Wherein a Blogger goes Ballistic on “Real” Environmentalists


In a recent post at Intelligent Discontent, I read another in a long line of litanies from a member of the blogging community lambasting a Missoulian op-ed writer’s lament about the state of environmentalism. Or environmentalism in the state. Whatever. I could link to the blogger’s post, but why?

I may have linked to an incorrect op-ed, and if so then I apologize to the unnamed and unlinked blogger.  In that post, said blogger attacked the alleged op-ed writer and his opinions about what constitutes a “real” vs. “pseudo” environmentalist. And by doing so, the blogger attempts to create his own version of proper behavior within the “environmental community” (as if there is any such contrivance).

It’s a neat rhetorical flourish, being able to simultaneously call out a writer for failing to engage in “substantive debate” while failing to name the writer, or groups he is suspect of categorizing into his neat environmental subsets. Of course, maybe there is more than a mere debate about policy going on. After all, the suspected op-ed writer also is a substitute teacher and judge for Montana state high school debate championships.

Bingo! I think we may have a bit of a personal and/or professional issue creeping into the mere discussion of environmentalism. Nothing more competitive than a little controversy over debate in the state, particularly between judges and coaches! Of course, I could be wrong, and said blogger could be referring to some other enviro. In any case, it is hard to get to the heart of the policy issue in any environmental debate, when the goal is to beat the other debate team, regardless of the meat of the issue. The goal of debating is to win, not to discern the best policy. Just like politics.

The blogger goes on to rattle his usual prattle about compromise and purism. I guess having principles and being an environmentalist should be mutually exclusive features, or some such. Nevermind that many environmentalists believe that a principled position is a good place to begin a policy debate. After all, if a debater walks into a debate already having compromised away half of whatever he’s debating for, he’s doing the work of the opposing team. Not a very good debating strategy if you ask me. And a losing one.

And I’ve never met an “environmentalist” who didn’t believe that upholding current law or a federal regulation wasn’t a good thing. If one observes the federal government not policing environmental law or regulations, is it good policy to let the illegalities continue in the spirit of compromise or collaboration? I think that any good debater could say that we are either a country that abides by the rule of law, or we are tending towards lawlessness. To suggest that laws and regulations be selectively enforced, or partially upheld is to invite anarchy into the debate over environmentalism. Is that good for the environment?

The blog post continues on with references to the necessity of passionate activists’ “extreme” views. Hmmm… is it extreme to want to protect the status quo? After all, some “radical” activists have taken the position that our roadless wild lands are very nice the way they are, and don’t need to be changed or “managed” for multiple (industrial) uses. Many of us take the principled stand that current roadless lands in Montana and the region should remain roadless. This is the conservative approach. Actually, a radical approach would be to convert wilderness into tree farms through clearcutting.

The blogger also weighed in on the proper way to “protect a piece of land from development.” While many environmentalists are able to simultaneously have a principled position about preserving the status quo of roadless lands and using traditional techniques such as coalition building, activism, and outreach to government and industry entities, it appears that others are only interested in “extreme” views as a benchmark of a position to be avoided and compromised away from.

Heck, even the Alliance for the Wild Rockies built a coalition of well over a hundred small, local grassroots nonprofit environmental organizations with thousands of supporters to advocate maintaining roadless lands in their current state. And that coalition and support generated N.R.E.P.A., which does little more than codify the current state of roadless lands in the northern Rockies as Wilderness. Oh, and it currently is a piece of legislation in Congress meant to stake out the “principled”, er, extreme position of thinking that maybe the more designated wilderness we have, the better the planet can survive through the next major extinction event that industrialization and population pressure is causing.

I wonder where the policy debate really lies here? To those who take a principled stand that we need to preserve as much wilderness and roadless lands as we can — in the face of a burgeoning population and resource extraction pressures — it only makes sense to adopt a policy that will protect these lands, and the species that depend on them. Or maybe it only makes sense to people to have and understand what a principled position on wilderness and biodiversity is.

I think that the blogger in question has confused what a policy debate is with what a political debate is. Many environmentalists (some will label them “radical” or “extreme”) understand what kind of policy is appropriate in a given situation, and approach the debate with a solid sense of that’s what they’ll advocate and fight for. Other environmentalists enter the debate with a nod towards politics, and let that guide the debate over policy. But this is only for instances where the policy is unsettled.

