Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Wise Use


Today I was chastised on the pool e-list for poor net etiquette
because I said a local "environmentalist" had used corporate and
developer money to fund a PAC (Political Action Committee)
to defeat two local environmental measures.

I named him, said it was an example of Wise Use. He said
Wise Use was about cutting trees in national forests, which he
opposed, but it's a market-based environmental policy
much more inclusive than that, and Republican code for
destroying the environment in the name of good business.

And I am increasingly dismayed to see these principles
in our community.

Sometimes I can’t believe what I’m hearing in meetings —
reports about "clean" septic systems that don’t pollute by watering turf
with partially treated sewage, or "enlightened" plans for the build-out
of the aquifer, or per-capita kick-backs from the State to the local land
conservancy for every new development project on the aquifer.

One developer brought a model to our group for an aquifer housing
development the centerpiece of which was to be a 20 x 40 foot building
packed full of solid waste which would be down loaded to trucks monthly.
Affluent (liquid waste) would be used to water turf, but not, he assured,
on school playgrounds. Thus cutting edge technology makes it possible,
you see, to develop without polluting.

The president of our land conservancy used to be the lawyer
and point man for Freeport McMoRan when they fought the city
to break ground
on their first wave of aquifer development projects
fifteen years ago.
It's a bit like finding Darth Vader in your bathtub.
The PAC man
was working for a spin-off of Freeport when he set
up the PAC.

Now they're backing bond packages to preserve open spaces which
mostly adjoin corporate properties and jack up land values,
good business, and — hey — everyone likes open spaces.

The Wise Use movement has no love for environmentalists like me.

"We're out to kill the f––s. We're simply trying to eliminate them.
Our goal is to destroy environmentalism once and for all."
Ron Arnold

Arnold thinks romantic notions of Nature are nonsense, that human
beings are supposed to dominate nature with science and technology,
and that capitalism will insure a positive outcome for everyone.

It my part of town one doesn’t hear that language much.

But we are moving dangerously close to the ideology and methodology
when we advocate or accept things like —

Let’s rely on developer goodwill instead of regulation.
Let’s try to get the School Board to comply with environmental regulations,
but it’s ok if they don’t. Let’s not challenge State grandfathering laws.
Let’s put a water treatment plant on a wildlife preserve, or park.
Let’s let developers define their own environmental protection measures.
Toll roads over the aquifer, a done deal. Let's have the State water agency
sell water and operate like a business. Let's give money to developers
if they will (sort-of) follow city water quality regulations.

My mother raised her daughters to be polite in all circumstances.
My father raised us to —when we were being rude — do it on purpose.

In this case, however, I think Mother’s influence held.

What’s rude is for paid political operatives to sit in community meetings
where people give their time and energy as volunteers to protect
the environment, air, water, our beautiful pool, and then raise corporate
and developer money to defeat our efforts, strategies, and to divide
and discredit us in the process.

That seems rude to me.
But more to the point, it seems fairly dimwitted of us to put up with it.

The more I think about it, though, I realize a lot of people, even the well-
intentioned, well-read people, good people who give their time
to environmental work, don’t know where the Wise Use Movement
comes from, who funds it, or who benefits.

It is after all, a lovely thought, is it not — Wise Use.

*Art: Henri Roussear, The Sleeping Gypsy

Wise Use Articles of Faith -- ( from Overcoming Ideology, by Ron Arnold)

1) Humans, like all organisms, must use natural resources to survive. . . .

2) The earth and its life are tough and resilient, not fragile and delicate. . . .

3) We only learn about the world through trial and error. . . .

4) Our limitless imaginations can break through natural limits to make earthly goods and carrying capacity virtually infinite. . . .

5) Humanity's reworking of the earth is revolutionary, problematic and ultimately benevolent. . . .

Wise Use Critics such as Carl Deal, author of The Greenpeace Guide to Anti-Environmental Organizations, and Political Research Associates, charge that many Wise Use organizations give the appearance of being popular grassroots movements, but are actually astroturfing front organizations for industry groups with a financial interest in the movement's agenda. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. also details this conspiracy against the environment by Wise Use organizations and how the Bush administration has weakened restrictions on polluters in his 2004 book Crimes Against Nature. . . .

