Monday, March 14, 2016

Sometimes Progressives Can Be As Dogmatic As Their Right-Wing Counterparts

I recently wrote the following:
One of the things that I think distinguishes progressives from rabid reactionaries is that the latter tend to have reflexive positions on key issues, while the former can appreciate nuance.
I do believe in the general validity of that thesis, but it is also true that some who embrace the progressive title can be as inflexible, dogmatic and reactive as their far-right counterparts. A very interesting story in The New York Times about the repurposing of old oil rigs amply demonstrates this.

Dr. Milton Love, a professor of marine biology at the University of California Santa Barbara, has researched marine life at offshore drilling sites, and says that
the location of these rigs — in marine-protected areas in a cold current that swoops down from British Columbia — have made them perfect habitats for fish and other sea life.

“They are more productive than coral reefs, more productive than estuaries,” ... “It just turns out by chance that platforms have a lot of animals that are growing really quickly.”

Most stunning of all is that Dr. Love's research has determined that most of the life was actually created at the rig rather than having come from other parts of the ocean and settled around the massive concrete pylons.

While there is growing momentum to leave large sections of the decommissioned rigs intact (80 feet below the surface so as not to impede shipping lanes) after wells have been capped and cemented, the concept has also provoked strong opposition from some surprising quarters:
“It’s seen as something which benefits the oil industry, and opposing the oil industry is the role taken by many environmental groups,” said George Steinbach, the executive director of the California Artificial Reef Enhancement program, a nonprofit advocacy organization funded by the oil industry.
“People here have been waiting for these oil platforms to go away,” said Linda Krop, an environmental lawyer with the Environmental Defense Center, an advocacy group based in Santa Barbara, where several offshore rigs can be easily seen from shore.

Ms. Krop disagreed that the science is settled on the role of the rigs in fostering marine life. Regardless, she said, leaving the rigs up would be tantamount to rewarding polluters with the windfall of not having to pay to remove them.

“When they built those platforms, that was a cost that they took into effect,” she said.
The savings to the oil industry cited by Ms. Krop is something of a red herring. While it is true that only partial decommissioning would save big oil an estimated $1 billion,
under the law, oil companies would be required to put at least half of the money they save into state coffers to fund conservation programs.
Many would view that as a happy compromise.

Personally, I find the kind of dogmatism expressed by Linda Krop and the Environmental Defense Center a little hard to understand, given the obvious benefits research has shown would accrue by keeping the rigs intact. While one may have genuine reasons for opposing views, adamantine ideology cannot qualify as one of them.

In any event, treat yourself to some stunning images of the marine life to be found around these rigs which have, for all intents and purposes, become artificial reefs:


  1. Surely this is a situation that calls for compromise. Remove the platform and all possible hazards to navigation. Leave the bottom part of the legs as an 'artificial reef.' You're right though. There is far too much "my way or the highway" stridency today and it seems to surface on less than existential issues like this.

    I think that we're on course to become increasingly strident as civil society wanes and the social differences flourish. I'm beginning to feel we've been conditioned to accept this very outcome.

    1. Reading your blog entry today on our very dire situation regarding rising temperatures is yet another strong indicator that the cohesiveness needed for our survival is very much a question mark, Mound. Without a shared sense of purpose that is not so easily overturned by relatively small matters, the big issues will go untended.

  2. .. I often believe there are three 'sides' to every story.. and only one of them true,. & that's usually the version getting zero exposure via mainstream media.. while two polarizing versions make the news or become headlines (climate change anyone? Wild vs farmed salmon anyone? Diluted bitumen is unfairly 'discounted' vs Brent Benchmark North Sea sweet light crude? Man walked among dinosaurs anyone? Election Fraud in 240 + ridings is just political 'hijinks' anyone ?)

    Marine biology gets the short end of the stick constantly.. whether wild salmon, keychain species like herring, boreal caribou & wolf.. or the onslaught of pesticides hitting the marine food chain or fertilizer runoff trashing freshwater lakes and streams..This stuff should be common sense by now.. but no.. there has to be that strident arguementation Mound references.. the polarized political views, the vested interest interference, blurring & obstruction.. often from the highest levels of public servants.. Think Peter Kent, Keith Ashfield, Stephen Harper, Joe Oliver, Jim Flaherty, John Baird et al ..

    1. I sometimes wonder, Salamander, whether something that is probably a natural human inclination has become worse under the 'democratization' that the Internet has made possible. We all like to believe that our position is the best, and our egos certainly crave widespread validation. With the ability of anyone to now put forth his or her own views, a once latent narcissism seems to now be in full bloom.

      Could that account for the stridency and factionalism we are now witnessing?