Need more to meet in the middle

The overarching theme of the book “Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman” by Miriam Horn is to accomplish lasting, impactful solutions (in this case with climate change and environmental concerns) we need to work with folks in the middle. In essence, the folks in the extremes are too strident and reluctant to compromise.

A good example comes from the Montana rancher as he combats climate change and environmental degradation caused by fracking for natural gas. He works with folks who will address the environmental issues, but permit him and his family to make a living ranching. He notes the fracking companies paint a picture that is far rosier than it is, while some extreme environmentalists want everything to stop and do nothing with the land. At personal risk, he built a coalition of ranchers, environmentalists and government officials who were willing to follow his lead to preserve the environment while permitting the ranchers to do their thing.

The Kansas farmer speaks to working in concert with the land and learning and sharing best practices with other area farmers and the agro-economics people at nearby Kansaa State University. Farmers want to maximize a sustainable yield on their crops, but climate change and water concerns increase the challenges to do so. He emphasizes growing what grows naturally in the area. There is a reason wheat and alfalfa are cash crops in Kansas. He notes the farm to table concept is not necessarily ideal – it would be a waste of water and land to try to grow everything there. As for climate change, they work with legislators to protect the water resources, but have to stop short of using that term with their representatives. They gain collaboration by speaking to what is happening, not identifying its lead cause.

The Louisiana based river man moves frieight up and down the Mississippi River. He understands the importance of experienced teams who know the river going both ways, with high, low or medium water levels. He has seen the significant dissipation of the wetlands in the Bayou which are causing huge problems to many, Engineers tried to outsmart the river and failed. In fairly dramatic fashion, the Gulf of Mexico is absorbing land due to rising sea levels and fewer buffers, So, they are working with scientists, businesses, and even the petroleum industry to slowly rebuild the Bayou.

It should be noted working in collaboration is how business and government work best. Yet, collaboration is hard work. For those who block the consideration of solutions, they need to be sidelined. In our toxic tribal political environment, we must remember each side does not own all the good ideas and both sides own some bad ones. Let’s follow the lead of these folks who get their hands dirty, understand what is happening and work together.

30 thoughts on “Need more to meet in the middle

  1. Working together is always the best way to get things done. Everyone being open to other opinions and ways to approach a challenge usually means that the solution can be embraced by the greatest number of stakeholders. So sensible, yet so rare in today’s climate where compromise is seen as a weakness.

    • Janis, agreed. Plus with a desperate need for long range solutions, not collaborating means the changes are short term in thinking passing along the problems. We must get sustainable change to address climate change, debt, poverty, etc. Keith

  2. This type of collaboration requires, just as a good marriage, a willingness to listen to the other side, to be respectful, and to compromise. There is no room in either for hot-heads, but there are far too many of those these days … on both sides. Good post, Keith!

      • ANY relationship takes work on the part of all involved. That is what is lacking in Congress and across the nation. i just wish there were a ‘reset’ button and we could go back a few years and say, “now let’s try this again …”

      • Jill, agreed. Before the segregated political news and marketing efforts, members of Congress used to socialize across party lines more. In the book “Tip and the Gipper,” Republican Ronald Reagan and Democrat Soeaket Tip O’Neill were very good friends and spoke daily. They differed on opinions, but both loved the country and found common ground. Keith

  3. Reblogged this on Filosofa's Word and commented:
    How do we resolve the divisiveness in our political climate today? One person at a time, I think. We will not solve the problems facing our nation, indeed, our planet, with vitriol and loud voices. Friend and fellow-blogger Keith, as always, makes some excellent points on this topic. Please take a minute to read … this is too important for us to continue as we have been. Thanks, Keith!!!

  4. Note to Readers: I have read and written before how Denmark developed a long range plan to battle climate change. Being below sea level raises a level of urgency. The plan required the buy in of all parties as it needed to stand the impact of changes to the make-up of legislators. The plan had to be sustainable or the investment in change would have stalled.

  5. Note to Readers: A quote from a mentor to Justin Knopf, the farmer, is compelling. “Dr. Gary Pierzynski, head of the Kansas State University agronomy department describes…‘We have no doubt that climate change is happening. But we recognize that talking directly about it raises issues with some of our elected officials, who remain unconvinced and don’t support investing state resources to study it. So we emphasize our focus on challenges like extending the life of the Ogallala aquifer; we don’t disguise it but take away the climate change message.’”

  6. Good post Keith. The spirit of compromise with both sides using their ears as well as their mouths is always going to get better results as no-one with an axe to grind can make any headway like that. The examples you cite are excellent forms of contribution towards a result. But the Government have to allow the middle men to hear all versions of a story and not just theirs or a lot of middle men just have one side to base their decisions on. Too many people believe climate change is hogwash thanks to the current Government actions and this will cause a high level of damage to the land just so Obama’s actions are eradicated.

    • David, many thanks. One of my frustrations is the moderate middle is not being heard from. Compromise has become a dirty word. I watch a panels with one Democrat and one Republican argue quite often, but both are not seeing areas of agreement and are offering too strident a view. We need the Independent voices to have a place at the table. Keith

  7. I would love it if compromises coulds be arrived at. Politicians are one big roadblock, they can only think as far as the next election. That is how they are taught to survive. And then they are taught to lie their heads off for those valuable swing votes. Tell people what they want to hear, then do what you want once you are elected. I don’t think many politicians can be worked with as long as all they want is to get re-elected before anything else.
    Then there are the loud activists. Yes, they are generally too busy shouting to hear anyone but themselves. But don’t ignore these people, THEY ARE ALREADY ON YOUR SIDE. The trick is to find an idea that will make them want to listen. Remember, the reason they are so loud is because they are frustrated. Using calm voices got them nowhere. That is why they are shouting. Reason alone will not work. Reason with the show of a willingness to act might. Nothing can ever succeed if no one is willing to fail. That is the first rule of any winning strategy.
    And then there are the moderates: this is the group that needs to raise their consciousnesses. As long as they believe in big business and free enterprise, they are putty in the hands of said Big Business. Help them to understand, being putty is not a useful position. Believing everything they are told does not teach them how to think for themselves. Allowing the powers-that-be to get away with calling radicals crackpots stop people from hearing opposing viewpoints, yet it is the radicals who cause the most change.
    These are my ideas on mobilizing the middle. I hope you will at least consider them.

    • Rawgod, thanks for your well thought out comment. As I mentioned to David, people willing to compromise and collaborate have gotten a bad name and get squeezed out. I am an Independent voter having been a member of both parties. I call myself fiscally conservative and socially progressive. To me, the Independent voices see both sides of issues and need to be heard from. This will help point to common ground and broker compromise. The sad part is these voices are not being heard.

      I understand your point about strident views raising the banner of change, Yet, I have witnessed a GOP leave Democrats out of discussions on ACA and have developed terrible bills. The best hope to improve and stabilize the ACA is a bipartisan Akexander-Murray Bill.

      Thanks for your thoughts. They are greatly appreciated. Keith

      • No need to thank me Keith, but the sentiment is appreciated. As I see it, my role in life is to role-model being able to think for myself, and help people learn that “popular” opinions are not always the “proper” opinion, if indeed anything at all can be said to be proper. Only an individual can truly make up their mind on what is proper for them.
        But there lies the rub. No one can know what is proper for them if they don’t think about or examine each and every opinion that comes their way, and that entails a lot of work, sometimes very hard work. That “work” can often bring a person to a dead stop, “It doesn’t really concern me, so why should I work to figure it all out.”
        Unfortunately, giving up on one thing often means giving up on everything; inaction leads to more inaction. You have given me here the opportunity and occasion to put an idea into words that I have never truly said to anyone before:
        The more you learn how to make up your own mind on ANY opinion that comes your way, the more you learn about who you truly are, and the easier it gets to learn what you think about anything the more you learn what you do think about other things. It’s a ramble, for which I apologize, but it’s something I hope others will hear, and especially the people in middle America. Don’t let others, including me, tell you what to do or think. THINK FOR YOURSELF. You may surprise yourself by what you learn about the TRUE YOU.

      • Well said. Like you, I don’t like folks shutting down ideas. The best ideas come from surprising places. The ultimate solution may end up as a variation from that idea, but would have not been arrived at without it being raised. My hope is we can consider and analyze ideas collectively and then move forward. I feel our leaders govern off rhetoric and we allow them to do so not asking enough “why, what, when, how, how much?” questions. I have found too many politicians have trouble with these questions. Thanks again for your well crafted thoughts. Keith

  8. There is a wealth of wisdom in the post and replies Keith. Folk with simplistic solutions would do well to put a little bit of study into the geological an attendant environmental history of this planet. The forces at work are massive and frankly unstoppable, we must work with those as best we can or suffer the results. The three examples you cited are fine illustrations of this sensible approach.
    (For those of a literal Biblical outlook, they might want to consider that God got a little fed up and flooded us out, ok so He promised he wouldn’t do that to the whole world again, but He didn’t say anything about wayward miscreant regions.)

    • Roger, you speak the “should be” obvious. This stuff is happening whether some pretend it is not, so we would do well to pay attention.

      At the end of the day, doing far less of something (burning fossil fuels) and doing more of something (renewable energy and conservation) is the path forward. If someone does not want to mention Voldemort’s name, that is fine as long as they don’t stand in the way of us going down that path forward. There are at least two conservative groups in America who are advocating renewable energy while treading lightly on the term “climate change.”

      If God does flood a region again, I hope He uses fresh water to replenish our aquifers. Keith

      • Roger, they are inflammatory as the fossil fuel industry had paid a lot of money for politicians to claim them to be so. I have seen Senator Mitch McConnell and former Speaker John Boehner utter on videotape that climate change is real and man-influenced and we need to do something about it. Yet, they have to pretend they never said it. I do like that Exxon-Mobil must now report to shareholders what they are doing about climate change after shareholders voted to require them to do so. Keith

    • You know Roger, I just learned the story ‘Epic of Gilgamesh,’ from a video presentation done by one of the main translators of the Sumerian Cuniform Tablets from Ur in Iraq. At 4,000 years old, and the earliest writing we know, the story could (with a bit of an update), be right out of today. They (Sumerians) also knew of the great flood. Seems they didn’t learn a great deal from it either.
      Will we ever get this right? Not until we change how we look at life!

      • We could we learn a lot of lessons from past history. Instead we just repeat mistakes even from as recent as fifty years ago.

      • The Native American story of Waynaboozhoo and the Great Flood
        (an Ojibwe legend)- The beginning to the tale tells us “Long ago the world was filled with evil. Men and women lost respect for each other. The Creator was unhappy about this and decided to cause a great flood to purify the earth”
        We can suppose this and similar tales all have a common root from a common ancestorship.
        The most fascinating and salutary part being the underlying message warning Humanity that is it pushes its Arrogance too far then there will be consequences.
        (I like to speculate on the events. Maybe some parts of a society had been warning ‘We shouldn’t build/live that close to this river. And the leadership saying ‘Hah! We know best’).
        Your last statement is so true.

      • Roger, Colette, thanks for the illumination. It is greatly appreciated. Arrogance typically precedes a great fall. This may be proven true with a certain President. Keith

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