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Back off the campaign trail.

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
North County Times
November 12, 2002


Coming back from a political hiatus, it's hard to decide where to direct my commentary. As a journalist one wants to be both timely and informative, so bringing up things that recently transpired would contribute little to the ongoing conversation. As a writer, I strive to entertain, which would rule out abrasive finger pointing so early in my return. So instead, this column will be a generic call for civility.

Having gone through another election cycle as a candidate, I have learned a great deal about how easily rhetoric gets in the way of communicating. This lesson did not come without several blows to the ego, a healthy dose of reality, and a few revelations where I found myself at the wrong end of an activist blood letting. In other words I got healthy dose of what I have been known to dish out. Talk about epiphanies.

It is now clear to me the one thing standing in the way of environmental sustainability, are environmentalists. It's not that the environmentalist community is wrong in their attempts to promote the quality of life issues such as clean air, clean water, and sustainable communities, where we go wrong is damning others not in complete agreement with us. I say this as someone familiar with both sides of the equation.

The motto for the environmental group Earth First! is very compelling. "No compromise in defense of Mother Earth" is commendable, but better suited to chaining oneself to a tree, rather than working where consensus is needed. This, however, is not to say a person should compromise their ideals or integrity. The mistake most often made, is not understanding being right doesn't make the other person wrong. In fact if common ground were actually sought, so much more would be done in pursuit of environmental sustainability.

Common ground is a powerful place to operate, yet so many of us avoid it like a Mariah Carey film. It may have took me a while, but I have come to the conclusion that people driving sport utility vehicles don't do so out of contempt for the planet. After taking the time to listen to SUV owners I was heartened by the number of people saying they drove these large vehicles for lack of alternatives. To a person, they all said that if given the choice they would prefer to drive non-polluting vehicles that were both large and affordable.

Also included in this assessment is the fact that those who place themselves on the left of the political spectrum, must learn to accept each other's contributions to the ongoing dialogue. Just as we need to allow for people to work outside the system, we must allow environmentalists to work within the system as well. Environmentalists willing to work with developers should be commended, as should the development interests willing to ask for environmental guidance. Such a relationship can only produce beneficial results.

No longer needing to attack others for their choices, a world of possibilities opens to those willing to enter into a dialogue, both future focused and respectful of a diversity of priorities. Sure things are bad and getting worse, but that is still no reason to make adversaries of those in the position to help remedy the situation. Making someone wrong is the easy way out. Making something right requires patience, and a whole lot of compromise from all involved parties.

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