Fortunately, we have a broad base of settled environmental law and policies. It isn’t all-inclusive, nor does it necessarily accomplish certain goals (has the Clean Air Act solved carbon dioxide pollution and its associated atmospheric changes?). And it could be improved. But it isn’t a policy debate to force the government and industry to follow the law. And it isn’t a political debate about how the law is implemented by federal agencies. Politicians may try to make it such, but fortunately we have courts to weigh the legality or the issues and laws to allow citizens to intervene. And courts aren’t (or shouldn’t be) swayed by emotions or principles. They rule based on facts, laws and actions.

So I wonder about how the blogger can advocate to have policy fights and disagreements on “the best way to implement change.” After all, many of us “environmentalists” are not advocating change in some issues like roadless protection or existing law. As to roadless protection we are more preservationists than environmentalists. And if we look globally at what is happening with species extinction and dwindling population numbers of key indicator species, the goal is to preserve biodiversity, and that is done by limiting change induced by industrial society, not by “implementing change.”

Oftentimes in the environmental debate, the best policy is the most conservative one, and it is to protect the status quo. And to deviate from that means that it is ok to watch wilderness and biodiversity dwindle away until it is no longer meaningful and vital to the ecosystem in which we all live. Why would a moral, ethical and principled person who believes in the preservation of the wild say that it is ok to destroy a little bit of it? Is it ok to only steal a little? To be only a little violent? To only lie a bit?

Principles are tough things to have, and even tougher to live by. But when you compromise your principles in this arena, you really have no principles at all. You have politics and all of its amorality. Aldo Leopold said that very well in his well known land ethic:

“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”

As does Thoreau’s dictum:

“In Wildness is the preservation of the world.”

Need I go any further?

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36 Responses to Wherein a Blogger goes Ballistic on “Real” Environmentalists

  1. steve kelly says:

    I don’t know Bill Baum, but I salute him for speaking his mind and standing for what he believes. Of course that brings out the language control people. We welcome any and all activists in this last battle for a small patch of something wild enough and large enough to raise grizzly bear cubs to adulthood without being relocated, sent to a zoo, poisoned, poached, run over by a car or truck, or killed by government agents.

    “Any effort on behalf of human or ecological justice and wisdom demands real courage rather than false optimism, and responsibility even in times of utter madness, even in times when decadence outpolls decency, even in times when responsibility itself is ridiculed as the behavior of the weak and naive.” – Sam Smith https://samsmitharchives.wordpress.com/2012/10/10/becoming-and-being-an-activist/

  2. It comes down to moral courage, and as Sam Clemens noted, physical courage is very common, the moral variety quite rare. Napoleon remarked on how easy it was to convince men to risk their lives for a ribbon. I wonder if he could have convinced them to hold a view that the majority of soldiers did not like?

    Pogie’s view is that he holds the charmed title of “environmentalist” even as he’s so weak on actual issues that he avoids debate, merely casting aspersions. (If he reads this, unlikely, he’ll quickly run up a post demonstrating that he actually does have chops.) He just knows that Democrats sell out, so he does too, and therefore, it’s a good thing to do.

    He really does not go deeper, which is why he can be so infuriating. .

    • larry kurtz says:

      because driving deep into egypt is where the trout come home to roost: right, toke?

      • JC says:

        “All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full”
        Right, Kurtz?

      • Kurtz, you have a means of expression I find intriguing … I want to know what is going on in your mind when you make these comments. You is not like everyone else out there! There’s a stream of thought there, we are allowed to see but one small part of it, and left to figure the whole. Fascinating!

        Of course, it could be that what we see is the whole of it.

        • JC says:

          He’s mixing his metaphors from Richard Brautigan writings. If you’ve ever read Brautigan, you’ll understand what he’s doing. If not, it’s just obtuse flak.

        • Never read the guy. Can you give me a short synopses?

        • JC says:

          He was a crazy SOB, but brilliant writer. Abstract, irreverent, humorous. I used to drink with him back in the 70’s in Livingston. We coined a phrase about things people wrote/said in his honor: “that was a real Brautigan”. I think what Kurtz wrote above could considered a poor one.

          Here’s a poem from Rommel Drives On Deep into Egypt:

          Rommel is dead.
          His army has joined the quicksand legions
          of history where the battle is always
          a metal echo saluting a rusty shadow.
          His tanks are gone.
          How’s your ass?

          And a line from Trout Fishing in America:

          “He created his own Kool Aid reality and was able to illuminate himself by it.”

          So you see where Kurtz was going with all this… Short enough?

        • Quite helpful – thanks!

    • Big Swede says:

      Here’s some deeper diving, Mark.

