False dichotomies and the green movement

Well! Evil to some is always good to others.
~Jane Austen

I run across the false dichotomy all the time. This time, it was some young, ignorant kids on the internet starting up their own little group called “Help Our Wolves Live.” I have no problem with their group, but as I looked at what they were saying, I realize I would not be welcome there. I’m an advocate of wolf reintroduction, but I’m also an advocate of wolf management. Something these kids, in their ignorance, would probably call “murder.” They are entitled to their views, which, I imagine would likely change were they to pursue the course of study I did. Wildlife biology has a way of stripping some of the idealism out of you.

I once read Renee Askins memoir about her part in the fight to reintroduce wolves into Yellowstone National Park. She made no qualms about the fact that she was not a fan of telemetry collars or wolf management in general. I can understand her stance. A managed wolf population can’t really be considered wholly “free” or “wild.”

But in this day and age, with a growing population and the expanding range of humanity, wolves in the lower forty-eight without management will ultimately doom further wolf reintroduction efforts. Popular opinion is changing, but it’s changing slower in the West. And with human expansion there are few places for wolves to go without eventually running into our livestock. If wolves are to be reintroduced, management is going to be needed.

But sometimes it feels that this middle ground between hands-off wolves and no wolves at all disappears. And it’s not just limited to young kids on the internet. Some prominent environmental groups refused to support Yellowstone wolf reintroduction because of the “experimental, non-essential” designation of the Yellowstone populations, which allowed wolves to be killed if they proved to become a threat to humans or livestock.

And this runs rampant throughout the green movement. You can either accept the dogma wholly, fully, hook-line-and-sinker, or you’re lumped in with the not-greens. The polluters and Big Oil and People Who Drive Hummers. This leaves out the people who don’t believe in climate change, or people who don’t feel that paper recycling is beneficial, or the ones who have bigger fish to fry than worrying about how sustainable their food is. It takes a village.

There’s also the false dichotomy of “development is bad.” Not all development is bad, and not all “rewilding” projects are good. Everyone’s trying to plant trees. Trees here, trees there, trees fucking everywhere. Well, I live in the Post Oak Savanna of Texas. A savanna, according to Wikipedia, is a “grassland ecosystem characterized by the trees being sufficiently small or widely spaced so that the canopy does not close.” Some areas now of our former savanna look more like forest. We don’t need more trees, we need fewer. But clearing vegetation and the cutting of trees is almost universally villainized.

I shouldn’t even start on artificial vs. natural, or “humans are bad.”

These dichotomies and over-simplifications only serve to harm, ultimately. The environmental situation is too complex for people to box things in neat little categories like “killing wolves is bad.” Some generalizations can be made, yes, but things also need to be considered in the context of the particular situation.

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2 Responses to “False dichotomies and the green movement”

  1. It’s really weird, when you think about it, that even with the preponderance of evidence to support their inadequacy, humans are still seemingly almost dependent on dualities. Maybe it’s for simplification of the other thing people seem nigh unalterably attached to: categorization and separation.

    Don’t get me wrong, the latter there has purpose and usefulness, and is very important. But, as all things, with proper moderation.

  2. Even things like “plant native species” aren’t as simple as they sound. Well said.

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