March 16, 2006

Rural/Urban Enviro Issues

Last night, Dr. Lenny got to attend a social gathering with the policy makers of the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, the agency that allocated watershed money to the restoration community. In discussing the environment with the director of communications, he was struck by the difference of intensity of the meeting of rural folk. Cocktails with the blue jean crowd.*

The local intellegence in rural community is similar in scope and scale to the localintellegence of urban community - it just is logistically more difficult to assemble. Just because people don't have ready access to anything, doesn't mean that they don't have a knowledge and understanding of the same concepts, they just don't have the access to the learned words that exemplify their point of view. Nor do they have access to lobbyists with agendas and access to the media, nor the backdoor channel to the book publishers. The prevailing view in urban areas travels fast and bad ideas are sorted out rapidly. It takes longer in rural areas, and the fat gets chewed and digested in point source meetings after the information gets out. Until the internet.

Now, the right words are very important and people do not communicate in the same language between rural and urban. Where food comes from is very much a security concern - especially with prion diseases kicking around in red meat and avian influenza for fowl. If we believe the media and these epidemics are truthful. (Hint - ignore mad cow/CJD at your own risk - Dr. Lenny knows his meat personally if possible, second hand at worst.)

The problem with environmentalism and nanny government is the concept of protecting us from our own discrimatory choice, when to make a choice is discrimination. So enforcing something like the precautionary principle (nobody do anything thay may be gasp unsafe) with an EPA/DEQ command and control structure, doesn't allow the minutae of any problem to be addressed without the gang up group lemming approach. And this gets repeated in every other areas of anything anybody does, except the favored few that write the rules. So the minutae of the rules dominates the minutae of the details of the practice. Which is important to solve the real problem?

If you are a serious urban environmentalist - send your donation to a rural watershed council - a non-profit cooperative doing actual work - opening fish passage, or monitoring water quality, or educating people on what they can do. No bulk mailings, glossy phots and lobbyists. People addressing facts with action, rather than addressing envelope opinions with more paper. Plant a tree?

In fact, in talking to Susan Morgan (R-Green), our local state representative last night about the functional Partnership for the Umpqua Rivers as a model for other organizations - Dr. Lenny pointed out that perhaps the state legislature only differs from the watershed council in ability to function by the fact that no lobbyists bother to bother us with their opinions, while no lobbyists ever leave our representatives alone about theirs.

* former Oregon governor Dr. John Kitzhaber was a local physician - for years, his cowboy boots and jeans approach to politics caused a stir in formal political circles and undercut his effectiveness on rural issues.

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