came the guidelines for grants, with climate politics now out in the open. Item 4 is headed, “Addressing the causes of climate change and climate disruption and supporting solutions to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.” (How Rotary intends to address the burgeoning emissions of China and India is left unsaid). The new Rotary goals are (with my emphases)

Providing access to locally sourced, renewable energy … as part of holistic interventions to mitigate climate change and disruption.

Strengthening the resilience of ecosystems and communities affected by climate change and climate disruption.[viii]

Supporting adaptation and resiliency strategies for ecosystems and communities affected by climate-related events… [They mean “weather”].

Supporting education to promote behaviours that protect the environment

Supporting environmental education programming in schools that aligns with local government curriculum… [If Australian schooling is any guide, “environmental education” is a Trojan horse for brainwashing kids about alleged planet perils].

Promoting community-based environmental education, environmental awareness and advocacy initiatives …[This seems to open the way for Rotary-funded campaigns against fossil fuels].

Implementation began last July.


Pushback by conservatives

A problem for the Rotary activists was that some Rotarians “committed to denial” were also wealthy donors — a $US1m individual donation is nothing rare. 

Kendrick-Hands told her sympathisers in the Citizens’ Climate Lobby  that President Barry Rassin chose to speak of “embracing environmental sustainability” because “the words ‘climate change’ were too toxic for some of the old people in the room who are major donors to Rotary.” [at 21.00mins].

In her closing remarks to the Riseley-led environment task force on February 3 last year she said,

I have seen Rotarians … threaten to curtail their generous funding of Rotary currently. I believe this small, vocal group has been effective at wrongly politicizing the humanitarian crisis we all, but especially the most vulnerable, are facing from environmental degradation and climate disruptions…  

There are likely many more of us in Rotary who believe, as does [Socialist] UN Secretary General Guterres, that the state of the environment is the defining crisis for civilization. 

There’s a thirst for Rotary’s moral authority. Embracing the environment (or planetary health) as a cause, we believe, will open many opportunities for Rotary’s future and for the world.

Rotary conservatives and liberals had duked it out in the pages of the Rotarian monthly for USA in 2019. The October issue ran half a dozen letters denouncing the sceptics, including

Pro-warming scientists are non-political but “denialists” are pushing vested and political interests

♦ “Do we, as Rotarians, want to turn away from even the chance of minimizing the coming climate disaster? Some may threaten to leave Rotary. Not I. I will spend my Rotary time and energy working to get the greatest organization in the world to address the largest threat to mankind.”

♦ “I wonder how people who wish to do good in the world can be against saving the planet we live on, unless they are profiting in some way from its destruction.”

I assume that from, Rotary International’s perspective, any debate is now over.


Tony Thomas, a Rotarian for 25 years, has just-published “Foot Soldier in the Culture Wars” ($A29.95) is available from author at or publisher Connor Court.


[i] The Church of England and Amnesty International are other examples.

[ii] “The wind energy lobby has warned that consumers will have to subsidise offshore wind farms indefinitely.” -Catallaxy Files, 29/7/21

[iii] I find no reference to Rotary on the CCL’s Australian website.

[iv] UNEP’s predicted 50m climate refugees in 2020 turned out to be three: Ioane Teitiota of Kiribati and a married couple from Tuvalu. At least, ‘refugees’ are what the trio called themselves when trying to sue the NZ government into issuing citizenship.

[v] Rotary’s major success has been leading the world’s fight against polio, now confined to backblocks of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

[vi] Kendrick-Hands: “We ignore the truth she [Greta] speaks at the peril of our grandchildren and their civilization. In 2078, when Greta is 75, I will not be here to see whether we humans have managed to pull out of the death spiral of climate change.” 

[vii] Kendrick-Hands: “The best way to build support for CFnD (Carbon fee and dividend) among Rotarians is to become one. It’s easiest to keep the conversation going from within. Rotary will make progress toward lifting up Environmental Sustainability as a value within Rotary if it attracts new members. You will be doing CCL’s work by joining Rotary. You’ll be glad you did.”

