The Status Quo and the Environment

As we grind along through the seemingly futile re-engineering of the environment we now control, it is easy to wonder if any of the normal activities we engage in are really making any difference.Are the tens of thousands of hours spent in meetings about the environment really helping? Well maybe they are, but those meetings have become part of the “status quo” of environmental protection. We have an emerging “status quo” of environment organizations that exist to restore the destroyed ecosystems that we have created that work alongside the same industries that destroy it in many cases. These organizations all do good work, but they seem to be part of this new status quo. Are any of them really standing up anymore to fight the destruction in the first place? They don’t seem to be. Old organizations like People for Puget Sound who did have been subsumed into Washington Environmental Council, an organization that appears to exist simply to fight for “east side of the Sound” issues. I guess that’s where the money is. The new status quo is to go where the grants are, and don’t make waves or you’ll be branded a ‘radical’. A few organizations, run by radicals, are fighting back, and usually winning in courts, where the status quo has to uphold it’s political decision-making in front of a judge who has a dim view of the efforts by government agencies to hide their hand in glove work with industry above their duty to protect our environment. The ‘radicals’ are ones I prefer to give my donations to, since they are actually working to stop the problem before it becomes one. I don’t want to give money to an organization that tells me to my face that they can’t “prioritize” the issues of the Olympic Peninsula at any price. And frankly, I love to see the radicals messing with the smug high priced legal teams of the status quo in open court battle. Why? Because the radicals seem to find, over and over again, that industries that want to ‘work with us’ are many times lying through their teeth. Recent court rulings against the Army Corps of Engineers and the industries that sided with them in court are a prime example.

The status quo also is that this Democratic run state is ok with converting our public beaches into aquaculture farms with no debate on where the end is going to be on this land grab. It’s also for letting the military use our public beaches and waterways, with known and documented kills of our wild animals when they train our military. The same military that seems to hold us who pay their salaries in contempt, continues to be demonstrably unable to protect us from a small group of fanatics overrunning our seat of power. It’s like they never heard of the Maginot Line in military school. We let the military fly over our quietest places, not because they really need to in that exact locale, but because they have made it the “status quo”. People who question it, as the old jazz song by Les McCann and Eddie Harris “Compared to What” goes, “have one doubt and they call it treason.” The list of what we have come to accept as status quo is a long one.

And yet the Puget Sound Partnership sees a continued worsening of the environment measurements, across the broad spectrum of their monitoring. So is the status quo working for us?

Frankly, no. But we seem to not be at the tipping point, despite the pleas of ‘radicals’ whom we love, like Greta Thurnberg. On the Federal level, President Biden has put in place a woman who just may be the answer to the “status quo” at the Department of the Interior. Representative Deb Haaland is Native American, a citizen of Laguna Pueblo, the first to head the Interior department. She brings a radically new perspective to the department. Will she make a real difference? It remains to be seen, but I am hopeful. Rarely do Native Americans not bring a fresh perspective to government. But they aren’t always on the side of radical change.

I was reading an editorial tonight in Harper’s Magazine, the Easy Chair editorial by Hari Kunzru, on “Another World is Possible”. His article was about the radical issue of defunding the police. Is it so radical, he asked, given the behavior of many police departments and the massive industry built up to incarcerate mostly people of color? But what caught my eye was a quote, used in that context, that easily could be used here. I paraphrase only a bit.

“From the outsider’s perspective, the status quo does not seem like a delicately balanced organism that would be damaged by radical intervention, but an aberration that should be consigned to history…difficult as it may be to accept, the reformist perspective-that is, the belief that change will come about through a few politically palatable reforms-is the truly utopian one. Realism demands acceptance of the complex relationships between these problems…If you grow up in a culture that does something a certain way, it can seem not just normal, but natural…It can sometimes be difficult to picture an alternative.”

Harper’s Magazine, March 2021 Page 7

All radicals that have effected change were unwilling to accept reformist efforts. MLK, Gandhi, Billy Frank Jr. They demanded radical change. Who is willing to fill their shoes today? With the little time left us before the effects of our ignorance overwhelms our ecosystems, I suggest that radical ideas come to the front, and we really start talking about solutions that can solve problems rather than pretend the status quo is going to fix them.

6 Responses

  1. Hi Al,

    Thanks for your blog! I’m hoping you would consider writing a blog about Zangle Cove. The shellfish industry now has 3 of their barges parked in Zangle Cove. 1) Taylor Shellfish barge directly parked at the mouth of the inner part of the Cove. Its rests on the tideland when the tide is low. This is on the ChangMook Sohn tideland. 2) Brian Allen barge parked for at least since 2006 further east in the Cove, also apparently on private tideland. 3) Ian Child, Sound Shellfish barge parked on the north east side of the Cove on and off for several years apparently on private tideland. I can provide photos, maps and statistics. The Taylor Shellfish barge is the most recent addition–they came a few weeks back to remove tubes (about 1.5-2 years into the planting they remove the tubes) from their ChangMook Sohn planting and used a couple of barges. The work was done but they left one of the barges.

    We are waiting on the decision on our lawsuit over the fact that the shellfish industry is not currently required to get an HPA permit for their activities.

    Let me know if you are interested in writing about the barges. There are some rules about parking barges for more than 3 days–but my memory is gone about what that is all about–so I have to do some research on that. In any case, this is a residential area in Boston Harbor.We have worked with Laura Hendricks since 2006.

    Let me know!

    Thanks again, Kathryn Townsend

  2. Thanks Al, Your essay has Perfect pitch. I tried to “like it” but I was met with a request to create an account which is one more password to keep track of so I bailed. But I did and do like your message. Best, Peter

    > Thanks for that Peter. I know I got more passwords and accounts that I don’t know what to do with I hate it. But it is what it is. Take care!

  3. Al, we all generally agree that status quo will not improve habitat.. Elwah did. Elwah is the scale of change needed in addition to the maintenance activity most of us are still involved in to hold the tide. What of banning styrofoam from all bouys/floats and limiting plastic anything that is temporary- ie mussel rings of PennCove and water bottles–by a hefty “bottle” tax if returned as an incentive for foragers to participate in cleanup. ..I see so much of this on Puget beaches; fish and invertabrates see much more. The chemistry of breakdown must be available to fuel an initiative. What besides runoff are the radical big issues that a voluntary or market or legislative approach might help? Pat

  4. Send this, or a reduced version to the NYT or Other please. And good show yesterday AM J

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