Thursday, September 16, 2010

258 / Who Speaks For The Rivers?

The Planning and Conservation League (PCL) is a statewide environmental advocacy group. This year, it is 45 years old. PCL was the very first environmental organization to do full time lobbying in Sacramento, on behalf of the California environment.

PCL members get a periodic newsletter, California Today, and I just recently received the September 2010 edition. The newsletter discussed the PCL "History Project," and printed an old picture, and asked readers to send in their recollections.

As it turns out, the picture captured a moment at an event in which I played a role, as then-President of the PCL Board of Directors. Then-Governor Pete Wilson was in attendance, and was also in the picture. You can click the link above if you'd like to see it! The occasion was the 25th birthday celebration for PCL.
Here's the speech I gave at that time, a copy of which I have kept. Even then, I was worrying about that "two world hypothesis":

Remarks of Gary A. Patton,
Presented at the Dinner Celebrating the
25th Anniversary of the Planning and Conservation League

December 6, 1990

I have the very great privilege and honor to welcome you this evening, on behalf of the Board of Directors of the Planning and Conservation League. I do welcome you. I want to thank you, too, for your very great generosity to this organization--an organization that absolutely merits your support.

The Planning and Conservation League spends most of the resources that you, and I, and all of us entrust to it on efforts of advocacy within the California State Legislature, speaking out on behalf of the environment. This evening, I want to reflect on PCL's relationship to the legislative process, and to the Legislature.

It's in the committee rooms, and in the corridors of the Capitol, and in private offices (where the business of the Legislature is often done), and it is in the Chambers themselves, where the "ayes" and the "noes" are tallied, that we, as a people, make the fundamental, basic choices about who we are, and what will become of us. We also decide, in the Legislature, and sometimes without much thinking of it, the fate of the environment that sustains us all; the fate of the environment that makes possible all of the wealth and abundance that we have achieved; the environment, in fact, that is the source of all those things that we, as human beings, often lay claim to having created ourselves.

Many causes are discussed and debated in the Legislature each year, and for every human cause there can be, and is, a human voice, to speak out directly, within that debate. Teachers can speak about teaching, and business persons about business. Elected officials can talk about the government.

The wild rivers cannot speak, in their own voice, within the halls of Sacramento. The wetlands can't speak there; the forests can't. To hear these voices, you must leave Sacramento far behind. In Sacramento, who speaks for the ancient forests? It seems sometimes that the timber companies speak for the ancient forests--the timber companies that want to cut them down. Who speaks for the rivers, and for the corridors of green life that these rivers sustain? Do the thirsty cities, and the agribusiness interests speak for these rivers?

The Planning and Conservation League speaks for the environment within the Legislature. It gives voice to causes that cannot speak themselves, directly, and PCL does this job incredibly well, with a superlative staff, and with truly untiring dedication. We are here this evening to help amplify the voice of the environment in the legislative process--the voice of the world, crying out to us, time and again, not to forget that the world created us, and that we did not create the world.

Human beings are creatures. Like all the creatures of the world, we depend upon the preservation of the environment, as much as any plant, or animal, or special place. Human beings, though they forget this, are above all an "endangered species"--as well, regrettably, as an "endangering" one.

In the debate and discussion that goes on in Sacramento, the rocks, and mountains, and deserts, and wetlands, and rivers, and every living thing must be represented. They must have a voice, or the debate or discussion we undertake, as a society, will fail utterly.

PCL has been a strong and effective voice for the environment. Dwight Steele and Mike Remy have been strong voices for the environment. As PCL gives voice to the environment, it speaks for life--and thus for all of us.

On behalf of the Board of Directors, I would like to thank you again for your continued assistance, and I pledge to you that this organization's voice, raised on behalf of the Creation itself, is a voice that will continue, and go on and on.

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