I have received scores and scores of emails as a result of my recent announcement that the print version of this publication would end next February. The notes to me were long and heartfelt and kind and sometimes sad, and very personal, but I cannot tell you how much they meant to me. I have even included a small sampling of them in the Feedback section of this issue.
For those of you who feel it is the passing of an era, I share that same sentiment, but with mixed feelings. I am very hopeful that the online Zephyr can continue the tradition for frank conversation and impartiality, wherever the chips may fall, that the print Zephyr has strived to achieve these last two decades.
Let’s hope for the best.
ON THE RECORD? OFF THE RECORD? POLITICALLY CORRECT? POLITICALLY INCORRECT? I SAY, "SCREW IT."
When I started the Zephyr, I had to make a choice that I didn’t even realize when I made it. I could either be honest (to my own values at least), even painfully blunt, or I could try to be liked. My ornery personality probably made that decision for me.
Over the years, as a result, I collected more than any man’s fair share of enemies and adversaries, especially in Moab. But I came to appreciate the opposition, if they would just express themselves as openly and honestly as I challenged their perspectives.
In retrospect, getting choked by Mayor Tom Stocks and crashing into the Mountain Dew display at Dave’s Corner Market was a highlight of sorts in soliciting an unveiled response to a Zephyr story. When former Grand County commissioner Jimmie Walker said he could sum up The Zephyr in one word, "Shit," I had no idea then how grateful I would be years later, for such candor.
I almost feel sweetly sentimental, just thinking about it.
Nowadays, I couldn’t get a straight answer from some of my philosophical adversaries if the future of the planet depended upon it. What they don’t get is...it just might.
This is no ordinary time.
A few weeks ago, the Associated Press ran a story called, "Everything Seemingly is Spinning Out of Control." From natural disasters to the price of airfares, the falling dollar, the rising cost of gas, the sports scandals, global warming, wars—where do we go to feel better about anything? Or should we? Is it Reality Time, at long last?
The AP story concludes, "...maybe this is what the 21st century will be about —— a great unraveling of some things long taken for granted."
Old solutions don’t work anymore and thinking, in this day and age, that the end somehow justifies the means, no matter how corrupt or counter-productive those means might be, does not stand. That is why the cover story to this issue is one of the most important this publication has ever published.
"The Greening of Wilderne$$...part 2: How the Mega-Rich are Co-opting Environmentalism and Turning IT into a Big Business," is the sequel to Part One, which first appeared in the June/July 2005 issue and which wound up in Brave New West. It is incredibly long, almost 10,000 words, and I urge you to read it slowly and thoroughly. It is also well-documented. The web links that I used to compile the story are listed at the end and the quotes therein comprise more than half the story’s text.
I will be curious to see the response, if any, from the mainstream environmental community. If the past is any indication, I should not hold my breath.
Originally, I planned a sidebar story for Part 2. I sent an email to about 20 environmentalists across the West and offered some information about David Bonderman, a powerful billionaire who is also a highly praised environmentalist. You’ll learn all about Mr. Bonderman when you read "Greening, pt 2."
And I asked them:
"During these troubling and dangerous times, do you believe that maintaining such a standard of living is consistent with the goals of the conservation movement in the 21st Century?"
I heard from four of them.
All but one praised Bonderman, or suggested that "judging" others was counterproductive, or that the community that accepted him was more to blame than Bonderman himself. While they would surely feel free to pass judgement when the subject is safe (Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld et all), ask for an honest assessment of an ally, and you can forget about it. They can circle the ideological wagon as well as any right winger I’ve ever seen.
One respondent equivocatingly wrote, "Depends on your definition of conservationist. One is ‘one who practices or advocates conservation.’ I could not agree that someone who requires 30,000 square feet of space to live in is practicing conservation. I would instead state that Bonderman is likely ‘one of the country’s greatest benefactors to conservationists right now.’"
As to his lifestyle, "Depends on your definition of ‘hypocrisy.’...The definitions of hypocrite don’t appear to include environmentalists accepting money from a person who lives in way-too-large houses and flits about in a private jet as if it didn’t burn fuel. Can’t think of any reason he shouldn’t be giving his money to conservation groups, nor can I think of a reason they shouldn’t accept it. Money has no conscience."
It was like listening to Clinton search for the definition of ‘is.’
Another observed, "Publicly condemning others for their choices is morally treacherous and almost always counterproductive."
I’m sure this fellow would never judge a man for driving his ATV across a pristine moutain meadow either.
Never has one question so inspired an environmentalist to embrace the Golden Rule. Or to recall Jesus’ admonition, "Do not worry about the speck in your brother’s eye, worry about the log in your own." It should also be remembered that the only time Jesus ever totally lost his temper and came unglued to the point of violence was when he found the moneychangers in the temple. Greed did not sit well with Jesus Christ.
Back to the letters. The most remarkable was this contribution. In part he wrote:
I think I know what you seem to be fishing for -- a hint of hypocrisy in anyone living such an extravagant lifestyle and being lauded for their contributions to the environmental movement, for doing good things like donating millions of dollars and serving on boards and then building a supersized mansion in your backyard. and since most of us have a lot less than Mr. Bonderman in terms of assets, and many of us donate proportionately as much time (and maybe even as much money) to the environmental movement, it’s easy to say, yeah. that’s bad. He’s bad. We’re good.
But you know, I’m not sure that kind of thinking really gets us very far.
...Mr. Bonderman leads with his money. Maybe we can teach each other something by what each of us does, not what we don’t do...so...thank you Mr. Bonderman for sharing your time and money with the conservation movement. May we all learn from each other.
What’s remarkable about that? This is what’s remarkable..a few days later, I received these off the record comments, from the same guy:
I think the whole system we live in stinks, and is headed for a fall. and this Bonderman guy buying into the mess and building a McTrophy home in Moab is hardly an enviro in my deep ecology mind... I try to work the radical middle not the far left. Ask me again (he suggested, when his circumstances had changed). My answer will be very different. Thanks for making us all think.
He insisted later that the two points of view were compatible. He also offered to take an ad in The Zephyr when it goes online...I declined.
A few weeks ago, another Associated Press story appeared...
WASHINGTON (AP) —— Exactly 20 years after warning America about global warming, a top NASA scientist said the situation has gotten so bad that the world’s only hope is drastic action.
James Hansen told Congress on Monday that the world has long passed the "dangerous level" for greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and needs to get back to 1988 levels. He said Earth’s atmosphere can only stay this loaded with man-made carbon dioxide for a couple more decades without changes such as mass extinction, ecosystem collapse and dramatic sea level rises.
"We’re toast if we don’t get on a very different path," Hansen, director of the Goddard Institute of Space Sciences who is sometimes called the godfather of global warming science, told The Associated Press. "This is the last chance."
To cut emissions, Hansen said coal-fired power plants that don’t capture carbon dioxide emissions shouldn’t be used in the United States after 2025, and should be eliminated in the rest of the world by 2030. That carbon capture technology is still being developed and not yet cost efficient for power plants.
The last chance. Mass extinction. Ecosystem collapse. Dramatic sea level rises...Just how much time is left for equivocating, before we choke to death on our collective, politically correct rhetoric? "Drastic action" means drastic changes in our lifestyle—for all of us. It means acknowledging the absurdity of our greed-driven culture and showing the will and the determination to do something about it. And the determination to do it with great urgency.
How, then, can the "leaders" of the environmental movement expect anyone to take them seriously, when 1) their "movement" is funded by the worst lifestyle role models one could possibly find in their worst nightmares, and 2) they choose to talk out of both sides of their mouths?
Can you imagine an environmental organization, with a straight face, asking citizens to conserve, to live more simply, while its largest benefactors live in multiple, 15,000 square foot homes and commute daily to global parts unknown on Gulfstream GV jets?