      When Death Camps Are Necessary

      Published: December 29, 2012

      Despite a society’s best intentions sometimes it is necessary for it to do what is considered taboo. After considerable efforts have been made to reason with those who strive to undermine Progress, after immeasurable efforts are made to properly educate seditious dissenters, after exhaustive effort has been made to silence, marginalize and finally punish – the Ultimate Solution is Occam’s Razor.

      The Death Penalty is nearing extinction in Progressive, Civilized Society for crimes against persons and property – rightly so. However, in the case of Sedition and Agitation against Progressing Society it may be the only remedy once all other forms of remediation are exhausted.

      Certain groups have proven impossible to mollify through less extreme measures. Even under prescribed psychotropic pharmaceuticals, incarceration and repeated attempts at re-education and punishment, they continue to spread un-healthy ideas like Cancer to healthy individuals.

      Modern Medicine has long recognized the need to excise diseased tissue from healthy tissue despite the disfigurement and pain associated with the operation in order to preserve Life. The argument must be made that sedition is Cancer to the Society which it metastases to and must therefore be excised with as much rigor as a malignancy with a surgical scalpel.

      Death Camps must only be used in the most extreme necessity, however like radiation and chemotherapy to a skilled Oncologist, they can be used quite effectively to preserve the Life of the Progressive Body.

      In this Transitional Period in US History, we as a Progressive Society are much like the first creatures arising from the primordial seas onto the land. Extreme elements within our society would prefer to pull All of Us back in to the water only to drown, just as we set upon our first steps to soaring amongst the stars. As a People, the majority of us have now twice demonstrated that we wish to arise from our primordial past, to new Transformative Heights. Yet, there is a destructive minority that seeks only to lure us all to watery deaths singing a Siren’s songs of false histories and ideas.

      When a serpent cannot be dealt with by reason, isolation or punishment; when it continues to endanger all of us, we are left with no option other than to slay it.

      A version of this editorial appeared in print on December 30, 2012, on page SR14 of the New York edition with the headline: Why Obama should be our Caesar

    • Bob Williams says:

      Yes, he rarely goes deeper, mostly content to deal with names and categories from a single frame view. Therefore that’s what I expect/anticipate.
      Please note the related Comments on ID quickly turn from a still life,
      to a kind of video view of who’s doing what among the
      groups in Montana with missions to improve different connections
      in the air, water, land, vegetation, fish and wildlife environments.
      Comments dealing with a wholistic view, of dynamic forces.
      Not static snapshots from a remote camera.

  3. 01stevekelly says:

    Is there an author you’d like to credit? A publisher? Maybe a link, at least. Is this your handy work, Swede? Cryptic diptych by dipstick would suffice.

    • Big Swede says:

      The Climate Depot, post about throwing climate skeptics into jail under the RICO Act.

      I got the above from one of the commenters who in turn took it from The NYT. Sums up in my estimation some of the dreams and wishes of environmentalists.


      • Swede, back during Vietnam there was discussion about why the U.S. felt it necessary to kill so many Vietnamese (well over three million before the wrapped it up in ’75). The answer, never stated outright but often enough over beers and informally, was that anti-colonial fervor (called “communism” by the military) was considered a disease that could not be cured. So the country had to be cleansed of the disease, and mass executions was the best way.

        Similarly in Iraq, though the death toll is still a state secret here, mass death was seen as a way, along with torture and terror, of taking a free and independent people and breaking their spirit. (To their credit, it has not yet worked.)

        In other words, we already practice extermination, and as I read you over the years, you’re actually in favor of it.

        Snippets like the one you just pasted are meant for dissemination, and are agitprop, meant to enrage and scare you, keep,p your eye off the ball, focused on the wrong villains. … “Look here, not there.”

        • Big Swede says:

          Pot meet Kettle.

          I view conspiracies as the pinnacle of agitprop.

        • It all depends, Swede, on how you react in the face of incontrovertible evidence. Do you deal with it, and form your opinions accordingly, or do you hide from it and imagine it cannot be so?

          It was never my desire to hold the opinions I hold, but the search for truth led me there. I have seen the evidence. You have avoided it. This si why you are dead wrong in your statement.

          Your views appear to me to be founded on tradition, upbringing, authority figures, group think, but not evidence.

  4. Bob Williams says:

    Deep dive? More like a splash in a slow flowing backwater channel. But, speaking of death camps for those who spread unhealthy ideas.

    How about the idea from the CNN debate, that the USA must cut taxes, and borrow more money from progeny, to now spend more money to buy more military forces?

