Thursday, September 08, 2005

#194 - Sierra Missed

I want to like the Sierra Club. I really do. As a young lad, I remember going to Sierra Club-sponsored classes on backpacking and actually getting excited about stepping out into nature and seeing the bigger picture. Until, that is, I hefted my first actual backpack, at which point my excitement evaporated.

I love the environment. That is, I love what it should be: clean, robust, and self-sustaining. I worry constantly about how badly we seem to be managing our resources, and the damage we cause as a part of living in "civilization." And so it's easy for me to sympathize with such groups as the Sierra Club whenever they try to make a stand for those resources. I secretly cheer whenever the Club goes after some corporation and stops them from making parking lots out of the territorial home of some obscure species of bird that only mates once every four years.

Call me a closet environmentalist.

By the same token, I have only one caveat to my latent liberalism: I don't favor protecting nature over the needs and, especially, the safety of our citizens both living and yet-to-live.

Michelle Malkin points to this article in the National Review by John Berlau which outlines attempts by the Club to halt upgrades to stretches of the levee system which, up until a couple of weeks ago, protected much of the developed portions of the Mississippi delta. Berlau makes it clear in his article that we cannot simply level blame for the breaches in those levees on the Club or any other organization. It's just too much of a stretch. So this post is not about blaming the Sierra Club for any part of the disaster that we all are anxious to see resolved.

This post is mostly about why I find myself getting irritated with any organization that seems to think that we somehow are merely adjunct to nature and are therefore intruders on terra firma. PETA, for example, gets more upset about the abuse of animals than they do the destruction of unborn babies in this country. I just don't get that. And (for you who are even now whipping out your snarkiest comments) I never will.

Let's focus on New Orleans as an example. The city is nearly 300 years old. The greater New Orleans area is home to over 1.3 million people. Much of that area, as we all know by now, sits below the water line and is in constant threat of flooding. For that one simple reason alone, I cannot understand why so much opposition would be raised against an initiative to shore up and improve the levee systems that protect that many people. It smacks of weakness in our priorities. Let's first reasonably ensure the safety of our citizens, then worry about whether we're about to upset an ecosystem.

Now, I'm certain that such things can be done concurrently. It must be possible to address both needs without upsetting balances already in place. But if we're told that we have only so much money, and we can either protect people or the environment with it, I tend to side with protecting the people.

This is, I realize, a horribly simplistic perspective on the entire situation. As I say, no one can (yet) adjudicate where blame rightly rests for this disaster. There is, I'm sure, more than enough blame to pass around. The finger-pointing has only just begun, and will end only when no one can think of anything else to say about it. I'd say that, in reality, the finger-pointing will have its own nuclear half-life. I therefore do not blame the Sierra Club for any of this.

But I reserve the right to later on, if they deserve it.

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