Journal of the San Juan Islands


Failed argument built on faulty assumptions | Guest column

April 11, 2013 · Updated 3:36 PM

Steve Ulvi / Journal file photo

By Steve Ulvi

A freezer-burned Alaska buddy, Archie, called me the other day to grumble after a long winter and a bad case of cabin fever. I suggested a stronger happy light, changing out his long johns and tapering off the whiskey some.

I admitted that I miss the hunting, testy wilderness adventures and entertaining “circle up and fire inward” dysfunction up there. Archie snorted that from what he reads on the web the San Juans don’t take a backseat to anywhere in terms of distortion of reality and denial of the lessons of history.

The next day the cogent piece by Judge Darrah described how easily an election can be affected by the artful use of hyperbole. Nothing surprising there. However, some of the sincere but seriously misguided statements of Mr. Petersen’s response, (Resistence grows due to heavy hand of CAO,” April 5, www.sanjuanjournal.com), trouble me.

I am baffled by Mr. Petersen’s determined use of  “pristine” to describe our county. He has made this term a linchpin in his argument. Websters defines the value-laden term; Pristine (adj.) 1. Remaining in a pure state; uncorrupted. 2. Of or typical of the earliest time or condition; primitive or original.

Anyone with even a passing knowledge of the trainloads of scientific data on the Salish Sea region realizes that, as visually appealing and inspiring as these islands are, there is nothing pristine about them. Not by a long shot.

The saltwater moat surrounding us has been seriously fouled and greatly diminished from its rich and diverse original biotic condition as a result of human activities. We did it and we should try to fix what we can.

We are all subject to our own biases based on life’s experiences. This “shifting baselines syndrome” is understandable and forgivable. Not so a blatant denial of reality and purposeful efforts to confuse.

No matter how passionate or articulate an argument is, if it is built upon false assumptions then the entire argument is faulty. To add insult to injury, Mr. Petersen assures all that we are either slavery-loving authoritarians or freedom-loving libertarians. And further, that those of us who support the need for the CAO in concept are liars. How is this useful?

I roundly reject these accusatory, fact-challenged statements, not the individuals who care enough to speak their minds. We would benefit from a more fact-based and varied civic debate given the unprecedented challenges we face.

We do need more time for sorting out ramifications and crafting intelligent revisions to the CAO. It’s damned important. All sides sling opinions that are repeated like the misleading mantras they are. I just don’t get the frequent blurring of fact and fiction.

I will vote for candidates who exhibit the smarts and humility to understand the need for reasonable restraints upon our selfish human interests that continue to cumulatively trash the public commons. I expect them to think creatively to transition us into a more diverse and sustainable economy.

I hope for a reduction of layered government and the real, not imagined, increasing intrusions into our rights of privacy. The newest council will also have to endure efforts by monkey-wrenchers to derail hard won progress in recognizing our collective responsibilities to future generations and the natural world to which we remain inextricably linked.

— Editors's note: U.S. Parks Service retiree Steve Ulvi and his wife arrived on San Juan Island in 2007 and are sorely testing 38 years of marital bliss by building their retirement homestead under the county owner-builder program following 33 years of irresponsible adventure in the Far North.


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