CONSERVATION REPORT, March 92 Storm Petrel1
The public: pro-environment yet opposed to modest environmental reforms. A call for different strategies and a better environmental agenda.
Trends In Eco–Politics
Our natural environment is deteriorating and new environmental problems are arising; yet our political, economic and social systems fail to assign cause or prescribe remedy. While environmentalists are winning some battles; overall we are losing the war. The escalating attack on the environment by increasingly well organized and well financed opponent's demands that environmentalists rethink our assumptions, values, strategies and agenda.
In the face of immense and growing problems there is relentless and implacable opposition to even modest environmental reforms. On every front—wetlands protection, energy conservation, population control, export of restricted pesticides, mileage standards, etc. - the United States government, particularly the Senate, is utterly and implacably opposed to environmental imperatives. In votes concerning timber, mining, grazing and energy issues western Senators vote anti- environmental positions as a united block—classic "log rolling", an old technique where votes on one's issues of concern are traded for votes on issues of concern to others.
Trans–national log rolling, e.g., the General Agreement on Tariffs and Taxes (GATT) and the free trade agreement with Mexico, also have very serious long–term implications for the environment. They will prevent the United States from banning the importation of goods produced under environmentally destructive conditions, as this would constitute an infringement on fair trade.
The Clarence Thomas hearings showed what happens when there is a contest between Republicans Senators who often represent extractive industry and liberal Democrats who usually represent the environment. The former were organized, had a clear goal, fought dirty and took no prisoners. The Democrats were disorganized, timid and a perfect example of the adage that liberals are often afraid to take their own side in an argument.
The times demand solutions to our environmental problems, yet environmentalist's current "demands" lag even the mainstream media. The imperative for "reasonableness" seems only to bind environmental advocates not our adversaries. National environmental groups seem preoccupied with futile competition to increase market share of a declining pool of middle class yuppies, and grassroots groups with panhandling nickels and dimes to fight thousands of uncoordinated and underfinanced "stop this" and "save that" holding actions. Meanwhile, the "wise guys" in the "wise use" movement are flourishing.
The "victories" environmentalists "win" are usually temporary stays and delays: our defeats are permanent. Environmentalist's victories cost us money; our opponents victories make them money, which they then invest in political influence.
Even some recent "victories" may be less than true victories. The defeat of the Energy bill that proposed drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was credited as a solid environmental win. Environmentalists didn't realize that the bill was opposed by automobile manufacturers and half the utility industry who objected to the few good provisions the bill included. After the vote that killed the bill, Senator Johnson, the bill's sponsor, gave a concession speech and said:
"...while I lost, and I hope lost graciously, I certainly have great admiration for those who fought the fight.... Not only the environmental groups but the automobile companies, and some of the utilities.... They pulled together a tremendous phalanx, which was very effective." ( CR 11/1/91 S15755)
The bill without the Arctic drilling provision was reintroduced, passed the Senate and ended up a windfall for the energy and nuclear power industries. The Arctic drilling was a throwaway from the beginning.
While the responsibility for the Arctic "win" is shared by environmentalists and the business community, the blame for the loss of jobs from these actions (700,000 jobs in the case of the failed Arctic drilling) is placed solely at the feet of environmentalists.
Environmentalists also take credit for the defeat of a rider to the 1992 appropriations bill that would have lifted the spotted owl injunctions and allowed the logging of ancient forests to resume. This rider was actually opposed by the the timber industry. Senator Gordon of Washington:
"We got the message loud and clear that the Oregon timber industry was more interested in the risky possibility that the God Squad would rule in its favor than it was in an amendment that would boost significantly the overall supply of timber in Oregon and Washington."
Later in this same speech, after explaining how the timber industry killed this rider, Senator Gordon went on to say:
Representative Tauzin of Louisiana gave an impassioned speech in November tracing the plight of the economy of Louisiana. It put into perspective the recent alliance of shrimpers and loggers as part of the Wise Use movement.
"...environmental organizations...bear the total responsibility for the drastic consequences - the destruction of tens of thousands of jobs and lives, and dozens of vibrant communities."
"...there are angry workers in Louisiana...
"...this Nation just recently rejected a national energy strategy...that would have opened up (Arctic) oil and gas development again in America. ...that would have produced jobs in Louisiana.
"...the Endangered Species Act protects a turtle more than it does a Louisiana shrimping family. I have watched in the last several months as shrimper families have been devastated by this Federal policy that insists that they carry TED's (turtle exclusion devices) in their shrimp nets....
"I have watched as those families have gravitated to David Duke and his message: If you are out of work and unemployed and you are hurting, then somebody else is at fault.
