Thursday, July 30, 2015

Going Rogue In Order To Go Green?

Here is a recent story from The New York Times that has given me a lot of food for thought, and one that should do the same for anyone who cares about the only planet we have.  The actions of organizations like Sea Shepherd against illegal fishing operations may very well be our last hope to not only preserve important species of fish, but to undertake the larger work of doing what no national government, and no international combination of governments, has been able to thus far do in any meaningful way--preserve the Earth from our own short-sighted efforts to sabotage our long-term needs for our immediate gains.

I have to admit that, as an attorney and otherwise as someone who believes in the rule of law, I'm not completely comfortable on relying on such organizations.  That lack of comfort is increase by a recognition of what creates the void that organizations such as Sea Shepherd are trying to fill: governments that have been co-opted by the despoilers of our natural resources.  That co-opting is what governments are indirectly referring to when they say they don't have the money to save the Earth.  They have the money and the technology.  What they don't have is the will of the people--because they've all been bought off.

So, as a practical matter, I see no alternative to going rogue in order to go green.  And, if you look at the way that Sea Shepherd functions, it's not as if they are entirely rogue.  They have the tacit cooperation of Interpol, which, as the Times article notes, recognizes the value of what Sea Shepherd is doing.  So it's not as if Sea Shepherd is entirely supplanting the role of government; it's merely filling in the gaps created by the 1%'s co-opting.

But going a little rogue is one thing, and crossing the line into openly breaking the law is another. Sea Shepherd, although it makes a maximum effort to respect the rule of law, nevertheless describes itself as an "eco-vigilante" group, according to the Times.  And a world full of vigilantes is a world of diminishing boundaries to behavior, especially as corporations supplant more and more public functions and choke off the abilities of governments to maintain boundaries.

Even now, how far away are we from a tipping point at which somewhere, sometime, an eco-vigilante calculates that a little violence might go a long way toward stopping a major polluter--and, when I say that, I'm not necessarily talking about violence against property, but violence against people.  Ironically, the extent to which we've armed ourselves makes the temptation to resort to violent means all the harder to resist.

Resisting it, however, is something that we must do.  Our post-Cold War naked worship of free enterprise has created a international playing field with fewer boundaries, weaker umpires, and a rule book whose pages are shredded on an almost daily basis.  But it's also diminished the value of the marketplace by making it far less open, as well as far more despoiled.  Like it or not, the game of capitalism requires governments with the independence and will to set the boundaries, write the rules, and provide resources to enforce those rules.  Government gives capitalists the structure that makes risk-taking sustainable--something that even Adam Smith realized (as anyone who has actually read him knows).

That's why violence certainly isn't the answer.  And it's why we should look at the rogue organizations not as a sign that we should go further in their direction, but as a sign that we should take a detour from the path on which we have been blindly marching for the past 35 years.  Let's hope we can take that detour before someone goes beyond the boundaries that Sea Shepherd is doing its best to respect, as it tries to save us from ourselves.

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