Yesterday, the Colorado Springs Gazette ran an essay by Vince Bzdek. It was about Governor Polis disagreeing with Biden Admin policies on Covid and agreeing with (some previous) Trump Admin policies. I really liked one quote which I think it particularly relevant to TSW topics:
Not all problems have a left and a right. Some problems are just problems, and the minute we Velcro ideology onto some problems, they often become bigger, uglier, less solvable problems.
It will be interesting to look through that lens at various topics. One that comes to mind is the question of what we might call domestic imperialism (I think I first heard that from Matt Carroll at WSU, a rural sociologist). Another related topic was raised by Patrick McKay in this comment. I see actually two levels here: (1) justice (social and environmental) implications of distant folks making decisions with impacts on local communities, and (2) given that this is our current political/legal system, to what extent are the “on the ground” decisions made by the personal predilections of local officials? I see the first as more of a political science question, and the latter as more of a “how does this work in practice?” question. Both are worth reflection and discussion, I think. For this post, I’ll stick to #1.
In Dr. Dorceta Taylor’s, of Yale School of the Environment, book “The Rise of the American Conservation Movement: Power, Privilege, and Environmental Protection“, she traces the history of race, gender and class
Let’s look at what she calls “internal colonialism”.
In addition to colonial expansion, countries seek to bring their hinterlands or peripheral regions under the control of the central government. Such moves toward internal colonization result in tensions or conflict between the country’s core or center and its periphery. The core develops exploitive relationships with the periphery, using the hinterland’s natural resources and cheap labor to enhance or sustain the development or expansion of the core. If the periphery has indigenous or culturally distinct people, the core often discriminates against them. The core monopolizes trade and commerce, thus forcing the peripheral region to develop as a complementary economy of the core. The economy of the core typically relies on one or a few exports. The movement of laborers in the periphery is determined by forces outside of the region. Economic dependence of the internal colony is reinforced by legal, political and military measures. The periphery is often characterized by lower levels of service and low standards of living than the core (Blauner 1969, 1972, 1982; Hechter 1994; Horvath 1972; Taylor 2014.
While Taylor focuses on the role of peripheral regions in providing natural resources, it may be just as IC (internal colonialist) to require peripherals to provide certain kinds of recreation by limiting land uses.
Which reminds me of a personal story:
When we started the journey that would become Colorado Roadless, Senator Hickenlooper was Mayor Hickenlooper of Denver. We had a public meeting in Denver and Hick spoke about how important it was to protect recreational opportunities because those opportunities attract businesses and people to Denver. I was standing next to our Regional Forester and said something like “he seems to be forgetting that rural people have their own agency.. sounds colonialist to me!”. Of course, that was Hick’s job as Mayor, to make sure his own folks’ interests were taken into account. Still, this can easily be the modus operandi for any state with urban and rural populations. That not only are urban interests prioritized, but their views on what should occur on rural lands imposed via having the majority of voters.
Circling back to Bzdek’s comment, here’s a question: if the Interior West were not occupied by people who vote Republican, would ENGO’s, the media and other opinion leaders be more sensitive to their quest for (we can disagree about how much) autonomy and political power over the lands they inhabit?