I love cannabis, and I love Humboldt County. Cannabis is a beautiful plant with many beneficial uses, and Humboldt County is a very special place. Humboldt County’s steep, rugged terrain, frequent earthquakes and remote location have protected it from development. As urban sprawl and agriculture displaced California’s native wildlife, many of California’s endemic species retreated to the forested mountains of Humboldt County. Some of these species are now found nowhere else on Earth.
Everyone knows about the redwoods, and that Luna, the famous redwood giant that Julia Butterfly Hill lived in for two years, still stands in Humboldt County, along with some of the last remaining old-growth redwood forest in the world. Roosevelt elk, mountain lions and black bear all make their home in Humboldt County’s wild back-country. Endangered species like the spotted owl, coho salmon, pacific fisher and Humboldt martin all face uncertain futures as the very last populations of these once abundant creatures struggle to survive and reproduce here in the last wild refuge left to them. Rare amphibians like the tailed frog and the giant Pacific salamander testify to the great biodiversity that Humboldt County’s ancient forests have incubated and nurtured through the eons.
Today, Humboldt County’s black market cannabis industry threatens them all. A massive expansion underway in Humboldt County’s underground marijuana industry is having a devastating effect on native wildlife. New roads and clear-cuts for marijuana plantations degrade and fragment vital forest habitat. Fertilizer runoff and road sediment choke salmon streams, Noise and light pollution disrupt wildlife behavior. Rat poison and pesticides kill native wildlife, including essential forest pollinators, and leave a legacy of poison that kills and sickens animals throughout the food web for generations. The movement towards legalization and the deescalation of the War on Drugs has unleashed a monster in Humboldt County.
Humboldt County’s cannabis industry is a product of the War on Drugs, and to this day, the vast majority of the marijuana grown in Humboldt County gets sold on the black market. Humboldt County’s black market growers heed no regulation, pay no taxes, and show no respect for wildlife. The black market cannabis industry has always been a “cut and run” business, and our forests are already littered with the detritus of long abandoned guerrilla grow sites from those bygone days. Today the scale of the grows and the number of grows have increased by orders of magnitude. Humboldt County’s forest habitat cannot withstand this scale of abuse.
Most of Humboldt County’s local environmental groups have chosen to work for better regulation and compliance. However, their efforts are overwhelmed, both politically, and on the ground, by an industry that never asks permission and always wants more. Humboldt County government is dominated by real estate developers who seem as eager to cash in on the green-rush as the growers themselves. The great seal of the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors depicts a redwood log, not a tree, but a log, sawn at both ends, lying on its side. That pretty much sums up the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors attitude towards the environment.
So far, regulation has done nothing to reign-in the out-of-control devastation going on in Humboldt County. That’s why a new group of concerned Humboldt County residents have decided to take their message to cannabis consumers and policymakers directly. This new organization, Habitat Forever, strongly supports the complete legalization of cannabis, but seeks to draw attention to the terrible environmental impacts of Humboldt County’s black market industry. To this end, they’ve produced a five-minute micro-documentary titled Humboldt is Habitat that examines the environmental impacts of Humboldt County’s black market marijuana industry.
Cannabis consumers might be surprised to discover that Humboldt County’s famous marijuana is not grown in Humboldt County soil at all. Instead, all of the soil used to grow marijuana in Humboldt County is trucked-in fresh each year, often hundreds of miles from its source, up steep, winding dirt roads, causing sediment and erosion that choke salmon streams. Cannabis consumers deserve to know the truth about the products they pay for, and now that cannabis has become legal, consumers should be able to choose whether they want to support Humboldt County’s fisher-poisoning, salmon-killing black market growers, or not.
Habitat Forever reminds cannabis consumers that it is still best to grow your own, and that it is more important than ever to know where and how your cannabis was grown. Now that prohibition is ending, Habitat Forever believes that it is vitally important to move the cannabis industry out of Humboldt County’s critical natural habitat, and to make space for the legal cannabis industry in more appropriate locations, like agricultural farmland, urban brown-fields, close to population centers, abandoned mill-sites etc. Humboldt County’s natural beauty and the world’s biological heritage is far too precious to abandon to Humboldt County’s drug war holdovers still squeezing the last few bucks out of the this heinous crime against humanity known as the War on Drugs.
You can see Habitat Forever’s new video, Humboldt is Habitat at youtube and you can visit their website at www.habitatforever.wordpress.com
Everyone seems to be looking for the right balance between “the Economy” and “the Environment,” as though they could find some sweet spot there. As if lawmakers could craft a policy that spurs economic growth, prevents habitat loss, and promotes biodiversity, all at the same time. Even our local environmental groups want to get in on this balancing act. They preface their appeals for tighter environmental regulation of the marijuana industry with the admission that they recognize the importance of the marijuana industry to our local economy, and ask for a “balanced approach.” In truth, they aren’t asking the Supes to balance the needs of “the environment” with the needs of “the economy.” Instead, they’re asking the Supes to balance the demands of growers, for less regulation, with the demands of the environmentalists who support their organization, for regulations to protect endangered species, preserve forest ecosystems and limit pollution and other impacts.
We should remember that when we talk about “the Economy” vs “The Environment,” we’re not talking about two parts of a whole. “The Economy” and “The Environment” are two opposing ways of seeing the world. Scientists, educated people, and people who watch The Discovery Channel recognize that the natural world functions as its own economy.
In nature, every creature takes what it needs of what it can find in the world around it, and in death, every creature returns those nutrients to the system that gave it life. That’s how the natural economy works, but that’s not what we mean by “economic activity.” The world’s natural economy has nothing to do with “the Economy” at all. All of that natural economy stuff happens in “the Environment.”
For most humans “the Economy” is also an environment. When a businessman talks about “the business environment,” he’s not talking about the forest; he’s talking about “the Economy.” If you live in the city, very little of what you see, belongs to the natural world, and almost everything you see is for sale. Even in the suburbs, people largely inhabit “the Economy.” Most people have to spend money to visit “the Environment” in person, but most just look at it on TV, which they also pay for.
So, “the Environment” is really the ultimate economy, and “The Economy” is the environment most people live in. It’s very confusing. Even though we civilized people inhabit “the Economy,” more than “the Environment” we still, ultimately, rely on the natural economy, for our survival. That’s why people care so much about “the Environment” Get it?
We find this hard to understand because it’s still culturally alien to us. The idea that any part of the natural world should remain unbent by the hand of man, is a very new one, in our culture. Civilization was founded on the principle that the natural world belongs to us, as human beings, to use as we see fit. Religion tells us that God thinks we humans are special, and that he gave us dominion over his creation. Science tells us that we are much smarter than the rest of creation, and that we, and only we, have the capacity to understand how the universe works. Therefore, it makes sense that we would, with our new, secular, scientific, understanding of how the universe works, radically transform the surface of the Earth for our own purposes.
Of course, the harmony, justice and equality we see in cities all over the world provides clear objective evidence of our superior wisdom, and using the very best science, we can demonstrate from our 10,000 year history, as masters of our own destiny, that we have crafted a culture suited for the ages, as sustainable, resilient and regenerative as nature herself, only better. If your sarcasm meter hasn’t gone off, it needs new batteries.
At least religion had the nerve warn us of the current apocalypse. Science remains in denial, choosing rather to search for the Higgs Boson, gravitational waves, or other such angels that dance on heads of pins, even as it reports that civilization has triggered a cataclysmic, era-ending global extinction event, and forecasts dire consequences from, human-caused, global warming.
Whichever of our cultural myths you prefer, they all tell us that the Earth is putty in our hands, to be shaped as we see fit. Unfortunately, the truth of our time tells use that our culture was wrong. For ten-thousand years, our culture taught us to despise nature and to deny our natural instincts. In exchange, it promised us enlightenment, salvation, and wisdom. Today, we see what our culture has really delivered: extinction, pollution, endless technological warfare, poverty, crime, addiction, and global environmental devastation, just for starts. For hundreds of generations, we bet our lives on the myths of this culture. Just look around. Anyone with eyes can see that it’s time to cut our losses and face reality.
We inherited a bankrupt culture. Our myths lie and our gods have forsaken us. Our culture, civilization, has been at war with nature for about 10,000 years. Now that we have defeated nature so completely, we realize that we have wrecked our lifeboat. We scramble for survival on an increasingly inhospitable planet, enslaved by the ultra-violent, all-consuming culture we inherited from our parents, and fuel with our lives. The truth stares us in the face, but we have no Plan B.
When we talk about “the Economy,” we’re talking about, our culture, civilization, that machine that turns our lives into toil, and the natural world into waste, based on those lies that promised us wisdom, salvation, enlightenment and leisure time, but delivered extinction, waste, poverty, and addiction. “The Economy” is itself, an addiction. We’ve become dependent on it, and we know it’s killing us, but we can scarcely imagine what our lives would be like without it. When we talk about balancing the “the Environment” and “the Economy,” it’s like balancing the needs of the man, to be cured of his alcoholism, with the needs of the alcohol, to be drunk by him.
It doesn’t make sense to talk about the “health” of “the Economy” because “the Economy” is a disease. The only question that remains is: Is this disease fatal to humanity, or can we defeat it, before it defeats us. “The Environment” is the only thing that can sustain us. We cannot afford to lose another inch of it. These are new ideas in this culture, but their truth becomes more apparent every day.
That’s why we need environmental protection far more stringent than anything we’ve seen before, and that’s why we should not tolerate new development that encroaches on the Earth’s little remaining natural habitat or impacts delicate forest ecosystems. I’ve heard a lot of local dope yuppies say. “Hey, look at the damage the logging industry did. Look at how much water those vineyards use. What’s wrong with my little three-acre conversion? Why are we pot farmers being singled-out for all of this regulation?”
It’s not your industry being singled-out. It’s our whole generation being stuck with the mess left by five-hundred generations of people who chose arrogance over respect, and mistook ego for intelligence. It’s about facing facts, and coming to terms with the truth, or it’s about denial, and suicide, but it’s not about your industry being singled-out. That’s just you being paranoid and egocentric, and those are just bad habits of ours, culturally.
We have a long history of shortsightedness here in Humboldt County. I suspect that we’re as eager to throw our long-term assets away for a fast buck as we ever were, and the impending legalization of marijuana gives us another opportunity to do just that.
Right now, the black-market cannabis industry holds this county hostage, politically and economically. The illegal marijuana industry has already brought enough social problems to Humboldt County, problems ranging from poverty and homelessness to hard drug abuse, violent crime and murder. Feeding this disease, and fueling the destruction it causes, the misguided War on Drugs has turned a harmless, easy to grow weed into expensive contraband. Now that the tides have turned on the War on Drugs, politicians and drug dealers will try to convince you that marijuana is nuclear caviar.
Nuclear, meaning that they will tell you that marijuana is so dangerous that it requires as much government oversight, control and regulation as a nuclear power plant. Caviar, because they intend to concoct some scheme to control cannabis production, to keep the price of cannabis artificially inflated, so that good pot remains an expensive luxury that working people can ill-afford.
Cannabis is not nuclear caviar. Cannabis is a giant fucking ripoff. Until now, the price of cannabis has been highway robbery at the point of a cop’s gun. If the CA legislature passes the current passel of pending cannabis legislation, they will simply turn iron-fisted prohibition into a state sponsored racket. It will still be highway robbery at the point of a cop’s gun, and pot will remain a giant fucking ripoff. For now.
Still, dramatic changes, already underway in the cannabis industry, will continue. The marijuana industry of today looks nothing like the marijuana industry of 20 years ago. Humboldt County will probably produce more marijuana, this year alone, than it did in the entire two decades between 1980 and 1999, and the cannabis industry of the future will look nothing like the cannabis industry of today.
The cannabis market will become more competitive, production will expand and automation will increase. Profit margins will shrink, leading to rapid consolidation. That means lots of people lose their jobs or go out of business. That’s how legal industries work. The cannabis industry is rapidly becoming a legal industry, full of businessmen who know how to run a business, and aren’t afraid to make tough decisions.