Major organizations promoting Wise Use ideas include Alliance for America, the American Land Rights Association, the Cato Institute, the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, People for the West, the Blue Ribbon Coalition, and the Heartland Institute. During the Reagan administration, many Wise Use groups had influence in Reagan's kitchen cabinet, including Colorado brewer Joe Coors of Coors and Co. . . . Coors also chose MSLF President James Watt as Secretary of the Interior. . . . "Watt was a proponent of 'dominion theology,' an authoritarian Christian heresy that advocates man's duty to 'subdue' nature" (Crimes 25). Pat Robertson and his Christian Coalition replaced communism with environmentalism as the biggest threat to democracy and Christianity (see The New World Order by the Rev. Pat Robertson, and Crimes Against Nature by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.). Robertson used his Christian Broadcasting Network in coordination with Ralph Reed, an official in the Bush campaign, to foil environmentalists. The CBN made anti-environmentalism as the point issue in talk shows, documentaries, and news hours. In Crimes Against Nature, Kennedy reports that "...Reed gave seminars to corporate public relations executives, coaching them on how to use electronic technologies and grassroots organizing to foil environmentalists who interfere with polluter profits" (Crimes 29). . . . DeLay said the Endangered Species Act is the greatest threat to Texas after illegal aliens. DeLay also called the EPA "the Gestapo of government" (Crimes 19). Dick Cheney is also connected to branches of Wise Use. From 1992 until he became Vice-President, Cheney was a "distinguished adviser" to the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, and was on the board of the National Legal Center for the Public Interest. Ron Arnold, Wise Use leader, is the executive vice-president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise. Several environmental advisors to president George W. Bush have been associated with the Wise Use movement. These include Terry Anderson and Interior Secretary Gale Norton.

©Susan Bright, 2006

Susan Bright is the author of nineteen books of poetry. She is the editor of Plain View Press which since 1975 has published one-hundred-and-fifty books. Her work as a poet, publisher, activist and educator has taken her all over the United States and abroad. Her most recent book, The Layers of Our Seeing, is a collection of poetry, photographs and essays about peace done in collaboration with photographer Alan Pogue and Middle Eastern journalist, Muna Hamzeh.

* Click here to see an art exhibit: Cantata for Twelve Choirs and Several Salamanders, by Daniel Bozhkov, an art piece commemorating an endangered species of salamander that lives only at Barton Springs.


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are amazing and so dead on. . . .

We are almost at the point of Austin being a "one party" city, the party of the developer, and in any one party system they define what is good for the environment and everyone else can join the party or not.

Your reference to Darth Vader was either directly or by spontaneous combustion cosmically linked to this photo of a performance art piece by Danial Bozhkov, the guy who just filed a bunch of choruses singing to the salamanders and the springs and has a show of his recent works at Arthouse.

this work is called something like "Darth Vadar cleans the Black Sea with Britta water filter." So, we I guess we have "Jim Bob Moffett protects Barton Springs with ??," or something like that.

I'm forgetting the author's name now, but we have crossed over into the "Culture of Make Believe."


Note: This reader also send the link above to the Bozhkov exhibit.


1:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Say what you want about me, but are you saying that people are supporting open space acquisition to benefit corporations? It has been by far our most effective tool in protecting environmentally sensitive land. It is unfortunate that you have become so cynical to encourage the opposite sort of belief solely because the voters overwhelmingly rejected your beloved props.


1:53 PM  
Blogger SB said...

I left names out of the two comments above because what I am really talking about here is a set of principles, not anyone's character flaws.

I like parks and open spaces. But land acquisition is not the best way to protect the aquifer. It is simply too expensive to buy all the land. Many of the small green islands won't be open to the public and will jack up real estate prices which is why developers support them.

2:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

. . . I might suggest that you indicate to your list that while these "environmentalist" opposed the charter amendments because they were "worded badly and not crafted well", when they had a chance to work to word smith and craft an ordinance through the Environmental Boards Sub Committee that met a dozen time or so, they never showed up once. Not one of the PAC attended any of these meetings.


2:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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2:04 PM  
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2:07 PM  

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