Hello Sierra Club,
It was lovely attending your talk at the New York Open Center last week. Every time you said something I burst with wanting to butt in, but I kept myself in check (lucky for both of us!), at least until you finished. I was the fellow in the front row who seemed to have no end of questions or comments after you finished speaking. And here I am, wanting to communicate with you again.
How I came to "environmentalism" is a two-step story. Initially, years ago I discovered David Brower (the "Arch-Druid" and the owner of "what I said was I like trees more than I like people who don't like trees") and his organization, Friends of the Earth, a more activist organization than Sierra Club, where he had been removed as Executive Director. More recently, looking for a place to direct my excess energies (my children had grown up), it occurred to me that the world at large, or at least complex life-forms, are in grave danger of mass extinction at humankind's hands. I decided that the GAIAn movement was suitably crucial for me to devote myself to it.
Have you seen the movie (or read the book) "A Time To Kill"? It is the story of a black man whose young daughter is carelessly raped by two white redneck ass-holes. When he learns who did it, he kills them in cold-blood as they are being led to jail by the town's sheriff. In his murder trial, his lawyer asks that the all-white jury put themselves in his client's shoes when considering their verdict. Perhaps unbelievably, they acquit him. I learned about my own potential for violence when I became a father for the first time. I thought, "if someone messes with my kids, I'll make sure they never make it to jail." This movie knew EXACTLY what it meant to be a "protector," it includes the willingness to kill in cold blood.
The problem with the environmental movement is that, knowing what they do, they have not yet come to understand that their own children are being poisoned, raped and murdered. And that there are persons, identifiable persons, who are profiting from their legal crimes against their friends and family, against humanity, against life, against nature, and against our common home, the Earth.
Yes, we all contribute to the problem. But it is one thing to smoke a cigarette of one's own growing; it is quite another to smoke a pack of easily available, image-enhancing and more addictive smokes that are the product of tens of thousands of workers, bosses and shareholders, that feed a small few very very well.
The USA, the most powerful country in the world, the very country which to so many stands for freedom, opportunity, progress and the good life. This great country is also dragging the world to the brink of destruction. The love of money is the root of all evil. (Who said that? Some Buddhist freak or somethin?)
George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, de Tocqueville, even Dwight Eisenhower, all spoke to the considerable dangers of a concentration of economic power. (And I thought Karl Marx was behind all that un-American anti-trust regulation (that no President in 20 years has paid attention to).
What happens to sharks if they over-feed? They go extinct. What happens to the predator of predators if he kills off all his competition? He will only have himself to feed on. What happens to the human race if it is unable to check the rapacity of its most rapacious citizens? It dies off of its own choice.
I have thought long and hard about these issues, even about how to avoid a Mad Max future. Here are some ideas:
* Corporate & personal accountability for the consequences of actions & decisions
* Earth First clause in law, limiting what an owner of private property may do with his land
* Betrayal of the Public Trust statute, providing prison sentences for politicians who sell votes for personal gain
* "God gave man Dominion over..." "Dominion" includes responsibility, mastery in its ancient sense, not its modern master-destroyer sense.
* a graduated Income Tax, like we had under a Republican President and Congress in the 1950's
* a tax on Wealth
* spread this idea: the world is under attack by powerful forces. It benefits some but harms most; the battle belongs to everyone who cares fort the future.
* no one is empowered to speak (politically) for the future, to speak for the past, to speak for wild animals and habitat, to speak for trees, to speak for beauty and soul.
* "The love of money is the root of all evil." Who said that? We ought not to jail men for their addictions; but we MUST jail them for the mischief they do that harms others while they are under the influence. I am NOT referring to drug users but to corporate decision-makers.
Notice one of the best features of my proposals. None of them require that people get more ethical, more educated, or even more involved in the beauty of their own lives. Most of the above suggestions are popular suggestions, that is, most people would favor them if the were presented carefully. It is not likely too many establishment politicians will embrace them. Perhaps it will require the emergence of Green parties everywhere. But this is not so hard, it is happening all around us.
Somebody predisposed to hear others' utterances with an ear to psychological condition might detect anger or rage in what I have written thus far. I am aware of it, and I confess to those feelings. But how should a sane, rational, informed human being feel, seeing what we all can see, if we open our minds. (Yes, I know, denial would be a good, "healthy" choice for an already over-burdened individual.) Particularly as I understand that our "environmental crisis" is being stoked by forces conscious of what they are doing (unconsciousness began to erode after Rachel Carson's Silent Spring was published in 1962). Cigarette manufacturers know they are manufacturing, selling and profiting from ill health, disease and death; gun manufacturers know they are selling accidental (and purposeful) death; defense manufacturers know they are creating weapons of mass destruction even though we have no credible enemy to deter; DDT manufacturers know they are selling death, just they no longer do it in the USA, as our laws forbid its sale here; the manufacturers of junk food know they are selling ill health; producers of the most popular TV shows know they are helping to create a somnambulistic citizenry; auto manufacturers who invest no money in alternate (to fossil fuel) energy sources know they are selling poisoned air; thousands of manufacturers whose manufacturing run-offs dump into living rivers know they are dumping poison into the food chain; smoke stacks spew poison into the air; the relentless push for new markets keeps a fire lit under population growth, a time-bomb with an unfortunately long fuse (particularly in poor countries who can ill afford it). Yes, this angry analysis is only one way to see things; it is not the only way. But unless enough people begin to see things this way, and act on it, the human race and most large mammals and big fish and big birds will be history within a few more generations.
Am I in despair? Am I pessimistic about humanity's future? No way. I believe with every fiber in my being that we will stop short of the abyss, I believe we will one day travel to the stars, and have a glorious living planet to call "home." And I am grateful for the opportunity this crisis provides me to contribute something to this struggle.
I'd better stop now; do you think I've run out of things to write?
I am not sure what I hope to accomplish by this note, beyond that it receive a thoughtful reading. Obviously it shows I want to play a bigger part (in our common cause), beyond being a dues-paying member of the Sierra Club.
If you can imagine a way to use me, or this letter, please contact me.
created on 06/25/1999