"...unemployed, frustrated, angry citizens who did not have anything left in their retirement accounts, who could not afford health insurance, who watched as their children could not get jobs and who could not afford to give them education any more and they could get no help from the Federal Government except a big tax bill annually, were looking for somebody to blame.
"The seeds of disaffection, of anger, and of frustration in Louisiana are beginning to be planted around the country as the recession builds.
"Make no mistake about it. If this country does not begin addressing soon the roots of unemployment, the roots of poverty, the problems with our welfare system, the problems with the basic questions of equality in our land and fairness, David Dukes are going to rise in your community too."
If environmentalist's "victories" are less than perceived, a few recent "defeats" are even worse. Take for example the recent firing of two top administrators in the Park Service and the Forest Service because they promoted a "Greater Yellowstone" planning document that was so timid the environmental community had scarcely taken note of it. Most of the reporting in the environmental press has focused on the perfidy of the Federal agencies in this affair, but the long–term import of that incident was the unprecedented way that anti–environmental "wise use" groups organized around the issue. They created a coalition that dominated every public meeting, overwhelmed the Federal agencies and turned the battle to rethink the Yellowstone Basin into a total rout. Recent articles in "Wild Earth" also allege that the abandonment of the local environmentalists by national environmentalists emboldened the "wise guys".
Government Is Not Becoming Greener
The perception has been that land management agencies have been moving towards a more accommodating position on the environment. But the recent defeat of attempts to change mineral patent laws, the rewriting of wetlands protection rules, the defeat of grazing fees, BLM's antics with the God Squad, the aggressive activities of the Vice President's council on competitiveness, and other Bush administration moves suggest that quite the contrary has occurred. The administration has taken off its mask of accommodation and revealed its true face. The anti-environmental movement is organized and growing stronger. The various industry front groups encouraged by the Yellowstone coup are combining into a truly national force.
The corrupt, incompetent and insensitive implementation of various environmental laws such as Super fund or Endangered Species create local situations that make environmental laws appear to be out of control. Liability rules for toxic sites have frightened banks away from lending to service stations and cleaning establishments. Farmers have horror stories of uneven implementation of wetlands classification by overlapping and uncoordinated administrative jurisdictions.
Even when laws are equitably enforced, the fact remains that the small rancher who can't get a fair price for his lamb sees wolf reintroduction as the very visible last straw. Fishermen are being squeezed to death and can't support their families on the fish they now catch. The fisherman who has his quotas or season restricted or eliminated does not blame the timber industry for his problems. He blames the environmentalist who filed the endangered species listings. Ranchers, farmers, fishermen, and shrimpers are not intrinsically anti- environmentalist; they are at the edge and cannot afford to lose one lamb to a wolf, one catch of shrimp to a turtle extruder device, or one acre of ground for wetlands protection.
The same forces that ravage the environment are marginalizing middle and working class people. The justifiable outrage these people feel is seeking to fasten itself to someone. The engrossers have decided that in the upcoming economic train wreck, from which they have insulated themselves, that someone is going to be environmentalists.
"Those of you who work in the forest products industry have enemies who want to destroy you. They want to destroy the business you created or the company you work for, ... they want you to go away forever. They do not know you, they have never met you, and they probably never will meet you; but they are your enemies, nonetheless." Mark Rutzik, atty Evergreen Mag. Mar/Apr 89, p.3
These interests often use concern about their activities in one place to further their interests in another. Schemes are surfacing to "help" rural timber dependent communities facilitate growth by increasing water and sewer capacity through community economic development grants. This facilitates real estate speculation at public expense. "Increasing rural infrastructure through sewer capacity improvements" is slight of mouth for turning $2000 unbuildable lots into $30,000 buildable ones. This subsidized growth, increased population and accompanying water withdrawals may create more environmental problems than deforestation.
As with water diversion schemes, timber and energy projects also often contain components that cut local communities in on the take. In Alaska public support for oil drilling has been secured by giving the people a small share of the revenues. In that State the biggest supporters of oil drilling are the residents who now have a vested interest in high oil revenues. Whether it is fish, oil, coal or timber the goal of the engrossers is to make every community an unindictable coconspirator.
The national media portrays a public that supports environmental agendas; but the engrossers rosy nexus insures that the environmental voice is at worst absent and at best feeble, and that the unindictable co-conspirator voice is strident in the forums where decisions are made. In the ostensible search for economic growth and jobs; city councils, local newspaper editorial boards, planning commissions, and state and federal legislative committees and subcommittees are making anti- environmental decisions. In a country where, according to Consumer Reports Magazine, 30% of the newspapers will not print consumer information about how to buy automobiles because they fear retaliation from their automobile dealer advertisers, how will we get the message out?