(Jefferson Public Radio Monthly Magazine 1999) 

 Your favorite environmental or land use organization is likely wasting your money. 

That is because they won’t deal with the underlying problem which caused the group’s formation in the first place.

          Boards of directors and managers of environmental and land use groups act like people who might mop up water streaming from a large water valve that floods a beautiful, historic building.  Initially the moppers are unorganized, but they work diligently knowing that it is a good thing to mop up the floodwaters because of the damage water does to a building.  They have full belief in their cause.

          After a time the moppers begin to organize; they collaborate and communicate; they talk about how unfortunate it is to have the flooding and the dire consequences if they don’t do something. They begin to tell others about the problem of the flooding.  They start to seek funds for more absorbent mops, bigger mops, and better mops and to recruit more volunteer moppers.  

          But the flow of water continues, the flooding continues, and the damages increase.  The moppers expand their efforts coming up with even better techniques at fund raising to mitigate the damages from the flood.  They get money for sand bags so the flood won’t spread.  They use funds to research ways to get rid of water faster and more efficiently. They invest in pumps and the means to preserve the wet portions of the structure. 

          They hire staff because favorable publicity makes fund raising easier.  Their equipment and their operations become more sophisticated.  

          The moppers show the great spirit of human endeavor, but no sooner do the moppers protect one area of the building than a new section becomes threatened because the water continues flowing.  Often the moppers fail in their efforts to stop permanent damage from the flooding. Then they mourn the losses and talk of restoration. 

          Time passes and while the moppers can cite some successes, they also admit to failures, but the leaders vow to redouble efforts.    

The absurdity of their collective effort is that no effort is made  to turn off the  water valve which was the source of the problem in the first place. 

          So it is with Headwaters, The Sierra Club, 1000 Friends of Oregon, The Trust for Public Land, The Nature Conservancy, and a multitude of other environmental groups. These groups are filled with well intentioned, committed, well educated, well organized “moppers”  who by ignoring the rapid population growth of the United States focus only on the symptoms but not the underlying cause of their chosen environmental problem .

          The “valve” remains ignored and untouched.  

          Thus, because environmental groups won’t make stopping U.S. population growth a priority, they don’t deal with the original source of U.S. environmental problems.  Thus, while they may have some transitory success, over time they will fail in their mission. 

          And while these groups acquiesce to population growth, they waste your money.  At the same time most have literature incorporating the word “sustainable” which  thrusts such groups into the oxymoronic, contradictory, and impossible position of favoring sustainability while acquiescing to the addition of 25 million Americans each decade, or 250 million more in a century.    

           With friends such as the leaders of our current environmental community,  open spaces, forests, endangered species and wildlife in general don’t need enemies.   That which environmental leaders profess to want to preserve will be increasingly threatened in the face of more habitat destroying sprawl and more impact from millions of additional heavy consuming Americans.  

          Unfortunately many environmental leaders argue that additional people are not the problem.   The say we just need better laws which can be translated as meaning that we need better “mops”.      

           True enough, we may need to continue to pass more laws and to give up ever more freedoms to save a few things, but would we have ever needed so many laws to protect the environment in the U.S. if the population were just 1,000,000 people, or 10,000,000?  And how many more laws will we need when we have 500 million Americans?

          Perhaps environmental and land use groups will someday deal with growth rather than continuing to avoid the “valve”, but in the meantime they waste your money by running organizations fighting symptoms not causes. 

Brent Thompson