Friday, June 10, 2011

Longtime activists throwing in the towel

Will human greed finally trump interest in global health?

Paul K. Haeder

(This is a conclusion of a series about the possible death, or at least the lack of relevance, of the environmental movement. Read past stories, here, below.)

What is an environmentalist in this day and age, when writers like Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus write essays like “Death of Environmentalism” which basically throw in the towel on the environmental “movement”?

“The three-part strategic framework for environmental policy-making hasn’t changed in 40 years: first, define a problem (e.g. global warming) as ‘environmental.’ Second, craft a technical remedy (e.g. cap-and-trade). Third, sell the technical proposal to legislators through a variety of tactics, such as lobbying, third-party allies, research reports, advertising, and public relations.”

Do the activists in Pennsylvania fighting coordinated pigeon shoots get laurels for being environmental activists by both lobbying the lawmakers in that state and disrupting the bizarre shoots?

Is that 75 percent for and 25 percent against rule for Spokane we talked about in Part 3 apply to these shooting events where one bird is confined to a small box about 25–30 yards in front of the firing line. Then, the birds are released from five separate spring-loaded boxes known as “traps.”

Is it blood sport – like the bear kill of 1994 – since the shooter then gets to fire at five released birds in five separate rounds? In most other states this is prohibited, but in Pennsylvania each shooter tries to kill a total of 25 birds, attempting to get each one to fall within a designated circle, for a “perfect score.”

Here’s the macho factor that has to get stuck in the craw of guys like my teacher friend’s hunter dad: the birds are often dazed and confused due to no feeding and crowded confinement. As many as three-fourths of all birds, according to investigators from the Humane Society of the United States, are not killed instantly, but are wounded, usually to die slow and painful deaths.

It gets worse — wounded and dead birds are picked up by trapper boys and girls. The heads are sheared off, or other trappers wring their necks, hours after they are wounded.

The carcasses are thrown into garbage bins. Protestors have “outed” the claims of the shooters that they are ridding the state of “vermin” or “winged rats”: most of the birds have been raised to be shot, some trucked from out of state.

So these hunters hone their skills in these shoots, where illegal side bets are placed and drinking occurs.

Each generation on this planet, which will reach 7 billion people on Halloween 2011, must confront the old paradigms, whether they are late 19th century internal combustion technologies we use to move automobiles and Walmart container ships, or coal- burning energy generation that goes back 400 years to fire up your computer.

Delisting wolves from the Edangered Species Act, or shooting black bears for trophies or for gall bladders to feed the Chinese medicine racket, these issues confront our species.

Humankind scrambles to grow food, save water; to understand the true effects of climate change on twisters hitting Alabama, or cyclones in the Indian Sea flooding homes along the Bangladeshi coast; to stave off corporations who would have us all give up the last free man/woman for a few crumbs.

Sometimes activism starts with a short letter to the editor. Sometimes activism dies because of the surmounting evidence of wildlife and environmental losses.

For my teacher friend who was inspired by the bear killing discussion more than a decade ago, she talks of throwing in the towel daily. She repeats how humanity has screwed the planet for good and has retreated into a state of pessimisms and cynicisms. The glimmer of pugnacity she showed in those 15-year-old letters and columns is gone.

In 1989 Bill McKibben wrote the first climate change book – “The End of Nature.” He’s famous now for his Step it Up and campaigns. The subtext of the book is that for us to survive, we must make major philosophical shifts in how we relate to nature.

The ending then, and now, 20 years later, is bleak: Human beings value themselves and their interests primarily and these values will likely win out. We are so much closer to a state of managed climate, genetics and ecology. De facto, environmentalism is dead on arrival.

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