from 04 sept 2005
blue vol IV, #21
Opinion Archive

Environmentalism is dead.
Long live environmentalism!

by Michael Lewis

It's hard to admit, sticks in the craw, brings the lump to the throat... and it's true.

Environmentalism really is dead.

I'm talking about environmentalism that seeks to preserve wilderness, critical habitat, open space, miles and miles of... miles and miles: that part of the world that exists for itself, not as a stage for Homo Sap and the Development Band. Environmentalism that puts humans in their place alongside all other species, not above.

The Big Greens, all of them, have sold out to the mythology of sustainability, whatever that means. The Sierra Club has become the green arm of the Democratic Party: a political party, a vote machine, not a grass roots environmental advocacy group. Compared to the big SC, all other "environmental" groups pale in comparison.

If John Muir were alive now, he'd turn over in his grave.

The environmental movement gave in to the power of "compromise." Somehow, along the way twixt Thomas Jefferson and George W. Bush, the ideal of democracy was twisted into the practice of compromise. In order to court a broader spectrum of the people, ideals were abandoned in favor of "collaboration."

What was forgotten along the way is that collaboration requires a unanimity of goals. In order for the Forest Service to collaborate with a group such as Earth First!, both groups must share a common goal, say, preservation of old-growth forest. But this is not the case. The Forest Service's primary goal is multiple-use of the forests, including the single use of cutting them down. This is in direct opposition to the goal of old-growth forest preservation. There can be no collaboration, no compromise, among such disparate goals.

The Forest Service, ever since Gifford Pinchot, is supremely successful at doing its job of providing dead trees to the forest products industry. The Forest Service needs no collaboration with those who seek to preserve wilderness and intact forest ecosystems. Likewise the defenders of wilderness need no collaboration with those who seek to destroy wilderness.

Wilderness knows no compromise, only loss.

It's time to return to the environmentalism of Edward Abbey, of John Muir, of Walt Whitman, of Henry David Thoreau, an environmentalism that recognizes that humans are an integral part of the web of all life, that humans cannot exist in an exclusively man-made world, that being human requires the experience of an untrammeled non-human world for its completion.

In these days of electronic distraction made manifest in all aspects of human life, the natural, non-human world is lost, even when "consumed" by the avid outdoorsperson decked out in the latest hiking technology. The "outdoors" has become a commodity, a marketing ploy, a sales gimmick, a vacation destination, a glossy photo on a Chamber of Commerce brochure.

Even the concept of "sustainability" has been squeezed through the tube of development interests, until it comes out as the absurd oxymoron of "sustainable development."

As Ed Abbey said, "The idea of wilderness needs no defense. It only needs more defenders". Let's recruit members of the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, Wilderness Alliance, and all the other Big Green Boxes, get them out of their chairs, away from their computers, on their feet and out into the wild, just for a short while, say, three weeks or so, maybe a month. No damned cell phones, no pagers, no iPods, no GPS's, no technological mediation of any kind. Ok, a good knife and a bag of raisins. Let them experience our true home, the wilderness, from whence we came and to which we all yearn to return.

Environmentalism is dead. Long live environmentalism!

- Michael Lewis (Hayduke)
Leona Gulch
Pacific Plate

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