On Monday night, author Dan Dagget visited campus and gave a talk titled “Conservative Environmentalism: Oxymoron or Viable Solution?” His primary focus was land use and grazing in the Western United States. He argued that federally protected land is mismanaged, while grazing land open to the free market continues to thrive.
The event was sponsored by the Bowdoin College Republicans and the Eisenhower Forum.
Grazing isn’t bad, Dagget argued, but a natural part of the environment. Ecosystems in their ordinary states include humans and livestock. To demonstrate the dichotomy between federally protected areas and grazing land, he showed side-by-side images of federal land that was barren and ravaged by erosion and grazing areas that were full of lush grass.
Additionally, Dagget said that, in his experience, productive policy came from discussions between the environmentalists and ranchers when the two groups realized that they had similar goals. Having participated in such meetings himself in the past, he hopes to bring them back.
Dagget, a former liberal activist who once protested strip-coal mines in the 1970s, also criticized what he referred to as “big green” and “radical enviros.” He said that conservationists were motivated by money and characterized liberal environmentalism as being focused on “blame” rather than on finding solutions.
“Big green has deeper pockets than big oil,” he said.
During a question-and-answer session after the event, Ellie Neifeld ’19 questioned Dagget’s use of grass as the primary measurement of the health of an ecosystem, pointing out that, due to natural water limitations, some landscapes are not supposed to be grassy at all.
Ben Wu ’18, a leader of the Bowdoin College Republicans, organized the lecture with the goal of helping students think about ways to bridge the gulf between conservatism and environmentalism. He hopes to organize more environmental-related talks in the future.
“People can agree or disagree with Dan. Maybe our next speaker will totally disagree,” said Wu.
Associate Professor of Biology Vlad Douhovnikoff said he felt Dagget was disingenuous in describing the purpose of his talk and that his manner of describing the opposing side contradicted and undermined his stated goal of increased collaboration between practitioners of the land and advocates of conservation, thereby doing a disservice to land practitioners while ostensibly representing them.
“He promised a talk on the advantages of conservative environmentalism, but instead gave a talk on the evils of traditional conservation,” Douhovnikoff said.