Monday, July 07, 2008

Damn Conservative Environmentalists

Aside from the silly splatting (we know damn well what D#@*$% means, so it's like pasties on a set of 38DD's), this question needs to be asked by all of us.
God's Politics - Jim Wallis : D#@*$% Environmentalists! (by Brian McLaren)
"A friend of mine recalls a dinner-table conversation one day when she was a schoolgirl. Her dad had come home unusually frustrated from his job as a city planner. 'D#@*$% environmentalists!' he said over dinner. 'Dad, I thought you were an environmentalist,' she said. 'Why are you so upset?'

'All day long,' he answered, 'environmentalists come to me with problems and complaints, and business people come to me with ideas and projects. Why can't the environmentalists be proactive and come to the table with some creative ideas to make things better, instead of just trying to get in the way of things they don't want to see happen?'"
McLaren has his own answer - which somehow morphs into faith-based initiatives. Well, Ok - there's no rule that says that you need one huge answer for every large problem. So, with a hat tip to Brian and Jim Wallace, I shall diverge at this point.

For myself, while I am a person of faith, in situations like this I don't see faith as being significant.

Faith is the answer when you are not sure of the facts, the implementation of the facts, or do not have the critical facilities to get from what you see to what you should do about it. In the latter case, you need to put your faith in people who can and have proven that they know what they are talking about, and can explain it with diagrams, models and math.

I've long held that Conservation is the ultimate Conservatism. So is environmentalism. "Fix it up, Use it up, Make it Do" is a virtue I grew up with. One of my personal bugaboos is the overwhelming avalanche of plastic crap that cannot be fixed up, used up or made to do. Hell, most often it doesn't even quite do when brand new.

And as I grew up in the Pacific Northwest in the midst of way more "environment" than most folks do, I grew up thinking of it as both a rich resource and my personal preferred environment.

While I value softwood lumber, I hate clear cuts - for the same reason you would hate someone bulldozing three houses across the street for the copper plumbing and leaving all the residue behind. That would be unethical, even had they paid for the property rights that would permit them to do that and even if there were no laws and regulations requiring cleanup. Indeed, those laws and regulations exist in recognition of the ethical requirements and serve as a sort of enforcible morality that applies in such a case.

As a good rule of thumb, if it's ugly and it smells bad, it's probably the result of some form of unethical behavior. Oh, and aside from that, it's wasteful of resources and therefore more expensive and less profitable than it could otherwise be.

When ethics and impact are divorced from the equation, you get both opportunism and NIMBYism. And frankly, much of what passes for environmentalism is some variety of Not In My Backyard. Spotted Owls be damned.

And then there's another point - one that seems to evade people on both sides of any of these debates where taking sides makes a solid resolution impractical or entirely impossible.

Every participant in an ecosystem has an impact; that impact must balance with it's contribution, or the ecosystem will tend to adapt and drive that participant to extinction. And we, our cities and all our glorious and terrible achievements are within the context of a large ecosystem called The Earth, which would get along just fine without us.

These are not matters of faith or ideological conviction, they are matters of fact and the factual, predictable consequences of acting counter to the interests of the ecosystem as a whole.

The only question then is how to go about doing that while preserving, and indeed, improving the parts of the environment we live in while not degrading the parts that other beings require. But none of this precludes change. Without change over time, an ecosystem is dead. We are part of it, unavoidably a dominant force within it, and when we find ourselves choking on our own filth in a silent wasteland, we should be able to come to the obvious conclusion - that we have screwed up and need to change our ways.

Why? Because it's ugly and it stinks.

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