(BRANDON HANSEN/Managing Editor of the Chewelah Independent)
I remember an interaction from college where one of the freelance columnists of the student paper had written a column that “people weren’t smart unless they traveled the world.”
Having a somewhat feisty attitude that I inherited from my mother Susan, perhaps the only Chewelah parent to yell “balls to the wall” during a Jenkins High School track event, I decided I would respond to the column, pointing out my small little hometown had plenty of smart people, and many did not have second homes in Paris.
After the column published, the person cornered me in the newsroom and said “So you’re the person from CHA-WAEL-LAY.”
I guess travelling the world doesn’t teach you proper pronunciation of names.
While I’m no world traveler, I’ve been around the Pacific Northwest and been really intrigued with the different subcultures, cities, towns and areas. If I grew up in the Midwest, all I would be used to is flat ground, but growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I can go from the coast, to rainforests, Alpine-esque mountains, farmland, desert and western forests in a half-day’s drive. It’s this kind of diversity in our landscape that also becomes our downfall politically.
(And living in western Montana, a 20-minute drive would reveal roughly 10 different ecosystems.)
It seems, lately, political divides have widened between cities and rural areas. I’m okay with differences in opinions and views; naturally those two different lifestyles are going to vary greatly.
However, there appears to be more legislation, more government moves and more attitudes that punish the rural areas. We reported this week on a per-mile tax for drivers as opposed to a gas tax to stem the tide of lessening tax income from more fuel-efficient cars.
Who will be impacted by this more? The rural people who have a longer commute than the people in the city. When I lived in still-pretty-rural Centralia on the west side, I could walk to work. Now I have a 16-mile drive roundtrip each day. That’s a pittance compared to what some of you do.
Down in Oregon, there was recently some climate change Cap and Trade legislation, along with some modern engine requirements that would have greatly increased fuel costs, among other things, for many of the rural industries in the state.
Loggers can sometimes run on the slimmest of margins, so a big spike in fuel prices can put them out of business. A log truck driver might have a 1990s Peterbilt he’s nursed along for years with mechanical know-how. Requiring him to upgrade to a newer log truck isn’t viable. Anyone want a newer log truck? Do you also like a second mortgage? Double that.
The TimberUnity movement was formed from a variety of farms, loggers and truckers, realizing this could be a death blow for many guys in their industry. They had to march on Salem with their log trucks and tractors, while Republican Senators left the state so the Cap and Trade bill would not pass.
Talking with some of the log truck drivers, apparently some of the Oregon lawmakers told them that they’ll just have to get green jobs and move to the city.
The loggers saw it as Cap and Trade torpedoing rural communities, and the industries that they and cities rely on, for a small speck-like impact on worldwide CO output.
This is terrible governing. I don’t care if you’re Republican, Democrat, Independent, Libertarian, Church of the Spaghetti Monster or a really big fan of Sting – trying to ram something through legislation (people proposing amendments to this Cap and Trade bill were taken off of committees for even considering amendments) and then tell hard-working rural people “tough luck, move to the city” isn’t being a government, it’s mob rule without realizing consequences.
Large sections of our country’s constitution are there because our founders realized the issues between heavily populated areas and more sparsely settled chunks of land. The electoral college is set up to give rural states a say in the presidential election. The Senate has two representatives from each state regardless if it’s New York or Alaska.
And I would hope instead of just telling rural areas to take a hike, our representatives, regardless of party affiliation, could realize that sinking an entire industry that people rely on is a bad move. Compromises needed to be put in place, the human impact needed to be measured and lawmakers needed to … well… law make.
Many timber folk can tell you most log trucks are newer except for smaller companies, and the guy running the old truck is the minority, not the majority. Logging is a funny beast, however, and is still a game of small independent contractors and some larger companies in an interwoven chain to get the tree to the mill.
By undercutting all these small guys out of the industry, you’d be doing irreparable harm. But who cares, right? They can get jobs in the city.
The actual impact on climate change by severely hampering rural Oregon wasn’t even going to register on the scale. It also isn’t going to stop the billions of people in developing countries from burning more carbon as they modernize. If you enact climate change policies and they ruin people’s lives, there will end up being huge push back against these policies and climate changers will be doing more harm to their movement than good. You’re going to need more allies than enemies in this movement.
But it seems like more and more rural areas are punished for having things like cows (METHANE MONSTERS), pickup trucks and MAGA signs. But why?
What areas have air quality issues? Where do most people live who consume or require the consumption of carbon for their lives to function? How many city sewage plants have we seen run over into rivers and oceans – with the response being, oh well – but a small town of Chewelah can’t do improvement work around their creek because – GASP – it’s water? Guess how much carbon those ships coming into the harbors of Seattle and Tacoma produce? How much carbon is burning on those planes landing at Spokane international? How many cars sitting in traffic are burning fossil fuels in Tacoma?
You’ll note Cap and Trade would not have affected the lives of urban people very much. Rural people would take the brunt of it. Why do rural people have to change their way of life, but not urban people?
It’s hypocritical at best. If you put me in charge and made me the climate change dictator, I’d push to make green and sustainable practices more attractive to people, rather than just punish them. Sustainability is a buzzword, but people do respond when you show them a better, more efficient and cost-effective way of doing things (note: even logging equipment has become way more fuel efficient than older equipment pieces, by the nature of those guys wanting to pay less for fuel). Blasting rhetoric at them is a way to turn them off.
You have to reward the people. Tax credits for having solar panels, or starting their own garden, or perhaps axe this per-mile nonsense and give people credits for biking to work. Have organizations do more than just advocate (take in money, do nothing and run a Facebook page for a political cause), but rather innovate and get us past these unsustainable practices. Positive reinforcement and actual action being taken is going to work much better than negative action or the world of carbon credits so state capitals can line their pockets.
Much like the person who could make fun of someone from Chewelah, but couldn’t pronounce the name, they defeat their own cause in the process. I’m more apt to play ball with persons of different viewpoints when they’re willing to play ball with me.
You can’t be hypocritical, punish people who aren’t in “your” group and then not expect the pendulum to swing back the other way. People compromise, negotiate and come up with perhaps not a perfect option, but a better one… which a long time ago was how lawmakers worked in this country.