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Re: let's build a unified movement, not fight each other

  Sam McClintock wrote:
  >You have the option to attack the specific policy and provide sound
  >reasons why you are opposed to whatever regulatory is taking place. 
  >But when you attack them as a group, you are in effect practicing
  >bigotry whether you like to admit it or not.  I can say that all
  >activists are liars based on a few idiot PR moves - it is no more true
  >than saying all industrial plant managers have horns.  I can say all
  >activists are violent by using a few known and documented examples -
  >but 99+% aren't.  If the activist resorts to this type of denigration,
  >when only a few politicians and industry brown-nosers are involved,
  >then you are insulting and demoralizing a whole bunch of people who
  >spend a lot of time working on the side of the environment.
  My expeience is that very often individuals who are part of a group 
  develop a collective mind set. To 'progress' they then have to exhibit 
  the qualities expected of that mind set.  This applies to large 
  corporations, regulatory bodies, government agencies and even to 
  mainstream NGOs.  I know several regulators who started with high ideals 
  about environmental protection which were gradually squeezed out of them 
  by the system and they slowly persuaded themselves to  believe the 
  arguments about the need to compromise between industrial interests and 
  environmental protection. Some have been honest enough to admit what was 
  happening and get out, others have worked with activist groups on the 
  condition that they are not seen by their employer to be involved but 
  most take the shilling and justify what they are doing by complaining 
  about the need to pay the mortgage, school fees or car payments.
  The end result is that the people left in the organisation tend to match 
  the stereotype.  The more diversity there is in the group the less likely 
  this is to happen.  Grass roots groups and activists are generally pretty 
  immune because they are so varied in beliefs, backgrounds and 
  circumstances.  TNC and large government agencies that thrive on 
  promoting a branding are probably the most vulnerable.
  Having said this I believe that all those regulators have a personal 
  moral responsibility that should transcend the shackles of the Agency 
  that employs them.  But I accept that this is easier said than done - no 
  doubt there are several regulators following this list who may feel that 
  they would like to make contributions but are worried about it getting 
  back to their manager and causing problems.  I don't think that we should 
  ever underestimate the power of these institutions for controlling their 
  staff - and those that break ranks are quickly 'constructively dismissed' 
  by having their working life made very unpleasant.  
  None of this is to say that there aren't still a few saints who plough a 
  pioneering furrow with a determination to change the culture of the 
  organisation.  I salute them and recognise that they are best assisted by 
  pressure from the outside demonstrating the need for that change. 
  Besides this brave minority it it ironic that the other people who often 
  welcome the activists clamour (although they are unlikely to acknowledge 
  this in public) are sometimes the senior management of the regulatory 
  organisation.  They can then go to their political masters and the 
  treasury asking for a bigger budget and justify it by the public pressure 
  that has been generated.
  I'm all for this as long as there is a culture change too.
  >I truly think you need to spend a couple of days in the life of a
  >regulatory engineer.  See the mounds of paperwork they have to contend
  >with, the idiot consultants making false promises, the factories
  >begging to have their permit placed at the head of the queue, the plant
  >managers crying about a fine for an infraction that could have cost the
  >plant far worse in terms of worker and community health, and the
  >politicians who scream every time a valued business neighbor is
  >squeezed too hard.  I don't think you really know what these people do,
  >nor how they do, how much crud they have to wade through, and how
  >futile they feel the effort is sometimes.  The system encourages people
  >to leave early, causing a turn-over and retraining that is maddening on
  >those that choose to stay and doggedly try to make a difference.  
  Give me a break!  And please don't assume that the contributors to this 
  list are all starry eyed idealists with their heads in the clouds.  I 
  spent seven years with the UK Department of the Environment before I 
  realised that if I was interested in maintaining my integrity, sleeping 
  easily in my bed AND protecting the environment it would have to be 
  outside.  I jumped ship.
  I still spend a lot of time in Government offices, generally trying to 
  persuade them to provide information that has been collected at public 
  expense.  In the UK at least they are characterised by a pleasant 
  environment, lack of obvious pressure or constantly ringing 'phones and a 
  five o'clock home time (with no briefcase of paperwork for the evening!)
  >And of course, they make a bloody fortune being there too. :<)
  A LOT more than community activists fighting to protect their families 
  and their community from pollution that has been permitted by the 
  regulators.  And an awful lot more per hour than practically any 
  'professional' environmental campaigner I know. (Or than me for that 
  >I've got a lot of friends in various state and federal agencies; they
  >work on everything from air quality research to outlining watershed
  >protection to protecting endangered species.  Next time you get to the
  >US, I'll introduce you to a few, and you can tell them how little their
  >efforts mean.
  I'd really like to meet them. If they are true environmentalists then I 
  hope we would have a lot to discuss.  Maybe things are better in the US 
  and my faith would be restored?
  Best wishes
         _\\|//_                Alan Watson C.Eng                  
        (' O^O ')               Oakleigh                      
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