A funny way to market a movement

Excerpts from two posts at ordinarily superb sources of green news. First, Grist Mill (continuing the ongoing discussion of what makes a good carbon offset):

For example, I own several acres of forestland. I can turn that land over to a conservation trust and they will manage it, in theory, forever. The idea behind conservation trusts is to permanently prevent development. The contract you sign can allow some things to happen on that land. For example, you can allow it to be logged. You can also have some structures on it, or even live on it. You just can’t do anything else to the land not stipulated in the original contract. The conservation trust idea is really taking off and has preserved millions of acres of land. I purchased my land from an old logging baron family. The other parcels were sold to Joe Sixpacks who plan to park their retirement double-wides on them when electric power becomes available, assuming their obesity and drinking does not get them first. Had carbon offsets and conservation trusts existed at the time, that timber family might have put all that recently logged forestland into trusts instead of selling it to the local rednecks.

The post is by Seattle resident Russ Finley, writing as “biodiversivist.”

Second, Celsias’s Craig Mackintosh on organic farming:

The factories and chemical companies that made huge profits from dealing death to the earth’s human inhabitants during wartime – especially World War II – quickly found a new direction for their efforts when killing people quickly was no longer acceptable. They began to use their chemicals to kill us slowly instead.

But, we’re starting to fight back, and the truth is getting out. The agribusiness justifications for their war on the earth is beginning to be seen for what it really is – pure propaganda.

Here’s the news release on a University of Michigan study that Mackintosh is working from. It sounds pretty interesting, though not interesting enough to pay $20 to a journal just to see whether it’s all it’s cracked up to be.

Now look. These are the people that have to be won over if this thing is going to work. The factories and the chemical companies can maybe be written off, but only if the obese rednecks can be convinced to stop buying the stuff they sell. Otherwise, it’s going to have to be an alliance.

Mackintosh, in particular, ought to be ashamed of that tripe. Can anyone seriously believe that chemical companies so enjoyed killing people during the Second World War that they got into the fertilizer business so they could keep doing it? That fighting “a war against our world” is really what anybody outside of a James Bond movie gets up to do in the morning? What blithering nonsense is that?

Errors, yes. Concealing of unpleasant and unexpected side-effects and byproducts, sure. Corporate malfeasance, as much as anywhere else, no doubt. But a deliberate effort to kill for its own sake?

Honest to God. People who are serious about environmentalism cannot crap on other human beings this way and expect to be taken seriously.

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4 responses to “A funny way to market a movement

  1. Ashamed? No, not at all. I’m no more ashamed to speak out against agribusiness corporations than I am against cigarette companies or oil-industry financed global warming skeptic hire-a-crowds.

    But a deliberate effort to kill for its own sake?

    Don’t be stupid. That’s not what I said at all. Of course none of them get up in the morning, stretch, then start thinking, "Wow – I love my job, where I get paid to kill people".
    But, when they systematically stifle any evidence that would show the damage their industry is doing (as all three industries mentioned above have), then they are killing people through neglect, and by ignoring the dictates of conscience – by letting their livelihoods take precedence over lives, and over obective admission and analysis of information.

    Errors, yes. Concealing of unpleasant and unexpected side-effects and byproducts, sure.

    When we’re dealing with issues of the bio-magnification of pesticides, water overuse and contamination, massive CO2 release from over-aerated and abused soils, then I struggle to see how you can be so complacent. You don’t see the "concealing of unpleasant and unexpected side-effects and byproducts" as killing people? How is that not killing people? And, more to the point – why do you insinuate this is acceptable?
    I would encourage you to dig a little deeper, and not be so easily satisfied. While we have grown complacent as a culture, taught to rest comfortably and apathetically in front of our televisions, there’s no reason to discourage action and protest against misdirected priorities.

    Honest to God. People who are serious about environmentalism cannot crap on other human beings this way and expect to be taken seriously.

    Unless your parents raised you on their own little organic farm, and you’ve grown all your own food as an adult – then these companies have been crapping on you your whole life. And, as the correlations between environmental pollutants and cancer and other maladies is becoming increasingly clear, then they’re making your (and my) life a crap-shoot. I hate playing the odds when I eat and drink – especially when I know it’s totally unecessary.
    I would encourage you to read the links above. Learn a little about how the soil and natural systems function, and you may just begin to see that ‘conventional’ agriculture is not only harmful, but wholly inefficient.

  2. I’m not challenging any of that, though you’re again displaying the tactic I find so objectionable: classing someone who isn’t full-throatedly supporting you as someone who thinks it’s OK to kill people.

    You tell me not to be stupid for reading your post to suggest chemical companies kill people on purpose. How else is someone to interpret this passage from your original post:

    While we may not currently be living in an age of a ‘World War’, we are definitely living in an age of a systematised war against our world. And, just like wars with bullets and bombs, there is a lot of money being made out of our misery.

    The factories and chemical companies that made huge profits from dealing death to the earth’s human inhabitants during wartime – especially World War II – quickly found a new direction for their efforts when killing people quickly was no longer acceptable. They began to use their chemicals to kill us slowly instead.

