Environmental One-Upsmanship


By Dom Nozzi

June 20, 2002

It is disappointing but not surprising that so-called “no-growthers” and blue collars (lower income residents) in Gainesville Florida have joined forces with the “pro-sprawl” Republicans on transportation.

One outcome of this: the Gainesville city commission is preparing to completely gut the long-range transportation plan I prepared for the city.

After all, we are ALL motorists with motorist values. It matters not a whit that many no-growther people pay lip service to the idea of fighting sprawl and protecting neighborhoods. By being pro-car, they completely undermine any alleged effort to discourage sprawl and help neighborhoods.

There has been an emergence in towns like Gainesville of a hysterical, fanatic contingent of angry NIMBYs disguised as environmentalists. Within the city, such people fight to the death to save every blade of grass or small tree or possum in the hopes of stopping a nimbyproposed development project, or at least forcing the project to lower its density to suburban, cow-town density.

These “environmentalists” desperately grasp at any available straw to slow or stop a development project.

Yesterday, it struck me: A lot of these “environmentalists” seem to be engaged in a game of “one-upsmanship”. They try to outdo each other to publicly demonstrate that they are “holier than thou” with regard to protecting the environment.

“You believe we should have a 30-foot setback from wetlands in order to protect them from development. I want us to have a 60-foot setback!!!”

“Oh, yeah??? Well I think we should have a 90-foot setback, and protect ALL mud puddles in Gainesville!!! So there!!”

“Big deal!! I think we should prohibit ALL future development in the city to REALLY protect the environment!!!”

The point I’ve made in the past is that this sort of hysterical one-upmanship is not only counterproductive. It is a way in which suburbanites, who lead environmentally destructive lives by living in sprawlsville and driving their SUVs to rent a video every week, ease their guilty conscience by engaging in this sort of public environmental one-upmanship.

But there may be another explanation for this phenomenon: These hysterical, angry citizens have the same psychology that afflicts fanatical fundamentalist religious zealots. The one-upmanship of today’s environmentalist is the same psychology that we observe when a fundamentalist tries to one-up his religious friends on religious doctrine. “I am more holy than you because I am CERTAIN that every comma and semi-colon in the Bible is inerrant!!”

Likewise, many environmentalists seem to be seeking admiration for the purity and strength of THEIR beliefs — albeit pertaining to wetlands rather than scripture…

So perhaps this drive for salvation through one-upsmanship is shared by both religious fundamentalists and environmental fundamentalists…


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Filed under Environment, Town and Transportation Planning

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