Sunday, November 16, 2014

"This is just insane!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

No, it's not.

Yesterday, someone on FB posted something about environmental damage. The meme declared this environmental practice "insane". Most of the respondents agreed.

I disagree.

After all, our society is supposed to be a democratic one. One in which we discuss and persuade one another. One in which, if we are to progress as a society, we simply don't resort to the force of government much. We try to reach consensus as a people, and move forward based on law.

To poverty-stricken family farmers and Native American tribes in Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, and Montana, fracking is a lifeline. People who were so poor they bought clothes once a year and lived in homes a century old, now have lives. Middle-class lives. All because they have easement income and mineral rights royalties. All because of fracking.

How does one convince them to choose otherwise -- after demonizing them as "insane"?

That's a piss-poor way to start out, I think.

Naturally, it makes "us" feel better to shout and scream, to stomp our feet on the ground, and demonize the people involved. WE certainly feel good about it.

It does nothing for the poor fuckers who've made bad choices, however, and does absolutely nothing to bring us closer to a resolution of the issue. It merely polarizes, in exactly the same sort of way that the GOP and Fox News love to polarize. And that's wrong.

Let's look at another issue. Here's an article in today's New York Times about a community in Oregon. For three or four generations, this community over-logged the forests around it. Education, environment, and a diverse economy were ignored because the local people made excellent money over-logging.

"Destroying your environment!! THAT'S INSANE!!!!!!!!!!" Stomp stomp. Whine. Demonize. Demonize. Demonize...

The town has struggled. It went through a grieving process that took two decades to accomplish. There was the traditional denial, the traditional blame (aimed at environmentalists), the traditional depression (emotional and economic).

Now the town is struggling to find its way forward. Eco-jobs are few, and pay only moderately. But then, avoiding over-reliance on a single industry is a lesson the town is struggling to learn. Having invested nothing in education for generations, the town now is struggling to reverse that. Yet, the town invested heavily in an anti-education, anti-intellectual, rugged-individualism ethic. It's efforts at promoting education are having to go against decades of social investment in the wrong kind of culture.

The town is struggling to try to accommodate older workers who prize manual labor and snub education. It's focusing on skilled jobs. But in order to attract skilled jobs to the town, the town is having to work hard, provide tax breaks, and keep wages low. That's not the panacea the town had hoped for.

There is much more going on here than economics. The town thrived on a materialism that it's now struggling to abandon. Townspeople were used to "the good life" -- a solidly middle-class life in which they had a large but not luxurious home; all the modern conveniences; big yards and big decks; lots of food; lots of clothes; excellent recreational equipment (like skis, four-wheelers, guns, jet-skis, boats, waterskis, etc.); and fossil-fuel guzzling vehicles (trucks, RVs, trailers, campers, off-roaders). It didn't seem very materialistic. But, perhaps, it was...

Now hard choices are being made about sustainability in a forest town in Oregon. What kind of lifestyle is sustainable when there aren't "easy pickings" like over-logging and a lopsided system that only value extraction and not growth? Can rugged individualism as a lifestyle survive when every kid in town needs the support of every adult just to get through school? (Because not getting through school means manual labor -- and that's dead in this town. There isn't any manual labor.)

In America -- IN AMERICA -- is it better to have your own truck garden (for growing your own food, and selling the excess locally) even if it means living on $30,000 a year instead of $85,000 a year? Is it better to live small and sustainable -- without the stress of malnutrition, or hunger -- than it is to live "middle-class"?

This town is struggling with these choices.

Native Americans have a serious beef: Driven from their lands by aggressive whites, their cultures destroyed by a 95 percent mortality rate due to European disease, warred against by the United States (in pursuit of gold and cattle), and forced onto marginal land they cannot farm.

Native Americans have, for the most part, clung to the only lifeline they have: Fracked oil.

"BUT THAT'S INSANE!!!!!!!!!!!!! FUCKING INSANE INDIANS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Shriek. Whine. Stomp, stomp. Demonize.......................

Native American children can't eat grass, or prairie. We must find a way, as a nation and as a community, for us and for Native Americans together to lift First Peoples out of poverty. To make it more attractive to live a sustainable life than it is to frack.

Pennsylvania children can't eat grass, or prairie, or abandoned steel mills, or water-filled coal mines. We must find a way, as a nation and as a community, for us and for Pennsylvanians together to lift Pennsyvlanians out of poverty. To make it more attractive to live a sustainable life than it is to frack.

Calling the Fort Berthold Nation, or rural Pennsylvnia families, or anyone else "insane" is not the way to start that effort.

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