Clear-cuts, politics of wind power

Posted Aug. 10, 2010, at 9:05 p.m.

I’m “this close” to filing a missing persons report. Has anyone seen or heard anything from the consistently charming yet enigmatic Mary Adams?

I so loved her during our days fighting “The Governor’s Compact” back in the late ’90s. One of my favorite moments in local television history was when — during a debate — Adams looked in the face of Maine’s forestry director, Chuck Gadzik, and accused him of being like a compulsive crazed criminal who turns himself over to the government shouting, “Please, stop me before I kill again.”

Gadzik was speechless and even though it really added nothing to the discussion of whether or not entire swatches of land should be deforested, it stopped him dead in his tracks and left him incapable of a comeback. Priceless!

That moment in Maine history was one of those quirky times that politics created some pretty strange bedfellows.

We environmentalists were trying to ban clear-cutting in Maine. That’s the method by which giant machines wipe out large clumps of trees as fast as they wipe out the jobs of lumberjacks who used to be employed selectively harvesting the forests. It’s wicked profitable to the foreign companies that own the land — one such owner had a parcel the size of Connecticut — but not so good for the ecosystem or the local economy. Everything from the microscopic biota that help root fibers grow to the bologna sandwich-toting 5-year-old who used to live on her daddy’s wages become an endangered species in clear-cut forests.

Well, back in the day a few pollsters figured out that we tree huggers might have stumbled onto a win. And while dreadlocked youngsters with dirt under their nails are pretty easy to marginalize, the relatively affluent communities of southern Maine voiced growing concern that government officials were poorly stewarding Maine’s once abundant natural resources. So industry representatives convinced the governor’s office to submit to the Legislature a “compromise” that would allow for “little” clear-cuts: somewhere around 35 acres each. And these clear-cuts would allow the Maine woods to be cut up like a checkerboard — bare only in places — and sounded reasonable compared to the outer limit of 200 acres each.

Southern Mainers who never had seen the expanse of a 35-acre clear-cut and corporate supporters such as South African Pulp and Paper Industries (Sappi) and Canadian megafirm J.D. Irving were now seemingly on the same side and it looked as though the “compact” might prevail.

All of a sudden Mary Adams and her team of property rights advocates swooped in to help the environmentalists save the day.

The tree huggers hit the issue on the flank that never wins, discussing land-based oxygen production, future generations and accusing the administration of being industry apologists — Gadzik did move on to become a corporate spokesperson before the next full election cycle.

But Adams dealt the death blow. She turned on the “you don’t have a right to tell folks what to do with their land” rhetoric, and the governor’s compromise failed.

See, environmentalists never win. If we did there would be more living coal miners in West Virginia and more living everything in the Gulf of Mexico.

Money wins. That’s why we have fake environmentalism: “clean” coal, “safe” offshore drilling and “carbon credits.” Selling innocence to the guilty, what a racket! Wish I could have figured out how to sell virgin credits in 10th grade — I could have paid for college before the end of junior year.

Virtually everything about fossil fuels emissions is short-term or long-term deadly. Even without oil wars, crude-encrusted catfish and mountaintop removal, the atmosphere can’t forever assimilate the carbon exhaust.

That’s why, even though other Maine environmentalists disagree, I support current and future wind power projects in Maine. Go to BusinessGreen.com and read about safe wind power saving the European power grid.

But I shouldn’t be the only one from the old “compact” fighting days supporting the wind farms.

This is a property rights issue — not the property rights of folks who don’t want to see windmills, the property rights of those who own the land upon which they will build clean domestic power generating wind turbines. So as I said, where is Mary Adams?

Pat LaMarche of Yarmouth is the author of “Left Out In America: The State of Homelessness in the United States.” She may be reached at PatLaMarche@ hotmail.com. Kathleen Parker is on vacation.

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