Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane Widler Wenzel co-author Rainy Day Thought. Diane generally posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments are always welcome and appreciated as it turns an article into a discussion.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Environment regs to rags

When I used to listen to right wing talk radio, before I decided I'd lose my mind if I kept checking such radically different ways of thinking, their mantra tended to be that nobody would deliberately pollute the earth, and there was no need for environmental regulations because who wants to foul their own nest (not those exact words but close enough).

Are those who say such things serious? Do they truly not realize that by necessity, as well as sometimes greed, the dollar rules business? Or do they hope their listeners will not know? Have they never seen the desolate areas around mining towns, never heard how many cases of cancer there are among the children in some of the places where the environment was only seen in terms of dollar signs?

Fear of lawsuits slows some down from deliberately sickening their workers; but if the fines or lawsuit penalties aren't high enough, it won't do the job. Think back to when Chevrolet knew they had a gasoline tank placed where it could burn up the vehicle in an accident. They made the economic decision that a few small lawsuits were better than paying re-engineering costs. That lasted until a family was horribly burned and the lawsuit's verdict high enough to convince them otherwise.

Businesses are not in the business of being benevolent. They are in the business of making money and must compete with other countries around the world who have no environmental regulations. Most will add environmental protections into their costs only if government mandates it. You know which party would mandate that and which will not; so you can decide which you personally want. Remember though, what we mistakenly protect today can be changed tomorrow but not the other way around.

Yes, there are some people who are benevolent by nature and would not deliberately run a mine with faulty safety just to make money, but the reason government began to regulate such is that those kind weren't in the majority. Without an overseer, many companies would pour asbestos into the environment and figure a few sick children was not a big deal.

Since the Republican right came into power... okay there are two Republican rights. One is the financial side and the other the religious. The religious would not work to cut back environmental regulations. They are too busy limiting sex on cable televisions, protesting Janet Jackson's breast, stopping a woman from getting an abortion, blocking stem cell research, and preventing a gay couple, who have lived together 10 years and have kids, from being able to have a legal marriage. They have a lot on their plate and adding to it environment is just one too many issues.

It's up to the economic right wing of the Republican party to fight to remove environmental regulations. Bush ran for office with the determination to do what he has done in terms of cutting regulations and making it easier for business to avoid costly lawsuits even when they did something damaging. The people on the far right see environmentalists as wackos.

Unfortunately they have not been totally wrong. Who can deny some dumb things have been done supposedly to save the environment?

Does it really matter if a three-toed squirrel, with a black spot on his tail, finds his pasture plowed up given there are lots of four-toed squirrels, with white spots, in the next valley? Environmentalists have used the canary in the mine example way too many times and have they forgotten they supposedly believe in evolution? What did they think that meant?

So the Bush administration took a few goofy decisions by environmentalists as an excuse to bash one regulation after another-- whether there is solid science behind them or not. After all science is part of the evil trio anyway (lawyers, scientists and teachers). Science has too many facts involved in it, takes too much time to study to see if it is factual, and gets in the way of effectively using emotion.

So regulations are bad. Clean air now can be reinterpreted to mean dirtier air. Every time the Bushites say something, you have to look to see what was really going on. This year he even had western state governors (some in red states) down on him for wanting to open up logging areas that had been closed due to lack of profitability for the government and because it was no longer legal for raw logs to be exported overseas for processing from forest service lands.

If it costs more to build roads into a logging cut than the logs produce in profit, should the government be doing this? Was selling off the national parks to concessionaires a good plan for long lasting stewardship of those lands? It goes on and on.

There are many links on all of this but they are either from the right spinning how good the Bush administration is as a custodian of nature and how many dumb things the environmenalists have done. Or you find the environmentalist links who list one travesty after another that his administration has done to damage our air, what we eat, and our natural world. So if you are interested in checking for yourself, you will have a lot to dig through and I don't think on this subject anyone is really neutral. We live on this earth and the consequences can be dire for the ones who are wrong on what it takes to keep us living here.

These photos are all of Opal Creek in Oregon which is an environmentalist success story. Today it is a pristine, old growth forest. The stream is clear, cold and emerald green due to the minerals in the area. A trail skirts alongside it enabling the hiker to get down to the water as well as enjoy the views.

Opal Creek was at one time a mining camp. The buildings remain from that as well as much of the equipment with a few people living up there year round. Logging interests wanted to log the whole area. What could that hurt? After all, trees grow back and what real difference does an old one make to the world? The issue to them was dollars, not beauty. They'd most likely have left a few trees along the creek.

Fortunately there were a group of people who valued Opal Creek for its soul restoring properties and its beauty, not just its oxygen generation-- although that's not bad either and fought to preserve it from the logging interests. They raised funds, they brought it to the public's attention, and eventually they got through a bill to protect it.

Now this was before Bush's time, but what we are really talking here is a political movement-- two of them. One is where only money matters. The other is that some things are worth more than money. In this case, the second group won; and Opal Creek will remain what it has always been, a beautiful place to go and recenter your soul.

There was a great statement on the subject of money in the movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory starring Johnny Depp. Charlie had won a ticket to meet Willie Wonka but the boy knows his family is poverty stricken. He feels he should sell it. His old grandfather, who has nothing to gain from the boy going on the tour and who would profit from more money in the house, says (paraphrased)-- Charlie, money is always around. You can always get more of it, but a tour through that factory, it's a once in a lifetime experience. That is what is rare.

I wish more people in that economic right part of the Republican party could see places like Opal Creek and realize some things are worth more than money. Dollars come and go, but Opal Creek remains as a soul restoring place. If you get to Oregon, check it out for yourself.

Next blog will be on the subject of global warming.


Maya's Granny said...

