July 25, 2008

In the End, We’re All Environmentalists


Lately, just about every news story that has to do with drilling in ANWR, national forest protection, energy policy and other so- called conservation issues contains quotes of representatives from "environmental groups." This is done in the style of objective journalism, as if maybe, just maybe, there's another side to a story about decimation and destruction in the name of profit and in the interest of reporting both sides of the story.

Not-so-objective reports on, say, Fox News refer to "radical environmentalists." It is almost one word - sort of like DamnYankees in the Civil War era.

But exactly what is an environmentalist? By all accounts I am one, as a card-carrying member (and activist) in the Sierra Club, Trout Unlimited, Audubon Society and other environmental/ conservation organizations.

But when everything is said and done, we are all environmentalists. By definition, our environment is all- encompassing. We live, breathe, eat and sleep in this environment. It is everything around us. It is the water we drink, swim in and fish in. It is the air we breathe. It is the Earth we walk on.

I suppose being an active environmentalist means taking an aggressive role in advocating for clean water, clean air, land stewardship and ensuring protection of the habitat of aquatic and terrestrial species. I am a member of Trout Unlimited and the North American Fishing Club specifically because those organizations see the value in protecting the habitat of the species we like to catch (and release or eat). I am a member of the Audubon Society because of its policies of advocating for habitat for our feathered friends. I am a member of the Missouri Stream Team because flowing waters are indicators of the Earth's health.

There are many other environmental/conservation organizations: The Nature Conservancy, National Wildlife Federation, Environmental Working Group, Natural Resource Defense Fund, Clean Water Action and World Wildlife Fund, to name but a few. Each organization has its focus, and each has its place.

Most of my environmental activism is through the Sierra Club, the oldest and most eclectic of the bunch. Lately, that organization's endorsement of Clorox products has caused me to pause and question that decision. But I have remained an active member because the good the organization does far outweighs the bad. But there's an old edict, "follow the money," and I fear the Sierra Club has sold its soul for a few million bucks.

But I digress.

We are all environmentalists. We might disagree from time to time about specific local, state and national policies, but in the end, environmentalism is a bipartisan issue: We all need clean air, clean water, habitat protection and land stewardship.

Some don't see any danger in offshore drilling. I suspect that offshore fishes might disagree with that - particularly when oil companies have a nasty habit of accidentally releasing fish-killing petrochemicals into the water.

Others promote nuclear power plants - but folks in Nevada don't want their state to be a dumping ground for radioactive waste.

Agribusinesses and their private and public supporters advocate for concentrated animal feeding operations, claiming there's no proof of environmental or human health harm. Others cite many studies documenting exactly that.

A dwindling number of scientists say the increase in the Earth's temperature is simply a natural cycle and we need do nothing. Most scientists, however, point to the increasing amount of CO2 in the upper atmosphere and say the primary cause is burning of fossil fuels by humans.

By now, my point should be obvious. What is "radical" to one person might be perfectly reasonable to another. We need to determine rationally the appropriate path, and we need to do so based on the best information available. Pointing fingers and calling each other "radicals" gets us nowhere.

But we don't have a backup planet. This big blue marble is all we've got. We need to treat it gingerly.

Ken Midkiff is Osage Group conservation chairman and author of "The Meat You Eat" and "Not a Drop to Drink." You can reach him via e-mail at [email protected]

Originally published by KEN MIDKIFF.

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