True Motivations

As a rule I try not to assign motives to people’s actions, especially when I don’t agree with them. More often than not it results in making worst-case assumptions about what they’re up to and poisons any prospect of agreeing on something in the future.

I’ve also been a strong believer in the maxim “Never be too quick to rule out stupidity.” A lot of people do stupid things because, well, they’re stupid. Or more accurately they’re uninformed on an issue. If I recognize this ignorance as the cause of our disagreement rather than assuming bad intentions it gives me the opportunity to make them more informed and bring them to my side.

And I generally hope they’ll give me the same benefit of the doubt.
But at some point in some cases you do have to rule out ignorance or stupidity and realize that some people mean to do you harm, that they’re hiding their true objectives, and that they’re willing to lie cheat or steal to achieve them.

Which brings us to many environmentalists. The BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a tragedy for the local environment and economy and a catastrophe (as it should be) for BP. Now come the calls for banning all offshore drilling, past present and future. But is this reaction meant to save the environment from a rare event, or is something else at play?

If the people calling for shutting down offshore oil development were worried primarily about oil spills then they should instead be calling for more onshore and offshore drilling in the US, not less. Oil tanker spills occur much more often and account for many more times the oil released into the environment than what’s spilled from drilling rigs. Reducing the number of oil tankers out there by tapping our reserves here at home would result in demonstrably fewer (and smaller) spills than having these relatively fragile gas tanks plying the oceans.

The fig leaf they’re using of reducing our dependence on foreign oil and carbon emissions is also belied by their resistance to real measures that address both those issues: increased domestic production, and nuclear and hydro energy. Sure, there are costs involved in these methods, but windmills kill birds and blight the landscape (or seascape if you’re a Kennedy), large solar projects endanger desert wildlife; and all of these alternative “green” production methods enormously increase the cost of power, which will inevitably export production, jobs, and prosperity to countries that don’t share our reverence for Gaia.

The truth is they want to reduce energy production and consumption period, not make it safer or greener or anything like that. It’s not energy they’re against it’s people and prosperity. They see us as a cancer on the earth that must be contained, and the way to do that is to take our lifestyle and standard of living back to a time when we used fewer resources and had less impact on Mother Earth – a time when people died from simple infections, squatted outside, and had a life expectancy of what we call today “middle age.”

And that’s fine. There are even parts of that argument that have real merit. But let’s have a conversation about that rather than dancing around the point and attacking people and industries under a hidden agenda and using dishonest tactics. Let’s look at the costs and the benefits of all these options and challenges, and above all leave space for people to make decisions about how to achieve their own happiness – so long as they’re not harming anyone else – without forcing top down, one size fits all “solutions” down their throats.