Showing posts with label environmentalism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label environmentalism. Show all posts

April 05, 2008

Nature Writing, Environmental Justice, and Lefty Prejudice

Peculiar links to a review essay on nature reading that I had also skimmed at the Bodios' last week.

Author John Derbyshire is better known as a political writer, and he hits Lefty enviros pretty hard. But he likes Steve Bodio's work:

The Left survives and flourishes because, as well as there being plenty of people whose satisfaction in life is to boss others around, there are even more who are willing to be bossed. Those who are not so willing — persons of a prickly-libertarian temperament — often head out to the wild places, to end up as lovers of the raw creation. There is, too, that aspect of the conservative temperament that abhors sentimentality and wishful thinking, and greets with happy recognition the cycles of death and mayhem that comprise most of the natural world's activity. I am thinking here, in both cases, of the Western writer Stephen J. Bodio, whose 1998 memoir On the Edge of the Wild offers an eloquent hunter's perspective on nature.


And Barry Lopez's too. (I would have to go to the mat with Derbyshire over his judgment on Gary Snyder.)

Even more, however, I recommend Rebecca Solnit's piece in the latest Orion titled "One Nation Under Elvis".

Solnit, one of the nation's best nature-and-culture writers, I am coming to think, speaks of her own move away from unthinking Lefty bigotry:

I grew up surrounded by liberals and leftists who liked to play the idiot in fake southern accents, make jokes about white trash and trailer trash, and, like the Canadian enviros, made gagging noises whenever they heard Dolly Parton or anything like her. If Okies from Muskogee thought they were being mocked, they were right, in part.


Her point is that the mindless partisanship of both Right and Left does environmentalism no good:

Right-wing politicians may serve the super-rich with tax cuts and deregulation and privatization galore, but they also dress up expertly in a heartland all-Americanism that has, at least until Bush’s plummeting popularity, allowed a lot of rural Americans to see them as allies rather than opponents. The right has also done a superb job of portraying the left as elite and hostile to working-class interests, and the class war going on inside and outside leftist and environmentalist circles did this propaganda battle a great service. The result of all this has been a marginalized environmental movement—more specifically, an environmental movement that has alienated the people who often live closest to “the environment.”

Even the "environmental justice" people seem blind to poor white people, she suggests, because they still carry around mental cartoons from the civil-rights era. She suggests, instead, that

The anti-environmentalist right has shot itself in both feet in the past few years, losing credibility and constituency, and a smart and fast-moving left could make hay out of this, to mix a few fairly rural metaphors. It would mean giving up vindication for victory—that is, giving up on triumphing over the wickedness of one’s enemies and looking at them as unrecruited allies instead.

March 08, 2008

Blog Stew with Psychotropics

¶ Colorado leads nation in teen depression. Do you think nature-deficit disorder is involved? Berkeley Breathed might say so.

¶ The best sex on campus is in Environmental Studies. CSU-Pueblo used to have an Environmental Studies minor; I was on the steering committee. Then there was a change of deans, and it was canceled, for reasons I never fully understood.

¶ Game halted on account of owl: An eagle owl (the Eurasian equivalent of our great horned owl) flies into a Finnish soccer stadium during a game with the Belgian national team. The game is delayed while the fans chant, "Huukaja! Huukaja!" ("eagle owl" in Finnish). (Hat tip, Pluvialis).

¶ In Florida, meanwhile, professional golfer Tripp Isenhour kills a red-shouldered hawk -- by repeatedly driving golf balls at it -- for the crime of interrupting the filming of his instructional video.

Funny, it's soccer that is associated with thuggish fans. Golf is supposedly the gentleman's game.

¶ That must be some storm sweeping up the Ohio River country. This blog has had several hits today from people searching some variety of "thunder while snowing." And they are all coming from Ohio and Kentucky. One of my nature-writing students blogged about thunder snow in April 2007.

February 20, 2008

Environmentalism and the Politics of Fear

In his comment here, Mike at Sometimes Far Afield worries that if the environmental apocalypse does not arrive on schedule, legitimate environmental concerns may be devalued.

Political blogger Andrew Sullivan also wonders if environmental politics are producing a "totalizing ideology".

All of them more or less resort to arguing that Gourevitch may or may not be right, but it doesn't matter because (cue thunderclap) global warming is coming to get us! As Gourevitch suggests, environmentalism, when it relies on strong appeals to fear, becomes a form of antipolitics, one intended to supersede both the collective and individual choices that are part of modern politics. In this conception, environmental fear politics become a threat to both democratic populists and libertarian individualists. Gourevitch, I think, was extremely smart to frame the issue as a corollary to the war on terror.

Yeah, let's take away all their big houses/cars/babies/electricity/plastic bags/greasy food/whatever. Then humanity will live in harmony!

I do worry that more people will want to play the coercion card ("for the children," of course) instead of the education - and - economic - incentives card as a way to avoid environmental destruction.

The scientific study of climate change is needed and necessary. But I hate to see it become twisted into ideology with Our Group (good) and Their Group (evil).

August 05, 2007

It's Better to be Pure than Effective?

The June 25, 2007 issue of High Country News carried Hal Herring's piece on a group of Western "predator hunters for the environment," who claim they do a better job of defending wildlife that either "cattlemen . . . who did not want to see larger deer and elk herds" or, obviously, animal-rightists.

