Posts Tagged ‘environmental issues’

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…

Art, Earth and Ethics 1 – The Abuse of Nature and Our Future

May 22nd, 2014

Art, Earth and Ethics, Part One

National Forests, Spotted Owls, Environmentalism, The Abuse of Nature and Our Future

The Earth will survive, but will man survive on the Earth? – Philip Hyde
Secret Cove, Ponderosa Pine Trees, Lake Tahoe, Sierra Nevada of California in the distance, copyright 2014 David Leland Hyde. The water quality that gives Lake Tahoe its natural clarity and deep blue color were declining until environmental reforms in the Tahoe Basin turned the situation around. Lake Tahoe is clearer today than it was five years ago.

Secret Cove, Ponderosa Pine Trees, Lake Tahoe, Sierra Nevada of California in the distance, copyright 2014 David Leland Hyde. New Addition to David Leland Hyde’s Sierra Portfolio. The water quality that gives Lake Tahoe its natural clarity and azure blue color were declining until environmental reforms in the Tahoe Basin turned the situation around. Lake Tahoe is clearer today than it was five years ago.

(See the photograph large here in David Leland Hyde Sierra Portfolio.)

My father, American landscape photographer Philip Hyde, and my mother Ardis bought 18 acres in 1956 for a few thousands dollars in Plumas County in the Northern Sierra Nevada of California. Plumas National Forest borders this land where I grew up, on two sides. Plumas National Forest also happens to be the top lumber producing national forest in the Lower 48 United States.

While my father was an artist and my mother a schoolteacher, my childhood friends were sons and daughters of loggers in Plumas National Forest and farmers in nearby Indian Valley. I remember conversations on both sides of the environmental equation. A good example of the nature of these discussions occurred recently. It was more of a one-sided rant than a dialog. A retired logger, who I consider a friend, and one of his friends, a claim gold miner, were raving about “those damn enviro’s.” Their comments were vaguely directed toward me, though also more general, offered in protest of all the injustices in the world and their own lives.

“I can’t believe the Feather River Land Trust won’t let us hunt ducks on the Heart K Ranch in Genesee Valley any more. We’ve been hunting ducks there for 50 years. Rich city people come up here and they don’t know anything about our way of life.” They were on a roll, fueled by beer and who knows what else. I did not intervene at first.

“There are no jobs left because of the enviro’s,” One of them said. “Yeah, and the damn Spotted Owl,” the other said. “Just because of one tiny bird, whole forests are closed to logging. What’s more important: one stupid little bird, or the economy? I’d like to take every one of those damn Spotted Owls and strangle them. People are the endangered species.”

I started to respond, but the old logger interrupted me, “We know what you’re going to say. You’re in cahoots with the wealthy Bay Area crowd. Don’t talk any of that rubbish in this house. I’ll throw you out.”

I rode my bike home and pondered how the above conversation has not changed for 50 or even hundreds of years either. What these hard working old guys fail to understand is that the Spotted Owl is only a symptom, just the tip of a very large iceberg. The ecosystems are breaking down and these few species that are dying are like advance warnings. Depending on your perspective, a few bees are not so important. “We can just get beehives to pollinate the crops,” another local said. Neither is it vital whether the local frogs can still reproduce, or whether any other single species, or single population of a species lives or dies. However, when you stop and think about how many human fertility clinics there were 30 years ago and how many there are now in every town, when you start to connect the dots, you begin to get the bigger picture.

The Earth is a web of all life. Everything is connected to everything else. You destroy one part of the web of life and you eventually destroy yourself. People reading this blog perhaps will say this is a “no-brainer,” that I’m not pointing out anything new here. True, but why are we as a collective not getting it? Not doing enough to change our perspective and our ways? Greed? Corruption? Selfishness? Lack of vision? Denial? Laziness? Pessimism? Resignation? What is your excuse for still driving a traditional car? …For burning fossil fuel? …For using plastic products? …For not recycling? Even hybrid and electric automobiles have a tremendous impact on the environment just through their manufacture and the mining extraction of the materials that go into them.

