Herring: Big Gorillas and the Future of Conservation

The new estimates of the oil gushing out of the blown Deepwater Horizon wellhead are now somewhere between 1.5 million and 2.5 million gallons per day (an Exxon Valdez size spill every ten days). It wouldn't take Scooby Doo (sorry, my kids have watched so much Scooby the soundtrack runs in my head most of the time) and the Mystery Machine to figure out that a company with a blown wellhead might keep the flow rate a mystery when the fines for spilling oil are based on the size of the spill. We needed those meddling kids…sorry, those independent engineers and scientists, to determine just how much of the black gold we're going to be dealing with in our oceans, marshes and beaches. BP's estimates, remember, were 210,000 gallons a day, all the way through late May.

I was taught pretty early on that if you'll lie about the little things, you'll lie about the big things. Like Winston Groom (the author of the novel Forrest Gump) once wrote, "being raised right sure does limit a man's options." That is one excuse for being a blogger instead of an oil tycoon.

The spill is really too awful to dwell on. So let's talk about politics, and the future of conservation and the places where we hunt and fish. Everywhere I go, I hear about how we the people are going to hand it to these liberals this coming November. Incumbents are going to be ripped from the public trough and the new guys and gals we elect are going to take our country back.

But who among them will speak for us? I'm pretty sure none of the new or the old representatives are going to reach out and touch the sizzling third rail of attacking the Second Amendment, and for that we can all be grateful. I wouldn't vote for a candidate who favored gun control, no matter what he or she claimed to believe about saving the environment, because I am convinced that anybody who would empower government to take away the right of individuals to protect themselves and their families is starting out with the worst kind of bad directions. I won't be tugged along for that ride. That candidate won't be able to protect the environment, either. Whatever they do will be wrong, no matter what the goals are, good or bad.

I'd like to be a libertarian. But how does a libertarian protect the waters that we drink and fish, and the woods and plains where we hunt? The wetlands that control the floods and support the ducks and almost everything else? I once asked a friend's wife, who is a libertarian, "In a libertarian system, what keeps the biggest gorilla from taking over everything?" 'All the little gorillas!" she answered. I thought that was pretty good. Then I thought some more. Most of the little gorillas I know are too busy trying to keep food on the table to keep the big gorillas honest. And there's always a big gorilla, or a little gorilla, who wants to dump the waste from their blue jean dying factory in your creek, fill in the local marsh for a new super store, or tell you that you don't need a place to hunt deer anymore, because they need a place to build manure lagoons for their big pig farm, and anyway, they don't want to compete with free venison. There's a big gorilla working for that guy putting fake stories on the internet about how deer hunting and eating venison leads to gun violence and cruelty to animals. Another big gorilla hiring a pretty lady to go on television and tell everybody that clean creeks and fishing aren't as important as a "strong economy." (A "strong economy" is defined by how much money her bosses can save by dumping their waste in your creek, of course. See: China) She'll explain how expensive blow out preventers on offshore oil wells are unnecessary, and might result in higher costs to all of us at the pump this summer. All us little gorillas watch, shake our heads in bewilderment, and go on back to work.

We say we want clean water, fishing, hunting, but then we say we don't want government to have the power to protect those things. Then, for the icing on the cake, we don't have an answer as to who or what will protect those things if the government doesn't do it. (And let's face this fact: our grandparents and parents fought for the laws that protect resources like clean water because they saw what happens when the government doesn't do it. We have enjoyed the fruits of the battles fought by those wiser people, and we have become so used to those fruits that we don't seem to even know how we got them.)

I'll be honest with you. I believe that environment is economy. You can't wreck one without eventually wrecking the other. The nation of Lebanon was once densely forested with cedars. In the past fifty years, Mexico's water supplies have declined by half. Conflict over resources, or the lack of them, causes wars. Masses of people flee environmental degradation and subsequent loss of economic opportunities. Sound familiar? Been to the Mexican border towns recently? How's the hunting?

In every recent poll I've read, about fifty percent of the American people say that protecting the environment is important to them (what the other fifty percent believe would be an interesting study for somebody). And yet, not one of the conservative candidates running for office this November has even mentioned the issue, as far as I have heard. We seem to be on the verge of electing a whole bunch of people who tell us, loudly, how much they hate the government we are electing them to run ("abolish the EPA!"). There is no real Plan B, other than government power, for conservation. What in the world are we doing?