Poll: Yes, Extractive Industry Workers Can Be Conservationists

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The result of my two week poll surprised me. Overwhelming voters answered “yes”. Oil & gas or mining employees can be conservationists. This poll had a fairly healthy response for jumbotale.com polls and was driven in large measure by social media posts. Meaning that as I advertised the poll on social media voting spiked.

My original interest in this question came from several interactions with conservationists on the left wing of political thought. In working on two committees of state conservation boards two people I respect stated association with extractive industries was disqualifying. That extractive industries were by their nature immoral. And that inclusion of members of extractive industries in positions within an organization delegitimized any conservation organization.

Regular readers of jumbotale.com will recognize my abhorrence of this kind of thinking. There are very few arguments in my life where I view someone I disagree with as immoral: Holocaust deniers, advocates for Marxist/Leninism or 1930/1940s Fascism; slavery apologists, and a few other ideas on the margin. And despite the hysteria of the US press almost none of those ideas have any place of power in US or UK life.

Everyday I encounter public policy arguments or business arguments that I DISAGREE with strongly. That does not make the person on the other side immoral.  And when you call them immoral you shut down the conversation. You end any chance of compromise and cooperation. And you create the current partisan divide in our country.

I am always more interested in the arguments of people I disagree with than with those whose views are my own. To understand those arguments is to confront the idea that I might be wrong. Perhaps I missed some worthwhile point. And in acknowledging those possibilities I have over and over in business and public policy found common ground for compromise.

On the issue of air quality and climate change I have one illustrative question.  Would you rather have a Colorado air quality regime that regulates methane emissions or the federal system that does not? Would you rather have the Colorado regime broadly supported in both the environmental and oil & gas industry or the federal one mired in court battles? The Colorado outcome was no accident. It took a governor and his administration committed to civility, listening, and inclusion.

Effective public policy requires respect for those you disagree with on issues. And to halt the partisan divide in the US, we all have to stop being partisan. Until that happens there will be little effective new conservation.

So, just stop the name calling on the left and right. And I take some comfort that the poll was over 90% in favor of halting the name calling. But, it will require each of us to respect those with whom we disagree.

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