(Note: This article was written by Paul Edwards. It originally appeared in the summer 2011 newsletter of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. Paul’s new tar sands/megaloads video can be viewed here. – MK)
If John Muir were alive today he’d be a member of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. Muir was no armchair environmentalist, he was a radical activist committed to demonstrable results on the land, not to collaboration and consensus. He maintained that the whole natural world was vitally connected and you couldn’t damage one essential element of it without damaging it all in ways unknown and unforeseen. He’d be with us.
So would Aldo Leopold. Leopold’s passionate connection to the wild world led him, through years of immersion in it and deep, discerning introspection, to the formulation of his watershed Land Ethic: “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” That’s the mantra we live by in this organization.
The Alliance is often accused by nature rapists, ecosystem despoilers, and their phony sob sisters of being an uncompromising “obstructionist” organization. What drives them nuts is that we relentlessly attack and beat proposals that are flagrantly criminal — and so much of what is being done or attempted now in various ways by the Corporate Tyranny that owns America is simply criminal.
One good example is the Alberta Tar Sands obscenity. This incalculably destructive eco-crime has the full backing of both the Canadian and American governments, but organized opposition to it is growing every day.
Meanwhile, Exxon–a major Tar Sands player and extortionist pirate–has cut a deal with Montana’s Coalboy Governor and his Idaho counterpart, Oily Butch Otter, to run monstrous megaloads from the port of Lewistown on narrow Highway 12 along the federally-designated Wild and Scenic Clearwater and Lochsa Rivers. From there the route twists over serpentine Lolo Pass, goes down through Missoula and follows the Blackfoot River to the Rocky Mountain Front then up to the Alberta Tar Sands.
There are administrative challenges and lawsuits under way against the scam in both Idaho and Montana, but there’s no telling how they’ll play out. So, knowing I had a shot at a known enemy, I decided to try to hit Exxon where they live by doing a video to expose them in all their appalling arrogance.
The fight against the massive and continuing destruction of the Tar Sands is as David and Goliath as it gets. But as John Muir would have said, it is directly related and “connected” to the essential mission of the Alliance: We fight the arrogant and irresponsible exercise of concentrated money and power that exploits and abuses the natural world and the people who inhabit it.
Vital ecosystem connections are the essence of the Tar Sands fight and are part and parcel of what the Alliance has been doing with issues like the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act for decades. We fight the tough fights against very long odds…and we win most of the time.
For exactly that reason, members Muir and Leopold would be proud of us.
Paul Edwards was born in South Dakota and has worked as a pea-pitcher, header puncher, roustabout, wild animal trainer’s assistant, high-steel man, able seaman, movie actor and NGO rep in I Corps, Vietnam. Paul also put in 25 years as a writer, director and producer in Hollywood film and television (including the hit TV series Gunsmoke) before fleeing for his life and what remained of his sanity to his ranch on the Rocky Mountain Front at the edge of the Bob Marshall Wilderness.