Posts Tagged ‘carbon footprint’

How Environmentalists Get In Their Own Way I

July 16th, 2018

How Environmentalists Get In Their Own Way, Part One

Ways Environmentalists Sabotage Their Own Protection of the Planet

Spring Snow, Grizzly Ridge, Heart K Ranch Pond, Upper Genesee Valley, Sierra Nevada, California, 2015 by David Leland Hyde.

Environmentalists and environmental organizations often sabotage their own causes in many ways. Even while serving a vital role in protecting natural places, decreasing the use of carbon rich products and increasing the awareness of alternatives, environmentalists also at times adversely affect nature as much as anyone else. The following is just a short list. I am not saying by any means that all environmentalists take these actions all the time. A few do and all of us do sometimes. I know about many of these by making mistakes myself, to the detriment of the planet. I have also made a life-long study of influence and persuasion, as well as what has been effective and ineffective in the modern environmental movement. Perhaps people reading this, whether they are conservationists or environmentalists, care about nature but do not consider themselves environmentalists, or the type who typically oppose environmentalists, can think of points to add to the following list:

  1. Environmentalists often assume the worst about the people involved in a given situation, who may not be maliciously destructive of nature, but may inadvertently be having an adverse effect.
  2. Environmentalists come into scenarios operating only out of their own mindset, rather than seeing others’ views, or going to where the people are who are involved.
  3. They believe all wealthy people are evil and judge people by net worth.
  4. They judge people by good intentions and words, rather than actions.
  5. Rather than trying to understand other’s backgrounds in a situation and being tolerant of others’ knowledge or lack of knowledge of ecology and natural systems, they put people down who do things differently.
  6. They forget that we are all learning how to be more Earth-friendly.
  7. The minute they purchase a hybrid vehicle or other green technology, they immediately start confronting and putting down those who are still using older, less efficient or less effective products or methods.
  8. They believe high tech is automatically bad for the environment.
  9. They start interactions attacking and confronting, with an “us versus them” mindset, rather than listening and gathering information about people’s motivations and goals before addressing them.
  10. They assume that an enemy of a friend is always an enemy.
  11. They assume that a friend of an enemy is always an enemy.
  12. They assume that a friend who disagrees with their viewpoint then becomes an enemy.
  13. They assume all Capitalists, all Republicans, all religious people, or all of the people from any given group are the enemy of preserving nature.
  14. They use fear as their primary tool to move people. They paint doom and gloom scenarios, cite perilous natural events, natural disasters and distressing statistics to scare people into decreasing their environmental impact. Educating the public about pending catastrophe or warning of dire circumstances is important and necessary to keep people informed, but over and over tests and studies have shown that used as the primary persuasion method, fear can be paralyzing and discouraging, or easily ignored while people and corporations continue destructive business as usual.
  15. They attack environmentally destructive organizations and corporations from the outside, rather than infiltrating, educating and changing them from the inside.
  16. A few of them chose to remain ignorant of the law, believe it does not apply to them, but generally believe that through mere force of thinking they are right, they can bend the law or obtain exceptions.
  17. They believe that justice and what they think is right prevails in court, rather than existing laws.
  18. They believe that hiring good lawyers means they will win, even if they are wrong or in violation of the law.
  19. Some of them believe that all good lawyers are infallible, always tell the truth, never oversell, do not mislead, and will not lead them astray.
  20. They believe that environmental issues are policy problems, rather than problems in thinking and consciousness.
  21. They think that if they disagree with a legal definition, all they have to do is dredge up a definition by a source that is more in line with their own idea of the definition and the legal definition will no longer apply.

Other Ways Environmentalists Fail

As an example of just one major issue, environmentalists and the major environmental groups, have largely failed to convince individuals, companies and governments large and small to take enough significant, consistent action to thwart the increasing pace of climate change. We have also failed to instigate sweeping changes that could protect water supplies into the future and have also been ineffective in slowing down the mass extinction of species that has been escalating for the last 100 years. Most environmentalists have refused to make any major changes personally that would lead to a smaller carbon footprint. People say they are afraid to go back to “cave man days.” However, Naomi Klein in This Changes Everything said we would only need to go back to the living standards of the 1970s to avert the worst effects of climate change. Yet we perpetuate the illusion that we can continue to live much as we always have and not change any of our wasteful or bad habits, but rather avoid our own destruction merely by changing energy sources. Meanwhile, most of us keep blaming the problem on other people, the government and any other scapegoats we can find.

