I’ve admired Jim Scarantino for years. Jim is both articulate and passionate. He uses those two qualities well in speaking and writing. Like clockwork, twice a week — once for the Alibi and once for KNME — Jim is out there, thoughtful and cuttingly clever.
On those rare occasions when he drops a dud, I forgive him. Sometimes, I struggle with his point, as in this week’s strange column lambasting effete urban treehuggers. (Jim did not use one of those words, a measure of his skill.)
Jim’s the real deal as an environmentalist. He walks the walk 50 miles at a time. He’s been deeper in the wild longer than I have and come back with words and pictures that one has to admire. Moreover, Jim has faced dangers few of us will: He was a pro-environment Republican. Talk about cojones. No wonder he doesn’t suffer people who *say* they love the environment but can’t prove it when the tread hits the trail.
There’s more than a little testosterone-poisoning in Jim’s column this week. He throws the word “enviro” around like he’s rejoined the Republican Party. You hear the sneer, even in print. Enviros live in cities and make life miserable for real people who don’t. After reading his column, anyone will feel like punching an enviro in the face.
Maybe that’s part of his clever plan. Perhaps, Jim’s giving a tough-love lesson: “Now you know how you’ve made those good country folk feel.” Perhaps, Jim can inspire (or humiliate) talkers into becoming doers. Unlike most mean-spirited screeds, his offers concrete actions that he suggests might make him stop despising, well, me, for one. (Uh-oh, are my hurt feelings showing? Typical wimpy tree-hugger!)
Trying to put aside the attack and look for substance, I have problems with Jim’s … — let’s generously call it “reasoning.” Most broadly, I despise the attitude that only selected people “count” or are entitled to an opinion on a subject. Jim’s argument about wolves is identical to the argument some make about Iraq: if you’re not there, shut the fuck up. That’s right: If you oppose the war but don’t actually go there, your opinion is worth less — no, worthless. (Unless that opinion is pro-war, paradoxically.) I can’t believe Jim feels that way about the war, but he cannot deny that that is precisely his argument regarding wolves.
Further, Jim explains that UNM students who care about the fate of the lobo not only look stupid but actually make matters worse because they antagonize the “salt of the earth” (Das Folk) living noble lives in places like Reserve. If you don’t drop out of school and go tend the wolves hands-on, you’re a hypocrite. Way to inspire! Nice lesson.
Moreover, while every column and columnist has limits, I’m not surprised that Jim leaves out some interesting facts. For example, people lived with wolves AND grizzly bears for millennia without the benefit of the 2nd Amendment or private property. We call those people Indians and after we swept them aside, the Federal Government proceeded to destroy all other competing predators. (Any wonder the Feds might not get it right this time?) Mind you, I’m under no illusions that Indians wouldn’t be as brutal as anyone else given guns and deeds. We only have to look at dozens of Isleta Pueblo billboards to see all people are alike.
But who owns the public lands ranching depends upon? “We” do, which includes Jim, me, college students and ranchers. Therefore, we’re all not just entitled to an opinion; we all have a stake in the use of public lands NO MATTER HOW FAR FROM THOSE LANDS WE LIVE and even if one never steps foot on public land. Public land is not private land.
Painting broadly, Jim chooses not to mention two types of ranchers. Everyone ignores the ranchers who figure they can put up with wolves. (Did you know you could buy “wolf friendly” beef from such ranchers?) More deceptively, Jim hides the ranchers who believe there is no public land, just their own private property. Like some nutty relation, they might distract from the appearance of reasonableness.
Most unforgivable is Jim’s adoption of a strawman, proof how weak his argument is. While this is *the* technique of lesser lights, I expect more from Jim who suggests that if you really love wolves, turn them loose in the city. You realize there are people (on both sides of the issue) who would be very happy with that solution. While we’re at it, let’s turn polar bears loose in New Mexico. Jim suggests you’re a hypocrite if you think wild things belong IN THE WILD and more so than domesticated animals. (Many years ago, I suggested grazing cattle on golf courses in response to some bloviation from St Pete. I fully support the voluntary relocation of all ranchers out of the Gila and onto the huge number of golf courses in desert New Mexico. Cows would readily take to the change and the long drive to town would be eliminated.)
By all means, let’s buy ranch land and grazing rights and let it go wild. Let’s put boots on the ground, in a friendly, non-confrontational way. Let’s give money to the good folk who accept that the wolf is back. Let’s do what we can, wherever we are, to save wilderness and wild things. The return of the wolf to New Mexico is far more important than anything Jim or I have to say. Make it work. mjh
PS: I agree with Jim, and many others, that the wolf reintroduction is not working now. I’m sure people on both sides have made it worse. I know Joe Skeen did everything he could to fuck it up and Steve Pearce will try even harder, ignoring any percentage of public lands stakeholders he chooses.