I’ve had a debate about these words within myself, with others who deal with the land on a daily basis, as well as the general public. I have come to wonder if some of those words don’t complicate proposed actions at an intellectual, emotional and political level. If President Bush, of all people, can talk about his ‘Green’ actions without controversy then why can’t Environmentalists and Greens?
Why? Words and ‘frames’. Simply words and ‘frames’. Trigger words that create ‘frames’. I am going to offer one possible solution to this reality. (This is a long article and I won’t put most of it on the front page.)
The Environmentalist movement is commonly seen as a restrictive force because of history and actions of the movement. They have, unintentionally, created an image of obstruction not protection in many powerful political circles. Their actions to protect every species, including the spotted owl, created the Right’s favorite condemnation phrase, and frames any ‘environmental’ discussion. This ‘automatic frame‘ in those powerful political circles obstructs their mission.
Green advocates, on the other hand, are seen as taking action to lower the impact of humans on the earth. Their primary advocacy is seen as lowering energy consumption therefore protecting the planet. Yet they also advocate the protection of species. That’s not part of their public media image. While their mission is essentially the same as Environmentalists, Green advocates are not automatically grouped with Environmentalists in the minds of most people. They trigger a different image a different ‘frame‘ of reference. It is a positive image. Green isn’t a trigger word. Yet.
Conservationists are a group of people that by their choice to join politically active groups or occupation are a long standing low-profile advocacy group that hasn’t been highly publicized. Conservationists recognize that the overuse or destruction of the earth resources, including species, damage the many interlocking sectors of society as a whole. They also understand the need to lower the impact of humans on the planet.
While the ‘Enviromental’ lobby and the Green movement are seen as liberal groups, the Conservancy movement includes people that are generally scene as highly conservative. The formal organizations have members just as any other group from a wide spectrum. They are joined, formally or informally, by farmers, ranchers, city users of manufactured or raw material that is dependent on earth resources. Are they aware that they are part of the movement? Probably not.
The Conservancy movement already brings together very disparate groups and individuals from every political persuasion in the effort to save the earth. The agricultural community, which already has a growing awareness of the common goals, could be formally brought into the movement.
Why is a farmer automatically a Conservationist? Here’s an example the city person wouldn’t generally realize. If the farmer plants a heavy nitrogen consumptive crop he knows, by scientific data he receives and uses from the Net and advanced technology, that he must rotate his crops to protect the health and productivity of the land. If he doesn’t take a Conservationist view he will eventually destroy his income producing property.
He must conserve the earth that is under his control so he doesn’t damage himself and the market by not being able to produce his crop. So he’s an Environmentalist, a view he would instantly reject; a Green, a view he would also instantly reject and a Conservationist, a view that might take some explaining but one he couldn’t deny. He lives closer to Conservation than anyone. There is a growing political awareness of this reality in the agricultural community. Partnerships between Conservationist organizations and ranchers are becoming more common in the West.
Conservationists are dedicated to the same goals as the environmentalists and green advocates. They want to conserve and create new methods of conserving the planets resources. Show a Conservationist, especially a person that makes their living from the land with highly expensive equipment, a way to save on fuel, either gas or diesel, and they will jump at it. Their reactions are the same as either the Environmentalist or Green movement.
Yet the movement for Conservation has little or no politically framed opposition. Yet.
If all three movements are dedicated to the same goal, reducing the human impact on the planet while maintaining a high quality of life, why do we continue to frame the discussion and offer political actions using the primary negative trigger and ‘frame’: Environmentalist?
It is, of course, partly a matter of habit in most minds, including mine. I have to work at remembering I’m, personally, part of a Conservation movement.
It is a reality, however, that a change in the use of words can change the outcome of a action or discussion. Starting a discussion with a new frame of reference will have a substantial impact.
I firmly believe that the simple use of the word Conservationist could, with long-term effort, unite not only Environmentalists and Green advocates but the historically politically conservative agricultural community. That partnership and bundling of political resources would make successful political action much more likely. The actions necessary to achieve a new unity and ‘frame’ would be very difficult for many members of each group. But all great things are difficult. We all know that reality as adults.
I believe it could be the most important change in the growing movement to save the earth. I propose we begin uniting these three movements and their organizations. Let us, the members, begin the effort to unite these three groups to reach our common goals.
It’s a controversial proposal.
What do you feel? What do you think? They are two different reactions. Let’s talk!