Erich Pica is the new Director of Friends of the Earth, the international environmental NGO at the front lines of some of the most serious and controversial problems affecting the natural world. Pica, 34, has been with Friends of the Earth for more than a decade, the last six years as the director of the organization's domestic programs. Pica says FOE will stay aggressive: "We live in a historic time. The imminent threat of climate destabilization, our reliance on dirty fuels instead of clean energy, toxins in our homes and environment, an unsustainable food system and other threats demand transformational solutions that challenge the political and economic status quo. It is time for a new generation of leaders to fight for these solutions. We must fix the flaws in our economic system that are at the root of many of our environmental and social problems, and fight to transform the political climate that's allowed them to persist."
Pica's follows Dr. Brent Blackwelder, who is retiring. Blackwelder became Friends of the Earth's president in 1994 and he has has testified before Congress more than 100 times. According to the FOE press release:
Under Blackwelder's leadership, Friends of the Earth won a landmark Supreme Court case defending the National Environmental Protection Act (Friends of the Earth v Laidlaw), exposed the illegal use of genetically modified corn in Kraft taco shells, and held the Export-Import Bank of the United States accountable for failing to consider climate change impacts in its planning. More on Blackwelder's record of accomplishment can be found here.
Pica will immediately be in for a rocky time. FOE has come out against the Waxman-Markey bill, which passed the House this summer and the Senate is about to take it up. FOE's position puts them in a tight spot where they are for climate action but against the only game in town, the House bill. It's unclear if President Obama can successfully negotiate a fair and effective deal at the international climate negotiations in Copenhagen in December without a US bill that caps global warming emissions. Pica will have to navigate this issue straight out of the gate.