Protecting the environment was a simple thing. Let's clean up the water, the air and ensure we're not poisoning ourselves with toxic chemicals. It's a reasonable goal and one in which laws were passed by Congress to do this. The toxic environment of the 1950's resulted in passage of the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act. All laws we miners are intimately familiar with.
Somewhere along the way protecting the environment became an industry which gave rise to thousands of environmental groups all subsisting on taxpayer money. In many cases the vast majority of the money they raise goes only to raise more money in the form of lobbying. The environmental groups of today spend very little time, effort, or money actually doing anything worthwhile for the environment.
When you look at the tax returns of these groups, which are publicly available as Form 990 from the Internal Revenue Service one thing becomes very clear. The government throws a lot of money at these groups to "study" supposed problems. These supposed problems generally have very little to do with a clean environment and are often niche problems existing only because they've been deemed problems.
Some environmental groups are staffed entirely by lawyers with a few non-lawyers trolling the internet all day looking for indications of a threatened species so they can sue the government and pay their lawyers. We looked at the return for one group in Oregon which consisted of a single person and a website and they received $250,000 in grants from the government to study the problems with a specific river.
How did we get here? The genesis of the environmental movement was actually founded in conservationism, which is different than environmentalism. Conservationism, as supported by Teddy Roosevelt an Aldo Leopold held to an idea that natural resources were to be managed, conserved and preserved for future enjoyment. Not sealed off from humans as the current environmentalists believe. Well, that is from undesirable humans. Those who "tread lightly" are still welcome.
To understand the environmentalists, and beat them at their own game, you have to understand where they went astray from what environmentalism was founded on.
Rachel Carson's book "Silent Spring" is largely acknowledged as the founding book of the environmental movement. Today, few have actually read her book, and fewer still understand what she was really writing about. We've heard the sound bites, and we all believe her book was strictly an effort to ban DDT, but it was more than that.
While Carson's efforts led to the banning of DDT, many of the other chemicals she was just as concerned about are still in use today and her main point, one which it appears everyone has forgotten, was it's not just DDT. Her point was the combination of multiple types of insecticides and herbicides led to unknown, and undesirable results.
Carson didn't argue life without herbicides and pesticides would be better. She cautioned the overuse, and the combination of various chemicals could, and had, resulted in environmental damage. Carson argued the overuse and over-reliance on the use of toxic chemicals could have severe, unknown, consequences in the environment. Carson argued our ability to create, produce and use chemicals had far outpaced our ability to understand the effects of these chemicals on the environment and we should be more cautious on their use.
To understand today's environmentalists we start with Silent Spring as the baseline. Rachel Carson didn't set out to ban a particular chemical, but the banning of DDT was the result. In fact, in her book, she listed several more dangerous insecticides which are still in use today. Carson did her research and wrote her book based on research. She addressed real problems with real consequences for humanity if they weren't resolved.
Today's environmental groups submit lawsuits claiming species which are indistinguishable, are in fact genetic variants in dire need of protection. Carson argued all species were at risk.
The environmental groups today have wandered far from Silent spring. To understand what motivates today's environmentalist is simple - money. From a movement tacking real problems, the potential mass extinction of the earth's creatures, to a movement based on lawsuits, but it's interesting to see those lawsuits, and who they sue.
A review of all California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) lawsuits over the past 35 years reveals just one lawsuit challenging the use of insecticides which was based on real evidence of harm. Just one in 35 years. Over the same time period there were 5 lawsuits challenging the building of a Walmart, and several challenging the building of playgrounds for children in the city.
In the insecticide case a citizen's group went to court armed with reams of scientific data showing the effects of industrial spraying of insecticides on fish and amphibians in the Sierras. There evidence was compelling. The group cited study after study showing the link between pesticide drift and the die off of frogs. The court ruled there was no "direct link" between the pesticide spraying and the pesticides levels in Sierra rivers despite the levels in the mountain rivers being ten times as high as the valley rivers. The group lost.
This was simply a citizen's group. It wasn't one of the major well-endowed environmental groups who seem to find no problem with the massive spraying of pesticides, and from evidence in the legal record, they've filed no lawsuits to stop it.
Recently, two million acres of land within the Sierras was set aside as critical habitat for a species of frog which only recently was determined to be a distinct species, separate from non-endangered frogs. The environmental groups sued claiming frogs which inhabit the northern part of the Sierra range were genetically different than frogs which live more southerly. Ignoring humans in Southern California will test genetically different than the population of northern California. In other words any species will test genetically different given some geographic separation. Darwin proved this some time ago, but does it make it a different frog if you can only tell the difference through genetic markers?
No. It doesn't. However, the Endangered Species Act is written in such a way to reimburse the legal costs of groups which sue to "protect" a species. Initially the law was intended to protect animals such as the Bald Eagle, the West Indian Manatee and the Alligator, all of which were bordering on extinction in the 1950's. The law achieved its purpose and these species have recovered to the point they are no longer endangered.
The lawsuits today aren't about saving a species, they're about saving lawyers. The environmental groups are reimbursed their legal fees, which can be as high as $750 an hour, when they prevail on a single point. In many cases the only point they prevail on is the US Fish and Wildlife Service missed a deadline to write a report. That's easy when an environmental group drops over 400 candidate species on you in a single month. Clearly the law didn't anicipate today's environmental groups.
If you hope to understan today's environmentalists you need only understand money. Money is what drives them, not the protection of the environment. If you want to beat them, you need only cut off their money.
How do you beat environmentalists when they have a long string of beating us in court? Cut off the money. In every instance we have allowed them to recover their attorney fees. Attornies who work on contingency, meaning if they don't win, they don't get paid. To date, we dredgers, haven't challenged their fees. This has to stop. If you want to win this fight then we must understand who the enemy is, what drives the enemy and what their objectives are. Once you eliminate protection of the environment as an objective we need only turn our attention to stopping the money.