Know Thy Neighbor
Air Date: Week of October 17, 1997
Commentator Robert Leo Heilman lives in two worlds. His home is in rural Oregon, but through his books and essays, he has a hand in urban life. Once he was called on to help bridge the gap. Commentator Robert Leo Heilman's latest book is "Overstory Zero: Real Life in Timber Country."
KNOY: Commentator Robert Leo Heilman lives in two worlds. His home is in rural Oregon. But through his books and essays, he has a hand in urban life. Once he was called on to help bridge the gap.
HEILMAN: The caller turned out to be a Forest Service scientist at the Department of Agriculture's Pacific Northwest Research Station, who had a problem and hoped I might be able to help. He said, "We're conducting a botanical survey on private lands in southwestern Oregon this summer. I was hoping that you could talk to my crew about the local culture and how to avoid conflicts with landowners.
I told him I'd do it, and ever since I've felt torn. Glad that somebody cares enough about my neighbors to try to understand them, but disappointed, since they care because they're afraid of them. On one level it makes sense. These are college-educated professionals, people who've spent years accumulating a set of suburban fears and prejudices. It's no wonder they're uneasy. Rednecks with pickups and shotguns, oh my!
My neighbors have their own fears. They are members of an oppressed minority, rural Americans, and they believe that the Federal Government promotes that oppression. Within the last 10 years, environmental activism and regulation have become synonymous with oppression in many people's minds. It started with the spotted owl controversy, hooked onto private property rights, and became part of a volatile mix of paranoid politics, fundamentalist religion, and white separatist racism. There are certain doorsteps around here that I'd avoid standing on if I was representing the Federal Government.
So, what can I tell them? That to be respected you must be respectful? There's no secret to getting a long. A little common sense, a measure of humility, and a bit of decency is about all it takes. You don't need to be a scientist to figure that one out.
KNOY: Commentator Robert Leo Heilman's latest book is Overstory Zero: Real Life in Timber Country.
Living on Earth wants to hear from you!
P.O. Box 990007
Boston, MA, USA 02199
Newsletter [Click here]
Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.
Sailors For The Sea: Be the change you want to sea.
Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live. Listen to the race to 9 billion
The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.
Energy Foundation: Serving the public interest by helping to build a strong, clean energy economy.
Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary wildlife photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.
Buy a signed copy of Mark Seth Lender's book Smeagull the Seagull & support Living on Earth