Published August 01, 2012
Far-right message dangerous propaganda for our planetBURT GUTTMAN; Guest columnist
Once upon a time, when humanity was relatively young, people thought they could do anything they pleased to the Earth, the air and the water. OK, our continuing irrigation has made this oncerich farmland so salty that our crops wont grow here anymore, but, heck, well just move on to some other place. Yes, this water tastes bad and might be making us sick, but well find some other water. And since there were relatively few people, their total impact upon the Earth was negligible. Today, however, we understand the negative effects that many human activities can have on the Earth. And there are so many people that everyones actions must be carefully regulated in accordance with our understanding of ecology, geology and other sciences. Washington States Growth Management Act mandates that every county have Critical Areas Ordinances (CAOs) to protect places such as aquifer recharge areas and wetlands. CAOs must be revised periodically to reflect newer science, and Thurston Countys CAO has been in revision for several years. Its been the subject of loud, prominent protest. Driving around the county, youll see many signs from the Stop Taking Our Property (STOP) movement. Thurston County commissioners held a public meeting about the CAO on June 23. Knowing that most people attending would be from STOP and its sympathizers, I thought that as a scientist and conservationist I should attend and support the legislation. As I waited for my turn to speak, I heard the expected rhetoric: Far-right, tea-party complaints that these restrictions on our actions are un-American and the blankety-blank liberals are trying to rob us of our property and our freedoms. The STOP movement, incidentally, is organized by the Freedom Foundation, whose political agenda is well-known. But I also heard stories, sometimes tearfully told, indicating that something was wrong: that some people were being treated unfairly and that, perhaps, the ordinances were not being applied properly. So when I spoke, I delivered a mixed message: Yes, we need updated ordinances to protect our land and water, but science is a humanistic endeavor, and Im hearing stories suggesting that some people are suffering unnecessarily. So perhaps we should investigate these cases and see whats going on. I tried to speak as a rational scientist, humanist and truthseeker. But now, having seen follow-ups to that meeting, I know that I was duped; the tearful stories were largely half-truths, misunderstandings, exaggerations. I was hearing more tea party-style rhetoric organized by the STOP movement, by people who have little regard for science or humanity, to whom the concept of truth is meaningless. (Incidentally, I apologize to the Thurston County commissioners who have now, thankfully, passed the CAO and their staff.) So, you have a middle-class income, or lower, and you intend to vote for Republican candidates for government offices? Please reconsider the consequences of your actions. In the past, we have had intelligent, responsible Republicans with conservative ideals who, nevertheless, could work productively with Democrats on legislation for the good of the nation. Today, fewer and fewer exist. We now have mostly radicals of the tea party type: ignorant of even contemptuous of the science that warns us how badly we are treating the only planet we have to live on, and what the consequences of our actions will be. They bring irresponsible, infantile, antigovernment ideals of freedom. Freedom to them apparently means doing whatever they please to the world if it will make them a fast buck. It means a total absence of the rational restraints on our actions that intelligent, civilized people realize are required by a modern, functional society. We must fight such nonthinking if humanity is to survive. Burt Guttman, a professor of biology emeritus at The Evergreen State College, is a member of The Olympian Board of Contributors. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .