Can we bridge the ideological divide on crucial conservation issues? The Science of Conversion

Check out this post on Bob Berwyn’s blog.
Some thoughts:

1. If you had read Doug Bevington’s book (recommended reading), you wouldn’t see the polarization between parties as “astounding.” According to that book, it was the conscious choice of national and other green groups to ally themselves with one party.

2. Believing that people are in one or another group versus a combination of thoughts and values on different topics is rather dehumanizing. That makes it easy to think of them as “other” and to study them rather than listen to them as human beings. This often happens to rural folks. Who controls the agenda of “science”? Generally a set of folks. Who gets treated as objects to be studies rather than listened to? Generally another set of folks.

3. Like many scientific studies, this one has many implicit values. Because I was a federal employee and had to work for people of both political parties, I don’t remember any R’s being “for” deforestation or toxic waste. Just sayin’. I think the world is a little more complex than being portrayed.

4. Finally, framing things as moral issues can be tricky. In my experience, it tends to be the last resort of someone who wants to tell you what to do or think, when you don’t agree and don’t find that person’s arguments to be convincing. There are general moral principles that most all folks agree on but often environmental questions are what Rushworth Kidder would call “right vs. right” in his book How Good People Make Tough Choices: Resolving the Dilemmas of Ethical Living (recommended reading). Also, framing things as moral issues tends to needlessly get people riled. That can lead to bad things like the Inquisition or .. well you can name your own .. current or historic.

You all across the country probably didn’t see this but in Boulder there was the following behavior you can read about in a story here Boulder County condemns ‘mob harassment, cursing and intimidation’ at fracking hearing:Commissioners announce security plan for future meetings:

Upon returning, Domenico, chairwoman of the board, asked the crowd to “behave in a manner that is respectful” so the board would have a chance to hear everyone who wanted to speak.

“In my mind, the fundamental problem with the hearing we had last night was the behavior of a certain subset of the folks who were there that were really determined to intimidate anyone who had a different perspective,” Toor said Wednesday. “In order to have a democratic process, you have to have an environment where everyone is able to safely express their opinions.”

Other “troubling” behavior cited by the board in its statement included jeering of Wendy Wiedenbeck, a Denver-based community relations adviser for Encana Oil and Gas USA, during her presentation at the meeting and the “mob harassment, cursing and intimidation” some protesters engaged in as they followed Wiedenbeck to her car later.

“Suppressing alternative comments and shutting out voices through intimidation and fear is not part of the democratic process we hold dear,” the commissioners’ statement read. “Last night’s effort by a small segment of attendees to threaten and intimidate a speaker walking to her car was nothing short of shameful. Public hearings should create a space for everyone to feel comfortable to participate.”

Wiedenbeck, and Encana employee since 2004, said in an email that she has attended hundreds of public hearings on behalf of the company and has never encountered as much harassment as she did Tuesday. Even after trying to leave the area, she said, protesters followed her, blocked the path of her car and pounded on her windows.

Once you have determined that the “other” is not like you, and is “immoral” to boot, then it becomes OK to engage in behavior that is disrespectful or hurtful.

5. It creeps me out when people subvert a noble goal, “departisanization” which I fully support, by not listening to both sides and finding a center of shared values, but by attempting to convert the people who disagree in a vaguely underhanded (er… immoral?) way. Ick!

9 thoughts on “Can we bridge the ideological divide on crucial conservation issues? The Science of Conversion”

  1. Maybe if the government and energy corporations stopped trying to poison us in our homes, schools and playgrounds, we wouldn’t have so many angry mobs. For now, we need more of them, not less.

    • Maybe if we had some MLK’s and Gandhi’s as progressive social leaders, the mobs’ anger could be directed more constructively and effectively than harassing the Man’s indentured wage slaves.

        • Maybe you don’t have energy/O&G workers where you live. In Golden, where I live, energy is energy and the School of Mines teaches about/ and people work in renewables and non-renewables. Folks need energy and right now we’re getting it from a variety of sources.

          If you think they are wage slaves, again, just like Salazar, there seem to be two choices: they don’t know as much as you do about how bad what they are doing is… (ignorant)(sorry for the syntax, hope you understand what I’m getting at)

          or they are trading rectitude for bucks (venal). But when I talk to them in our community volunteering, I am just sayin’ they seem neither.

            • I saw this response while I was sitting at the intersection of 470 and Morrison Road waiting for my carpool bud to go to my class last night. So let’s work through the logic and we can see where you and I disagree.

              Many, many cars were zipping past, fueled almost entirely by gasoline.

              Fact: In terms of liquid fuels it seems like we’re stuck with gasoline for awhile until something better comes along. Given that, we should focus on appropriate regulation of the technologies. It seems to me like it’s easier and better to regulate local industries than to get the same product from overseas, in some places where we don’t know that the environmental impacts are any better.