And here is where "the weird turn pro," as Hunter Thompson might have suggested. Do you know what answer you’d get? Do you know how they’d rationalize their contradictory condition? They’d say, "Well, technically, asking people to conserve is not our specific goal. Nowhere are we required to, nor should we, in any way, adapt such a message as an integral part of our mission statement, or imply that severe conservation measures are mandated by our group. That is not our specific objective. We are here to pass legislation to establish wilderness, or to protect the air quality of the Colorado Plateau, or to stop overflights by scenic planes of sensitive lands."
As if their tightly restricted "vision" has nothing to do with the broader picture.
As for the Gulfstream excesses? I’m sure they’ll let us know that the owner of that private jet has just purchased equivalent carbon credits from terrapass.com.
May the gods forgive them.
It’s like listening to Professor Irwin Corey, the Dean of Dissembling, explaining bullshit to a turd.
It would be like a civil rights group from New York, hearing that there were ongoing race riots across the Hudson in Newark, choosing to disassociate themselves from the debate with the disclaimer: "Hey that’s Jersey...not in our domain."
If Mr. Hansen and 99% of the scientific world are correct, then the waffling, contradictory, hypocritical posturing by the mainstream environmental community of this country is almost criminal—or criminally insane.
Wake up old friends. Remember B. Traven’s admonition:
"This is the REAL world, muchachos...and we are all in it." Even David Bonderman.
A GLIMMER of HOPE...
THE WEALTHY MAN WHO SAID ‘NO’
TO $5 BILLION
In the far north of Australia, Kakadu National Park sprawls across almost 8,000 square miles. The wildlife habitat is stunning. The park descends from a high stone plateau to forest woodland. There are monsoon rainforests and flood plains marked by thousands of billabongs, and mangrove-fringed estuaries. The park stops at the coastal beaches of the Arafura Sea.
Jeffrey Lee resides in a small corner of this great park. He is a 36 years old Aboriginal, and the sole member of the Djok clan. He is also the senior custodian of the Koongara uranium deposit, a piece of land surrounded by the park but not a part of it. The French company Arvena wants to mine 14,000 tons of uranium and claims the deposit is worth $5 billion.
But years ago, then Australian prime minister John Howard announce that no new mine would be approved in the Northern Territory without the consent of the traditional owners.
And so, Jeffrey Lee, who stands to become wealthy beyond his comprehension simply said "no."
The Sydney Morning Herald asked him why. Here, in part, is what he said:
"This is my country. Look, it’s beautiful and I fear somebody will disturb it. There are sacred sites, there are burial sites and there are other special places out there which are my responsibility to look after. I’m not interested in white people offering me this or that …… it doesn’t mean a thing....I’m not interested in money. I’ve got a job; I can buy tucker; I can go fishing and hunting. That’s all that matters to me.
"There’s been a lot of pressure on me, and for a very long time I didn’t want to talk or think about Koongarra. But now I want to talk about what I have decided to do because I fear for my country. I was taken all through here on the shoulder of my grandmother …… I heard all the stories and learnt everything about this land, and I want to pass it all on to my kids."
Mr. Lee took the SMH reporter to a rocky jut of land that oversees the Koongarra deposits. It is a sacred place. He believes a blue-tongued lizard still lives here and cannot be disturbed. Rock paintings, hundreds of thousands of years old, memorialize the blue reptile. Lee calls it a djang—a place of "spiritual essence." Jeffrey Lee has closed the place to the 230,000 tourists who visit Kakadu annually.
"My father and grandfather said they would agree to opening the land to mining, but I have learnt as I have grown up that there’s poison in the ground. My father and grandfather were offered cars, houses and many other things, but nobody told them about uranium and what it can do.
"It’s my belief that if you disturb that land bad things will happen ...I can’t allow people to go around disturbing everything."
Because of Jeffrey Lee, the Koongarra deposit has its best chance yet of being incorporated into the park. And he can keep hunting and fishing and being the wealthy man that he truly is.