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Git Home!

Up Front

A shill of industrial polluters.

By C.J. Hadley

It started innocently enough. Hate mail on the Internet because a surfer found RANGE. “Are you serious?” Joe Ward wrote. “Anyone with eyes can see that filthy cows running around loose constitute the single greatest threat to the American West. What’s an anti-environmental outfit like RANGE doing under an ‘Ecology’ category? I see your strategy: infiltrate! You must really think people are stupid, that we’d fall for your villainous deceit.”

I enjoyed his drama and told him that 99 percent of a cow is used for positive purposes (food, clothing, pharmaceuticals, industrial use, etc.). “What else can claim that? Send me your facts about damaging cattle and the source and I’ll print it. I’m ready for some real science that is not environmental propaganda.”

Joe wasn’t impressed: “Seen the headlines?” he asked. “Hope you didn’t bring ‘Mad Cow’ disease to this continent, you wanker.... It may not be polite to refer to others with derogatory appellations but your advocacy for a destructive (erosion) and dangerous (heart disease) industry, on behalf of a political and economic elite, earns it.”
My attention was waning: “How little you know,” I said. “How tight your paradigms. Pity.”

That pissed him off. “My paradigms don’t fit yours. That makes them ‘tight’ and me a know-nothing, huh?” he fumed. “The thing is, I don’t believe that you are truly stupid enough to believe in the paradigms you espouse. Rather, you’re a hired gun, a mercenary, for a very powerful howbeit socially irresponsible industrial cartel. You are essentially a lobbyist and propagandist. Too bad that the beef producers and cattlemen’s associations can afford to pay you better than can, say, the Sierra Club. Too bad your conscience allows you to sell yourself to the highest bidder, even though their interests wreck the land and public health.”
It was my turn. “You interest me. I definitely am not a hired gun. I am a New York City journalist who came West in 1972 and discovered strange things going on. I know no socially irresponsible industrialists. I know families who produce food and who care about the land and wildlife. I know communities that are reeling under pressures that make no sense, because of powerful environmental groups and Washington lobbyists.... Have you been out on the land with a scientist and a rancher together? I hope you’ll share what you know with me. Right now, you’ve told me nothing I can learn from.”

Joe calmed down: “There’s nothing less than a war going on CJ. It’s a war for the quality of life and veritable survival of, if not ourselves, then certainly of our children and grandchildren. The seas are over-fished, the forests unsustainably logged, the land overgrazed and severely eroded. Atmospheric chemistry dynamics are disrupted. Species and genetic diversity is in precipitous decline. It is imperative that we who love life, love nature and care about the long term well-being of our descendants do our utmost to limit human population growth, limit consumption of fossil fuels, preserve biodiversity and eat lower on the food-chain. If archaic, inviable (sic) lifestyles need be curtailed and entrenched economic interests disadvantaged…well, that’s the casualty of war.... How will you wish to be remembered? As a silly Easterner enamored with the cowboy mystique, advocating for blood-thirsty carnivory at the expense of the land and of cardiovascular health? Or as a champion of conservation in the spirit of John Muir, Aldo Leopold, Paul and Anne Ehrlich and Edward O. Wilson? Do you, in your journalistic wisdom, accuse these significant scientists, these great hearts and minds, of holding ‘tight’ paradigms, of being know-nothings? Who has credibility, a NYC cowgirl wannabe, or they?”

Dr. Barney Nelson is a college professor and scholar of environmental literature. “Science is theory, not fact,” she says. “Muir was a self-educated drifter, not a range scientist. Leopold recommends giving responsibility for stewardship to the landowner. The Ehrlichs and Wilson are often dismissed as apocalyptic. Ward seems to be a ‘fundamentalist’ of apocalypticism who sees his beliefs as a religion rather than something that can be investigated–so he’s not going to change his mind if Einstein himself tells him he’s wrong.”

The scientists Joe mentioned (and we’ve written about many of them) have views I respect but they are talking about science that’s 50 years out of date. “Desertification is only a symptom of worldwide biodiversity loss,” scientist Allan Savory says, “which has bedeviled all nations and now the world for centuries.” Joe should read Savory’s “Holistic Management: A New Framework for Decision-making,” Island Press, 1998 (I’ll pay for the copy). Obviously, Joe cares and desires a better world with abundant biodiversity on stable and productive lands. This is what the people RANGE writes about are working for. Savory says, “There’s no need for the endless bickering between ranchers and environmentalists. We all want the same things.”

Joe’s been quiet lately, won’t tell me where he lives, but it’s tough to forget the fact that I’ve been called, pretty much, “a shill of industrial polluters.” He’s talking about sheepherders; good people who care. He’s talking about loggers like Bruce Vincent; there are none better. He’s talking about cattle ranchers who leave the land in better shape than they found it, like Sid Goodloe, the Sun family, Ray Marxer and countless others. He’s talking about an extraordinary animal whose value is without equal and that can improve the ground she walks on.

If RANGE was sustained in a significant way we could reach more folks like Joe (less than 3% of our support came from the livestock industry last year). What say you, cowboys? Are you ready to help your “shill”? What say you, Joe? Do you want a subscription?


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last page update: 04.03.05