In 1854 Herman Meville, author of “Moby Dick,” penned a short story, easily read in less than ten minutes: “The Lightning Rod Man.” A rascal goes door-to-door selling lightning rods, dramatically appearing at the height of thunderstorms forewarning dangers of lightning and benefits of his product in providing protection from certain disaster. This time honored sales technique of doom is alive and well in county politics. It is called the Critical Areas Ordinance.
American history is full of examples of cozeners playing on people’s fear, anxiety and ignorance. Today, we are faced with wetlands buffer promoters masquerading as a kind of scientific or technical authority backed by the powers-that-be. Herman Melville nailed this character over 150 years ago. Many have since then in other American classics. “The Music Man:” “We’ve got trouble in River City.” “Elmer Gantry.” “The Wizard of Oz.” “The Flim Flam Man.” And now, wetlands connivers using big words, exotic calculators and boasting of rather frail research citations, reminiscent of dowsers and water witchers of old.
From Know Nothing angst over rising tides of immigrants to McCarthyism’s search for communists among us to radical environmentalism’s peculiar self-loathing and hatred of humanity, there have always been people using troubles of the day to grab for power.
Sadly, the CAO is little more than a power grab, no more effective at environmental protection than the Radium Ore Revigorator was in restoring “wilted water” to its natural state back in 1925. Or, as the American Medical Association put it: “As is commonly the case with latter-day pseudo-medicine having large financial resources behind it, the Revigator puts forward a hypothesis for which there is no foundation and proceeds to build claims upon it.” Sound familiar?
Nearly every CAO sales pitch you hear feels eerily similar to the dangers touted by Melville’s 19th Century Lightning Rod Man or purveyors of the Radium Ore Revigorator. They all share a common thread in sales methods. Each comes bearing a magic bullet, a miracle pill or an amazing cure that only expert authorities can provide. And, one that you must pay for, pass into law, or otherwise take advantage of immediately or face a dreadful fate.
Please read “The Lightning Rod Man,” a delightful story, masterfully told, short and sweet, just a few pages long, easy to find on the web. Read it, before it’s too late.
San Juan Island