Green After-Birth?

Doug Bevington rebuts my critique of his book The Rebirth of Environmentalism: Grassroots Activism from the Spotted Owl to the Polar Bear (Island Press, 2009) by resorting to a make-it-personal dodge so classic that it rates as the Number 2 sign of organizational dysfunctionality in a book by psychologist and business consultant Albert J. Bernstein.

Bernstein notes that such responses to legitimate observations amount to: “Bringing up a problem is considered as evidence of a personality defect rather than as an observation of reality.”

Pointing out that Bevington’s history of grassroots environmentalism and promotion of certain models of activism left out actual grassroots, citizen –based victories when it comes to his take on the Northwest Ancient Forest campaign is not evidence that “the recurrent theme in his review is that Donnelly is upset that he is not mentioned in my book.”

Using that straw dog is consistent with Bernstein’s equation. It simply ignores and fails to address that what I really was/am upset with is his complete lack of any recap of the actual grassroots victories of the campaign. The folks he failed to “mention” are legion. I mentioned many of the major ones in my review. Yet, consistent with his overall take, Bevington focused solely on the paid activists involved, many of them complicit in the resumption of old growth logging by Bill Clinton.

I hardly know where to begin responding to this offensive canard he writes in his defense: “There have always been a few radical activists fortunate enough to have family wealth or other independent means that allowed them to be full-time volunteers (and that’s been helpful to the movement), but most radical activists who needed to earn a living faced a more difficult choice prior to the 1990s.”

Implying that the folks who attended meeting after meeting, hearing after hearing, wrote letters, developed multi-media presentations, manned barricades, tree-sat, were arrested doing non-violent Civil Disobedience …were “wealthy” and of “independent means” is incredibly insulting to these allies of mine. As I noted in my review, these folks “needed to earn a living” and were doing so. They had other jobs. They risked those jobs for the cause. They deserve better than to be dismissed as wealthy dilettantes.

Bevington also writes, “When grassroots groups instead combined an ‘outsider’ strategy with the vigorous use of litigation as a tactic, they discovered, as one activist noted, ‘that with relatively little resources you can bring litigation that actually changes the world.’”

Bevington seems to think that this “discovery” happened with the emergence of the Mid-Market Greens he assiduously promotes. Yet, again, as I noted in my review, he missed the first successful Old Growth lawsuit. He passed-over completely the entire history of the victorious Wilderness campaign for Opal Creek, so it’s not surprising that he missed the Opal Creek lawsuit, as well – a “strategic use of litigation as a tactic” which bought us time to push our solution.

Virtually ALL the tactics he attributes to Mid-Market Greens were honed years before these organizations appearance on the scene, yet they are the sole mid-wives of his take on the movement’s “Rebirth.”

Another of Bernstein’s signs of dysfunction is:

History is regularly edited to make executive decisions more correct, and correct decisions more executive than they actually were.

This dynamic is precisely why I am fierce when it comes to any histories of the NW Forest that merely adopt official, foundation-dependent environmentalisms’ take expunging what occurred in Oregon’s Santiam Canyon. Yes, I was acerbic in my review. And, I will be so anytime anyone writes of this effort, “case study” or “background,” if the author simply regurgitates the “executive” take and fails to connect the dots as to just what and who delivered the goods.

I simply refuse to let this grassroots success be written out of any history of the NW Ancient Forest effort. Period.

Why? It’s not because it’s a “personal snub;” but, because such writings sell the grassroots and their valuable tactics short – in the past and towards the future. Here’s another of Bernstein’s observations that such books play right into:

Management approaches from the latest best-seller are regularly misunderstood to mean what we’re doing already is right on the mark.

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“Personal snub?”

Somehow, I did not warrant any prior contact about events I was part of that he wrote of. Yet, Bevington DID know how to contact me about reading and writing a review of his book, sending me multiple e-mails about it.

In contrast, just this weekend, I was contacted by some young activists about doing a history presentation on the Santiam Canyon (Opal Creek/Breitenbush) efforts. By whom? Just a bunch of (40 or so) young neo-activists – the exact future folks Bevington claims to be presenting a model for the future.

And, what does the future hold? Well, as I wrote in my review, the foundation-dependent greens (Big or Mid-Market) are full-on supporting “Biomass Removal” for , take your pick; “fire-prevention,” “enhancing Biodiversity,” or the latest, “to save old growth trees” from the smaller ones catching fire and taking down the large ones with them. Some of the “model” groups are even planning timber sales and co-authoring legislation that suspends the relevant environmental laws in order to abet Biomass removal. Some are even helping find a market for the “product” – mostly as “woody biomass” for incineration for electricity.

The new activists will be on the front lines opposing such stump-creating, Treasury-looting schemes.

MICHAEL DONNELLY will continue to defend the successful history of literally thousands of unpaid activists when that history goes missing whenever an author decides to present solely the “executive” line. He can be reached at

MICHAEL DONNELLY has been an environmental activist since before that first Earth Day. He was in the thick of the Pacific Northwest Ancient Forest Campaign; garnering some collective victories and lamenting numerous defeats. He can be reached at