The Beat Goes On — We Cannot be Stopped


Marching Brass Band from Jiformales-Im Back

Marching Brass Band from Jiformales-Im Back

Dear Friends: sorry about my long absence, which will not happen again. So much to share, in these challenging times. And also, so many positive ways to deal with them and to keep moving forward. That’s what I”ll be writing about.


 First Up – a scarcely believeable recent Supreme Court decision, holding that the richest, non-human, (corporate) sector of our society has the same “political free speech”  as we ordinary humans enjoy.

That ruling was a real heart-stopper. Almost as if in answer to every land-plunderer’s prayer, the Supremes announcng that not only did corporations have the same rights to free speech as individual American human beings… but also, and therefore, they had the ‘right’ to pour any amount of money they pleased, anywhere and anytime, into the election campaigns of “their” candidates.

 Not to mention afterwards, when they can —  openly and legally now – spend more millions on lobbyists – to ‘inform’ those they helped elect exactly how they will be ”expected” to vote on legislation affecting that company. No more restrictions; gone are the former checks and balances.

This is “paid speech,” not free speech. No matter how much the Court’s bare majority pretends that corporations are now legally ‘people’  at election-time, they  still aren’t.  Just aren’t.

I will support any and all efforts to undo this tragic and harmful decision.


75 Wall Street from SheepGuardingLama

75 Wall Street from SheepGuardingLama

But for now, there it stands – and it is not happy news. Certainly not for those of us who love our natural world and daily strive to protect it, pass it on into our common future. Why? Because the corporate sector controls most of the money in our society: from Wall Street to land developers to Big Oil and Big Coal and Big Timber (and all the rest)… these are the most well-fed Golden Geese of our times.

They have the money, and they have the motivation –  to elect “their” people, who will vote any way they want. Just like the robber barons of the 19th century, who bragged openly about their “bought Senators”.

Piles of Money (IronRodArt-Royce Bair)

Piles of Money (IronRodArt-Royce Bair)

Now it seems as if  those Bad Old Days  may have returned. Can you imagine what any developer who wants to exploit just about anything — prized open spaces, endangered species habitats, unlogged ancient forests, prisitine shorelines – will now do if a strong conservationist attempts to run for City Council, much less Senator? No more limits; the floodgates have been opened, wide.

They have the money to do all these things, and they have more of it than any other part of our society. Many, led by their trade association, the National Chamberof Commerce, have long lobbied to get rid of pesky laws like the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. No matter that all those (and many similar) laws — enacted by huge bipartisan majorities and supported overwhelmingly in every poll of public opinion –  have, for four decades, assured the American people that we will  always have a beautiful heritage to treasure, and a clean environment in which to enjoy it in. The National Chamber of Commerce crowd has always had the wherewithal to go after our conservation laws, and the precious places they defend; now they also have the  legal go-ahead to, well, — go ahead. Full steam ahead.

And as now seems obvious, they “have” the Supreme Court too; the other day I read a far-right website which bragged about  how they can’t wait to get their own anti-endangered species case up before those right-leaning  jurists, who now are the majority.

 This is how it all seemed, as the first wave of shock and anger washed though and over me. “Now what? Can it actually come to pass that most of what we have fought for and protected over the past two generations could be ripped away? Whenever there is a political struggle over these issues, ‘our side’ can never hope to match the  money-power of ‘their side.’ Never has, never will.”

Old Growth Forest cut. (from Umpquawild)

Old Growth Forest cut. (from Umpquawild)

So have I pondered… yet, as the shock (if not the anger) of the travesty wears away, I have begun to have some positive thoughts.  This is a bad thing, yes; it is especially harmful to the rule of law and the predominance of citizen democracy in our country; more corporate dominance in our politics seems inevitable. But will it necessarily be as bad for some of our other values, or all that destructive of the precious and loved places of this American Earth… or of that  strong web of laws, so carefully constructed over the years, to protect them??

I no longer think so, despite the extra empowerment to many anti-environmental interests now granted by the Court. We have our great strengths too;  they are still with us, and within us. All we need to do is take another look at ourselves, and to recall  the odds we have faced in other times; to remember other challenges which many then thought could not be overcome — but which were surmounted anyway. Our movement has had a long and courageous history of succeeding, anyway.

Remembering that strong past can now inform and guide the stressful present. So let’s have another look at these strengths.

 1. We’ve already been here. Money, lots of money, spent to fight against environmental protection, has always been the norm. Whenever there’s been any kind of legislative/political campaign to save any park, wilderness area, open space, or pass any environmental law, the “big money” has always been on the other side. Always.

So what’s new? There’s just more of it now. But  we’re used to it — that has always been part of our experience.

 2. We win anyhow. More doesn’t mean better. If it did, there would be very very few National Parks, Wilderness areas, protected coasts and wetlands… because those who fought to save them in previous times faced the same money-power.  And won.  So can we. We must continue to be creative and nimble, and always seek the best ways to go straight to the people. They are with us still, as they have always been.

 3. Corporations are not monoliths. Sure, the Chamber of Commerce types are almost always going to be financing politicians who oppose environmental values and concerns. But there are many other companies out there which need and want a beautiful and clean environment. Their employees want these things too, as often do the businesspeople who lead them. We always neeed to keep searching, but this large segment of corporatedom can be allies; they can — and already have –donated money to the hundreds of land trusts which are buying conservation areas around the country.