That is a dramatic change from the cannabis industry we all know and love. We like pot growers to be spendthrift fools who have no idea how much money they really make, buy everything retail, and drip money as they walk down the street. More than the cannabis itself, our local economy relies on the stupidity and shortsightedness of black-market dope growers who’s lack of business acumen lured them into this line of work to begin with. The black market takes money out of the hands of hard-working people, who might otherwise save it, and puts it into the hands of the people most likely to squander it. That’s how prohibition boosts the economy, and that’s what we see here in Humboldt County.
The fact is, no matter how legalization plays out, most of the people who benefit from the marijuana industry in Humboldt County today, will eventually get squeezed out. Will it happen in three years, or will it take five? That depends on a lot of things, but it will happen, regardless. A lot of people around here will have to find something else to do, and the sooner, the better.
The War on Drugs is a cruel racist policy. Mostly, the War on Drugs provides a legal framework for the violent control of minority communities, but here in Humboldt, we see another racist aspect to the War on Drugs. Here, the War on Drugs provided a relatively low-risk avenue to affluence for privileged white kids with no particular skills, talent or ambition. Hey, I’m a privileged, white, college drop-out myself. I certainly understand the attraction, but it’s still racist. It’s still wrong, and it’s still a huge fucking ripoff, but rest assured; that side of the War on Drugs, will evaporate too. The marijuana industry will no longer be dominated by white middle-class dilettantes looking for a low-stress, way to support their high-consumption lifestyle.
When you think about it, these are the people who make Humboldt County attractive and interesting, at least to me, the artists, performers and musicians, the idealistic art history, English and ancient language majors and the disillusioned scientists and engineers who decided they didn’t want to build weapons systems or devise new, environmentally destructive, products. For people like this, growing pot was a way to finance their art or their writing or their political activism, or their other interesting hobbies, without distracting too much from them. The cannabis industry of the future will have no place for these people.
Instead, the cannabis industry will be dominated by greedy white farmers who know how to grow pot and run a business, but have few, if any, other interests. Greedy white farmers do not attract tourists. If they did, people would flock to Iowa to watch corn grow. Greedy white farmers drain rivers, kill fish and destroy habitat, and they use their political clout to make sure that no one gets in their way. That’s what greedy white farmers do everywhere, and that’s what they intend to do here.
Yes, farming is boring and ugly and no one wants to see it, and the same is true of farmers, but we have something else here in Humboldt County that is worth more than all of the black-market marijuana we’ve grown here in the past, and all of the nuclear caviar we hope to produce in the future, put together. That is natural habitat.
Natural habitat has become remarkably rare around the world. I mean really rare, not artificially price-controlled, “rare,” but genuinely uncommon, and truly valuable. The Earth has lost half of its natural biodiversity since the first Earth Day, and the primary reason is loss of habitat. If we should treat anything around here like nuclear caviar, it is the natural habitat here in Humboldt County.
People want to see natural habitat, and they want to see it teeming with life.. Natural habitat attracts tourists. Biodiversity attracts tourists. No one will ever figure out how to produce habitat on the cheap and flood the market with biodiversity. Habitat will only become more rare and valuable. Pot, on the other hand, is easy to grow and cheap to produce, and it won’t be long before some state, like Nevada, Texas or Kansas, decides to get out of the way and open up the floodgates to an ocean of cheap cannabis.
That will leave us, here in Humboldt County, facing the same decision we face now, but with fewer options, and greatly diminished assets: Do we sacrifice our lives, and the natural habitat we love, in a vain attempt to compete with market forces beyond our control, or do we use our imagination, and learn to do something else, that harmonizes with the natural splendor of this unique place, and works for the kind of people who make up this community, and make this community special.
In separate interactions with two different liberal lawyers, recently, I heard the same phrase uttered as an excuse for human caused environmental devastation. It sounded all too familiar. It’s a deceptively simple phrase, but it conceals one of the fundamental myths of this new science-based religion called “Secular Humanism.” Both of these gentlemen expressed this phrase as a personal belief. “I just think that we are a species in the midst of adolescence.” or “I believe that we are a species in adolescence,” was more or less how they put it. That’s a strange thing to believe.
Secular humanists have adopted this strange belief in the adolescence of the human species because of their strange belief in science. Believing in science is pretty weird too, if you ask me. Not that anyone did, but still, it’s one thing to learn about the world using the scientific method, and it’s something else altogether to “believe in” science.
