Four reasons why environmentalists fail

  FOUR REASONS


WHY ENVIRONMENTALISTS FAIL





Dear HCN,


Jon Margolis' column on voting trends in the West (HCN, 11/25/96) should be stapled to the forehead of every environmental activist in the Northern Rockies. The fact is, he's right: People around here do tend to respond more positively to environmental issues than they do to the environmentalists who talk about those issues. Why is that? Four guesses on my part:





Most local environmental groups aren't very well organized.


I don't just mean things like turning out the vote and staffing phone banks; I'm talking about basic things like returning phone calls and recruiting members. Need an example? I've called the Idaho Conservation League thrice, asking to join. Each time I was told a membership application would be in the mail. I'm still waiting.





Most local environmental groups don't do a good job of growing local leadership.


Both of Idaho's senators were student body presidents at the University of Idaho. Coincidence? You wouldn't think so, having seen the way Republicans are organized on this campus. The Idaho GOP uses campus politics as a way of identifying and training future leaders; local Democrats (and environmentalists, for that matter) have yet to develop a comparable means of spotting future talent on this campus.





Most local environmental groups are far too tolerant of the weirdos in their midst.


I was going to do this sustained rant about the time I took my kids to hear something that was billed as a "special environmental program for children," but I won't bother. Suffice it to say that somewhere around the time we were being urged "to seek one-ness with Brother Elk and Sister Recyclable Bottle" (and no, I am not making this up), my kids wrote the whole thing off as both fearsomely strange and terminally boring.





Most local environmental groups seems to go out of their way to annoy potential allies.


Let's face it - there aren't enough environmentalists in Idaho to start winning elections on our own. If we're going to acquire some clout, we're going to need to build some sort of coalition with other right-thinking people in this state. So to whom can we reach out? Labor? No way - too many of "them" are in mining and logging. Besides, where were they when the civil rights movement needed them? Hunters and fishermen? Nope - that will tick off the animal rights people.


Mainline churches? Forget it - everyone knows the whole Judeo-Christian ethic is to blame for the mess we're in. The tourist industry? Who wants to hop in bed with a bunch of out-of-state interests that don't pay a living wage, anyway? Native Americans? Perfect - except they don't seem to be nearly as interested in working with us as we are in working with them. The glow-in-the-dark gang out at INEL? It's true that some of the people there were instrumental in the establishment of both Sawtooth and Hells Canyon national recreation areas. But there's that whole issue of nuclear waste, and their attitude towards technology, and their tie-in with the defense industry ... and no, definitely not them.


Who are we left with? College students who aren't being used effectively. Ivy League alumni like the ones who keep showing up as interns at HCN, and aging members of the counterculture who keep their brochures for Earth First! right next to their poster of Ho Chi Minh.


Don't get me wrong - I'm sure all these people are deeply committed to whatever cause is at the top of the list this week. And I know they throw great potlucks. But as far as winning elections go? Forget it.





Greg Brothers


Moscow, Idaho





The writer, who teaches at University of Idaho, is working on a doctorate in the history of the American West.


High Country News Classifieds
  • DESCHUTES LAND TRUST EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Deschutes Land Trust, based in Bend, Oregon, seeks a collaborative and strategic Executive Director to lead us in pursuing our mission: to conserve and care...
  • DEVELOPMENT MANAGER
    Job Title: Development Manager Supervisor: Senior Director of Development Effective Date: May 17, 2021 Job Status: Full-time (40 hours/week), exempt Location: Within the Colorado Plateau...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AT FRIENDS OF CEDAR MESA
    - The Land, History, and People of the Bears Ears Region - The Bears Ears and Cedar Mesa region is one of the most beautiful,...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Job Title: Executive Director Reports To: Board of Directors Compensation: $75,000 to $80,000, plus generous benefits and paid leave. Funding for relocation expenses available. Classification:...
  • WATER DIRECTOR
    Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis. Application review will begin on April 2, 2021 and will continue until the position has been filled....
  • CLIMATE JUSTICE FELLOW
    High Country News, an award-winning magazine covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks applicants for a climate justice fellowship. The fellowship...
  • VIRGINIA SPENCER DAVIS FELLOWSHIP
    High Country News, an award-winning magazine covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, is offering a fellowship for early-career journalists interested in...
  • COLORADO WILD PUBLIC LANDS VIDEO CONTEST
    Please submit your video of 30 seconds or less, taken on public lands, to [email protected] by May 15th for a chance to win in one...
  • WMAN NETWORK COORDINATOR
    WESTERN MINING ACTION NETWORK (WMAN) CONTRACT OPPORTUNITY CLOSING DATE: Feb. 19, 2021 WMAN is seeking a team member to coordinate the various network activities to...
  • FRIENDS OF THE INYO IS HIRING TRAIL AMBASSADORS FOR THE SUMMER OF 2021
    Friends of the Inyo's Trail Ambassadors (TAs) support the Inyo, Sierra, & Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forests and other partners by providing positive public service, outreach, interpretation,...
  • LAND & CABIN ON CO/ UT LINE
    18 ac w/small solar ready cabin. Off grid, no well. Great RV location. Surrounded by state wildlife area and nat'l parks.
  • MANAGER PERMACULTURE LANDSCAPE CONTRACTOR
    Permaculture / Landscape Company Manager / Site Lead Red Ant Works, Inc. - 20+ year landscape construction and horticultural care company seeks manager and site...
  • CANYONLANDS FIELD INSTITUTE
    Field seminars for adults in natural and human history of the Colorado Plateau with lodge, river trip and base camp options. Small groups, guest experts.
  • COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER
    San Juan Citizens Alliance is looking for a passionate, dynamic, organized, and technology-savvy communications professional to help grow our membership and presence in the Four...
  • ENERGY AND CLIMATE PROGRAM ASSOCIATE
    San Juan Citizens Alliance seeks an Energy and Climate Program Associate to focus on public outreach, education and organizing to advance campaigns to mitigate climate...
  • REAL ESTATE SPECIALIST
    This position provides professional real estate services and is responsible for managing and completing real estate projects utilizing a project management database that is designed...
  • WILDFIRE MITIGATION SPECIALIST
    The Wildfire Mitigation Specialist is responsible for delivering wildfire risk mitigation information, recommendations and programmatic resources to wildland urban interface homeowners, community members and partners....
  • DEVELOPMENT POSITIONS
    Thorne Nature Experience is hiring for a Development Director and Senior Individual Giving Manager. Individuals will work collaboratively with Thorne's Executive Director to develop and...
  • SENIOR PROGRAM MANAGER, LANDSCAPE CONSERVATION & ENERGY
    The National Parks Conservation Association, a 100-year-old nonprofit advocacy organization and the nation's leading voice for national parks seeks a Senior Program Manager, Landscape Conservation...
  • BACKCOUNTRY AND FRONTCOUNTRY STEWARDSHIP CREW MEMBERS
    The San Juan Mountains Association (SJMA) is hiring a crew of ambassadors to work in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service to educate visitors on...