Friday, March 07, 2008


[This discussion took place at UFOB in September 2006.]

Crackpot Realists and Conservation

Environmentalists love to hate big oil companies. "I told you so," we say to
ourselves, as we learn about BP’s leaky oil pipes in Alaska. The fiasco in Alaska
could spell serious trouble for BP, as the US Congress begins hearings. It is easy to
cheer them on and urge them to take drastic actions against this corporate wrong doer
. We should move beyond this knee-jerk reaction.

-- Sybil Ackerman, legislative affairs director for the Oregon League of Conservation
Voters, writing in the Financial Times.

She may be unaware that BP's malfeasance, in spite of numerous warnings to get its
act together, outpaces the rest of the industry in rate of deaths at refineries. Her
admonition to lesser eviling is therefore worse than the usual fatuous score
card-based squawking.

Posted by J. Alva Scruggs

I don't really have a problem with Gaia followers and assorted animal psychics and
people with all kinds of beliefs about bonding with nature. My own experiences and
beliefs, in fact, tend to make me quite sympathetic to them; getting back to wild
places is like going to church for me, especially in the spiritual sustenance it
gives. And I share their perspective that the natural world is the real world.

But I don't think these beliefs have any ground for being taken seriously in
public-policy discussions, largely because I think spirituality at its core is
profoundly personal. For credibility, I think, we have to turn to science and the
"common sense" approach of the conservationists.

--David Neiwert in response to a comment by Spartacus, in which he was urged to show
some respect for people whose religious beliefs really do include regard for
preserving the environment.

I think Neiwert would be harshly critical of Ackerman's idiotic op ed, but hew views
are unfortunately representative of a good number of self-styled environmentalists.
They're impossible to avoid in serious conservation work. It should go without saying
, but there's more to conservation than NIMBYism, aromatherapy sessions after a
Sierra Club brunch and nice jobs as lobbyists. A realist might wish to at least spend
some time with people whose practice of their religion has kept their immediate
environment wholesome. Even if you don't share the beliefs, there is much to learn.
Moreover, regard for the environment is a growing part of the US version of
Christianity. See Creation Care for details. There are also the Wendell Berry
conservatives, and the angling enthusiasists, secular and otherwise. Realism in
politics often extends to strange bedfellows. This Democratic haste to position
oneself as reasonable is ill-thought out. Almost everyone, with the exception of
crackpot realists and ignorant lobbyists, is reasonable compared to television pet
psychics and cranky gurus. There's nothing reasonable about seeing a "realistic"
approach to public policy in support for BP.

posted by J Alva Scruggs

As I've written about elsewhere, fascist totalitarianism requires the assent of the
populace and the collaboration of ostensible opponents. But perhaps more importantly
it requires time for its perverted ideas to develop in the minds of the populace,
time to follow a progression of ideas that begins with the marginilization of other
ideas and the people who believe them.

Once marginilization has succeeded in establishing that these other people's ideas
are less valued, even dangerous, the ostracizing can proceed to step two--
demonization. Through the process of demonizing, the views and ways of life of the
already marginalized become a perceived threat to those of the dominant culture. This
fear, real or unfounded, then becomes the basis for step three, or, the final

The final solution, of course, is extermination. It doesn't have to be carried out
enmasse, or by government officials; it can be just as well accomplished by
vigilantes. In fact, a few seemingly random assaults, arsons, malicious harassments,
and murders can go a long way in silencing dissent and stemming public participation
in public affairs--perhaps more so than systematic purges by the state.

The important thing to remember, though, is that the progression from marginalize to
demonize to exterminate is begun by acceptance of the opinion of someone you trust,
someone like you, someone who expresses beliefs you share in common. Neoliberals
start unsuspecting consumers down this relay, hand them off to neoconservatives, who
in turn leave them at the doorstep of fascists.

The only way to stop this process of social disintegration is to nip it in the
liberal bud.

Posted by Spartacus

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