Secular humanists think that our objective, scientific understanding of the universe is the greatest thing since sliced bread. They see the emergence of science as a guiding light that will see us through this difficult phase of our evolution, our adolescence, if you will. We must be doing something right, they reason, if we can put a nuclear powered car on Mars, calculate the moment of the Big Bang to the millisecond and find the goddamn Higgs boson, and they assume there is a point to it all. They see the scientific viewpoint as superior. Our best hope for survival, as a species, they will tell you, is more science and technology. That’s what I mean when I say that Secular Humanists “believe in science.”
Unfortunately, the facts on the ground tell us that most of today’s really pressing crises originated with some new scientific development, and the technology it inspired. For instance we face Global Warming because of certain developments in chemistry, a few mechanical inventions, and a hell of a lot of marketing. The knowledge that science gives us, has led to horrific disasters and environmental devastation around the globe. From the spectre of nuclear warfare to global climate change, to overpopulation, every new scientific discovery leads to new technology, which creates a new crisis.
We tell ourselves that all of this destruction is part of our “education” as a species. We tell ourselves that we are a good species, and we are on the right track, but we just need a little more time to reach our maturity. If we think about human beings as an “adolescent species” does that also mean that we should also think of the genocide of the American Indians as a college “panty raid,” slavery as a sort of fraternity hazing, and the whole environmental crisis as just a nasty hangover from doing too many Jagger-bombs at that kegger last night? Perhaps we should just say: “boys will be boys.” about these dark chapters in in our history, because these were just the youthful indiscretions of an adolescent species, and someday, we’ll grow out of it, get a job, and settle down.
Of course, if we actually applied what we know about science to this new myth, we’d realize that adolescence happens to individuals, not species. Individuals reach a stage where they no longer need the direct care and supervision of their parents, but have very little experience to draw from in their encounters in the real world. Adolescence never happens to a whole species at once. Every species is fully mature at the moment it evolves into existence. There are no “Not Ready for Prime Time Players” in nature.
Species evolve in response to the pressures and limitations placed on them by their environment. If the species survives, it is only because it’s particular adaptations are suited to the challenges of the environment they face at that moment. Species don’t evolve with adaptations suited to some future world, or with adaptations that take a few millennium to refine. The idea of a species in adolescence has no basis in science at all.
Every generation of every species comes with a fully mature set of time-tested adaptations that prepare it for survival within the limits set by its environment. That’s why you will never hear a biologist say, of an invasive species, for instance: “Well, Zebra mussels are an adolescent species. They want to get out and see the world, but we think that eventually they will return to their home range and settle down as the species matures.”
…or of an endangered species: “We think that the declining numbers of Northern spotted owls in Northern California forests is the result of the owls engaging in risky behavior. We think the owls are ‘acting out’ in reaction to losing so much of their habitat to logging. Spotted owls are an adolescent species, and we think this is just a temporary phase. We just need to give the owls some space, and let nature take its course.” Nor will you find any such nonsense in biology textbooks.
Why then, do you suppose, has this idea of an adolescent species, homo adolescence, if you will, has become such a widespread belief among Secular Humanists, who, because of their high regard for science, should know better?
It might be because Secular Humanists, like most people, prefer literary metaphor to real science. It might be because most Secular Humanists just haven’t examined that aspect of their belief system very closely, or it could be because Secular Humanists simply cannot face the fact that we are not looking at the youthful indiscretion of a species nearing maturity, but instead, we are witnessing the collapse of a suicidal culture, that is taking science, democracy, all of our beloved technology, and everything that makes us feel superior to the rest of nature, with it. The real answer, of course, is “all of the above.”
In truth, we’re a great species! We’re a mature, time tested species, that has achieved global distribution. There’s nothing wrong with us as a species. As a species, we’ve developed thousands of cultures, suited to life in the place they originated. We just happened to be born into one particularly destructive culture, that has already destroyed an alarming amount of the world’s biologic, as well as human, cultural diversity. There’s nothing wrong with us as people, but the way we live, the way we think, and the way we see ourselves in relationship to the rest of nature couldn’t be more wrong. If we hope to survive, as a species, our culture has got to change.