For example, I know people who condemn their wealthy neighbors for using a helicopter for transportation, while they themselves do a tremendous and far above average amount of driving per year just so that they can live far out on the edge of a wilderness surrounded by vast forests and an almost pristine valley, while also working in the nearest major city to earn a higher income.

One major mistake these seven neighbors, who call themselves the Genesee Friends, made in Genesee Valley in relation to the helicopter, besides espousing many fallacies and made up arguments with little to no factual basis, they failed to obtain the support of the majority of people in the area before launching an activist campaign. By far the majority of neighbors stand with the helicopter owners and their sustainable ranching, historical restoration and philanthropy benefitting local organizations.  The Genesee Friends also mistakenly claimed to represent all of us in the entire Genesee area, while also attacking anyone who disagrees with them.

Even more troubling, like the worst of environmentalists, this small minority of people give activism itself a bad name. When my father, pioneer photographer Philip Hyde and his associates: Ansel Adams, Eliot Porter, David Brower, Howard Zahniser, Olas and Margaret Murie, Martin Litton and many others set out to make the many national parks they did in the 1960s and 1970s, when they embarked on a major campaign, they made sure they had the support from the majority of the public, or a definite plan to obtain it. Not only were the national park projects more popular than the projects to exploit the resources in the places in question, the popularity of the parks has only increased over time. Meanwhile, the few so-called activists in Genesee only render themselves less and less popular all the time. More on this in future blog posts and in my article linked to below.

Agricultural Adventures in the USA Heartland and an Unusual Experience

Over the last two years I went through an unusual experience that has changed my perspective on who protects the environment and who impacts it adversely. Leading up to this experience and affecting how I perceived it tremendously, in 2015, I traveled to the Midwest to photograph what is left of traditional small farming. I went to the heart of the country to take its pulse and capture it as it is because I discovered that industrial agriculture has taken over. Old historic barns, equipment and methods are going fast. With the rise of industrial agriculture, our factory farms have drained our aquifers, lakes and rivers down to dangerous levels, turned many small farming settlements that thrived for 100-150 years into ghost towns and transformed our farms from one family operations into colossal corporate giants sustained by heavy doses of deadly chemical spraying and cancer-causing genetically modified crops.

When I came home from the Midwest, the unusual experience of having one of the one percent most wealthy families move into my neighborhood changed my life forever yet again. In my next blog post, I will explain in more detail exactly how I came to support this well to do family and stand behind their sustainable agricultural practices, organic farming and restoration of the old barns and other buildings of our local Genesee Valley Ranch, rather than siding with a small minority faction of my neighbors who have tried and failed to obstruct, ostracize and turn public opinion against the Palmaz Family. Fortunately for our county and for welfare of Genesee Valley, the family’s kindness, good character and philanthropy in our community won over most of my neighbors and the majority of people in surrounding towns. More in the upcoming blog post, “How Environmentalists Get In Their Own Way II.”

Laying Everything on the Line, Being Attacked by Environmentalists and Trolls and What Exactly Is Entailed in Defending Natural Places Like Genesee Valley?

If you would like to skip ahead in the story and go straight to my defense of Genesee Valley in an article I wrote for “Where I Stand” on the opinion page of the local newspapers printed by Feather Publishing including the Feather River Bulletin, Lassen County Times, Chester Progressive, Portola Reporter, Indian Valley Record, Westwood Pinepress and the internet version of all six papers, Plumas News, check out the web version of my article along with 100+ contentious and trolling comments: “In Defense of the Palmaz Family and Genesee Valley Ranch.”

