Do Those Defending the Dams Deserve to Lose?
Last week, I received a full-color, four-folded cardboard (i.e., very expensive) mass mailing from the "Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition". It is riddled with lies about the Snake River Dams and their effects upon salmon. The anti-dam forces recognize that the upcoming hearings, commencing February 3rd in Portland, are vital to pressure the Clinton/Gore Administration to make the crazy but politically-correct decision to recommend destroying the Snake River Dams. They are holding "pre-hearing" workshops, telling people to say "We Need Salmon" and "Those Dams Don't Make Sense". They declare: "The scientific and economic case for dam removal has already been made--what really matters to the elected decision-makers is what you think". Crazy or not, the anti-dam forces are demonstrating real leadership, organization, and effectiveness. Their propaganda is first-rate:
What are the pro-dam forces doing? Virtually nothing, by comparison. The mighty public utilities across the Region, instrumental in building the dams, remain virtually silent. They can simply charge more if the dams are removed. The farm and navigation lobbies are tiny and outgunned at every turn. The unions are distracted with labor struggles. A handful of citizen advocates soldier on, disorganized and unfunded. It is long past time for all these forces to converge in a well-organized Save Our Dams coalition.
But there is no backing for such a coalition, because pro-dam citizens are a complacent minority. They foolishly trust "the process", trust "the science", and trust their elected officials. Yet their Federal and State representatives fumble about, rubber-stamping appropriations that funnel millions of dollars to the anti-dam forces, and creating reams of junk science. Their State and local representatives quake in fear of unjust and unlawful Federal assertions of authority, acting as if they were powerless rather than merely timid. To the east, Maine's Governor stands alone in defending State sovereignty from bogus Federal salmon listings, saying "c'mon; I may have been born at night, but it wasn't last night."
Can anyone doubt that fishery managers who push "back-to-nature" management policies that reduce salmon survival, while while growing giant colonies of federally-protected salmon predators, are both unjust and unreasonable? Can anyone doubt that fishery managers who shut down irrigators who kill a handful of baby salmon yet release millions of the same fish from hatcheries are unjust and unreasonable? Can anyone doubt that fishery managers who let people sell endangered salmon for $1.50 a pound but threaten to prosecute people who keep their house too warm are unjust and unreasonable? Can anyone doubt that fishery managers who tell people they can't have a lawn within 200 feet of a creek, when they can't even count the salmon catch they authorize are unjust and unreasonable? And can anyone doubt that the people in charge of those fishery managers who let them do all these things are presiding over a corrupted and unjust system?
What is the only effective tactic available to a minority against an unjust and unreasonable majority? Civil disobedience. Civil disobedience wins victories day by day, across the Nation, even where the majority policies are not unjust and unreasonable. Leftist newletters proclaim "Victory in Seattle". Homosexual activists who "ACT UP" get funding for AIDS while other diseases that kill far more Americans, like breast cancer, are underfunded. Just this week, minorities seeking a racial spoils system caused Florida Governor Jeb Bush to back down, "ending a 20-hour sit-in by two state lawmakers who had refused to leave his office suite".
Why don't Washington State lawmakers whose constituents depend upon the dams conduct sit-ins? Why don't the citizens do it themselves? Alexander Solzhenitzyn may offer the answer: "A decline in courage may be the most striking feature which the outside observer notices in the West in our days. The Western world has lost its civil courage."
Those who seek to expand the power and role of central government do not lack courage or conviction. Those who believe that regulation and coercion are the one true path to salmon recovery do not lack courage or conviction. Those who accept "conservation science" contradicted by measurable facts do not lack courage or conviction. Down their path lies not only the loss of freedom, but also the loss of salmon, just as central planning in Soviet economies produced and produces more environmental damage than any capitalist economy. If Northwesterners lack the courage and the will to speak and act against these forces, they are destined to lose both their freedom and their salmon.
As Frederick Douglass observed long ago:
"Those who profess to favor freedom, yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will."
The power over Northwestern salmon recovery is in the hands of unjust and unreasonable political appointees, whose theories and policies could not survive the careful scrutiny of any jury of ordinary citizens. Without a struggle, they will never relinquish that power. Northwesterners who don't join that struggle will deserve what they get. Unfortunately, the rest of us will get it too.
James Buchal, January 24, 2000
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