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Tucson Weekly Endangered Feces

People, and their discarded beer cans and condoms, are Part of the natural world, too.

By Jeff Smith

JUNE 1, 1998:  AT THE RISK of sounding utterly self-absorbed, one must observe that the thing that makes me such a breath of fresh air, journalistically speaking, is that I possess at once the naive ingenuousness of the innocent child and the attention-span deficit of the doddering old coot.

Sometimes I can't even tell one from the other.

I share this with you because I got a snarly phone call this morning from a white-haired lady of my acquaintance, who always treats me with rigorous good manners (there's no substitute for a childhood catechism in Mss. Post and Vanderbilt) despite the fact that I'm pretty sure she detests my guts and liver. She was at a high simmer over the notion that I had recently uttered some discouraging words about the ways and means of The Nature Conservancy, which has a considerable pied a terre in our neighborhood, and has a considerable number of the locals alarmed.

Put plainly, the Patagonia community is polarized over The Nature Conservancy and its management of the Sonoita Creek Preserve, and its intentions with regard to newly acquired land and water rights upstream of the town. My caller, if I may characterize the burden of her message, felt I had gone over to The Dark Side, taking up the cause of the know-nothings who have run the town government. I tried to explain that I was just giving the other side its shot at sounding off, since the Conservancy has more good press worldwide than it knows what to do with, but I fear I failed...a fear that is far outweighed by what I perceive to be a fast-approaching crisis of the green movement versus the blue-collar masses.

I've been in the newspaper racket for 30 years, and for all of those years I have espoused the causes of planned, controlled growth, conservation of unspoiled nature, preservation of clean air, water, wildlife...all that good stuff. Now, however, I have gone on record as saying The Nature Conservancy and other green groups are behaving like the proverbial 900-pound gorilla and putting Gila topminnows ahead of Homo Sapiens, and suddenly I'm some kind of scorched-earth Satan.

So for my own peace of mind, and for the greater potential good of providing a safe, demilitarized middle-ground for both sides to meet on, here is my environmentalist manifesto...as of right now:

  • People are part of the natural world. True, they are messier than some, but they also have their moments of clarity, charity and compassion, and their real needs should not be subjugated to those of fish the size of your fingernail.

  • When members and officers of the Sierra Club seriously advocate shutting our borders to immigrants, because such immigrants breed successfully and tend to be messy, we all need to be aware that there is within the green movement an arrogance and elitism that partakes of oligarchy, racism, classicism and outright blind slavishness to an impractical ideal. Sure the Sierra Club board voted the idea down, but it had to go clear to the top before reason prevailed.

  • The planet earth is a self-cleaning oven. We can only go so far in this business of fouling our nest, until the nest itself boots the bad birds out. I do not want to live in a world where the air and water are caustic, and where one can't see an eagle fly. But neither do I want to live in a world where I am denied access to those places where I can witness such wonders. People around here used to picnic on Sonoita Creek when the fit seized them. Some used to park there at night, drink beer and get laid. Now they have to apply for permission to visit the Sanctuary, during certain hours only. Sure, there were cans and condoms left from time to time. Now the litter is more natural...dead cottonwoods and undergrowth managed by non-management and threatening a major fire anytime lightning strikes. Is there room for discussion and compromise here?

  • The Endangered Species Act has proven an instrument both for salvation and bullying. The idea that certain species are indicators to an overall robust ecosystem is a sound one. Where eagles fly and wolves howl you can generally count that nature is in balance. It is a truism that if you find the predators at the top of the food chain healthy and abundant, you will find species on down the ladder adequately represented. When mankind, the ultimate predator, begins micromanaging ecosystems for the benefit of some fern or fish that cannot survive without extraordinary efforts from further up the food-chain, we are meddling with the Laws of Charles Darwin, at our eventual and ultimate peril.

  • No matter how bad things get, Mother Earth will survive and start over again. Worst-case scenario: The last can of hair-spray opens the hole in the ozone so far the polar ice-caps melt, shorting-out the switches that send the missiles skyward and we blow up the planet...which had just gone septic anyway. So all life is incinerated, then drowned, then scattered like funeral ashes from a mountain top...and then what?

  • Gravity eventually pulls the pieces back toward the center of the biggest piece, the air cools, the waters subside, space dust settles on the planetary surface, lightning strikes the right recipe of primordial ooze, and life as we once knew it here on earth begins all over again.
In the meantime, to quote Rodney King: "Can't we all just get along?"


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