Stay tuned for the unusual personal story and sequence of events that led to me writing the above opinion piece, as well as outspokenly supporting and contracting to photograph for the Genesee Store and Genesee Valley Ranch. For more general background and the Genesee Friends side of the story see the Los Angeles Times article, “In a Rural Northern California Valley, a Development Battle Asks: Is a Helicopter a Tractor?” The main worry expressed by Elisa Adler in her statements for this article is that masses of wealthy people will move to Genesee Valley and “gridlock the skies” with helicopters. Out of the private land still possibly for sale in the entire watershed though, excluding of course the Heart K Ranch and Genesee Valley Ranch, I am curious how much of that land is zoned for agriculture? The land that is not zoned for ag, will be harder to make into sites for helipads, now with Plumas County’s new ruling. Read my article above to understand more about this. With less chance of gridlocked skies over Genesee, the only real gridlock may be in Ms. Adler’s argument. Besides, since thousands of wealthy people have not moved here yet, it is doubtful they will, perhaps possible, but probably improbable. I do not know the exact acreage of the watershed or private land in it, but from having grown up here, my guess is that most of the private land besides the two big ranches is not zoned for agriculture. The ruin of Adler’s entire life by the helicopter, as she has claimed, is perhaps more due to how she is looking at it and purposely straining her ears to hear it, than the actual noise level or potential as a gateway to further development. I suggest reading both articles above and judging for yourself…

I Would Apologize Too: A Letter To Mother Earth

August 23rd, 2012

I Would Apologize To Mother Earth Also, Except That Implied In An Apology Is The Intent To Stop Committing The Offense, Which I Am Working Toward, But Have Not Yet Achieved…

Whiz Burgers, San Francisco, California, copyright 2010 David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90. Something about fast food, the Catholic Church, electric wires powered by San Francisco’s electricity grid and a sky turned apocalyptic in a pleasant Photoshop surprise, seemed appropriate to post again with this would be apology. Available as an archival fine art digital print.

(See the photograph large, “Whiz Burgers, San Francisco, California.”)

Recently master photographer Youssef M. Ismail of Organic Light Photography wrote a blog post titled, “I’m Sorry – An Open Letter To Mother Earth.” This beautifully written expose is also an openhearted lament for what we humans have done to our home planet Earth. Echoing Youssef M. Ismail’s sentiments, talented photo blogger Monte Stevens made a blog post in his own words that he called, “I also apologize.” I would like to continue the trend and the tradition by adding my own message to the conversation.

The Holocaust?

I was also inspired to write this blog post by the holocaust that is currently transpiring. That’s right, I said holocaust: bigger than any holocaust we’ve ever seen of humans. I’m talking about the animal holocaust, the wholesale slaughter of our feathered and furry friends and relatives, directly by murder and indirectly through the destruction of their habitat.

Part of what also inspired me to write this letter to Mother Earth was an article in the current issue of Rolling Stone by Bill McKibben called,  “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math: Three Simple Numbers That Add Up To Global Catastrophe – And That Make Clear Who The Real Enemy Is.” Bill McKibben has authored important books such as The End of Nature, The Global Warming Reader: A Century of Writing About Climate Change, American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau with Al Gore, The Age of Missing InformationDeep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future and others.

“Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math”

In his Rolling Stone article, Bill McKibben reminded us that in 2009 world leaders signed the “Copenhagen Accord” agreeing that the most our civilization can survive is a two degree Celsius increase in global temperature. Two degrees is the fatal first number. Scientists estimate that we can pollute the atmosphere with approximately 565 gigatons of carbon dioxide and still remain below the two-degree safety limit. This is the safe second number. Engineers have since calculated that the amount of carbon in proven coal, oil and gas reserves is five times what will produce the pollution to exceed the safe two-degree temperature increase. That is, we have more than 2,795 gigatons of carbon already discovered and big oil and energy companies are still looking. This third and scariest third number is the amount of carbon already known, that if burned, will produce a planet 11 degrees warmer and “straight out of science fiction,” wrote Bill McKibben. This means that we need to convince Big Oil, gas and coal companies to keep 80 percent of fossil fuel in the ground. What it comes down to is that as a species, we humans need to let go of greed, the fear of not having enough, to survive. Strange that it’s necessary to let go of the fear of death to avoid experiencing it.

