Monday, October 20, 2008

Enviros? Conservationists? Tree-huggers? Killers?

I love the political realm, for the most part, though I also hate it. In fact, my fascination with it probably has nearly as much to do with the emotions it stirs as it does with my personal belief that we are all responsible in our democratic republic. But, one place that really bothers me about political 'discourse' is the prevelance of half-formed ideas, urges and reactionism that get rolled up and kneaded into little soundbites, or worse, labels.

People are labeling creatures, we are ordering creatures. We create boxes of meaning into which we place ideas about people and things. Then we attach words to these boxes, for ease of use. This is very helpful in remembering, for example, that a particular mushroom killed Joe-Bob, or that cars with the word "Hyundai" on them may not be solid purchase decisions. However, when it comes to labeling groups of people in the political realm, we can really step on our own feet and hinder good management decisions.

Let me be perfectly clear here: The number one threat to the environment right now is unfettered development. Were we to efficiently manage our future development, and re-configure existing development, we could:

1) Help to effectively mitigate greenhouse gasses;
2) Much more effectively protect habitat and wildlife corridors;
3) Improve the health of our people;
4) Provide more opportunities for healthy outdoor connectedness, and more of a sense of place.

I could go on, but those are the big four when it comes to our future.

So, why am I seemingly jumping from one topic to another? Because our current political climate has so polarized us on environmental issues that we cannot even speak in civilized tones about the environment, much less push effective legislation.

Hunters, think about it: What is the bigger deal, that you can't shoot a lead round in condor country, or that you can't shoot ANYTHING?
Nonhunters, think about this: Hunters killing deer in a forest managed mostly through their dollars, or no deer at all, because the forest is now a string of Kinkos, Targets, and ticky-tacks?

The political upheavals of the 1960's & 70's completed a great schism in the community of people who love nature. This schism has reached such heights, that now, when I write about these topics, I have to write convoluted sentences about the "environmental-conservation community", and probably stay away from words like "natural resources" or "movement". Even the words "environment" and "conservation" are loaded!

It's downright ridiculous.

Of the four major groups spawned by the first folks loving nature in the late 1800's, three of them can share in an honest attempt to rein in sprawl, protect valuable habitats and corridors, re-establish watersheds, wetlands and prairies, and any number of other important goals for places. These three groups are hunting organizations (like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, SCI, Pheasants Forever), conservation groups (like Defenders of Wildlife, the Nature Conservancy), and environmental groups (like the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity).

The fourth group, believe it or not, is another symptom of unfettered development. In our expanding suburbs, with no real rivers or wild places, there grew a group of people who 'love' nature. They often have had little or no contact with it, with particular places or creatures, because of where they live and how they were raised. They have no experiences with death and life, realities of our world. They only think of these things in the horrific. In this vacuum, fed by an honest longing for nature and the wild, but with no way of getting the genuine experience, the animal rights movement was born. Of course, I'm labeling, and I know that many animal rights' proponents have had many experiences with the wild, but for the most part, of the folks I've run across, most have come from urban or suburban environs, and may have worked in healing or rescuing animals, but haven't really seen a cat catch a bird, and do not understand that death must occur for even their continued survival.

If the three major groups who care about the environment and have experience with it could honestly engage young people by helping to curb sprawl and create living places where kids can respectfully experience the wild, then we can also help develop people with a true understanding, and therefore appreciation, of that wild. To do that, we don't need to put down our differences about other conservative/liberal ideas. We just need to meet and stick to the subject.

Where do you see connections that can be made?


Bob J said...

I too have long wondered why conservation groups and main stream environmental organizations don't cooperate and partner up more often (if they ever do). Maybe that will change. I have noticed over the years that the Wildlife Society (of which I am a menber) has always published alot of articles on game management but has been moving its editoral direction toward the study of non-game critters. I think its an excellent organization and seems to be bridging the gap between 'enviros' and 'conservationists'.

As for the PETA types, they are pretty much outliers in the whole movement.

Josh said...

PETA types are outliers, but they throw political bombs, and they get a lot of media. They have some savvy political strategists, too, and have won victories against trapping in California and mountain lion hunting, picking off the weakest links (this is not me saying I'm in favor of trapping or hunting cougars).

Also, many kneejerk members of enviro. groups are also kneejerk members of animal rights' groups, which provides some political clout and also tends to muffle some environmental groups' ability to partner up with conservation groups.

I don't know the Wildlife Society, so I'll look them up. They sound like a group I'd be interested in.

RGD said...

I call myself an envirocapitalist and I believe the way to more wildlands is more demand for wildlands. that is why hunters are a conservationist best friend, they need more wildland to hunt in. I think the key to the future is to find other activities to increase the value of wildlands and decrease the value of mini-marts.