Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Defending the Defenders

On Sunday, Questioning Minds had a great program on a project called Defending the Defenders given by the founder and current project director Lewis Gordon. (I could not find a web site for the group).

Defending the Defenders seeks out high profile environmental cases in the third world then seeks pro bono legal representation from top US law firms. The program effectively gives representation to environmental causes while allowing law firms the ability to dabble in the revolutionary.

The multinational firms that are causing massive environmental and social degradation have troughs overflowing with legal talent. The firms are able to ride roughshod over indigenous tribes and small environmental firms. Modern multinationals seem to have a gift for removing the birth rights of third world tribes.

Defending the Defenders is a worthy project in that it provides a token amount of quality defense against these multinational firms. Hopefully they will be able to slow worsening environmental degradation in the third world.

Mr. Gordon gave a wonderful presentation that highlights interesting resources like the Goldman Prize. This prize recognizes six environmental heroes each year. I recommend reading the essays on the reward recipients.

As a lawyer, Mr. Gordon sees more lawsuits as the answer to environmental concerns. Personally, I wonder if our litigous society is not partially to blame for our present day woes. The system of confrontation used in the legal system seems to weed small businesses out of the picture and leave the worst politicians and multinational firms in control.

The underlying idea of revolutionary confrontation is that property ownership and industry are to blame for environmental degradation. Revolutionary intellectuals struggle to raise the people's conciousness. The peoples with raised conciousness then rally to support of a strong revolutionary leader. Together they struggle against property owners and industry. These efforts generally end up nationalizing the environmental resources.

After the revolution, we have the situation where the nationalized resources are in the hands of a strong leader. Absolute power works its magic of absolute corruption and the strong leader rapes the natural resources to maintain his absolute power.

It seems to me that the better path to follow would be to promote widespread property ownership. If there was widespread property ownership, then people would have much more direct control over the production of resources. Supporting widespread property ownership also solves the problem of the distribution of wealth.

In the 60s and 70s the environmentalists clearly had industry outgunned. Strategic lawsuits put a large number of small firms out of business. As I write, talking heads on the radio note that there has not been a construction of any new refineries in the US for over 30 years. Likewise efforts, such as the idea of putting flood gates on Lake Pontchartrain to damper hurricane storm surges, had been handedly beaten by environmentalists.

While I am supportive of all efforts to stave of development of wildlands in the western US. I can't help but worry that the environmental movement had gone overboard in preventing all development.

My personal experience has been that the strategic lawsuits employed by environmentalists have had the adverse affect of driving small businesses out of the market. They end up leaving the large businesses.

No comments: