Friday, September 7, 2012

Countdown To CAOmageddon: Flaw #36 - The Narrative

As a preface to this post, I want to emphasize that, despite what others may think, I consider myself an environmentalist. I always have, and I always will. However, I realize that I just don't fit in with those who wear it on their deceptive unscientific sleeves.

The previous post explained how the environmental movement has failed to evolve, and on a national basis, the movement no longer enjoys the broad-based support that it once did. Surveys by The Nature Conservancy show that most people in America now consider environmentalists to be extremists. What the environmental movement currently lacks in broad appeal, it tries to make up for with stridency. It's as if all the reasonable-sounding environmentalists have been boiled off, leaving a demi glace eco-reduction that is foul-tasting and stale, instead of delicious.

And those remaining in the pure eco-residue have a narrative for explaining what has happened to them, and it usually involves claims of betrayal, Koch-brother inspired conspiracies, dirty-tricks, and general blindness on the part of non-believers who are not smart or enlightened enough to foresee the imminent ecosystem collapse.

Cross the Friends or their friends and you immediately become labeled in this County. You're "street noise," "unethical," "unprofessional," "Republican," "deluded," "a property rights activist," or any number of similar names used to rally the traditional reactionary hatreds in our community. For the environmental purists in our midsts, it isn't about science or community, it's about winning. Labels are part of the winning strategy of marginalization. Labels are, after all, a variety of thought-terminating cliche too. It's what a person does when they want to quell their own cognitive dissonance and end debate, instead of make a point.

When challenged, the narrative of modern environmentalism falls back on dubious claims of pervasive ecosystem harm that ("they" say) is the inevitable consequence of human existence. The narrative makes arcane arguments about carrying capacity, population growth, and societal collapse. It's long on gloomy predictions and short on facts. The solution narrative is always the same: more and more intrusive government control and coordination needed to avert the ecological version of end times.

We've seen two examples of the eco-noise narrative stoking the enviro-disaster furnace over the past week. One is a letter in the famously sympathetic from Janet Alderton, Friends Board member. The other is an abstruse eco-planning tome about carrying capacity from Orcas.

Janet Alderton's letter is typically quaint for its absurdity. It focuses on a study completed two years ago as if it's breaking news. It repeats unfounded claims that she has made ad nauseum of ubiquitous pesticide pollution in our waters, despite such claims being dismissed by both Ecology and highly-qualified eco-toxicologists. Nevertheless, Janet is driven to distraction by the insecticide used to control carpenter ants, and she writes as if the pesticide and the Common Sense Alliance are in cahoots to destroy our planet. As inevitable as another Elvis sighting, in the months and years to come, we'll probably see more preachy "breaking news" from Janet that repeats tired, discredited claims about lethal carpenter-ant pesticide contamination.

And speaking of preachy, when youth (15 to 18) are asked in focus groups what an "environmentalist" looks like to them, the image they conjure up is that of a woman or girl. She wears lots of green and is wealthy and preachy. The word "preachy" shows up over and over again in focus groups. When young people are asked about this archetypical environmentalist, they say that she is nice enough, but they don't want to socialize with her.

The big environmental organizations like the Nature Conservancy realize that's a problem because national demographics are seismically shifting. The conservation movement always has been rich and white, but the country continues to be less so every day.

The message is that if the leaders of the environmental movement continue to look and behave like Janet Alderton, Stephanie Buffum (the ex Mrs Suckling), Lovel Pratt, or Shireene Hale, its long-term outlook is not good.

In the short-term, however, it is the eco-preachers that have cornered us, and it is our outlook that isn't very good. The CAOs have been imbued with "the narrative" and that makes us subject to their preachy, false, and foul-tasting requirements.


