ATL's Letter to the Hewlett Foundation

March 17, 2019

Larry Kramer, President
Jonathan Pershing, Environment Program Director
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
2121 Sand Hill Road
Menlo Park, CA 94025

President Kramer and Director Pershing,

What follows is a structured way for President Kramer’s Climate Emergency Declaration to be widely perceived, heard, and shared.  Further, it answers Director Pershing’s concerns expressed in our conversation that “Hewlett could not feasibly take the lead in expressing the urgency and severity of the Climate Emergency.”

Reckoning With the Emergency: From Words, to Plans, to Action

On the Climate One program, February 7 of this year,[i] Hewlett Foundation President Larry Kramer said that the Climate Crisis is an Emergency!  The panelists with him agreed.  It was unanimous. 

The Association for the Tree of Life (ATL) believes that this statement may well be perceived historically as Common Sense.  Just two days before, in an extensive conversation with Jonathan Pershing, Hewlett’s Environment Program Director, ATL urged Jonathan Pershing to communicate the full severity and urgency of the Climate Crisis through a wide broadcast and to revise the 2018 Hewlett Climate Initiative Strategy in order to be consistent with the Emergency reality and the requirements for immediate and drastic climate stabilization action.  Pershing demurred, saying that he could not see how Hewlett could take the lead in such a dramatic broadcast, particularly within the Hewlett portfolio of grants.

ATL had pointed out the inconsistency, in that the Hewlett Climate Strategy did not reflect current urgency and severity that was conveyed in ATL’s Letter of Inquiry [to Hewlett][ii] from June 2018.  The Hewlett Strategy does not conform to the Emergency nature of the existential crisis we all exist within, and Pershing acknowledged the severity and urgency, but did not respond positively to ATL’s suggestion that Hewlett broadcast the “clear and present danger” attendant to the Emergency.

However, Jonathan Pershing asked ATL to continue the conversation when it had a response more appropriate to his perceptions.  This is that response.

Here ATL will explain how Hewlett can proceed from its President’s Emergency acknowledgement—to plans, tactics, and strategies consistent with the Emergency—to catalyzing scale action that delivers common cause relating to the Emergency.

ATL presents here, from Words, to Plans, to Actions, a plausible way within which Hewlett can proceed from its President’s declaration of the Climate Crisis Emergency to catalyzing cultural plans, responses, and actions so there is a Reckoning with the over-determined and comprehensive nature of the Emergencies themselves.

Realizing the Emergency, Hewlett Style

Take a moment and consider what an Emergency situation means. An Emergency situation is a situation that poses immediate risk to health, life, property, or the environment.  In the Climate intervention, to prevent a worsening of the situation.[iii]

ATL proposes to meet with Hewlett’s President, Environmental Staff, selected Board Members, and even members of the Hewlett Family in order to establish the existence of the Emergency within the “Hewlett Family.”  The result would be that Hewlett as an entity could say that an Emergency does exist, and declares that it does.  This needs to occur as soon as possible.

Following this declaration, Hewlett would announce that it is updating its 2018 Climate Strategy to be consistent with the extant Emergency.  Its allied climate philanthropies and climate / conservation grant makers would collectively update their own strategies to reflect the Emergency.      

(There are many more particulars in this section that ATL would like to relate to Hewlett’s Officers and Staff, and could in a conference call, but this document is an outline of a much more extensive plan.)

Hewlett’s Role with Other Philanthropies, the Ones Who Do Not Yet Fund Climate and Climate Related Action

Once Hewlett has charged its climate / conservation allies with the Emergent nature of the human situation, and those grant makers are grappling with “How do we Reckon with the Emergency?,”  then it needs must add many other philanthropies to the Reckoning mix, consistent with the short four-minute film here.  In this particular example, Hewlett is sounding the Emergency Alarm within and among its sister philanthropies so that there can be a “common cause” statement of emergency, funding following that Emergency acknowledgement, and Philanthropy as a whole entering into the Emergency conversation.

The Giving Pledge will be a key participant in this Emergency realization process, along with all major philanthropies. 

(ATL can foresee how this process can be taken from initial steps—to comprehensive involvement of Philanthropy in the Emergency realization.  Then in the Emergency Reckoning.  ATL can explain that bey0ond this brief outline.)

Once Philanthropy is Engaged in the Emergency, How to Engage the Nation and More…..