Anti-hunting groups cite studies by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service showing that “watchable wildlife” interests — non-hunting tourists drawn to parks and rural areas — spend more on their trips and are an increasing presence, while expenditures by hunters are declining. But this does not negate a simple reality: The majority of the wildlife being watched by non-hunters has been restored and sustained by hunter dollars, paid through the decades into a variety of revenue streams. (Emphasis added.)

Herring's article points out that such groups have pushed for habitat restoration that benefits all species, not just game species.

The issue here is whether Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife's focus on predator control is really biologically accurate or not. But that is not the real issue for some HCN readers, who are more interested in preening displays of moral superiority.

Mary Sojourner, an occasional HCN contributor herself, informs us that she does not trust herself to own a gun. (Fine, Mary, no one is forcing you.)

Bob Wood of Sedona tells us that "Ed Abbey was a gun nut," but evidently his heart is big enough include Cactus Ed anyway, nuttiness aside.

Will Nobauer of Aspen froths at the mouth about "lunatic hairless apes," "psychotic mutant retards," and "mad killers," while the noble-minded Crista Worthy of Pacific Palisades, California, suggests that the people interviewed should take their "probably illegally modified" (how does she know?) rifles and kill each other. She would smile at the slaughter, she says.

Fortunately, other letter-writers were more rational. For instance, Rod Mondt of Tucson asks "all hunting and angling groups to put aside their differences and work together to protect wildlife habitat on public lands. And that truly is what it's all about.

It has long been one of the environmental movement's weakness that it is larded with people who would rather be morally correct than politically effective.

I do not agree completely with Roger Scruton that all conservation issues are best handled locally, but he is right about one thing:

Environmentalism certainly has the character of a movement, something you join that offers membership. It also has a militant wing. Aggressive organizations like Greenpeace, corrupt and unaccountable though they are, nevertheless appeal to young people because of their image of purity. Their publicity says, “Join us, and we will offer you salvation from environmental sin.” The redemption that they offer resembles initiation promises throughout history, from the knightly orders of the Middle Ages through to the jihadists today. . . .

These movements also provide an enemy, and enemies are useful for defining your place in the world. While it is difficult to share friends, you can easily share enemies, since hatred is far less demanding than love and requires no shared judgment—only a common target.

July 19, 2007

An Automotive Hate Crime

But this direct action was good, you see, because the perpetrators held the moral high ground. I am sure that they would tell you that! (And so would the KKK have said in its day.)

Via Ann Althouse.)

April 25, 2007

John Muir and the Happiness of Alligators

John Muir
How John Muir, often called "father of American environmentalism," rejected the human-centered view back in the 1860s:

The botanizer's answer, so foreign to his time, was this: "Nature's object in making animals and plants might possibly be first of all the happiness of each one of them, not the creation of all for the happiness of one. Why should man value himself as more than a small part of the one great unit of creation?" Without using the words inherent worth or intrinsic value, Muir writes in the journal at his side, "Though alligators, snakes, etc. naturally repel us, they are not mysterious evils. They dwell happily in these flowery wilds, are part of God's family, unfallen, undepraved, and cared for with the same species of tenderness and love as is bestowed on angels in heaven or saints on earth."

"The world, we are told, was made especially for man," Muir once wrote, "a presumption not supported by all the facts."


And now my nature-writing class is almost over, and we never got to Arne Naess and deep ecology. Every time I teach it, it goes a different direction.

Ragged hat-tip: Killing the Buddha.

January 29, 2007

Dolores LaChapelle

Dolores LaChapelle of Silverton, Colorado, died January 22 at an advanced age. (She was still skiing deep powder in her seventies.)

She begins the preface to her 1992 deep ecology book Sacred Land, Sacred Sex: Rapture of the Deep: Concerning Deep Ecology and Celebrating Life by stating that it does not fit into any categories:

it's neither psychology nor philosophy, neither history nor anthropology--not even social anthropology. It's most certainly not "eco-feminist," "new age," or "futurist." Yet it takes in all this and much more.

So did she.

The University of Utah has an online collection of her skiing photographs. She was a pioneer of ski mountaineering, among other things.

The Durango Herald ran this feature article about her in 2002.

LaChapelle became renowned in skiing circles for her powder skiing prowess. [While at Alta] she even earned the nickname “Witch of the Wasatch” for her uncanny ability to predict storms.

Look at her article "Ritual is Essential" for an understanding of how she connected human ritual with living "in place"

Ritual is essential because it is truly the pattern that connects. It provides communication at all levels - communication among all the systems within the individual human organism; between people within groups; between one group and another in a city and throughout all these levels between the human and the non-human in the natural environment. Ritual provides us with a tool for learning to think logically, analogically and ecologically as we move toward a sustainable culture. Most important of all, perhaps, during rituals we have the experience, unique in our culture, of neither opposing nature or trying to be in communion with nature; but of finding ourselves within nature, and that is the key to sustainable culture.

January 23, 2007

'Spoiled Brats'

Evangelical Christian blogger and pastor John Smulo praises Steve "Crocodile Hunter" Irwin and his family, but he is still waiting for environmental consciousness to grow among his fellow Christians.

I've been encouraged to see some growth in the Christian environmental movement. But overall it seems to me that most of us, not to mention most Westerners, act like spoiled brats when it comes to living and non-living creation.

Our Dad made it, and we don't care if it gets ruined. Instead, we think He'll clean up the mess we're making or another generation can deal with it.


Some of the commenters agree, while others argue that they are involved.