  1. In a Journal article recently,
    Ms. Alderton stated "The samples were taken from locations where most of the analyzed chemicals would be unlikely to accumulate. The root zone of plants breaks down many toxic chemicals into harmless molecules." The root zone breaks down many toxic chemicals? What is the basis of that claim? Uninformed comments such as the claim the "roots" break down chemicals is yet another reason whey Friends do not let Friends join the Friends because Friends is all about pseudo science and massaging the data. This statement from Ms. Alderton is one of the most ignorant claims I've heard orginate from the lady from Orcas Island - unbelievable - a totally false claim. And rather than spread fear and distrust, just exactly what tests could Friends propose to employ to "prove" that our residences in our community are Toxic? What, where, how many, what EPA methods in particular does Ms. Alderton recommend that residences be tested for?

  2. The San Juan Islander is getting a bit long in the tooth. A shriek piece for an angry old scold not inclined to fact check when the facts would just get in the way. And, comments not allowed. Just a lot of gross distracting ads from big corporations.

  3. Contrary to the Friends' propaganda, Ms. Alderton is a biochemist who reportedly spent her career working in a lab on human biochemistry. She's apparently retired but now treated as a wetlands specialist, a toxicology specialist, and on and on. Sorry, but we don't get neurosurgery advice from a urologist; why does Planning continue to consult Ms. Alderton ?

  4. Ms. Alderton continues to trumpet R. Barsh's "report" about toxics as if it (1) were done by a scientist (instead of a lawyer-lobbyist-science hobbyist and a bunch of teens); (2) followed scientific method; (3) had ever been published in final (nope) peer-reviewed or published; and (4), had not been dismissed as sloppy by a scientists on the MRC. Very Paul Ryan-esque--keep repeating the non-truth and half-truth.

  5. Carpenter ants! Carpenter ants! They're everwhere ... crawling all over me! Make them stop, make them stop! Auuuggghhee!!!

  6. Given the Hyde report, none of this matters. Your house could be leaking just about anything (well, assume something less than forty barrels of oil a day,) and it would mean next to nothing.

    Sorry, but our islands are just not very important as a threat to just about anything...perhaps, maybe if you include the National Park Service; those folks are pretty formidable. They like to kill things DEAD!

  7. Roots "Break down toxins"??

    That is right up there with the folks that sell "plant food".

    Guess no one bothered to tell them that plants produce their own food.

    I have a CAO plan. Lets ban the use of lawn fertilizer. Sale, application, import, etc.. (It was done with styrafoam in town).
    Call it good.
    Send a letter similar to the Town. Done.

  8. That's not a bad idea really. Styrofoam clamshells creep me out. I much prefer the recycled fiber/paper clamshells now in use. Same thing for coffee cups. One manufactured product doesn't break down for a long, long time and the other breaks down harmless right away. I use a propane torch to deal with weeds, pretty much just as effective as wierdo chemicals. But you know what? If we actually banned a few things those wackos are howling about, they would resist that too. Why? They prefer to regulate our lives. The CAO isn't about the environment. Its about control.

  9. Truth - several times during the CAO hearings in the Planning Commission the proposal to simply identify and regulate the use of problematic chemicals in the County came up. Janet Alderton and Shireene were opposed to the idea, because it would be too hard to identify the specific chemicals, to hard to enforce, and besides, the common people would cheat.

    This is all about the elite controlling your life, and has little to do with protecting the environment.

  10. And the "common people" you and I and Patty Miller won't "cheat" on buffers if they come to be?

    What total nonsense. None of this is enforceable. Vivian Burnett with the guest house issue is a perfect example of how all this crap means nothing. If she had kept her mouth shut and stayed away from the Friends, she would have had her rental until the day she died.

    The sad thing is how much time and money is wasted on chasing problems that don't exist (as with the guest house issue)and it is enlightening (thank you, previous post)that County Staff rejected straightforward measures that would actually do something productive!

    Holy smokes...we don't need to hire countless high price consultants to lead us into countless lawsuits?


  11. Just as a reminder, looks like the public record now shows that 1) Howie Rosenfeld won't read any of this because his Friends told him not to; and, 2) Jamie Stephens believes the Trojan Heron is censoring comments from anyone who dares oppose logic, truth, beauty and the Department of Ideology. Maybe a little tutorial can help those who are new to the Internet.