The thing that they never mention when they suggest that you can trust corporations to not foul their own nest is the Dodge V. Ford decision, where it was decided that if you have sold stock in your company, your first duty is to your shareholders and you may not, by law, put other consideratins before them. This means that a company can be sued for taking more than the legally mandated care of the environment if that costs money and reduces stockholder profits.

Dick said...

I wonder when American corporations will come to their senses. Perhaps the best example is our auto industry. For years they knew better than we what we wanted, so forced their designs on us. They wanted us to buy a new car every three years so I expect there may have been some intentional design failures included. Then along came foreign cars that were smaller, more economical and lasted years with little more than normal maintenance. As I see it, they US auto industry still really hasn't caught on.

This is probably just the biggest example. There are others in other industries. We talk about all of our family wage paying jobs disappearing overseas, but we still continue to give huge tax breaks to those companies that are exporting those jobs so they can make a few more dollars in profit.

I hope people in control of these corporations will wake up and make some changes before it truly is too late to save our industries.

Fran aka Redondowriter said...

It does all boil down to making money in a capitalistic society, but I keep hoping there can be a balance. Many businesses have left California because our environmental laws are too restrictive and too expensive for them to follow and still make a profit. Basically, I think most people really do want to be part of the common good, but the common good is obviously perceived differently by different people and groups.

I know you've told me once, Rain, but I know that once you were part of the right religiously and politically yourself and you've done a 180 degree turn. What was the seminal moment that caused the shift, or was it a long period of time? Who influenced you? You are an extremely smart woman who has a mind like a steel trap, so it's hard to imagine you were ever on the right. But, then that's a jugment call on my part, I guess.

Rain said...

Politically I have not changed much. Yes, I was in a fundamentalist church and accepted certain things they said as being truth about Christ and who he was, but to be fundamental about Christ; and what is considered a fundamentalist today in religion are two very different things. To be a fundamentalist about Christ is to give what you can to others, teach what you see as truth, treat people with respect as much as possible. I was never one who saw Christianity as being political as it's not about dictating to others but about what you do for making yourself better-- take care of the mote in your own eye. That keeps most busy enough for a lifetime if they truly take it seriously. I believed during that time in the Bible as a literal guide for your life in a way that I don't see it today for me anymore. Now my beliefs are more eclectic and come from a lot of places, but the Bible is still part of them.

The stuff that is being 'spun' out as about Christianity today by these huge spin machines that are all about making money for their parent group, that kind of thing never had any appeal to me. And I find it very frustrating as it has turned a lot of people off on the fundamental things that really are part of what Christ taught. It's crazy what has happened to Christianity today.

But I see the same thing with the self-named political conservatives. Those in political office today who call themselves conservative seem to have no clue what the word even means and are more fascists but would not want that word used due to its connection with Nazis which it is not the same as. And if someone thinks that's too extreme for them, look it up in the dictionary. Fascism is more of what we see than conservativism today in the Republican party. Perhaps it's why they renamed themselves neo-cons.

For politics I was always a democrat but more of a moderate than rigidly that. I think I am mostly conservative (based on the real meaning of that word, not the current definition out there) in how I live my personal life. I don't follow any dogma.

To me neither party expresses what I beieve but you have to choose one to vote in primaries in my state. I have voted for people in both parties depending on what they say they will do.

I did go through a time where I thought maybe a great society could work, more of a hey let's give it a try thinking, but it has proven to me that it didn't. Pretty much my thinking though politically is what it has always been but just to degrees with changing something here or there. I am one of those who very much want a third party that is more liberal socially in a responsible way and more conservative fiscally-- again in a responsible way. Utopia, you know! *s*

Ingineer66 said...

Beautiful pictures Rain. I know you and I agree on parts of this issue and disagree on some of it. I see many unnecessary regulations and the millions of tax payer and private dollars spent in the name of environmental laws that really dont do any good in the big picture. And you are correct science is a very important part of this issue, unfortunately I have seen bad science used to justify bad decisions in the name of environmental protection. Many times they end up hurting the environment more than if they would have just left things alone. A good example is down in SoCal they wouldnt let the farmers disc in the legally required fire breaks on their property because of some endangered mouse. Then when the fields did burn they burned the entire habitat of the mouse instead of just a piece of it. In the big picture the impact of a fire break is totally insignificant and science and reason should be used in applying the rules.
Here locally a freeway project was delayed for 9 years while they fought over an endangered plant that had been transplanted onto where the road was supposed to go. During that 9 years 11 people were killed and many others maimed and in the end the project was re-designed and moved at an expense of $15million to save a plant growing on a manmade roadside bank. And where the road it was moved to was prime wetland beaver habitat that had to be moved and filled in. What was the environment impact of all those crashes. The cars had to go to the junkyard, oil gas and freon were released into the atmosphere. All the cars sitting idling in traffic were spitting out pollution. The inmates are running the asylum.

Oh and by the way I would like a fiscally responsible socially responsible third party also. I bet at least 40% of Americans would want that too.

Paul said...

People pollute the Earth everyday and regardless of political persuasion not one of us is blameless in this matter! Corporations are another matter in this regard.

Allan Erickson said...

Cool, thanks for using Opal Creek as the highlight of your point making! As one of those few who have lived and worked at Opal Creek I will vouch not just for its beauty but the effect it has on people.

I lived at O.C. in the early 90's, before we had it protected, when we were in the stage of shutting down the mines and seeking to establish the valley as a fully protected entity. It was a struggle and we did it with little except the energy of good hearted people. Money was scarce but we "endeavored to persevere" (Chief Dan George in the Outlaw Josie Wales.

I've begun writing on Opal Creek at my blog Morning Donut. Please drop by...