Johnny Sundstrom

Natural Resource Management and the 2008 Campaign

In order to learn more about the life and work of Johnny Sundstrom (aka Johnny Motherfucker), read the article from The Oregon News in the Files section of the Yahoo site. No, not “Pastor Pleads Guilty in Tax Fraud Case.” It’s the headline article under the photo of him: “Radically Resolute: Finding Middle Ground in An Age-Old Debate.” Johnny represents Oregon on the National Association of Conservation Districts and he’s Chair of the Western Division of Conservation Districts. For his work to save Deadwood Creek he received the International Thiess River Prize, the Nobel Prize for river conservation.


Natural Resource Management and the 2008 Campaign

“Without the realization that even a high-tech consumer culture is based on the land, water and air it uses, and without a coherent approach to these matters, no candidate will succeed in redirecting the ship of state, and no Party will be able to provide much fun in a future of depletion and want.”

Deadwood, Oregon
Phone: (541)964-5901

There is a huge shift occurring in the social consensus regarding the protection and productivity of natural resources. This transition from exploitation to sustainability, if successful, will result in a transformation of expectations and purpose as momentous and far-reaching as the evolution of our species from hunter/gatherers to agriculturists. Whether or not it can will be accomplished, making this attempt to balance the human budget with nature is now as essential to our survival as it may be difficult to fully realize.

The North American continental experience of the past several hundred years has clearly demonstrated the limited capacity of the land, air and waters to fulfill the constant demand of economic habits based on an ever-advancing frontier, unmanaged growth, and constant profit. We are running out of the free and easy resources that supported and fueled this nation’s expansion, its excesses and its unparalleled power. Looming scarcities, combined with population growth, the highest per capita consumption rates in the world, and the growing antagonism of many of the world’s less privileged peoples, are driving our country toward a future where both Nature and most of the rest of the world’s inhabitants will be calling in their debits and demanding a new kind of economic and environmental justice from the United States. And yet, there is very little attention being paid to the inevitability of this all-encompassing process, and to the reality that whether we, as a nation, participate in this shift voluntarily and with intent, or whether we are forced into it by reactions to new forms of poverty, subjugation and conflict, our survival as a people and as a nation is becoming an extremely critical issue.

Comments and positions espoused by the candidates for national office during this year’s primary season have been almost completely silent on the issues of natural resource management, agency budgeting, and the challenge of re-directing the focus of our assistance to the privately held, working lands of the country. When statements concerning the future of policy and management relating to so-called “environmental issues” are put forth, they are usually limited to a discussion of public lands, their use and their preservation, subsidies, alternative energy or pollution caps. The Republicans pledge to continue rolling back regulations they see as harmful to the marketplace, and Democrats promise increased protection and set-asides. The choice seems to be between more perks or more parks. No candidate is consistently addressing the necessity of and opportunity for managing the nation’s land and water resources in the pursuit of productivity and protection in an era of global impacts, emerging national shortfalls and inter-locking dependencies. And none of them is advancing a programmatic platform for resolving the polarization, litigation and gridlock that characterize our national land use and landscape debates.

It is past time to call the question in this critical arena. A serious and substantive “conservation conversation” must be initiated to transcend the diatribes and pendulum swings of the past decades. Landowners and managers must be accorded the respect and roles they deserve as stewards of our nation’s basic resources. Responsible agencies must seek out, create and implement clearer mandates for their activities. The urban population of land-poor but vote-rich consumers must accept responsibility for the excessive impact of their livelihoods as they define and limit the options that will be available for the future. If we cannot develop dialogue and consensus in these matters, our hitherto rich and abundant natural bounties will waste away, dry up or disappear in the background as we continue to dally amidst futile exercises of confrontation and blame. If our political leaders ignore or avoid the hard choices of balancing our accounts with nature through the restoration of a healthy resource base with an equalization of emphasis on harvest and habitat, there is little hope for any resolution of these divisive and destructive conflicts, and even an “ecological revolution” will be too little too late.

The key to this resolution of interests and objectives will lie in the private sector where individuals, families and corporations manage the value and embody the values of working lands’ assets and liabilities. The decisions that will be made, the opportunities and threats that must be faced on a daily basis are the cornerstones of this fundamental conversion, and no amount of public land lock-up will ultimately solve the growing crises of the planet’s health and society’s well-being. Conservation and improved productivity, reinvestment instead of skyrocketing profits, and resource security now and in the future are today’s issues. Without the realization that even a high-tech consumer culture is based on the land, air and water it uses, and without a coherent approach to these matters, no candidate will succeed in redirecting the ship of state, and no Party will be much fun in a future of depletion and want.

Whether we are moved forward by choice or by necessity, our future and our impact on the world demand this great shift in consciousness from our nation and its leaders. Balancing our accounts with Nature requires that we adapt ourselves to its budget in order to protect its functional capacities. Productivity and protection are both possible and essential, and we are all the stewards of our homeland and caretakers of our only habitat. Like justice and freedom, sustainability must be embodied in our nation’s ideals and the campaign to achieve must engage us all.

- by Johnny Sundstrom
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