Even though the holidays are now over, there are certain gifts that just keep on giving. Last week, for instance, Sarah Palin accused conservationists of "hypocrisy" because they send her letters on paper written with wooden pencils. While discussing the tree and lumber harvesting industry, Palin was quoted as saying:
"Conservationists write me these nasty letters because I support an industry like this... They write me these nasty letters using their pretty little pencils on their pretty little stationery not realizing. Where do you think your pencil and your piece of paper came from, people? It came from a tree that was harvested."
She said this, incidentally, while taking a chainsaw to an Evergreen timber and cutting it down. The good news is that this story was covered and given the treatment it truly deserved, which was not terribly much. In general, "conservationists" seek to maintain a healthy balance between our needs as humans to survive, and the excesses that have happened and can continue to happen if unchecked. As in most movements, the conservation movement includes those on the more extreme side, which can have the undesirable effect of impeding all progress.
The conservation movement in this country developed in the early twentieth century through the leadership of President Theodore Roosevelt, and progressed throughout the century with the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency by President Richard M. Nixon. Looks like the Grand Ol' Party had a decent understanding about the value of limited natural resources back in the day, and certainly didn't rely on basically stupid and argumentative commentary to get their points across. Of course, without these two presidents, we might not have our National Parks or clean water to drink. To Palin, however, this is just a small matter that she conveniently overlooks as millions of dollars in eco-tourism pour annually into her home state of Alaska.
If Palin wants to have a proper debate about the value of conservation, it would be much healthier for her to stop relying on outmoded photo ops and statements like this last one to make a strong argument. Maybe she could do some actual research (that means reading) and learn that many paper manufacturers are now harvesting trees from forests that are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, whose mission is to develop standards to responsibly harvest trees and work with the industry in making it so. This gives both manufacturers and consumers a stake in what kind of paper is available for purchase. There are also pencil manufacturers that are now using recycled wood products as well.
Of course, the good news is that as long as Palin makes comments along these lines, she'll help keep discussion about our environment alive.
So thank you, former governor!
Jonathan A. Schein is the CEO of ScheinMedia and publisher of GreenRealEstateDaily.com.