    How about the ?3 Debate comments on Global Climate Change?
    Do they not effectively say,
    pass the problem on to Americans in the womb and beyond;
    for ‘we crony patriarchs are empowered to pass our wastes on to the millenials.
    Let their progeny suffer from our greedy destruction of air and water.’
    Therefore suppress the middle class and protect the military-industrial-political-church complex,
    in a social-economic matrix where productivity gains are SEIZED by the top 1%.

    • Big Swede says:

      Forward Comrade Bob.

      The Greatness of Dictators Published: December 29, 2012

      The latest debacle in Washington over the Fiscal Cliff and Gun Control illustrate perfectly why it is now imperative to begin consolidating the powers of the three branches of government into the Executive Office of the President. Congress simply cannot be entrusted with the finances or landmark actions of a Superpower.

      Beholden to far too many interests contrary to the good of the nation as a whole, Congress must transfer its powers to the Chief Executive. We are at a rare cross roads where we are poised for a new era, or condemned to continued inaction.

      Josef Stalin, Benito Mussolini and the Beloved Chairman Mao Tse-tung would have been hamstringed had they been constrained by a separation of powers and an inept Congress. In order to do great things, a great man must have no constraints shackling him.

      We are blessed with a Great leader in Barrack Obama, and if unleashed from the shackles constraining him by an uncooperative Legislative Branch, we as a nation are poised for a most wondrous time. In reassessing the traditional structure of US Government we should not stop just with the cumbersome separation of powers.

      The US Constitution is a stodgy document, written over two centuries ago when the speediest form of communication took place on horseback and from within sailing ships cargo holds. It is time to reevaluate the document in its entirety. For one, allowing untold millions of firearms in the hands of untrained and unregulated civilians has lead to terrible consequences. By freeing the Chief Executive, this would be dealt with immediately as opposed to the painfully slow piecemeal legislative process we have currently.

      The shear amount of waste in having such a redundant form of government and the ridiculous amount of time and wasted resources in having regular elections that force great men to grovel for votes can be better utilized. For instance, had the 2012 election not taken place, a wise Chief Executive would have been able to solve Global Warming or dedicated his intellectual resources toward producing World Peace.

      Great men like Josef Stalin accomplished National Transformation by being allowed to fully seize the reins of power. It is time to allow a great man to do the same in the United States today. We must force Congress to set aside its selfish desires to control the true course of history and place in the capable hands of Our Twice Elected President the powers necessary for Transformation..

      A version of this editorial appeared in print on December 30, 2012, on page SR14 of the New York edition with the headline: Why Obama should be our Caesar

  5. steve kelly says:

    Oligarchs and plutocrats have already decided on our socio-economic system. It’s neither “capitalist” nor “socialist.” It’s not “communist” either.

    “The major western democracies are moving towards corporatism. Democracy has become a business plan, with a bottom line for every human activity, every dream, every decency, every hope. The main parliamentary parties are now devoted to the same economic policies — socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor — and the same foreign policy of servility to endless war. This is not democracy. It is to politics what McDonalds is to food.”
    ― John Pilger

    It’s corporatist, therefore is doesn’t matter much who the “CEO” of the nation is, or that title you assign — be it a president or a dictator — the policies and practices will be negotiated and decided by a corps of interchangeable technocrat/drones that revolve in and out of special-interest organizations and any form of government that is convenient to TPTB.

    • Big Swede says:

      Come on Steve.

      A communist is just an impatient socialist.

      • Thus were we all taught in the 1950s and 60s. Some of us went on further to develop broader world views.

      • 01stevekelly says:

        Who are these “socialists?” Large corporations that pay zero taxes? Wealthy individuals with off-shore bank accounts?

        Socialism: ” A way of organizing a society in which major industries are owned and controlled by the government rather than by individual people and companies.” Last I checked, major industries are privately owned and controlled by stockholders and bondholders and a Board of Directors.

        • Big Swede says:

          Last time I checked governments trumped industries, stockholders, bondholders, and directors.

          Who’s controlling the construction of XL, timber industry, off shore drilling, Alaskan drilling, the coal industry, new railroads?

          Who has the highest corporate tax rate of all developed countries? All corps pay taxes, they may pay less because they didn’t make any money but they pay many different taxes than those based on profit.

        • “All corps pay taxes, they may pay less because they didn’t make any money but they pay many different taxes than those based on profit.”

          That sentence applies to all of us, Swede. We all pay taxes, poor and rich alike, and the highest as a percentage of income is probably the middle class, $75,000 or more. Why should corporations be exempt. You’ve been told 15,000 times now that US corporations are not the highest taxed in the world, that the rate structure is window dressing. You’ll go right on to repeat it again becasue facts don’t matter to you. Only how you feel about them.

