June 6, 1993
Biodiversity Legal Foundation
P.O. Box 18327
Boulder, CO 80308-8327
Re: A Strategy for Saving the Earth (He Says, Modestly)
It's clear that our environmental problems are so huge that they will only be solved by everyone doing their part -- every person, group, community, government agency, company, etc. And quickly! How can we even reach all of them in time? The same way that the body gets blood to every cell. The same way that a plant gets food to every part (although I just read that we don't really know how that is!). Every person must exert pressure in every direction, passing information and resources to whoever will accept it (without damaging our own lifestyles, I insist! -- in fact, I think that this process, executed properly, can be as joyous and energizing as any other part of life).
We need therein to minimize waste. On any given issue, there are two kinds of people -- those profiting from the status quo, and therefore not open to new information (e.g., most politicians, the wealthy, and the would-be wealthy (they are called "Republicans")), and the majority (especially children) who are open to learning. It is a waste of time to try to influence the former, unless you also have a big stick or a choke-hold on their wallet. We need to reach, as quickly and efficiently as possible, the individuals and groups that are receptive, and get them to help us.
I just sent a mailing of 68 packages of my recent writings, your BLF flyer, and excerpts from Regreening the National Parks to groups in the Alliance for a Paving Moratorium. Every new fact that I find that can serve as ammunition in the war against roads, I xerox and send to everyone I think might be receptive to it. Every letter I write, I try to make as general as possible, so that I can use it in as many settings as possible. I make copies and mail them to friends. I put them on the Internet and send them to "the world". Thousands of people on thousands of computers around the world read them and, hopefully, pass them on or internalize the facts and ideas. Sometimes I also send them to newspapers, but they are not often printed (except in the Berkeley Voice, a rare paper that truly practices Freedom of Speech), so this can be a waste of time.
While I am resting, doing my weekly hike in the woods, or writing my next letter, I want people all over the world to be helping spread the essential facts and attitudes that will pull "humanity" out of its slide. If I were to try to do it all myself, the speed of the process would be proportional to my energy (i.e., linear) and very limited in imagination. By "multi-processing", it expands at geometric speed and benefits from the energies and multifarious viewpoints of thousands (millions?) of people. I don't have all the answers, nor does anyone else.
The law can help, but it isn't the whole answer. Political action can help, but it also can be a giant waste of time, when people we elect on one platform are bought by "big business" and begin pushing a different one. Gentle persuasion has its place, but we also need people who aren't afraid to tell the unvarnished truth. In short, we need all the help we can get! The final result, I foresee, is a situation where the politicians who won't hear the truth from me now will be surrounded by friends who have all been "converted". Just as racial slurs are now socially unacceptable, and public smoking is becoming so, I foresee that it will soon be unthinkable for anyone to suggest building or widening a road.
We will win, because we are right. It is inevitable. Oil resources are finite. Only in mathematics is anything infinite. The only thing we need to do is speed up (catalyze) the process. It isn't even very difficult. Most people, I have found, are open to information and, once we get their attention, and they look at the facts, agree with us. But we have to find the most responsive ones and get them to integrate our agenda into theirs.
Example: six years ago when I began fighting highway construction, I met with the local bicycle group and asked them to help me. They refused. They said they didn't want to get involved in a hopeless struggle. They didn't see my goal as a way to achieve their own goals (or as I would say, the only way to achieve their goals!). Now, all that has completely changed. Bicyclists around the world are on the cutting edge of the "road ripping" movement. (Ironically, some of them are also leading the charge to expand man's domination of wilderness, via "mountain" bikes -- an oxymoron, if ever there was one.)
I see our job as extending that revolution to groups working for animal rights, forest and habitat preservation, public transit, rail, air quality, water quality, native peoples, women, children, the homeless, ecocities, sustainable communities, population reduction, noise reduction, civil rights, etc. Via conversations, conferences, the xerox machine, the computer networks, the mail, schools, universities, perhaps even the traditional media (although most of them are highly resistant to dealing with the truth).
Instead of beating our heads against brick walls such as politicians and businessmen, we should use our real forte -- the powers that haven't yet been taken away from us: our freedom of speech, our freedom of association, and our freedom to spend our money where we choose.
What should that agenda be? Plants can't protect themselves from us, and are the basis of all life. They obviously need to be given first priority. Then animals, who also can't protect themselves from people. Extinctions, of course, are unacceptable. Then I would suggest native people, children, and women. Or? Of course, this automatically precludes more roads. Agreeing that extinction is unacceptable, I believe, entails all of the rest of our goals -- sustainable communities, bicycle-friendly cities (but not parks!), the works!
Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.