[viii] “Climate disruption” was introduced by green groups to muddy the distinction between weather and climate

11 thoughts on “The Left’s Long March Tramples Rotary

  • RB says:

    The sausage sizzle outside of the local hardware is a cesspit of leftism. It has gotten so bad that the sausages are demanding they be considered fillet steak and the blue-haired onions believe they oppressed.

    it is insanity I tell ya.

  • Alistair says:

    One of our local art societies is periodically engaging in climate activism, apparently unable to see that this is political activism. They therefore see it as a given that ‘climate science’ is settled and that something must be done (in the form of promoting solar energy).
    Not for them to see that climate science rests on multiple assumptions and that even if correct in part or in full, it is for voters to decide what, if anything, they want to do about it. This makes it inherently a political issue but they apparently will not see this. Wife

  • Daffy says:

    We know that the lefty crowd are deluded people-haters who prefer slogans to real life, but Rotarian Salvador Rico would have to be a real dip stick! Saving the planet…does he even know what that could mean?

  • IainC says:

    “All organizations that are not actually right-wing will over time become left-wing.”
    If this is a First Law, I would like to propose a few others.
    Second Law. “All organizations that are centre-left will over time become implicitly, and complicitly, Marxist in character.”
    Third Law. “Any organisation, campaign or regime that is explicitly anti-West, regardless of whether it is far-left, ultra-conservative, racist or fascistic, will be supported by the far-left.”
    Fourth Law. “All entities in Law 3, seemingly of the opposite political beliefs to the far-left, will have a term of opprobrium invented on their behalf, to be used against political opponents in the west, in order to allow overt far-left support.”
    Fifth Law. “All western institutions will become increasing anti-western over time.”
    Sixth Law. “All centre-leftist organisations who express some sort of support for a far-left campaign will be set increasingly difficult and absurd hurdles to overcome, until inevitable failure allows a far-left takeover and the Second Law to come to pass”.

  • Peter Marriott says:

    Good exposure Tony and some good comments. I think the individual Rotary branches have gradually been infiltrated by lefty types over many years, not necessarily as genuine ideological 5th columnists, but lefty nevertheless and no doubt more woke type now with younger ones. Older members who have been in the branch for decades probably stick with it because of loyalty and friendships, but would tend to be sidelined. The old idea of having no two members from the same walk of life relaxed, usually using the same stupid argument that my church uses, namely that we have to do it to attract the young or be more relevant, chipping away the bed rock foundational standards, furiously trying to keep up to the latest thinking, replacing the rock with always moving….sand. I noticed the inability of the centre to hold it’s place many years ago and usually use Yeats little poem the Second Coming and the words ‘Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold…’ to illustrate it, taking my queue from Hans Sedlmayr’s 1948 book ‘ Art Crisis the lost centre’ where he uses it at the start of his book.

  • Tony Thomas says:

    Thanks Peter, I didn’t mention this, but a lot of Australian Rotary Clubs (and Probus Clubs) have now adopted the “Acknowledgement of Country” preamble with original wandering bands referred to as “Nations” and Rotary members pledging to respect “emerging” elders, among others. The “elders” concept per se makes my head hurt, see
    “Emerging elders” is a concept an order of magnitude more mysterious.

  • Peter Marriott says:

    My sentiments entirely Tony….and then some. Keep up the good work.

  • John M says:

    – and ‘Engineers Australia’ is to host a ‘Climate Summit’ in November, in Sydney with keynote speakers Al Gore and the World Economic Forum.

  • whitelaughter says:

    Hmm, your point on the African sex trade was also relevant to the re-branding of abortion article in this issue.

  • Jim Simpson says:

    I couldn’t agree more Tony. Rotary is supposed to be an A-Political organization. Their decision to enter into this highly politicized, controversial topic does little, if anything, to enhance Rotary’s image.

    In the absence of empirical evidence proving the case against CO2 (the basis for the entire ‘climate catastrophe’), Rotary should drop their participation in the climate debate like the proverbial ;’Hot Potato’!

Leave a Reply