Spending a weekend with a conservationist

[mappress mapid=”1″]Right before returning to Portland this summer I had the privilege of going to Joseph’s Creek in Eastern Oregon with my dad and an old friend of his.  His friend is the founder of a major environmental organization in the Pacific Northwest.  He flew us off in a four person plane and two hours later we landed on his 3,000 acres of property.  We spent the weekend soaking up the nature, swimming in rivers, biking, and eating good home-cooked food.  Being in such a beautiful area on vacation with this friend proved to be a learning experience for me.  I’m a young environmental enthusiast who’s chronically changing my stances on environmental topics and trying to adjust my behavior accordingly, and I had the opportunity to spend a weekend with a successful environmentalist who has been in the business for decades.  I spent that entire time observing habits, taking in their viewpoints and their anecdotes about their relationships to the environment.


This man practices ecologically and waste conscientious habits, however during this weekend he also displayed some questionable actions as well.  We flew in a four person plane to an area we could have driven to (Not that driving is wonderful for the environment).  Further more, we went to a River in Hells Canyon by plane and back in one morning, which is a trip that would have taken 6 days by foot.  He is clearly a man in love with nature, but it’s hard to believe one’s own personal relationship with wilderness justifies the amount of fuel that is emitted by casual day trips by airplane.  If he didn’t keep other environmentally mindful practices such as composting I would have assumed he didn’t believe he had an obligation to be mindful of his interactions with the environment as an individual.  But this isn’t the case.  The best example of this is when I learned about logging on his property.  The image of an environmentalist logging was humorous to me, and his explanation for it confused me.


He mentioned that ten years ago he never would have allowed logging on his property, but in the past few years had a turn around.  He said the logged property ended up looking nicer.  But surely such a highly esteemed environmentalist knows that habitats and ecosystems don’t rely on beauty,  especially because he mentioned he does not permit snags to be cut down due to the useful habitats they create.  I didn’t understand why he didn’t consider the ecological importance of living trees as well.  Then again, I don’t know  a lot about snags.


I want to understand when and why this man rationalizes waste and degradation, because there’s little coherency.  What’s the point of composting if your taking any trip you please by private plane?  This is a man who surely is wiser and more knowledgable than me in the realm of conservation, however, I couldn’t find ways to justify some of his reasoning.  I can’t find a way to explain or justify his patterns of action, and yet I’m resistant to deem him wrong. I am a novel student to the world of conservation and environmentalism and he is practically a veteran.  On the plane ride over he spoke poorly of a rich woman who created two landing strips without giving any thought to environmental regulations near his property, but he himself made a landing strip.  True, he made sure the strip followed regulations, but just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it is not damaging.

Admittedly I possess some youthful idealism which clashes with the realism of older men.  This is a man who I barely know but who I greatly admire for his work in the field of conservation. This has lead me to spend the past few weeks confused and reluctant to make judgements.  He clearly loves nature, and much of what he does is to satisfy that need.  Admittedly, it was incredible flying directly over Mt. St Helens in a tiny plane, and seeing such a large part of Oregon from this unique view despite the fuel we were emitting.  I am extraordinarily lucky that I had this experience that so few people have, but some of it was quite self indulgent