It is hard to know whether Representative Devin Nunes writes his blog himself. The posts are all in the first person singular, and one should assume that someone claiming to write a blog is the real author. On the other hand, don’t elected people have staff for stuff like this? And he writes pretty good for an ag business major with a masters in agriculture. I sat in a lot of classes with ag majors and I didn’t come away thinking of them as writers. I wonder because I found his recent post deeply strange, and wanted to talk about what it reveals of the author.
First, the title:
Unnatural Greenies: The Two Faces of Radical Environmentalism
“Radical environmentalism” is an attempt at a new catchphrase, right? I’ve seen it around more in the past six months. I’m not sure what it is supposed to convey. Some combination of the Earth Liberation Front and Center for Biological Diversity, only in body paint? Is it in implied contrast to mainstream environmentalism, which the speaker can mostly accept, so long as it sticks to anti-litter campaigns and de-oiling birds? Supposed to imply that the speaker is reasonable and could treat with reasonable environmentalists, but not these radical ones? The opener, “Unnatural greenies”, only reinforces that, although I suspect it is more supposed to be clever. Like, greenies are supposed to be “natural”, but these aren’t, get it? Heh heh.
The first paragraph shows an apocalyptic view of the conflict. If the radical environmentalists get their way, the SJV will be transformed into desert. The whole thing. Nothing but dunes, from Sierra to Coast Range. Well, far as I know, I’m making the most radical predictions on the water blogs, and my prediction is that we’ll lose 3 million acres of ag in the next several decades, out of 10 million acres of ag in the state (from reduced runoff from climate change). Further, I think ag could stabilize with a robust east side industry, which is Nunes’ own district. (Besides, if I got my own radical way, (parts of) the SJV would return to grasslands and seasonal marsh, not desert.) But, the author of that blog post thinks that he is battling against desertification of the whole San Joaquin Valley.
Then comes my favorite paragraph:
To this end, environmental radicals, operating in the name of Gaia, Mother Earth, the wiccan religion and a host of other cult-like organizations, have litigated, legislated and extorted away the water needed for San Joaquin Valley communities.
This is who Rep. Nunes thinks makes up the environmental community? What? I have to make a list.
- First, I’m pretty unhappy with the imputation of false gods. Now, I don’t think it is an insult to say that someone worships something besides an Abrahamic god, but my understanding is that from within narrow-minded sections of Abrahamic faiths, accusing people of serving other gods is a serious business. Thou shalt worship no other, and all that. The author is throwing around serious charges, and I don’t know if it is worse if he means it or is spewing the garble in his head.
- The gods listed are Gaia, Mother Earth and hilariously, wicca. This list, all female, sounds to me like a very, very short step away from calling environmentalists “uppity women.” It also makes me wonder what powerful woman could be haunting the author.
- Doesn’t this sound like small-minded rural folks talking about the scary (unnatural) people in the big cities? Does the author look on LA and SF and see cult-captured freaks? Is that why he doesn’t see urban environmentalists as reasoning opposition? They’re crazy even aside from wanting to turn the Valley into deserts!
- The only pagan anything I’ve heard about in ages is the Winnemem Wintu prayer at the Salmonid conference. Don’t know if that’s what set off Rep. Nunes, but if it wasn’t that prayer, that means he thinks of enviros as deeply Other all the time. Suspicious, chick, urban Others. Radical. Unnatural.
The third paragraph is interesting; it confirms my earlier take on Westlands’ maneuvering.
Yet despite their ability to command the agenda of our government through powerful alliances in Congress, none of the endangered fish have shown signs of recovery.
From within the House of Representatives, Rep. Nunes (or his staffer and blog writer) believes enviros command the agenda of our government and are powerfully allied in Congress. This is a Congressperson writing this; he must feel stymied. No wonder Westlands is doing inexplicable thrashing about. D.C. is not going to overturn the Endangered Species Act for a couple hundred thousand acres of farmland in California.
The rest of Rep. Nune’s post spins off into ornate and oddly emotional gotcha arguments, easily refuted by editorials like this one. But I’m left with one last question. To whom is Rep. Nunes addressing this post? Who is the audience for such a peculiar view of “radical environmentalists”? Are there still peasants out there, willing to hear accusations that the enemy is, literally, witches? This can’t be a persuasion piece, because it isn’t reaching out to the opposition. If it is trying to reach neutral masses, the first two paragraphs won’t be like the enviros they know, and the end of it sounds like walking in on an old fight, where the arguments have gotten too complicated to follow. So it has to be a piece for his allies, to confirm biases and give talking points. But he is misleading his own allies. If this is who Rep. Nunes thinks is after San Joaquin Valley water, he has missed about 95% of the complexity of the conflict. He got the other 5% wrong.