Once Philanthropy as-a-whole is engaged and acknowledges the Emergent nature of our collective situation, then Hewlett et al can deploy teams to present the nature and extent of the Emergency in civic auditoriums and churches nationwide, and ask for common cause, collective response, collective action, and cooperation—the fundamental factors necessary to Reckon with the collective Emergency.

The “Grand View”: Are There Historical Examples to Draw From?

Understanding that the Emergency threats facing all of us are unprecedented, ATL purposely used Thomas Payne’s Common Sense in its first paragraph above.  Common Sense was the first work to openly ask for independence from Great Britain, and it became America’s common sense, just as engaging Emergency can become a common sense to the US now.  The analogy to the American Revolution is apt.

Then, just as now, people in the “Colonies” had to devise governmental, moral, economic, and social operating systems comprehensively different from the ones they experienced under Great Britain; they had to invent and construct a completely different kind of nation-state.  Similarly, now we must all create different governmental, economic, moral, and social operating systems to free ourselves from the self-destructive and soon suicidal industrial-consumer-fossil-fuel-reliant system that dominates us.

Now, like then, extensive conversations across the nation—like the conversations that happened in taverns, town-squares, family and community gatherings—must happen in civic auditoriums, churches, and community gatherings.  Philanthropy can help to fund these gatherings across the land.  It will be expensive, but necessary. 

And if you ask, and you will ask: “What does the over-determined and comprehensive Emergency require, in terms of plans, goals, strategies and resultant actions, because philanthropies will have their versions of these?”, the answer is that it will come out of, and be realized by the thousands of conversations, meetings, grapplings, realizations, and reckonings that occur from every level of our society.  It must, because that is the only way it can be addressed, and 250 years ago, a similar process, particular to that time and place occurred then.       

We cannot know the result of these numerous conversations, nor clearly predict where the understandings related to the comprehensive emergency will lead.  Interested parties can facilitate, but not direct.  Those of us involved and facilitating can only engage the process honestly, ask for cooperation and compassion, present the facts and the data clearly and as simply as possible.  Then we must allow the “realizations” to grow, spread, and take root as part of the process, and have the basis of human life determine the outcome.  That is, we all want to survive and thrive, and we must engage the process to have any realistic opportunity to survive or to thrive.  

We have a common fate in these commons, the commons of our life-support systems.  These life supports are under common and grievous threat, and only a common and collective response from humanity will suffice.  That is the plain and simple truth.  And it can and must happen. 

(There are a lot of additional details that ATL can add to this sketch above, so that it can be made more palpable and visible, but this is an outline, and must await Hewlett’s response to our offer and suggestions.)

Concluding:  ATL has explained how the realization and declaration of existing Climate Emergency as expressed by President Kramer can be made part of realistic goals, plans and strategies of Hewlett Foundation, and the rest of the world of Philanthropy.  It will take a lot of work, it will take admitting shortcomings, and it will take enthusiasm.  On the other hand, President Kramer has asked for feedback by “Listening to People Who Think Hewlett may well be Wrong,” and ATL has explained how Hewlett’s Strategies do not conform to the severity and urgency of our existing Climate Emergency.

Now, ATL is seeking to take a step further.  We are looking to work with Philanthropy to make a viable world for our Posterity, a fundamental promise our entire nation agrees with.  As expressed in our founding Constitution.

ATL is certainly willing and able to continue this conversation, and would like to engage with Hewlett again as soon as possible.  Please contact us at our office phone number with any questions or comments you may have:  801-359-3731.


Michael Mielke
Chairman of the Board

Joan Garretson, Hewlett Foundation
Kevin Anderson, Tyndall Centre
Tate Williams, Inside Philanthropy
Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University
Nafeez Ahmed, London
Jeremy Grantham, and the Grantham Foundation
Katharine Hayhoe
Mike Mann, Penn State University
Members and organizations of ATL’s Climate Emergency Coalition
David Spratt, Climate Code Red—Australia
ATL Board of Directors
Steve Toben, Flora Family Foundation
Michael Dowd, Reverend Reality

[i] See Donor Power, Climate One conversation, 2/7/2109:

[ii] Document attached with this letter to the President Kramer and Jonathan Pershing. See ATL's Letter of Inquiry to Hewlett here.

[iii] See Wikipedia: Emergency.



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