Nature Noted

Notes on a changing Nature

Location: Bellville, Texas, United States

I never would have predicted this one

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Common Ground

I've been following the debate over "Is Environmentalism Dead" with some interest. It's like the self-examination (or is it self-flagellation) going on inside the Democratic Party right now. Both debates are about the future, about core values, and about tactics. But they also seem to be over the old grade school question 'why don't they like me?"
This little spurt of philosophic musing is spurred by an exchange with Gary Jones of Crumbtrail fame at his "other" blog Muck and Mystery. I think it's safe to say that Gary isn't as impressed by Courtney White's essay on conservation in the West as I am. I'll let you read Gary's reasoning for yourself.
While Gary disagrees with me, I think Courtney White is onto something here that people who care about the environment or the Democratic party for that matter should pay attention to. Environmentalism isn't dead, Environmental Orthodoxy is dead. Environmental deafness is dead. You want to matter? Don't shut out the people who have been arbitrarily defined as "those people". Ranchers. Hunters. SUV drivers. Find the common ground.
Here's another example of what I'm talking about. Seattle Post-Intelligencer columnist Joel Connelly writes about efforts to stop the Bonneville Power Authority from shutting off the summertime spilling of water through Columbia River dams to assist downstream migration of young salmon. The move was stopped by an coalition of groups that had previously not worked together. But they found the common ground to make their voices heard. As opposed to the old style of protesting that does more long term harm than good.

"Yesterday, looking up at the TV screen from fish studies, I was repelled to hear radicals chant -- "Hey, Bush, we know you! Your Daddy was a killer, too!" -- as the president's limo passed by. The language of left-wing protesters, aired on national TV, was reminiscent of some e-mails sent by extreme right-wing talk radio fans.
Did this indulgent, vile protest win any friends or allies? It didn't, aside from perhaps a private cheer from Bush strategist Karl Rove.
As well, what good was done by the rally at Seattle Central Community College, the inevitable march downtown and the predictable oratory? It's happened so often that Pine Street deserves a new name: "Boulevard of Left-Wing Bluster."
The only potentially effective strategy is the kind of banding together witnessed on the Columbia River. Sport, commercial and Indian fisher folk have been at one another's throats for years. Lately, though, they've defended common ground.
Street-corner rhetoric won't stop rollbacks in environmental protection, or slicing and dicing of the social safety net that Franklin D. Roosevelt began to erect 72 years ago.
But public opinion can give pause to even the most headstrong public official."

Progress is made by stopping the shouting, starting to listen, and realizing there is more than one valid way to see the world. Isolated tribes become strong nations by getting off their mountaintops and finding the common ground.


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