    (Bolding mine.)

    If factories and chemical companies are engaged in a “systematised war against our world,” how can they be anything but bad guys? In this rhetorical construction, you’ve put them in the role of Second World War Germany. Maybe that’s not what you intended, but that’s what you’ve done.

    The only way this thing ends, in your rhetorical construction, is with an abject defeat of the killers who are victimizing the innocent people. If I’m a chemical engineer or a botanist who works for ADM or Monsanto, and I read this characterization of my work after having it made clear to me that either I’m with Craig Mackintosh or I’m with the poisoners, how am I expected to react?

    This is not productive, is my point. While there are plenty of places on the Web to find irrational radicalism in the name of pretty much any cause you can imagine, I was surprised to find it at Celsias.

  3. At the risk of getting bogged down in a pointless discussion, I’ll try to clear up the obvious misunderstanding you have. And will do so in the order you present your thoughts.

    I’m not challenging any of that…

    I don’t know what "that" is, but I guess you’re agreeing with something I’ve said.

    … though you’re again displaying the tactic I find so objectionable: classing someone who isn’t full-throatedly supporting you as someone who thinks it’s OK to kill people.

    "supporting me"? I wasn’t asking anyone to do so. I most certainly do not believe that people who are not "supporting me" ought to be executed. We’re getting lost on obscure tangents here. You are finding a lot more between my lines than I can see….
    In regards to "killing people", I think this is the heart of your confusion. You seem to be getting bogged down in the motivation of individuals involved in the agribusiness industry. I tried to use the point of cigarette companies and paid AGW Skeptics for a reason – I’ll elaborate here as it is obviously not coming across clearly. Imagine you lived in the age when cigarette manufacturers were just toothless sandal-wearing ‘bacca-chewing peasants – back, say, 150 years. There were no big cigarette manufacturing industries pumping out millions of packets p/day and advertising via every avenue available to them. Now, you, a fresh-faced entrepreneur with a few dollars in your pocket and a some friends in the right places, decide to start a cigarette factory. At this point in time, you, along with a great many of your contemporaries, believe cigarettes have therapeutic powers. You become highly successful. Eventually, your great-grandson, heir to much-enlarged empire, learns that the products of your/his hands are killing people. Neither you, nor your grandson, went into the industry intending to kill people – but, that is exactly what you’ve done. Is it not?
    Now, take this a step further. Your grandson is now faced with a dilemma. He could: a) decide that he doesn’t want cancer, misery, and death to be his legacy, and he, at great expense, ceases to produce said cigarettes and goes into another line of production, and becomes a hero of his day, b) decides to keep producing cigarettes, but, feeling his responsibility to the masses, cooperates fully with authorities and scientists in ensuring the public are fully aware of all known risks and not wanting to promote or encourage people to smoke decides to minimise or eliminate advertising, or c) in a bid to ensure maximum profits, at any costs, decides to play hard ball, and hires legal and public relations teams that cast doubt on all scientific studies and uses every dirty trick in the book to ensure as many people as possible continue smoking, and that they are encouraged to do so as soon as they are legally eligible (or earlier, if possible).
    Because of the time you lived, you were an unwitting murderer. You could call it ‘manslaughter’. Your grandson, if he takes option ‘a’, has nobly gone from ignorantly killing people to prioritising life over death and conscience over profits. He’s a hero. If he takes option ‘b’, he’s being an honest responsible fellow (a bit like Monsanto would be if they wouldn’t stop leveraging their influence in federal polices to stop the labelling of GMOs). People that smoke after his actions are making their own choice. Your grandson, however, is still an ‘accessory’.
    Now, if your grandson takes option ‘c’ – he’s killing people, and he knows it. He’s decided ‘people have to die sometime’, or has somehow justified his encouraging as many people as possible to take up the deadly habit. He probably drinks alot, but he gets to keep the yacht.
    So, on this line I would ask you a very simple question. Are cigarette companies killing people? Pretty much everyone on the planet would answer "yes", based on current science (with the possible exception of Marlborough Exec’s standing in a courtroom). We have to say, yes, they are, because the science is there. It doesn’t matter what a worker on the production line thinks when he gets up in the morning – that wasn’t, as I emphasised in my previous comment, my concern. The industry is killing people.
    And, to emphasise – the primary motivation here is not to kill people. It’s is to make money. If, along the way, it becomes clear that you’re making money by shortening people’s lives, then you get to make some serious choices. Depending on what you choose, you get labelled accordingly. If you put profits before people, then I get to call a spade a spade.

    If factories and chemical companies are engaged in a “systematised war against our world,” how can they be anything but bad guys?

    Those that know that their chemicals are killing our soils and contaminating our water tables, and yet decide to stifle any studies that show this, and systematically quash any research that might attempt to show a better, healthier, more sustainable way of farming, could well be called ‘bad guys’. I don’t have a problem with that. 🙂

    In this rhetorical construction, you’ve put them in the role of Second World War Germany. Maybe that’s not what you intended, but that’s what you’ve done.

