Paul Watson's response to Carl Pope
During the week of March 17, Carl Pope posted an email directed at Paul Watson on the Club's BOD Candidate listserv. Below is Paul Watson's response. Incidentally, it is against Club bylaws for management to try to influence members regarding candidates.
Excerpt from the Sierra Club Employee Handbooks, 1998 edition:
"As members, Club employees may vote in national or local elections
but may not participate in an election campaign for a national or a
local office in any way."
I am very surprised that you can post a message to this list where effectively you can influence the membership in your capacity as Executive Director. I remember in the last election that you scolded Elizabeth May, the President of Sierra Club Canada for endorsing me. You said at the time that it was not proper for a staff member to influence the membership with reference to a candidate.
Carl, I agree with you that folks should have a more complete picture of the discussion between us last year at Telluride. Unfortunately your revisionist take on the debate is pure fiction. Your answer to the question at the time did not include any of the information you now state that you said. Others who attended recall you simply saying that we should talk with our neighbors, and always look on the positive side of things.
I stand by my statement that as a species we aren't willing to make the sacrifices required, and I did denounce the way in which we are destroying the oceans. Carl, this is precisely what my problem is with you. How can you see the positive side of what is happening to our oceans when there simply is no positive side. Please name me one positive thing that humans are doing to protect the oceans?
The oceans are dying Carl. Dying in our time. Captain Jacque Cousteau said this repeatedly, but I suppose you consider him a doom and gloom man also. May I refer you to Richard Leakey, or Paul Erhlich, or Michael Harris, or David Helvarg, or Robert Hunter. Are they all just doom and gloom prophets also?
I called a few people who were in attendance at the Telluride event Carl, and I read your statement to them as you recall saying it, and not one of them remembered anything remotely like what you claim to have said.
But lets look at your statement. You say "There is nothing more dangerous to the future of life on this planet than the message, "we are doomed."
So what you are saying here Carl is that Cassandra was the cause for the fall of Troy. As I recall her curse was to be right, and not to be believed. King Priam and Paris are off the hook. It was all Cassandra's fault.
And this is our curse today as conservationists - to be right and not to be listened to. It seems to me Carl that you are condemning the messenger and ignoring the message.
I have never said we are doomed. I have said we are doomed unless we aggressively make some important decisions.
Population, for example. Should we not talk about it because it offends some people? I believe you were quoted in the San Jose Mercury in 1999 as saying that human population growth was not relevant to environmental issues.
Not relevant! Carl it is the single reason for diminishment of biodiversity on this planet. Species are disappearing to make room for more of us.
There were three billion people on Earth in 1950 and it has more than doubled in fifty years, and with most of this number under the age of thirty it will double again in fifty years to close in on thirteen billion, which means twenty-six billion by the end of this century. And you don't see this as relevant.
At Telluride, you refused to acknowledge population growth as a problem.
In fact, Carl, I don't think you really see any problems because you are a well-paid executive of a respected environmental organization, and life is just wonderful.
I have no idea what you are talking about when you quote Savanorola or Jonathan Edwards, and I could not care less. I don't read fiction. Literary mumbo jumbo only serves to confuse the debate. I ain't concerned about vanity bonfires, I'm concerned about global warming and fossil fuels.
You know what I see Carl. I see the death and destruction out there. For three decades I have been in the wilderness, and I have seen the slaughter of the elephants, the whales, the sea-turtles and the fishes. I have been in the trees to stop the clear-cuts. I have snowshoed down frozen rivers to disrupt wolf kills in Alaska and the Yukon. I have spent my time ramming illegal whaling ships, confiscating drift nets and long lines, and chasing trawlers off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. I was in the Amazon opposing a dam project on the Xingu and so many more campaigns, so many that I have lost count, and Carl, I did not see much out there to be positive about.
What I want to bring to the Sierra Club's Board is this experience, and it is this experience that has put this fire in my belly, and this impatience with fools in my attitude.
I want the Sierra Club to use it's muscle to aggressively fight for what is left. I am fed up with organizations becoming comfortably ensconced in the business of raising funds, publishing glossy books, and milking public concern, and delivering little in return.
My Sierra Club is the Club of John Muir and David Brower and I want it to be a voice of fiery anger when it comes to dealing with the politicians and corporations that are systematically destroying the natural infra-structure around all of us.
If you deny this destruction, you are willfully, ignorantly, arrogantly blind. The world's fisheries are collapsing. Species extinction is escalating. Even the microbial life is under attack from our chemicals, and you pride yourself on speaking like Mr. Rogers.
It is indeed a beautiful day in the neighborhood Carl, if you are one of the privileged few in this world who can afford to ignore the diminishment.
My guides Carl, are the laws of ecology, and I see these laws being violated each day. The law of biodiversity - the fact that we are losing and will lose more species of plants and animals in the period between 1980 and 2045 than we have in the last 65 million years. The law of interdependence - that these species are interdependent - and with species loss this interdependence is being diminished.
And the law of finite resources - directly tied into the population problem and also relevant to what is happening in the world today - wars over resources - oil, water, minerals, fisheries.
The world is in deep trouble Carl - in fact we are in very deep shit, and quite frankly your positive, everything is wonderful, lets not rock the boat attitude, is not the solution we need right now.
What we need is some realistic approaches, and we need to get in the face of the destroyers, the takers, and the killers. We need to apply economic and political pressure where it will hurt. We need to rock the boat Carl and we need to force people to sit up and take notice that there is a very serious problem in our world and that problem is us, and the fact that our political, economic, and cultural systems, are laying waste to the entire planet.
I don't know if I will be elected to the Board next month, but if not, I will try again next year, and the year after that, because as things get worse, my approach will become more appealing. But some day, if not sooner, than later, I will be on the Board and I will not be your ally - I will be a thorn in your side because I will be on that Board representing all the species and habitats under the axe, the shovel, and the gun that don't have the luxury that you have to look on the positive side of things.
It really is difficult to be positive when you open your eyes, and really, really see just what the hell is going on. It's not pretty out here in the real world Carl.
You should get out of the office and I don't mean for a pretty little trail hike. Go to where the redwoods are falling, the wolves are screaming in agony from the snares, where the hot blood of the whales is pumped into the frigid sea, where the fish float belly up, and the birds choke on oil on the beaches. Go to where the Earth screams in pain and where her ugly wounds are exposed, and raw. Where she bleeds and where she screams Carl.
Go there, Carl and then come back and tell me, how it is that as a messenger - I am the problem.