          But my real beef with corporations is not about taxes, but about the amount of power they have, more than government. We fight and pay for their wars, invade other countries on their behalf, make our commons available to them for a pittance, allow them to form monopolies and overcharge us for everything under the sun, give them trillions to build unneeded weaponry, all because they have amassed so much political power that they own the politicians, the regulatory agencies, the military, the media and entertainment system.

          We created them, we should be able to regulate them, put them to death when they misbehave. But instead, they govern us. .

        • Big Swede says:

          Governments can kick down your doors Mark, something Exxon doesn’t do.

          Maybe moving to Mars would be a solution.

          Is there life on Mars? If so, there are too many questions we must answer before we contemplate going there. Tough, progressive questions.

          Is there social justice on Mars?
          Is there an economy on Mars and if so, does it need regulating?
          Is there a community on Mars and if so, does it need community organizers?
          Are there genders on Mars and if so, is there gender equality for all 58 of them?
          Is there private property on Mars and if so, is there redistributive justice?
          Is there illegal immigration on Mars and if so, are there sanctuary cities?
          Are there elections on Mars and if so, is voter ID required?
          Is there Al Sharpton on Mars?
          Is there homosexuality on Mars and if so, is there homophobia?
          Is there parenthood on Mars and if so, does it need to be planned?
          Are there corporations on Mars and if so, are they considered people?
          Is there an environment on Mars and if so, does it require environmentalists?
          Is there climate change on Mars and if so, is the Martian science settled?
          Is there a nuclear bomb on Mars and if so, do they need negotiators?
          Are there Muslims on Mars and if so, is there Islamophobia?
          – See more at: http://thepeoplescube.com/peoples-blog/is-there-life-on-mars-t16911.html#sthash.XvXMWqbG.dpuf

        • As usual, the point blue bayou. Exxon is the government, owns the government. We fight wars, invade countries, murder millions of innocent people because Exxon is in charge of our military. The oil cartel has long used marines to kick down doors to make sure it has what it wants. That is the point – corporate control of the state. Fascism, Swede. fascism.

      • JC says:

        If a communist is just an impatient socialist, then a fascist is an impatient corporatist.

        • Big Swede says:

          It’s impossible to get decent Chinese takeout in China, Cuban cigars are rationed in Cuba, and that’s all you need to know about communism.

          — PJ O’Rourke

        • JC says:

          And American “food” at McDonald’s is all you need to know about corporatism. And Americans.

        • Cuba under illegal embargo.

          1965-66, Indonesia, leader Sukarno imprisoned, over half a million killed, major U.S. Corporations divvy up country’s resources.

          That’s all you need to know about capitalism.

          Swede? Swede? Swede? Where’s you go Swede? Damn, he always leaves before it’s over. Why is that?

  6. dpogreba says:

    Thought I’d drop a fact in, rare as they are around here. Despite your assertion that my piece was a personal attack related to debate, an activity I haven’t been actively involved in as a coach for at least six years, I have had no interaction with the author I was referring to. I only point this out to demonstrate how absurd your beloved conspiracy theories are. They don’t require actual fact, just artful presentation of tenuous links that don’t even have to be true themselves.

    Who knows? Maybe I shot down an airliner at the behest of my Ukrainian fascist pay masters, too. I can’t prove I didn’t do it, after all.

    • ridicule is all you got. as time goes by, the perspective we represent is repeatedly validated. you mock the Ukrainian MH17 situation because the facts—the few that have leaked from the investigation—show a BUK missile DID NOT bring that plane down.

      do you ever get tired of being wrong, then having to revert to acting the smug asshole to cover that “fact”?

    • JC says:

      What a quibbler. You’re on sabbatical, so you’ll probably quibble some more when I mention that your quixotic teaching website lists you as a debate teacher. Or you’ll accuse me of stalking you — when you’re a public school teacher paid with taxpayer dollars. But no “interaction?” Hardly. Taking someone down in a blog post is an “interaction.” You own a business and run a website selling debate materials. Your CV lists that you “Co-wrote, edited and published 40 volumes on high school debate.”

      My bet is that you have more than a passing resentment aimed at Mr. Baum on more than “environmentalist” issues. Then again, maybe you just really like to hate on people who aren’t nice moderate, liberal “conservationists” like yourself.

      And since when did a “maybe” and “may have” = “assertion” (your term)? I guess when your style of debate is to twist words in order to score a “gotcha” point, then bravo!

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