February 14, 1993
Biodiversity Legal Foundation
P.O. Box 18327
Boulder, CO 80308-8327
Re: Raise Your Sights!
I understand that your printed materials represent only your public image, but I think your campaign aims too low, and hence is doomed to fail. In this it is similar to the strategies of most current environmental organizations.
I think you would agree that all living things are connected, and that neither we nor they can exist alone (well, perhaps humans, at least, are expendable).
However, as usual, some are more equal than others. No other living things can protect themselves from human beings. Animals can sometimes move out of harm's way, but plants cannot. Therefore, if these organisms are to continue to exist (and hence us), they must be given priority, and be considered first, in every human endeavor. (I would expand this list to include wildlife (plants, animals, etc.), native peoples, children, and the poor, in that order.)
Considering the magnitude of this problem (the continuance of life on the Earth), it is obvious that it can't be solved by a few environmentalists, organizations, businesses, or even countries. It can only be solved by everyone doing their share. In particular, our current system, which allows any project to go ahead unless it can be proved harmful (and often even then), is obsolete. Dead in the water. There aren't enough good people with enough energy and resources to stop every damaging development. And there never will be. The only way we can have any hope of success is if we reverse the burden of proof! Instead of allowing any project to go ahead unless the "good guys" can prove it should be stopped, no project should be allowed to proceed until its sponsors can prove that it is beneficial to the environment. ("Mitigations", which try to minimize the damage of a damaging project, of course are pure fantasy.)
We don't even know all of the forms of life that exist. How can we possibly find out which ones are endangered, and then prevent their endangerment? Do you have a list of endangered microbes? Habitats? We don't even have a list of those that exist!
"Common wisdom" says that we must be careful what we say, so that we will be "believable". Consequently, we lie by omission. I say that we should ask for what we really want. We may get ridiculed at first, but since we are right, we will eventually win. "All truth passes through three stages. First it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as self-evident." (Schopenhauer)
I think it is time to stop nickel-and-diming the wildlife with whom we share the Earth, and simply begin setting aside land that is exclusively theirs and figuring out how to share the land (in the cities) that we can't yet give up, in a way that stops pushing them toward extinction. I think that protecting those who can't protect themselves will automatically benefit us and ensure our own survival.
And in order to implement what we want, we need to start playing hardball, just as our opponents have always done! Hit them where it hurts -- in the pocketbook. Boycott businesses and other enterprises that destroy the environment. It is not enough to say that cattle grazing or automobiles endanger wildlife habitat. We have to stop contributing to those enterprises, and let them know why we are doing it. I am sure you agree.
Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.