Is “Big Oil” Or “You And I” To Blame?

Therefore, to begin with, after I stop doing it, I will apologize to planet Earth for my part in continuing to drive automobiles and run other engines that burn fossil fuel, thereby supporting and fueling big oil’s greed addiction. For more on Big Oil’s greed addiction, see the blog post, “Exxon Profits $11 Billion As Oil Prices Skyrocket.” I drive much less than the average American, diligently combine trips and carpool, stay home a lot rather than “going out,” but I am still part of the problem. I could blame it on the car companies for not offering me convenient and reasonably priced alternatives, but other options are out there and have been for some time. There are diesel conversions to make it possible to burn biodiesel and there are electric vehicles available now, bicycles, horses, no I’m not joking, and many other ways of getting around besides petroleum powered automobiles. I live in a rural area and notice that many of my neighbors will drive the 54 miles round trip to Quincy, California or the 212 miles round trip to Reno, Nevada, several on the same day. If these neighbors took a little time to communicate with each other, or set up a system to notify each other when they would drive to town, we could all make travel and errands into social events. We are so addicted to convenience that we often “take separate cars” to the same event.

Alternatives have existed for cleaners, detergents and other household soaps and products for many years. I am sad that I have been aware of these alternatives for at least 20 years. I have made a point of using some of them, but up until the last few years I still used some toxic cleaners and other household products. Detergents that contain phosphates inevitably work their way into streams, rivers and lakes fertilizing algae and causing it to grow out of control killing native fish and other water dwelling beneficial insects, animals and plants.

I do recycle, compost and have a grey water system saving water and energy, but I could do much more. I eat locally when I can, but I often eat foods from far away lands, thereby increasing the fuel costs and my carbon footprint. I will apologize for this too, when I stop doing it.

Is Meat A Problem?

I still eat meat, but need to cut back. Humans are meant to be omnivores, not gluttons. In North America, the sustainable practice would be to get rid of the cattle that are destructive to the land, inefficient with resources and provide a lower quality meat that has a higher fat content than meat from the original native species: buffalo, or the American Bison. It is not the eating of meat that is a problem, but the quantity that Americans consume that poses a resource problem. If Americans reduced our meat intake just 10 percent, we could feed 60 million more people around the world. Science has proven we eat many times the protein necessary for our health, not to mention the consumption of fat and grease that leads to many diseases. For the overeating of protein, I apologize.

I apologize to Mother Earth for the toxic substances I use in my everyday life. I feel remorse for being naive and thinking government agencies are here to protect the public from poisons and other harm, when agencies such as the FDA, FTC, DEA, FAA, FCC, FDIC, ICC, NIH, and SEC are corrupt. Government agencies fill their board of director seats with executives from the very companies they are supposed to regulate.

Junk The Junk

Americans receive almost four million tons of junk mail every year, the equivalent of 62 billion pieces, about 240 mail items for every man, woman and child in the country. I am sad to admit that at most times in my life I have not had time to sit down and write every company that sends me junk mail asking them to desist. One year I did do this and had about six months of blissful junk free mail where I only received the mail I wanted before the whole process started all over again. I apologize for not having gone through the process all over again.

Coffee filters, paper towels, paper napkins and other household paper products are not naturally white. I will apologize later when I have stopped adding to the use of these products and instead opt for unbleached paper products or better yet, use washable or recyclable cloth napkins and towels. The bleaching of paper creates dioxin, which is a deadly poison that wipes out all living things in its path through our disposal and waste water systems.

More Apologies To Apply?

I apologize for having kept my hot water heater on high until recent years when I turned it down to a lower setting and bought insulation to keep from wasting heat and maintaining higher energy and carbon use than necessary.

I apologize for the times in my life when I didn’t recycle. I am sad that on those occasions I didn’t take the few minutes necessary to find out what company did the recycling in the area I lived.

