The Dernogalizer

December 16, 2008

Column by Me

So I had a column that came out yesterday.  I usually prefer to write about specific issues and arguments pertaining to legislation etc.  However, I wanted to try something different and talk about the issue of compromise when it comes to the environmental movement.  Now although most of my column was left intact, there were a couple of edits which I think broke up the flow of my column, so I’m going to link the column to the paper’s website, and then post what I originally wrote down below:
my column

I’ll walk into a politician’s office ready to ask tough questions, make bold demands, and pile on pressure.  Then it hits me.  Doubt creeps in about whether “all or nothing” is the best way.  Sometimes it feels uneasy.  Sometimes you want to let up and appreciate what people are doing, even if it isn’t enough.
There was an article a few weeks ago about environmental activists protesting outside the Bank of America on Route One about them funding coal and mountaintop removal.  Bank of America made a reasonable concession in light of many similar protests all over the country on the same day.  They’ve decided to phase out and eventually cease funding for mountaintop removal projects, which make up a sizable portion of all coal mining.
But the bank is still funding coal companies in the rest of their activities.  What should the reaction be from environmentalists?  Should we thank the bank and back off?  Give them some breathing room?  Reward a good policy with good will?  Or dismiss the bone that’s been thrown, and go after the entire carcass?  This kind of dilemna with politicians can be even tougher.  Their postions vary across the board.  What do you say to someone who is on the right side of every environmental issue, except one big one where they’re wrong?  How hard should you push when you don’t want to alienate them?
Being uncompromising is difficult at times for me.  I recognize and appreciate when someone who doesn’t see eye to eye with me on everything is trying to accomodate.  As someone who is progressive, my four best friends I grew up hanging out with are all conservatives.  We haven’t killed each other yet.
But when it comes to environmental activism, compromising to find common ground causes the carpet to get pulled out from under your feet.  Deals constantly result in two steps back for every one step forward.  Settling for less usually gets you nothing in the end.  Our timeline for saving the planet before it descends into a fiery pit of hell probably doesn’t match yours.  It’s more of a deadline actually.  There isn’t much of a difference between failing miserably and failing gracefully.       Failing gracefully is how you end up with Barack Obama talking about clean coal when it doesn’t exist.  It’s how after decades of inaction, Congress gets credit for raising fuel economy standards to a pathetic 35 mpg by 2020.  It’s why too many politicians in Maryland think you can cut carbon emissions while building giant roads like the ICC.  It’s why the Purple Line has stayed a good idea for decades.  It’s why everyone is pro Chesapeake Bay, but the bay is in shambles.  It’s how Bank of America can claim to be environmentally concious, yet still fund coal.  None of that is leadership.
I’m still in the office.  My moment of doubt passes.  The good will turns to iron will.  The regret melts in the fire.  I straighten my shirt, check the agenda, and grip the folder.  The choice of “all or nothing” isn’t a choice.  I stand up, walk to their door, and turn the knob.  Deep breath.  No letting up.  No slowing down.  Full speed ahead.


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