American Elephants


We Can Be Swayed By Careful Use of Language: Watch Out! by The Elephant's Child

The EPA is making advance reservations for hotel accommodations for an “Environmental Justice conference this fall, says an article in the Free Beacon.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA), Office of Enforcement and Compliance, Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ) intends to award a fixed-price Purchase Order … to the Renaissance Arlington Local Capital View Hotel,” the solicitation said. “The purpose of this acquisition is to cover the cost of 195 sleeping room nights from Sept. 9 [to] Oct 2, 2014, at government rate for the 50th public meeting of the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC), a federal advisory committee of the EPA.

The Environmental Protection Agency has a federal advisory committee on National Environmental Justice? Why? There is no such thing as “environmental justice”. “Justice” refers to the law of the land which is enshrined in the Constitution, and the laws that are passed by Congress, the laws passed by the states, counties and municipalities. There isn’t some other bunch of “justice” that can be proclaimed by the green radicals at the EPA, or anybody else.

The NEJAC was established in 1993 to “obtain independent, consensus advice and recommendations from a broad spectrum of stakeholders involved in environmental justice.”

The council meets twice a year, bringing together members from community organizations, businesses, academic institutions, and state and local governments for “discussions about integrating environmental justice into EPA priorities and initiatives.”

The EPA defines “Environmental Justice” as the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies.”

Oh, please. Did you ever hear such a bunch of  utterly meaningless liberal bureaucratic gobbledygook? If there is any budget for such nonsense, it should be slashed to zero immediately. Here are some of the reported “presentations” from past meetings:

  1. Blocks to Sustainability and Environmental Justice, Health Disparities, Climate Change and Grant Writing.
  2. Effective Use of Large Scale Use of Large Scale Campus and Community Projects to Engage Environmental Justice While Promoting the Green Economy.
  3. Developing Sustainable Partnerships to Create Sustainable Communities.

“Sustainability” is another popular word among the elite.  Another word with no meaning, which usually turns up in bureaucratic meetings. Expensive conferences and meetings have to be shown as accomplishing something, and it has to sound important. Or at least important enough to justify the conference and the booze. So words like sustainable and consensus, and environmental justice are hauled out as justification, so the stakeholders can have a fun conference in a pleasant setting.

The Environmental Justice Advisory Council updated the 1996 “Model Plan for Public Participation,” a 25 page advisory for the EPA Administrator.

There are many terms that describe the concept of “public participation” – community participation, community involvement, community engagement, stakeholder involvement, stakeholder
engagement, among others. All of these terms are commonly used and acceptable. Regardless of the language used, what is critical to understand is the emphasis that any and all persons and groups
who are potentially interested, concerned, or affected by an action should be included (or given equal opportunity to participate) in the decision-making process.

Public participation, community involvement – what ever the term — is crucial in ensuring that decisions affecting human health and the environment embrace environmental justice. Communities
affected by environmental justice issues often already face many challenges and barriers associated with meaningful involvement and adequate representation in the development, implementation, and
enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. Many affected communities are considered to be vulnerable or sensitive populations, due to factors such as cumulative exposure to toxins and pollutants, and have historically been left out of decision-making processes.

When did we stop speaking English and start speaking and writing in Newspeak? It is a language perpetrated in Human Resources departments and in the State Department. It’s the art of saying nothing in elevated terms. Because it sounds important everyone is afraid to challenge the emptiness therein. It consumes endless time that could be better spent writing a grocery list. Unfortunately it does not exist only in meetings. Our government is run by the ever-changing definition of words. We are fooled by the clever use of words, our lives are affected by the changing definitions of words, or words carefully chosen to alter our perceptions. “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act”, anyone? Or how about the “Environmental Protection Agency?” Nancy Pelosi is in Texas, welcoming “new Americans.”



Thinking About “The Narrative” by The Elephant's Child

In the current Claremont Review of Books, Wilfred M. McClay, Chair in the History of Liberty at the University of Oklahoma, reviews Fred Siegel’s Revolt Against the Masses. This excerpt is his introduction to his subject, but I found it fascinating in itself. I’m familiar, of course, with the term “the narrative,” but there is so much obfuscation going on with our language that I was just inclined to put it aside. Mistake. Very worth pondering this development, aided by focus-group testing of words for their persuasive value. Minds must be subverted.

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We have this term now in circulation: “the narrative.” It is one of those somewhat pretentious academic terms that has wormed its way into common speech, like “gender” or “significant other,” bringing hidden freight along with it. Everywhere you look, you find it being used, and by all kinds of people. Elite journalists, who are likely to be products of university life rather than years of shoe-leather reporting, are perhaps the most likely to employ it, as a way of indicating their intellectual sophistication. But conservative populists like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity are just as likely to use it too. Why is that so? What does this development mean?

I think the answer is clear. The ever more common use of “narrative” signifies the widespread and growing skepticism about any and all of the general accounts of events that have been, and are being, provided to us. We are living in an era of pervasive genteel disbelief—nothing so robust as relativism, but instead something more like a sustained “whatever”—and the word “narrative” provides a way of talking neutrally about such accounts while distancing ourselves from a consideration of their truth. Narratives are understood to be “constructed,” and it is assumed that their construction involves conscious or unconscious elements of selectivity—acts of suppression, inflation, and substitution, all meant to fashion the sequencing and coloration of events into an instrument that conveys what the narrator wants us to see and believe. These days, even your garage mechanic is likely to speak of the White House narrative, the mainstream-media narrative, and indicate an awareness that political leaders try to influence the interpretation of events at a given time, or seek to “change the narrative” when things are not turning out so well for them and there is a strongly felt need to change the subject. The language of “narrative” has become a common way of talking about such things.

One can regret the corrosive side effects of such skepticism, but there are good reasons for it. Halfway through the first quarter of the 21st century, we find ourselves saddled with accounts of our nation’s past, and of the trajectory of American history, that are demonstrably suspect, and disabling in their effects. There is a view of America as an exceptionally guilty nation, the product of a poisonous mixture of territorial rapacity emboldened by racism, violence, and chauvinistic religious conviction, an exploiter of natural resources and despoiler of natural beauty and order such as the planet has never seen. Coexisting with that dire view is a similarly exaggerated Whiggish progressivism, in which all of history is seen as a struggle toward the greater and greater liberation of the individual, and the greater and greater integration of all governance in larger and larger units, administered by cadres of experts actuated by the public interest and by a highly developed sense of justice. The arc of history bends toward the latter view, although its progress is impeded by the malign effects of the former one.

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The review is interesting as well. The Claremont Review of Books, a quarterly, is one of my favorite publications. A great bargain. You can subscribe at the link, but there’s lots of good stuff there.

 




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