Is it really the environment that we need to save, or ourselves? When we act in ways that have less impact, carpool, ride a bike, is it truly on behalf of the environment? Is that the primary concern? Or is environmentalism really self-preservation? My father used to say that we do not need to worry about the Earth. It will be here long after we are gone. It is our own survival for which we need to be concerned. Therefore, are environmentalists in reality interested in protecting the environment at the expense of people, or precisely because it is our own future that is in jeopardy.

This paradox still escapes the majority of people in our culture. What do we do about it? I was lucky to grow up with both an environmental ethic and an art aesthetic. Care for the planet and beauty as a telltale of balanced health are ingrained in my psyche. Unfortunately, most people do not grow up as fortunately. To put in perspective how blindly oblivious and unaware some can be, take for instance one extreme case: this video of former Boy Scout leaders destroying an ancient rock formation in Goblin Valley State Park in Utah.

When I first saw this video of young men responsible for leading others into nature having no respect for nature, I was dismayed, not only about those committing the crime and their kind, but also about whether there is any hope for our civilization. What we fail to realize is that we are all taking actions much like these ignorant young men. Not only are there just enough clueless people like them running around that it is easy to fall into thinking we are doomed, but we are all clueless to a much greater degree than we understand. In the realm of photography, even many nature and landscape photographers seem to have no respect for nature or other photographers, as landscape photographer Sarah Marino reported in her photoblog post, in which she suggested a field etiquette for landscape photographers.

Regardless of misguided deeds and a destructive approach to nature by our whole civilization, I believe there is still hope. I am writing this new series of blog posts precisely because I believe there is something we may not yet know, something we have not yet discovered, some new information or new action that will save us. This does not mean we can sit back, relax, watch TV, play video games, surf Facebook and not worry. It means that we need to put all of our synergistic efforts and pooled resources into finding a solution. But are we likely to do that? That is the question.

A New Yorker article, Scientific American and Grist Magazine report that even many leading scientists believe it is already too late to do anything about Climate Change. Wow, that went fast. Many people still doubt and wonder whether it is reality or myth, truth or fiction. Those of us who have been reading the science know that it is based on much more than mere computer modeling. We know that the science of Global Warming is based on mountains of hard evidence and real measurements that are hard to misread.

The abuse of nature has gone on for thousands of years. It is even sanctioned in the Bible. Genesis says our role is to conquer and have dominion over the Earth. Fortunately, today large numbers of Christians are not taking the Bible literally. More moderate Christians are in favor of applying the passages in the good book that tout taking care of Earth.

In the recent winner of the Colorado Book Award, Dam Nation: How Water Shaped the West and Will Determine Its Future, author Stephen Grace covers the devastating state of water and drought in the Western US today. Water laws, originally developed in the much wetter East, protect the use of water channeled away from rivers and streams at the expense of in-stream ecological, aesthetic and recreational values.

As economies across the West surged, streams were dammed, ditched, and diverted until their beds were nearly bare. Many rivers became toxic trickles because they didn’t carry enough volume to dilute poisons and flush themselves clean. And each diversion for an offstream use, whether to grow crops, make steel or send drinking water to city taps, reduced the amount of instream flow available for supporting fish and wildlife populations, nourishing riparian vegetation, and promoting recreational pursuits such as boating, camping, fishing, and bird watching… To some, especially those profiting from raising beef on irrigated pasture—these uses seemed ridiculous at best, a threat to their way of life at worst.

Hoover Dam on the Colorado River helped supply the power to win World War II. After the War Hoover Dam was one of the underpinnings of the US rise to world power. Damming and diverting rivers has become as American as apple pie and as loved as baseball in the political arena, but the effects on watersheds, the durability of our limited fresh water supply and ultimately the health of the arteries of life on Earth is at stake.

On a larger scale, we are treating nature with the same abusive disdain across the globe. Are we lacking ethics or taste? Is it simply in our nature to be a parasite on the face of the Earth? Can we change? These and other questions, answers and ways out of the trap we have set for ourselves will be the subject of this new blog series.

(Continued in the blog post, “Art, Earth And Ethics 2.”)

Please comment, email or write me through the Contact Form above what environmental issues, ecological concerns and related psychology and philosophy you would like to read more about.