After the Rescissions Bill: Implications for the Environmental Movement

by Jim Britell

Summary:  The current strategy of the forest protection movement is dead. Trying to get bad elected officials to do good things is fruitless.

The decision by Clinton to sign the rescission bill shows that the current strategy of forest activists is dead. Our approach of: organizing, writing letters, and putting out what PR we can muster to attack bad bills will not work absent a direct political component. The environmental community beginning with the nationals (other than the Sierra Club, who already has one), must begin forming Political Action Committees and 501(c)4s and moving into direct electoral politics and the direct financing of political campaigns. We must turn the supposedly vast unfocused national sympathy with things environmental into focused results at the polls. The Diaspora of progressives, liberals and social change activists from hands on politics that occurred subsequent to the Democratic convention in Chicago must be reversed and we must begin a return to the political scene. We cannot defend the great mother and ignore the mothers milk of politics.

Trying to get bad elected officials to do good things is fruitless; we must elect good representatives who will instinctively do the right things. If we spent 20% of our time and money in direct politics we would have much more luck than we are now having. Places which should be strong environmentally, like communities which contain mostly college students, are political black holes. Our representatives essentially write them off. On the other hand our opponents are doing grassroots organizing very aggressively.

We live in an increasingly political world. We must change our strategy or risk becoming irrelevant. Elected representatives simply do what the people who elected them want. Environmentalists are not organized and so are simply not a force to be considered. Politicians are telling us, with their annoyance and the rolled eyes and the gaze over our shoulder, unanswered letters, and unreturned phone calls that we are irrelevant to them. They do not care what we think say or do because we are not a political force to be reckoned with. Until we are, we will see a continuing rollback in our environmental laws.

The problem is much more serious than riders or over-logging or over-grazing, these are mere sideshows from the real goal of conservatives which is nothing less than a transfer of public land on a vast unimaginable scale into private hands. We face an enclosure of the continent similar to what happened in England in the middle ages when the commons were enclosed. This effort is financed by mining companies. Timber and grazing and the hard luck stories that they can create are only stalking horses for mining companies which cannot generate public support on their own. The prize is trillions of dollars of coal and oil that is "locked up" beneath public lands. Every organized force except the environmental community who would oppose enclosure has now been eliminated or neutralized now that both parties have merged into the "corporate business party".

The solution to our problems is to finance campaigns for enemies of our opponents. We must organize and register progressives and greens, and select a few companies that finance anti-environmentalists like Chevron and launch boycotts against them.

In the world of politics the operative rule is "grass, gas, or ass; nobody rides for free". We cannot expect environmentalists to: not vote; not work in campaigns; and not contribute to candidates, and then expect politicians to pay any attention to us. Political organizing is very hard, but In politics as in life, the hard way is usually the best way.

©1995 Jim Britell
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