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It's not easy being green

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
May 6, 2005


Have you ever had an epiphany? I have, many in fact. You could even say I break for epiphanies. My latest was a doozey. This epiphany stemmed from recognizing a failure to broadly communicate the importance of ecological stewardship. Although there was a lot of insight to be gained from the ordeal, the ego in freefall is a very unnerving experience. I hit the wall.

Being an environmentalist is not easy. Most often an exercise in futility, attempting to alter the behavior of 7 billion people bent on collective suicide is a losing proposition. As an environmental journalist I have tried to create a distinctive style that best reflects the state of biospheric conditions. Little did I know when I took on the role of modern day Cassandra, of the toll it would take on my socializing skills. Like most environmentalists, being constantly on defense has hardened my approach to game.

Fighting a losing battle, no matter how just the cause, tends to sour one's mood. As of late I find myself arguing instead of discussing, plotting instead of listening, and hoping for the catastrophic earthquake. Then it hit me. I am one angry monkey. And anger is a balm for nothing.

Epiphany: The problem is with the messenger, not the message.

A voice in the disappearing wilderness my weekly ramblings are part of a much larger conversation. People with ecological concerns have been reduced to fringe contrarians. Therein lies the problem. Environmentalists, however just their cause, have allowed themselves to be perceived as cantankerous killjoys, myself included.

Bitching for a living has made me bitchy. Last week for example, I went Cujo on a well-meaning, if clueless libertarian, while collaborating on an intellectual endeavor. Totally losing my cool, the melt down would have been impressive if it wasn't me having the aneurysm.

Like most Libertarians, my colleague worships at the church of the divine monkey (A.K.A. anthropocentrism) where individual property rights trump everything and Ayn Rand is always right. Every time I speak with this Ms. Libertarian environmentalist (yes, I know that's an oxymoron) the specter of misanthropy gets that much harder to shake. Deep in debate I often tell her this. For her part she likes to remind me, humans are a part of nature too. Like somehow I have forgotten 3 million years of evolution in the middle of trying to explain the concept biocentric consequentialism to her.

Biocentric consequentialism is the normative theory that holds when considering the morality of foreseeable results of actions and policies, all living creatures should be recognized as having intrinsic value, and given moral standing accordingly.

Now some of you are probably asking, "Why bother? Why waste your time on a person, who believes global warming is liberal propaganda, air and water are cleaner than ever, that drilling in ANWR is a benign use of resources, and extinction is only a problem for the species going extinct."

Ms. Libertarian and I met years ago, at a political debate I was hosting. From this meeting, and subsequent conversations, it was decided that it was time to create an opportunity, an eco-forum to be exact, for people of different political ideologies to discuss environmental issues as a way of finding common ground, and hopefully promote environmental awareness in the process. Unfortunately, the common ground we seek is smack dab in the middle of a minefield of conflicting ideologies.

As a founding member of the Iris Forum, I represent the Green filter for the first Multi-partisan environmental think-tank. Deep in the lab of ecology oriented debate I consider myself a guinea pig, complete with a maze of conflicting agendas and appetites. The other political filters currently represented in the Iris Forum are Democrat, Independent, Natural Law, and Republican. As to be expected, this work is not for sissies.

Last week the Isis Forum participated in the worlds largest Earth Fair to mark Earth Day 2005 by discussing environmental stewardship for all who would listen. At one point someone asked those of us on stage what could be done to bring about a culture of sustainable environmental stewardship.

Once again, pushing just the right button, Ms. Libertarian started her response with something to the effect "The Greens have been in control for too long." And then went back to preaching the scripture of property rights and property ownership being the truth path to environmental salvation. Then, as if on cue, I once again morphed into an angry green monkey.

I should really work on that.

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