Counterpoint: private property is not the 'Commons' | Guest Column

By Frank Penwell

Richard and Rita Weisbrod are promoting the point that we need a new CAO due to population growth.

Their view that humans are bad for the environment is simplistic, and their assumptions are not based on facts. If you look at forest areas where the native peoples manage their lands, and areas next door where the BLM manages its lands by leaving them natural, one can see that humans can actually improve the quality of the environment.

Another example closer to home is Lake Washington. In the 60s, Lake Washington's water clarity was about 15 feet and levels of dissolved oxygen were so low that some species of fish disappeared. Lake Washington is cleaner now, despite the large population growth of Lake Washington's watershed.

Population growth does not equal accumulative harm to the earth. The earth is resilient, and nature knows how to recycle natural elements. Environmental improvements occur without draconian regulations, because of enlightened self interests.

Besides spreading misinformation regarding our CAO, many are misquoting information, confusing the public, and providing distractions like the idea of "The Commons". Private property is not the commons, and our CAO is not protection of the commons.

However, since it is brought up, the undisputed expert on the Commons is Elinor Ostrom, who won a 2009 Nobel Prize for her science on the Commons. This web link, http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/11/04-5, reports on Ostrom telling about her best strategies for managing a commons.  Ostrom recommends local control as the best path for protecting a commons because it allows rules to be “based on unique aspects of a local resource and culture”.

Ostrom believes that, "local people usually know more about what’s best for their communities than expert planners."  Ostrom promotes education and low cost sanctions for rule violators.

This respected, and high quality scientific information, does not work well for (Washing state Department of Ecology), county staff, or their network of special interest groups. Why is that?

Mostly because it does not create income or promote control of the many by the few. See this video about "Obedience" to get a better understanding: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W147ybOdgpE.

I encourage all to ask our County Council to shift gears on the CAO process.  Ask them to enter into the legal process of coordination, rather than the process of cooperation that they are currently using.

Coordination levels the playing field and establishes the principle that all levels of government must work toward equality and consistency of policies. In coordination, DOE would not be able to dictate based on theories, agendas, and fear tactics that are arbitrarily and capriciously promoted as necessary by special interest agendas.

If equality and consistency are not agreed to in coordination, then the party asking for change (i.e. , DOE, EPA) have to pay for all mitigation costs. In cooperation, they just offer bribes in the form of grants with strings attached. Coordination would also give us the tools of the Data Quality Act and the Regulatory Flexibility Act to protect our communities' health and welfare from overreaching arbitrary and capricious regulations.

Currently, assumptions/theories are pushed forward through votes in cherry-picked committees using "Boogie-Man" tactics, rather than by scientific evidence or by identified problems. Our islands are cleaner today than years ago because we have less industrial pollution in our islands. Logging is gone, the canneries are gone, the lime kilns are gone.

We have a right to know:  "Where is the problem?"  "What are we doing wrong?"  Just like the video above, staff and council are marching forward in blind obedience toward prohibition, rather than toward conservation.  If you haven't seen, "Prohibition vs Conservation", call me: 360-378-6473.

Solutions to real problems are critical and absolutely necessary; but one must identify the problem before a "solution" becomes viable and targeted to correct the problem.  If one has tuberculosis, a cancer treatment is not likely to help or be effective.

Frank Penwell/San Juan Island



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