An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of October 26, 2003
from the woods near Natchez, Mississippi, USA

OIL SPILL PHILOSOPHY

In the September 7th Newsletter I made a point of being clear about my attitude toward hunters and hunting. Last week I reported on an oil spill in an unnamed stream in Homochitto National Forest, not far from this property, so now I want to be clear about my attitude toward oil companies, pipeline operators and the like.

As I may have surprised some by saying that I prefer being with hunters more than with average carnivorous yuppies, now I want to say that I don't feel particularly antipathetical toward folks in the oil industry. All the people I've met during the oil-spill cleanup have been regular, hard-working, well-intentioned people just trying to do their jobs.

In fact, in most environmental conflicts, I regret seeing "the industry" and "environmentalists" so emotionally attacking one another. Both sides in such conflicts are victims, offering themselves as targets while the true villain lurks unchallenged in the shadows. Industries are just abstract structures designed to provide goods and services for which people pay.

In my opinion, the true villain in most environmental disasters is this: The immoderate, irrational appetites of US, the "consumers." Frequent oil spills are an inevitable consequence of our gluttony. And I write this as a former 340-pound driver of an old Chevy that got nine miles to the gallon, back in the early 60s, before I began thinking and caring about things.

So, with regard to hunting, if I have to sit down with someone, let it be a hunter who knows what a dying animal looks like, and not a yuppie who has not even considered the life sacrificed for the pound of ground beef neatly and antiseptically stored in his or her refrigerator. Similarly, if I have to be with someone involved in a wildlife-devastating oil spill, let it be the oilman who tramps through the woods to find the break, or a member of the cleanup crew raking up oil-soaked leaves and twigs, or the ranger with stick-tights on his trouser legs as he monitors the situation, but keep gas-guzzling-SUV-driving yuppies away from me, and don't even talk to me about the politicians these people elect.