photo: Bernard Pollack/Creative Commons
I've asked before why so many people hate environmentalists. But, to be fair, the hate runs both ways. There are plenty of greens who like nothing more than to point the finger at eco-villains—you know, those planet marauding evil doers who hate trees. The trouble is, just because you are against treehuggerss doesn't mean you hate trees. After Sarah Palin switched sides on the climate debate, she once tweeted that it was "Arrogant&Naive2say; man overpwers nature." [sic] While I would argue vehemently that she is wrong, and dangerously so, I think her position is a commonly held one, and one that is a lot more nuanced than the cartoon-like villain that many greens like to think they are fighting against.
The trouble is not that anti-environmentalists don't respect or love the environment. (Although there are, no doubt, folks who would fit that description.) Rather, I would argue, many folks actually place too much faith in the regenerative powers of nature. From Off Road Vehicle enthusiasts fighting for their right to drive over nesting grounds, to fishermen who refuse to accept there are limits to the oceans bounty, much of the anti-environmentalist agenda is informed by a culture and a legacy that is deeply connected with the land and the sea as a source of livelihood, recreation and comfort—a culture that we all share.
To some degree, I would even concede that there is a grain of truth to these positions. After all, from the astounding biodiversity in healthy soils to the regenerative capacity of rainforests, we know that nature can handle a lot of the crap we throw at it—or at least will do a good job trying.
Yet whether it is the collapse of civilization on Easter Island, or the hardships of the American dust bowl, to deny that man can cause catastrophic environmental change is basically to deny history. And we are putting pressure on our Earth like never before.
I don't in any way intend this post to be a plea for compromise between those who believe in climate change, peak oil etc, and those that don't. The threat is real, and the threat is imminent. But, just as a sports team or army is destined for failure if it refuses to understand its opponent, so too the environmental movement needs to stop over-simplifying, even vilifying, the positions of those in the opposite camp.
The danger is too real to engage in shadow boxing.
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