Friday, April 30, 2010

happy earth day (last week)

It's Friday. I'm at home. by myself. working on homework. Pathetic, right? Well, I'm at the end of an enlightening semester, and I needed a brief break from writing my final paper for Public Lands Policy . . . to write about environmentalism.

It's been on my mind every waking moment for the past few weeks as I've been either writing or avoiding my looming research paper. One point my instructor has driven home this semester is the inappropriate way in which many use the term environmentalist. Certain things come to mind, right? You're thinking singer-songwriter, teva-wearing, slightly smelly, somewhat angry hippie type. Well, my friend, that is where you may be wrong. Should someone be considered less of an environmentalist because he enjoys smelling the fresh scent of pine from an ATV or getting salt water splashed in her face by jetskis? Those are not my preferred outdoor activities, but my experience in class has helped me reconsider the way I frame things and people - which I happen to believe is the hallmark of genuine education.

Public lands policy. Interesting, right? I didn't really think it would be; actually, I wasn't at all interested in this topic; I took the class because the instructor is fabulous. Not having had strong opinions about the environment prior to taking this class (outside of my pronounced views on agriculture), the process of developing an opinion and evaluating others' positions was interesting to say the least. In my reading and in class, I noticed several prominent paradigms of human beings' relationship to nature. The following are meant to be vague sketches, though there is a diversity of opinions and motivations behind each of these philosophies.
  • Domination - development ethic. No holds barred. Drill ANWAR for oil. Use it up. Wear it out. Global warming either isn't real, or isn't a real problem. There is a small but growing faction of people who believe they can speed the coming of the rapture by using up the world's resources.
  • Stewardship - conservation ethic. The health of the environment and biodiversity are important. Humans and nature are part of the same system and their fates are inextricably combined. It is important to work to slow global warming. Society and individuals should use what is necessary (subject to interpretation) and leave an amount that is sustainable or renewable for the health of the environment and the benefit of future generations. Resources should be developed in accordance with the best available science.
  • Worship - preservation ethic. Nature is pure and is a world apart from humans. Humans destroy nature and extractive economic activity is bad. 
Most people who are labeled environmentalists get painted in broad strokes most associated with the third category, but in my experience most people who care about the environment fall into the second category. Many people in the first category despise the third, and view the conservationist movement as a threat to their way of life. For example, I have friends who won't let their young children watch Brother Bear because they don't like the depicted relationship between man and nature - kudos to them for paying such close attention to the messages their kids digest, but my point is that they may be overestimating the threat. At work, one student recently brought in an essay that detailed the primary reason that his/her parents chose to home school: the public schools' agenda to brainwash children with environmentalist dribble. I was speechless. (S/he may not have been better off had s/he attended public school, but the writing was a bit atrocious, not to mention the disturbed nature of a conspiracy theory around an institution s/he had never experienced first-hand).

With much news about climate change, some paradigms are shifting. I thought this was very cool and an omen of good things to come in the stewardship category. If you are interested in grasping some of the basics of the environmental movement, I recommend these two books:


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

where are my people?

I found this NPR article about a recent PEW study encouraging. I kept thinking, "these are my people." But then I wondered, "Where are they?" Not in southeast Idaho.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

it's black; it's white

Dear Reader,
I live in a relatively small, very religious community. People do lots of peaceful, benign things like garden and bake bread and spend quality time with their families. It's nice here.

In most respects.

Unless you espouse independent political thought . . .

or if you aren't a 'rugged individualist.'

Then you will be burned in effigy . . .

. . . or maybe in reality.

Or, you may be shot, because your ultraconservative neighbors
probably have a gun . . . or five guns (each) and don't take kindly to 'outsiders' of any kind.

I am writing to you, reader, so that I don't insist on being heard at inopportune times or inappropriate places. I am blessed and cursed with social filters and a passion for social justice issues, which basically means I can't talk about my passions most of the time, but that I passionately feel that I should.

Thus the conflict.
Thus the stress.
Thus the blog.

I really want to be an active voice in my community. But pigeon holes are hard to climb out of. Once you're in, no amount of shouting will draw a thoughtful audience.

I firmly believe that fundamental matters of politics and policy can't be discussed thoughtfully in shades black and white (gray?) and such nuanced issues deserve more than soundbites within discussion. I write here in order to sort my thoughts and invite civil conversation on current and perennial topics of interest. I will write on other topics of my choosing, in order to avoid paying a therapist,

You can be part of the adventure.

But if you can't be civil, your comments will be mocked and/or deleted.