Letters to the Editor

CAO: little more than a power grab | Letters

In 1854, Herman Meville, author of Moby Dick, penned a short story, easily read in 10 minutes: The Lightning Rod Man.

A rascal goes door-to-door selling lightning rods, dramatically appearing at the height of thunderstorms forewarning danger and the benefits of his product in protecting from certain disaster.

This time-honored sales technique of doom is alive and well here: the Critical Areas Ordinance.

American history is full of tales of cozeners playing on anxiety and ignorance. Today, we have wetlands buffer promoters masquerading as a kind of scientific or technical authority backed by the powers-that-be.

Herman Melville nailed this character over 150 years ago, as have many American authors since. The Music Man: “We’ve got trouble in River City.” Elmer Gantry. The Wizard of Oz. The Flim Flam Man.

And now, wetlands connivers using big words, exotic calculators and boasting of obscure research, reminiscent of dowsers and water witchers of old.

From Know Nothing angst over rising tides of immigrants to McCarthyism’s search for communists to radical environmentalism’s peculiar self-loathing, there have always been people using troubles of the day to grab for power. Sadly, the CAO is little more than a power grab, no more effective at environmental protection than the Radium Ore Revigorator was in restoring “wilted water” in 1925.

According to the American Medical Association: “As is commonly the case with latter-day pseudo-medicine having large financial resources behind it, the Revigorator puts forward a hypothesis for which there is no foundation and proceeds to build claims upon it.”

Sound familiar?

Nearly every CAO sales pitch you hear sounds eerily like the dangers touted by Melville’s 19th Century Lightning Rod Man or purveyors of the Radium Ore Revigorator. They all share a common thread in sales methods:  a magic bullet, a miracle pill or an amazing cure that only expert authorities can provide.

And, one that you must pay for, pass into law, or otherwise take advantage of immediately or face a dreadful fate.

Please read the Lightning Rod Man; just a few pages long, easy to find on the web. Read it, before it’s too late.

Richard Civille/San Juan Island


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