Toxic paint both interior and exterior has surrounded me most of my life, but whenever I had to paint anything, I didn’t necessarily use the most Earth friendly product. I didn’t want to spend the extra money or do the research. I apologize. Paint and paint products account for over 60 percent of the toxic chemicals that private individuals dump into landfills.

At certain times in my life I drove on worn out, nearly worn out, unbalanced or under inflated tires, which alone wastes up to two billion gallons of gas per year in the US. I apologize that sometimes when buying tires I have gone the most economical route rather than purchasing the longest lasting, most fuel efficient tires, or just as stated above, cutting down on driving altogether. I have often not paid attention to rotating and balancing tires every five thousand miles.

Simple Actions For A Longer Life On Earth

In the book 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth authors John Javna, Sophie Javna and Jesse Javna explain that we can have a significant effect on the environment simply by maintaining major appliances such as refrigerators, range stoves, air conditioners and others. The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy estimates that if each of us only increased the efficiency of our appliances by 10-15 percent, we would decrease the demand for electricity by about 25 large power plants nationally. I still use some inefficient appliances, but of course filling landfills with old ones just to replace them with new ones only compounds the waste problem. I apologize for not having phased out old, inefficient appliances a few times when I had the chance.

My list of apologies and promised apologies for the future could go on and on. Here’s just a few areas where I notice that either myself or my neighbors are doing more than our share to destroy the environment and continuing to do so, while we pay lip service to being sad and sorry about the state of our world:

–       Leaving water running while brushing teeth or doing dishes

–       Washing dishes with a dishwasher (hand washing uses half the water)

–       Forgetting to get tune-ups and other car maintenance on time

–       Buying and driving gas guzzling autos

–       Using non-rechargeable batteries

–       Not Recycling Alkali batteries. The technology does exist.

–       Not bringing our own shopping bags to the supermarket or grocery store

–       Having our own shopping bags in the car but not remembering to bring them into the store

–       Wearing bleached clothes that very often also contain formaldehyde

–       Using traditional oven cleaners

–       Using permanent ink markers and pens that contain harmful solvents

–       Maintaining a lawn in an arid climate

–       Buying food or other products from places that use Styrofoam

–       Using paper plates and plastic tableware

–       Choosing plastic over other materials in products

–       Failing to research products we buy to be sure they are not polluters or wildlife killers

–       Investing in polluting companies, big oil, and other Earth destroying industries

–       Not having your home heating system properly tested, tuned up and maintained

–       Keeping the heat on in your home or office when you are not there

–       Keeping any lights on in your home or office in rooms you are not in

–       Throwing away magazines and newspapers without recycling or donating

–       Purchasing foods that use extravagant packaging for marketing advantage

–       Using disposable landfill choking diapers rather than cloth washable diapers

–       Keeping all or most of the lights on at night in your business

–       Using disposable cups at work rather than bringing your own from home

–       What else are you wasting or neglecting to save?

If you are guilty of any of the above, you are helping to spell doom for our home planet Earth. It is easy to look at the vanishing beauty in nature and at environmental destruction and point the finger at someone else, or disconnectedly say that we will have to do better. However, if each and every one of us took more small actions each day, it would make a gigantic difference. We have to vote with our pocketbooks, as they say, and through our other choices to ensure the survival of our own planet Earth. I apologize for usually doing too little too late myself.

Our Addictions

One of the main issues is that as a society we have become addicted to convenience. We have also allowed television and other major media to program us to want more than what we have as a general practice. My father used to say that the secret to happiness in this world is to want less, to desire less. What we must seek if we are to live is long-term prosperity, not abundance at the expense of the air we breathe, the water we drink, or the wildness of the natural world within which is the preservation of the Earth, as Henry David Thoreau warned us.

Are you, dear reader, apologetic?

To learn more about living lightly through the ahead-of-their-time example set by Ardis and Philip Hyde, see the blog post, “Living The Good Life 1,” For a lively discussion on creating a sustainable world and related issues see the blog post, “Art, Earth And Ethics 1.”