The Blue Earth Alliance is an environmentalist and left-of-center social-policy grantmaking nonprofit that fiscally sponsors projects by independent photographers and documentary producers. As of 2021, the Blue Earth Alliance claims to have supported over 130 multimedia projects, on topics ranging from the theory of manmade global warming and so-called “environmental racism.” 1
Founding and History
The Blue Earth Alliance was founded in 1996 by photographers Natalie Fobes and Phil Borges, who claimed inspiration from the difficulties that they had in securing funding for their own independent projects. Their artistic focuses would go on to represent the Blue Earth Alliance’s grantmaking priorities: Fobes won a Pulitzer Prize-finalist known for her coverage of the Exxon Valdez oil spill for National Geographic, and Borges extensively documented indigenous and tribal cultures in Tibet. 2
During the 2008 recession, the Blue Earth Alliance nearly folded after a series of failed fundraisers. The organization was forced to sell its office space, as well as several prints from the founding members to stay afloat. 3
The Blue Earth Alliance does not directly fund or grant its sponsored projects. Instead, its sponsorship allows artists to apply for grants that are typically only accessible by nonprofit organizations.
The Blue Earth Alliance adds several new projects to its fiscal sponsorship program during grant periods, which occur twice per year,. In the Summer of 2021, the organization took on five new projects, which included critiques of urbanization, support of indigenous land rights, and documenting theorized manmade climate change in Canada’s Newfoundland and Labrador province. 5
The Blue Earth Alliance is partnered with Seattle Works, a Seattle-based nonprofit that encourages “anti-racism education.” One of the organization’s programs is its “White Caucus,” or, a meeting that encourages white people to “retrain” themselves and “shift power to people who identify as Black, Indigenous, or People of Color (BIPOC).” 6
The Blue Earth Alliance’s 2019 financial filings show total revenues of $138,340 and total expenses of $136,951. 7
The president of the Blue Earth Alliance is Conor Risch, a Seattle-based writer and editor. Two of the organization’s board members are also employed by Microsoft: Madhura Raju, a product manager, and Ondrea Dae Hidley, assistant general counsel. A previous president, Larry Ockene, was also a project manager at Microsoft. 8
- “Homepage.” Blue Earth Alliance. Accessed December 25, 2021. https://www.blueearth.org/.
- “Natalie Fobes.” Annenberg Space for Photography, February 6, 2018. https://www.annenbergphotospace.org/person/natalie-fobes/. ; Luntz, Holden. “Phil Borges Archives.” Holden Luntz Gallery, December 16, 2021. https://www.holdenluntz.com/artists/phil-borges/.
- “Remembering Malcolm Edwards, Blue Earth Alliance Co-Founder.” Blue Earth Alliance, October 3, 2019. https://www.blueearth.org/remembering-malcolm-edwards/.
- “Blue Earth Photographer Lauren Owens Lambert to Speak at the United Nations.” Blue Earth Alliance, January 10, 2019. https://www.blueearth.org/blue-earth-photographer-lauren-owens-lambert-to-speak-at-the-united-nations/. ; “Rubén Salgado Escudero Selected among Recipients of National Georgraphic Society Explorers Grantees.” Blue Earth Alliance, November 26, 2018. https://www.blueearth.org/ruben-salgado-escudero-selected-among-recipients-of-national-georgraphic-society-explorers-grantees/.
-  “Introducing Our New Sponsored Projects for Summer 2021.” Blue Earth Alliance, August 15, 2021. https://www.blueearth.org/new-blue-earth-alliance-projects-summer-2021/.
- “White Caucus.” Seattle Works. Accessed December 25, 2021. https://www.seattleworks.org/white-caucus.
- Blue Earth Alliance, Short Form Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990-EZ), 2019, Part I https://apps.irs.gov/pub/epostcard/cor/911682270_201912_990EZ_2021051918144124.pdf
- “Larry Ockene Succeeds Adam Weintraub as President of Blue Earth Alliance.” Photomediaonline.com, March 12, 2008. http://www.photomediaonline.com/blogs/people-in-the-industry/item/1040-larry-ockene-succeeds-adam-weintraub-as-president-of-blue-earth-alliance.html.