Yes, AND… Disturbances and Re-integration

I appreciate the duality of nature. Complex.. yet simple.  If I were lucky enough to see a forest in a cyclic succession, it would seem very simple. A stable ecosystem slowly rebuilding itself in a few different cyclical states.  The flora and fauna would like it there which would be why it would thrive there.  This is what many of the areas we live in would look like if they had not been disturbed for a few hundred years.  That being said disturbance is inevitable and it is not only human. Weather patterns can change, nomadic fauna can investigate a landscape for the first time or \”invasive\” flora for that matter.  On small scales, waterways can pinch off and redirect, rocks can fall.  Disturbances will happen but I also appreciate the adaptability of nature.  It takes a rather large shift to truly change a landscape and the biggest shift by far is human development.

I\’ve recently adopted a different view on environmental activism that I heard from a friend and adapted to improv comedy.  The idea of \”yes and\” rather than \”no.\”  For those unfamiliar with the improv adage, \”yes\” encourages listening and collaboration while \”and\” introduces new narrative into the conversation.

The reason I see this as a useful activism perspective is that what most humans call \”progress\” will inevitably happen.  We\’ve seen it with the MULTIPLE pipeline projects coming through our backyard here in central Pennsylvania after years of protests here and around the country.  It\’s become very apparent that our (already occupied) land is leased rather than owned and that eminent domain is more than a law, it is a philosophy deeply rooted within the solid embrace of business and politics.

The inevitable \”progress\” is also apparent in shopping space and home development.  Recently, the trigger was finally pulled on multiple projects surrounding a \”wetland refuge.\” in Lancaster County.  It was a nice idea to have such a refuge in the first place but it\’s interesting how developers fail to see the true edges of such an ecosystem and fail to see the inevitable inputs of oil and salt from a parking lot sloping into the area.  In almost the same hectare, residents report the absence of deer once utilizing a corridor that has since been cut off.

The pipeline, shopping centers, residential developments do not quietly erect themselves.  Respect Farmland – A Watchdog Movement for Preserving Lancaster County Facebook Group, among other noble and attenuated voices, are often reporting on these projects and attending meetings (often otherwise poorly attended) and basically doing a lot of work for everyone\’s benefit.  These efforts try to at least publicise these happenings and developments if not enact change upon them.  I applaud the efforts of these activists and their work is very important.

One wonders how many people would it take to stop such development? How many people would have to be upset and vocal to force business to retool or abandon their plans.  My developing theory is that as long as the answer is \”No, don\’t do it.\” The response will be an overwhelming \”I DO WHAT I WANT.\”

What is it that developers want?  Security, money, notoriety, and honestly, they want thriving communities too.  I\’ve learned a lot from reading the words of Joel Salatin.  One of the more memorable lessons is that: to paint those you oppose as evil is to write yourself out of the conversation.  They aren\’t evil. And if you suggest so, you are already assuming you can\’t change their mind but rather just try to stop them and… can they be stopped?  Just take a look at the parking lot of a Chic fil A in a new development just a week after the ribbon is cut.  It doesn\’t slow down either.  To many, this is progress.  What we need to do is amend or add to the developer\’s and the consumer\’s definition of positive progress. \”YES, AND…\”

What does \”Yes, and…\” mean?

  • Yes, build the pipeline and be sure it doesn\’t segment forest corridors.
    Yes, build the pipeline and have X, Y, and Z in place to quickly counter inevitable spills or breakage.
  • Yes, build this shopping center and be sure to put a 50\’ riparian buffer zone which collects rainwater from a hill but not the parking lot.
  • Yes build the 200k/home development but design the road around these patches of 50-year-old Pennsylvania-native fungus resistant chestnut trees.

These are about as close to win/win as we can immediately get! These could mean consensus rather than compromise and working together rather than against one another.  I understand that we don\’t want the pipeline and we want the farmland and we want the forest but I have also accepted the idea of winning battles until the war is won.  If you can change philosophies to where these sorts of things become important to the investor, to the developer and to the chicken sandwich lovin\’ consumer, we can take the next step.

If we continue along the path of \”NO.\” what we will get is legislative success and erasure in 4-year vicious cycles that I truly believe will be more detrimental to the environment in the long run than if we adopt \”Yes, and.\” and participate as frequently and ubiquitously as possible in all of the associated processes.  Meanwhile, be a model for what you want to see.  We need research, we need numbers and we need proof for this movement to succeed and to realize the change we\’ve been working towards.

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