I like to consider myself an environmentalist, but I almost never call myself one. Mainly because I really don’t want to be associated with a lot of the people who do.
Because environmentalists are usually right about the facts of the issues they attempt to confront: global warming is a reality, the rape of the world’s forests is a disaster in the making, corporate pollution is poisoning us, and the extinction of animal species is both an ecological and a human disaster. On the science and on most policy issues, the environmentalists are right.
But on the human front … they leave a lot to be desired. And this in turn has a lot to do with why their rightness fails to translate into effective action.
Dave’s work was embraced by the locals because his research and interpretive skills gave them a new and broader respect and reverence for a place they already loved. Though he could easily has been the very kind of evil urban environmentalist that rural towns dread, he proved that this antagonism isn’t inevitable. Dave didn’t come on like an outsider coming in to show them a better way. His approach was more like that of a young, bookish pastor who made a permanent commitment to the community, and chose the place to be his own home. His job was to win hearts and minds for the preservation of the lake — and he understood that the first piece of that task was winning over the souls of Lee Vining and Mono County.