              Fact: It’s coming from somewhere, either here or there. Where could we get it where we could control the environmental impacts and reduce the tendency toward foreign entanglements, plus provide jobs and even exports?

              Although, based on experience, I don’t believe things I read in most media outlets without separate confirmation, let’s imagine that the news story is correct and the industry is poorly regulated vis a vis water. Because an industry is poorly regulated, should we be nasty to the people who work there? The people who are working in the oil patch? Or just PR people? Or the Board of Directors?

              Maybe anger should also be be directed at the regulators.. or even at the President for not picking the right people to run the agencies that regulate.

              Let’s think of another industry, say pharmaceuticals, who supply pills that lead to endocrine disruptors in the water supply. Are they adequately regulated? Is it OK to vilify employees of pharmaceutical companies?

              Here’s a story on

  2. We know all about “mob harassment and intimidation” here at public meetings in Montana….

    “Put a bullet in her head” – Report from Bitterroot Travel Plan Meeting


    Friday, Sept. 23, 2005

    Armed Guard Escorts Local Citizen Out of Public Bitterroot National Forest Supervisor’s Office During Press Conference for Release of Montana’s First Healthy Forest Restoration Act Project

    These local citizens – including 80-year-old man whose father was Supervisor of the Bitterroot National Forest from 1935 to 1955 – have been trying to work with the Forest Service on this “collaborative” project for a year

    Forest Service’s “preferred alternative” was opposed by 98% of the 10,000 plus citizen’s who commented on the draft plan


    SNIP: Ironically, back in 2001 it was Mr. Campbell who was at the receiving end of a assault in the parking lot of this very same Forest Service office. As he emerged from inside the office after picking up some public documents, Mr. Campbell was assaulted, spit on and threatened by a band of a dozen violent loggers right in the parking lot of the Bitterroot Supervisor’s office in Hamilton. According to Mr. Campbell, Bitterroot National Forest officials did absolutely nothing about the assault and made no attempts to come to his rescue, but instead simply sat inside the office and peered out the window as the assault took place.


    And sometimes this “mob harassment and intimidation” takes place in Montana courtrooms….


    Joel Boniek, 51, of Paradise Valley, appeared in Park County’s Justice Court Monday afternoon for a court proceeding in which he and Justice of the Peace Linda Budeski and Deputy County Attorney Kathleen Carrick were slated to set a trial date.

    Boniek, a Republican, served in the state House of Representatives in 2009 as the representative for House District 61….

    In July, Boniek was arrested on misdemeanor charges of obstructing a peace officer, resisting arrest and fleeing from or eluding a peace officer. He has pleaded not guilty.

    Prosecutors say he failed to stop at an emergency roadblock set up near his home in the Paradise Valley during a July wildfire. They say he also refused to comply with officers’ orders.

    In court Monday, Boniek appeared without an attorney but with many supporters, who filled the courtroom to standing room only save for a few other citizens and attorneys who were present for unrelated court matters.

    Boniek told (Justice of the Peace) Budeski he had concerns about the matter at hand, including whether county employees handling the case had proper credentials and fulfilled criteria required by law, he said.

    “This is not the time and place to be doing this,” Carrick said to Boniek and Budeski after Boniek broached his concerns. The proceeding was simply intended to set a trial date, she said.

    “Your honor, why is this woman even speaking if she can’t prove she’s (a public official)?” Boniek responded, addressing Budeski.

    A Boniek supporter in the room joined in, voicing support for Boniek’s questions. Budeski told him he was out of order.

    “Bulls–t, you’re out of order,” he replied.

    The man kept speaking as Budeski asked for order in the court. Law enforcement officers, who had been present at the hearing since it started, approached the man, whom the judge requested be escorted from the courtroom.

    At some point, as the man continued to protest and a few other citizens voiced their support for Boniek and opposition to the proceedings, Budeski announced court was adjourned and walked out. Livingston Police Department officers and Park County Sheriff’s Office deputies tried to escort people out of the courtroom, although many initially declined to leave.

    “The judge has left the room, I’m in charge now,” Boniek said.

    “No, you’re not,” an officer responded…..

    During the disruption, law enforcement officers also questioned Boniek about a “lump” an officer said he noticed under Boniek’s jacket. Officers asked Boniek if they could check whether the lump was a firearm, which are prohibited in the courthouse. Boniek declined to allow them to do so.

  3. “Direct Actions” can also be a form of intimidation and life-threatening assault. When you build a “tank trap” on a public access road, you know that the loggers are coming up the road at 0’dark thirty. Yes, there is a chance that their truck will run off the road and get someone killed or hurt. And, I hear that treesitters often will attempt to pee upon anyone approaching their locations. Who knows what other despicable things they want to do to other human being?


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