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

  The temptation to wade in is too great....
  I think all the writers have made good points.  
  SOME regulators are good guys, SOME industries 
  leaders are decent, SOME environmentalists are idiots,
  or even corrupt.
  My experience has been that even though many 
  regulators at the grassroots level are decent, 
  hard-working people --- too many of them develop 
  a siege mentality towards the public.   They 
  spend too much time trying to reassure people and
  deflect criticism --- to minimize their own 
  troubles.   They also feel they have to defend regulations 
  which aren't strong enough to get the job done, but then 
  later, when they're criticized for their inaction, they 
  complain that they don't have the authority to do 
  what the public wants.    This is terribly 
  frustrating.   When we environmentalists push for 
  stronger regulations, the agency staff often 
  publicly contradict and belittle us.   It's hard 
  to feel kindly towards these people.
  In Wisconsin, our entire Dept. of Natural 
  Resources DNR has been taken over by a hostile 
  Governor (Tommy Thompson).   After major budget 
  cuts and a major topsy-turvey reorganization, 
  shuffling staff all over the state, the staff are 
  seriously demoralized and leaving in droves.   
  The DNR staff now work in "Customer Service 
  Centers," refer to major polluters as their 
  "clients," and claim it's their job to issue 
  permits to their clients.
  Despite these outrages, not one DNR staff person 
  has been willing to blow the whistle.   It's hard 
  not to be frustrated with them.
  Some agency staff seem truly evil, using devious, 
  and negative put-downs to subdue citizens who raise 
  concerns.   Other staff blame environmentalists for not being 
  more effective (as if we have bottomless 
  resources to come to their defense.)   Even 
  though they are paid to defend our resources, 
  they claim they are only mediators between 
  industry and environmentalists.   They've 
  forgotten their purpose.
  Yes, there are still good people working for the 
  agencies --- but where are they when we need 
  them?    I'm tired of getting tips on the side, 
  anonymous phone calls, letters with no return 
  address, and other pointers from agency staff who 
  want me to slay the dragons for them.  
  I'm an unpaid citizen volunteer and I shouldn't have to 
  develop ulcers doing their work for them (and 
  often IN SPITE of agency incompetence or 
  I'm also tired of people who criticize citizen
  "environmentalists" for being too adversarial, too 
  emotional, too simplistic, or too scientifically 
  naive.    These put downs are very handy, but 
  inappropriate when applied to people who have 
  every right to be outraged, and who shouldn't be 
  expected to understand the intricacies of 
  chemistry.    And I've found that the 
  common-sense, simplistic approach is often
  valid.   When you cut away all the scientific 
  crap, the truth is clear enough for a child to 
  see and this truth is the most important policy 
  Too many "professional" environmentalists feel 
  its their job to turn citizen outrage into a 
  bland, lifeless, sanitized press release which is 
  "pragmatic" and "cooperative" with opposing 
  forces (who they refuse to call "polluters.")   
  These pseudo-environmentalists are a major threat to citizen 
  activist morale and effectiveness.   They 
  marginalize legitimate grassroots efforts.
  And while many business people are decent 
  individuals, as a block they tend to vote for 
  pro-corporate, anti-environmental  menaces like our 
  Governor Tommy Thompson.   They also hang 
  together and refuse to help citizens chastise 
  truly bad actors in the business community.   
  Most business people are big supporters of the 
  "SYSTEM' which is destroying our global 
  environment.    I can't forgive them for that.   
  If there are good environmental business people 
  out there, they need to do a much better job of 
  speaking up and supporting citizens who fight for 
  environmental protection.   They've got the 
  money, clout and connections.   We need their 
  help.   (But I've lost any faith that such help will ever 
  I ascribe to Peter Montague's arguments that we must 
  reform our corporate system and restore our 
  democratic processes if we hope to make any real 
  progress on these issues.
  Date:          Thu, 24 Jul 1997 22:39:18 -0400 (EDT)
  Reply-to:      scmcclintock@ipass.net
  From:          "Sam McClintock" <scmcclintock@ipass.net>
  To:            Multiple recipients of list <dioxin-l@essential.org>
  Subject:       Re: let's build a unified movement, not fight each other
  Alan Watson wrote:
  > These regulators stand on platforms with their industrial 
  > partners and constantly defend the status quo as being 
  > 'safe' and 'sustainable'.  Environmentalists often have 
  > no option other than to discredit the regulators who put 
  > those arguments.  
  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.
  > Of course we can congratulate them 
  > on the relatively rare (in the UK) times that they take 
  > positive action to protect the environment - but most of 
  > the time they are in a deeply compromised position with 
  > industry and vested interests being far too influential.
  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.  
  And of course, they make a bloody fortune being there too. :<)
  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.
  Sam McClintock
  Becky Katers
  2220 Deckner Avenue
  Green Bay, WI  54302
  Phone:  414-468-4243
  Fax:  414-468-1234
  E-mail:  cwac@execpc.com