4. Our strongest — and most permanent – strengths are still there, as potent as ever: 

— The people themselves. Most Americans, deep inside, love this land – their land. If that was not so, we would have scarcely any protected lands at all, much less tough, stringent laws. Despite fierce opposition when they were established, and dozens of attempts  to repeal them since,  they have only been strengthened. This because it is the people themselves who demand no less from their politicians.

— Love of place. There is a growing literature on this subject now, but we in the

Wagon Wheel Park dedication, Colo...(Orange County Archives)

Wagon Wheel Park dedication, Colo...(Orange County Archives)

movement have known it for a long time: people will  fight especially hard to protect “their” places. Whether it is the vacant lot next door, or a favorite hiking area, the whole history of America’s great and growing legacy of protected places is one of individuals or bands of people who so loved a place, that they were willing to fight for years to save it. And to never quit, whatever the odds. We must remember  this unique history. We are not alone, never have been.

— Us. We who are committed to be active in the cause of rescuing all we can of the natural treasures of our Nation,  seem to have a very special  resource upon which we can always draw: ourselves. 

To me, this quality is expressed in three special ways: 1st,  that we have love — for what we seek to protect; 2nd, that we have the inner courage it takes to stand up and fight for that place or that law, whatver it takes; and 3rd, that we have the staying power to continue, for as long as it takes.

I know these special attributes to to be so, because not only have I witnessed them continually over the past forty years, but I see them today, now too. Every day (for example),we read about some New Jersey town  taxing itself to purchase open space; a local group rallying in Florida to protect an endangered species; someone  appealing a damaging logging operation in the Northwest;  others in someone’s living room in Maine (or Arkansas),  strategizing how to protect a special precious place. These, and the thousands of other actions like them, are spontaneous,  never ending, and occur everywhere. And as we know from the recent Ken Burns series on “America’s National Parks — Our Best Idea, ” so it has been in our country for over a hundred years. 

I have a word, and a phrase for all this. The word is “The Beat” – meaning the daily, and unending actions of Americans who love their land and want to protect it. And the phrase is ”The Beat Goes On.”

That’s what we have right now; that’s who we are. No ruling of any court, no money, or extra money, can ever buy this. That’s why all that new money won’t make much, if any, difference.

The Beat goes on… and on; and cannot be stopped.

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7 Responses to The Beat Goes On — We Cannot be Stopped

  1. Bob Ferris says:

    I absolutely agree that the beat must go on–even if it means that early 1960s Sonny and Cher song rings in my ears each time I think or speak it. This supreme court decision was as awful as it was predictable. We have to do all that you suggest above but we cannot let this decision go past unanswered. That is why our outrage should be vocal and repeated. Folks should take the time to express their opinions on this and sign petitions and become fans/friends of social networking efforts out there like!/group.php?gid=440806875385&ref=mf or!/pages/Amending-the-Constitution-so-Corporations-Cant-Buy-Elections/257229177966?ref=mf that are trying to communicate the magnitude of our displeasure. Thanks for all you do Brock. Good to have you blogging again.

    Bob Ferris

  2. Lorna Smith says:

    Wow! This is the Brock we all know so well eloquently speaking for all of us on this very important topic. You are right; we will carry on as we always have fighting big money who fights us every step of the way! But I am too angry to take this lying down! How do we get this decision reversed? What legislative action can we support?

  3. Brock — Thank you for your insights. You are right-on. Concerning the picture you used: “Old Growth Forest Cut”, I have some more information on that picture.

    I took that picture in the Umpqua National Forest in the late 90′s, unit 7 of the Paw timber sale. The stump had 650 rings on it, indicating it was at least 650 years old when cut down by Roseburg Forest Products. It was also inside of the Mt. Bailey Inventoried Roadless Area. Two miles of new roads were built into the roadless area for the entire Paw Timber Sale project.

    While the picture shows one stump, the wider view is entire old-growth forest ecosystems are destroyed for corporate profit. We did NOT need the wood products from that public forest to survive as a society. The pressure to take public resources for corporate profits continues on the Umpqua. The latest proposal, the D-Bug timber sale, would log in several roadless areas and across hiking trails.

    The timber industry has always had a strong influence on politicians. Now, with the new supreme court ruling, it is as you say, paid speech will rule over the free speech. Paid speech will have an even greater advantage over wildlife speech. Critters like fish, birds, and all endangered wildlife, don’t speak any human language, and are much less are able to compete with Corporate Paid Speech.

    Francis Eatherington

  4. Hello, Mr. Evans, thank you for this inspiring post. I am the son of wilderness defender and landscape photographer Philip Hyde, who worked tirelessly on the North Cascades National Park campaign as well as many of the other battles in the Northwest and all over the West. Did you ever meet my father? I have seen your name in a lot of Sierra Club material and mentioned by Mike McCloskey and many others. Perhaps this is a conversation for private correspondence. What I wanted to say here is that your message is a good reminder because people at times get discouraged by how much money and power is on the side of greed. As you help us remember, conservationists have often prevailed despite the daunting opposition, and despite the overall appearances of the natural world declining. Also, in some cases, even big corporations are changing and coming more into alignment with nature. Hopefully we can stop or transform the dirtiest polluters and exploiters before it is too late.

  5. Angelbodao says:

    Thank you! I’m so tired of reading day after day “It’s real!” “No it’s not!” “Yes it is!” “Idiot!” “Moron!” Sheesh!There are so many isseus. What they all come down to is the impact of so many people living a lifestyle that consumes so many resources. I think we need to find ways to reduce our numbers and our impact on the planet or there’s very little hope for our long-term survival. I hope we’re smart enough to figure it out before it’s too late.

  6. That insight solves the problem. Thanks!

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