    I am indeed doing that – and for good reason. It’s historic fact. Chemical companies were hired by the U.S. and British governments to supply chemicals as weapons for use in WWII. They made plenty of money doing it, and grew in scale.
    After WWII, rather than downsize again, they slightly modified some of their chemicals (nerve agents, amongst others), and promoted their use as pesticides, and other chemicals as herbicides. They kept the funds flowing by replacing their customer – exchanging the war-time governments with farmers:
    "Before 1940, most pesticides were made from plants; a few were made from toxic metals like arsenic and mercury. But the synthetic chemicals created for chemical warfare during World War II were found to be highly effective weed and insect killers. So in 1945, with strong government backing, these poisons entered commercial markets. Within ten years, synthetic pesticides had captured 90% of the agricultural pest-control market. Pesticides such as dichloro diphenyl trichloroethane (DDT), dieldrin, and aldrin were dropped from planes like bombs over Dresden. State and federal government agencies blanketed neighborhoods with poisons in an attempt to eradicate pests like gypsy moths and Japanese beetles. Farmers used DDT and other synthetic insecticides on a variety of crops, including cotton, peanuts, and soybeans. Suburbanites embraced the new chemicals in their war against perceived nuisances like crab grass and dandelions." – dollars & sense
    Again, the motivation was not to kill people – the motivation was trying to find a way to make money. There were people speaking out against pouring poison into our environment, but their observations were ridiculed and stifled. Rather than objective examination – it was a push-forward-at-any cost mentality, just like the cigarette manufacturers, and just like the AGW Skeptic groups.
    I call it war on our environment, because this is what it is. It is not working in harmony with nature, it is systematically polluting and destroying it. And, even they don’t shy away from this understanding:
    "The war mentality underlying military-industrial agriculture is evident from the names given to herbicides…. Monsanto’s herbicides are called “Round up”, “Machete”, “Lasso”. American Home Products which has merged with Monsanto calls its herbicides `Pentagon’, `Prowl’, `Scepter’, `Squadron’, `Cadre’, `Lightening’, `Assert’, `Avenge’. This is the language of war, not sustainability. Sustainability is based on peace with the earth."- Virdana Shiva

    The only way this thing ends, in your rhetorical construction, is with an abject defeat of the killers who are victimizing the innocent people.

    It depends on what you mean by ‘defeat’? The purpose is to make people aware – to educate consumers to make correct purchasing decisions, and to leverage any other tools of influence they may have to encourage and incentivise a move away from a death-based agricultural system. Again, looking at the cigarette model – same thing. Make people aware, and seek to stop these companies externalising the real costs of their business.

    If I’m a chemical engineer or a botanist who works for ADM or Monsanto, and I read this characterization of my work after having it made clear to me that either I’m with Craig Mackintosh or I’m with the poisoners, how am I expected to react?

    How about asking Kirk whether the company he worked for is more interested in the well-being of the planet and the people that feed off it – or in profits. But, again, you’re gettng bogged down in personal motivations – which will vary from person to person, depending on their level of ignorance and/or participation. I was speaking about the industry as a whole.

    This is not productive, is my point.

    What is not productive? Making people aware that it’s not necessary to poison our world in order to live? David – people are dying, becoming infertile, and children have deformities and other terrible afflictions, all because we persevere with pesticides and herbicides and ignore alternatives.

    While there are plenty of places on the Web to find irrational radicalism in the name of pretty much any cause you can imagine, I was surprised to find it at Celsias.

    You must not stop by that often. 🙂
    Since you obviously replied without having read the articles I suggested you should, perhaps a movie on this would be more your thing?
    Again – a question: Do cigarette companies kill people? If "yes", then I rest my case. If "no", then you’ll have to take this up with the thousands of scientists that would argue that point with you further. There is no difference between these two issues. The only possible problem you may be having is your knowledge of the issues of synthetic chemicals vs. natural systems is like that of people that once thought cigarettes were good for you. i.e. you need to, as I said, dig a little deeper…. Some of the articles I’ve supplied are a good place to start – being primers on important topics like soil science, natural pest control, soil-based CO2 mitigation, water conservancy, etc. All super-serious issues that agribusinesses have been ‘systematically’ aggravating.
    Best.

  4. I think we’re both finding this so frustrating because we’re arguing about different things. My complaint, in the first place and now, is about tone and tactics. Being right is not useful if the manner you use to make your argument turns off your audience — that’s my entire simple un-nuanced point. In response, you insinuate I’m ignorant.

    People in a position to change things, whether it’s the powerful few with the votes in Congress or Parliament, or the mass of voters and consumers who can make change collectively, do not respond well to that style of argumentation. They write the whole movement off as a pet cause of lefties and hippies who belong on the margins. Sure, they’re wrong to do so, but they’re the ones with the money and the votes, and if change is going to happen, they have to be brought onside, not battled the same unproductive way they have been for decades.

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