IS ECOPOWER GOING TO SOME PEOPLE'S HEADS?
Not surprisingly, human nature has changed little in the two decades since I first wrote a column about "ecopower." The message seems worth repeating.
Do you ever feel like paperwork is being created so someone can keep her job and justify her salary? Ever have a suspicion that someone is enforcing a regulation to increase his own self-importance, rather than to uphold the spirit of a rule? If not, I assume it is because you live on a galaxy far, far away, or in a time long, long ago.
Having become accustomed to such attitudes of control and enforcement in many professions, we should not be surprised to find them in the ecology arena. To continue to live on this planet, we must have environmental guidelines and policies. In fact, the environment has become a significant concern in the United States and the world.
With the current enthusiasm for and hype about "saving the environment," a human trait has emerged, one that surfaces when any issue reaches the top of the charts: a desire to be in control, sometimes referred to as a power syndrome. What we might call "ecopower" when it involves the environment. Many people make their living in the field of ecology or in the swirl of environmental issues and activities. These include research ecologists, regulatory agents, environmentalists, users--and abusers--of the land, and various types of environmental managers and mismanagers. The desire for ecopower can emerge from any quarter.
One group includes land developers, timber companies, and the coal industry. Ecopower is important to them because they believe their prosperity is threatened by stringent environmental regulations. These groups, along with certain wealthy or powerful individuals, would prefer to do as they please environmentally, with no limits or controls. Such attitudes are neither new nor unexpected. Understandably, they want to have unlicensed rights to use the land's resources without other people telling them what to do.
Another expression of ecopower comes in the sphere of environmental regulation. State and federal agencies are brimming over with individuals and groups who demand they be given the authority to establish rules and regulations that everyone must follow. Ecopower is evident when these rules and regulations are enforced as a means of demonstrating one's power, by making people fill out forms or follow rules, rather for the purpose of creating a better environment.
Paperwork has increased to a level that will create new records for recycling programs. In every part of the environmental arena, one finds paperwork being generated simply to emphasize someone's importance or power. The paperwork also assures the continuation of what some view as contrived, nonessential jobs.
Some of the environmental decisions being made today by regulatory agencies are unquestionably thoughtful and useful. But we must be on guard for other motives. For example, I know personally of a committee meeting at a regulatory agency in which someone said, "We must fine the company so they will know who is in charge." The emphasis was not on encouraging the company to do a better job environmentally; the purpose of the fine was to demonstrate the power of a particular state agency.
Power and control also seem to be the hallmarks of some private, nonprofit environmental groups, organizations that insist things be done their way. Control oriented individuals can be identified in some national groups, people who are adamant that their advice on environmental matters must be heeded. When a desire for ecopower emerges, compromise does not appear to be an option.
syndrome will be a problem whenever people interact on any issue. In fact,
it is encouraging that the environment has become important enough that
this human characteristic has emerged to such a level. However, concern
for the environment is a relatively new phenomenon, one where not all
the target issues have been clearly defined. We must be vigilant in our
efforts to work toward a satisfactory environmental model that is workable
and acceptable to most of us. We must also be ever watchful and aware
of those whose primary interest is not environmental protection but a
display of their own power.
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