Mary O'Brien

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My hardest fight as a performer has been with myself, to be as clear a conduit as possible for what needs to be said. That's the ongoing struggle. Get my ego and my brain out of the way and let this stuff happen.
-- from "mouth that roared: Bruce Cockburn says he's not an activist but a concerned voice", Edmonton Sun, 27 March 2002, by Fish Griwkowsky.

Before he left California to take over the Wilderness Society, photographer and lifelong environmental activist Ansel Adams, who knew most of the players well, had warned him: 'You're about to go work with the biggest egos on the planet. They don't get paid much so the drive is ego, and the righteousness is self-righteousness,' Adams added, 'the worst kind.' Turnage says Adams foreboding proved accurate. 'I've never seen so much territoriality and rivalry. Some rivalry is healthy, but this was counterproductive." There were, however, some good meetings, 'although the organizations' staffs disliked each other so immensely it was hard to get them to collaborate on anything we decided to do together.'
-- Mark Dowie, Losing Ground: American Environmentalism at the Close of the Twentieth Century, p. 69-70

I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods of direct action;" who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
-- Martin Luther King, Jr., "Letter from the Birmingham Jail",
1963

 

The article below is about two federal lawsuits on the environment that were joined together into a single case. In that case, more than a decade ago, Mary O'Brien signed on to a lifting of an injunction that stopped herbicide spraying on some federal lands -- an injuction that Barbara Kelley with Save Our ecoSystems (SOS) had achieved through difficult litigation.

In the case below, Barbara Kelley had won an injunction that stopped herbicide spraying on some Federal lands. Mary O'Brien signed onto the lifting of that injunction, which infuriated Barbara. To be fair, I've heard Barbara's point of view and not Mary O'Brien's (she declined to respond when asked about the situation) -- but it is hard to imagine a rationale for an environmentalist to endorse lifting an injunction against spraying chemical weapons on public lands that hold some of the last, best biodiversity of Cascadia.

Perhaps part of the problem is the competition for attention in the environmental movement, and how some people find it hard to support others work if they are not getting the credit for it.

Barbara writes in the margins of the article - "SOS not admitted to the table" and notes that Barbara Kelley / SOS excluded from the deliberations. Similarly, those who opposed all of the WEP were excluded from Mary O'Brien's discussions with the Crandall / Arambula designers of a worse WEP, were excluded from Mary's legal committee with Friends of Eugene to consider a truncated lawsuit against the WEP (which would be difficult to be successful if the type of behavior that led to Crandall Arambula was tolerated) and from the "collaboration" efforts set up as the WEP was canceled. While it is understandable that Mary O'Brien would not want anyone who opposed her Crandall Arambula worse WEP to take part in the post-WEP discussions about west Eugene, it is harder to understand why she and Mayor Piercy also sought to exclude the neighborhood groups of west Eugene from their alleged collaboration.


 

Accord Reached on Herbicide Spraying
By Mary O'Brien

The Southern Willamette Alliance
July 1989, p. 5

Some opponents in a long and bitter Northwest controversy experienced a moment of warmth and accord on May 24, 1989. Some longtime plaintiffs agreed not to sue and some stalwart defendents met them at least halfway.
The occasion was the signing of a joint motion to federal Judge James Burns by the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP), Coast range resident Paul Merrell, the Forest Service and the pro-pesticide organization Oregonians for Food and Shelter (OFS). The motion notified the judge that his five-year-old injunction against any use of herbicides by the Forest Service in Oregon and Washington could be lifted without opposition from those who had fought hard to win the injunction.
After five sprayless growing seasons, the Forest Service can once again spray herbicides ... This is what the Forest Service wanted to do in the first place, right? Where is the half way in this accord?
The half way is that after these five years, a whole lot of Forest Service decision makers in Oregon and Washington don't want to spray herbicides much, or at all, and have designed publicly retrievable hoops through which those who want to spray will have to jumb ...

[comment from Mark: this reminds me of similar rhetoric regarding Crandall Arambula, and if a compromise WEP was pushed as a settlement - the "half WEP" scenario - we might reminded that a lot of ODOT, BLM, etc. officials are opposed to the WEP.]

... the Forest Service took [a 1984] injunction as an opportunity. Deciding in 1986 to address the spirit as well as the letter of NEPA, the agency approached its former nemesis, NCAP, asking for suggestions, ideas, information and names of more folks to involve in what was to become a two and a half year process ...

[Barbara Kelley, Save Our ecoSystems was excluded from that process because she took a no-compromise approach]

 


"A Personal Story: A Public Issue"
By Barbara Kelley
(in the same publication, March 1989)

... The crowning climax of our work was the victorious outcome of SOS versus Clarke ... 
[Barbara's suit against the BLM for their spraying - she lived near some BLM checkerboards in the Cascade foothills]
.... "The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals granted us both a resounding victory, upholding the injunction of herbicide spraying in public forests and expanding its boundaries. [NCAP] entered the legal arena at this point and, without the necessity of further legal arguments, successfully pressed for the extension of the injunction to all of the Northwest (NCAP v. Block). Several other suits followed and Region V USFS in California halted its own use of herbicides.
Ultimately, the Chief of the USFS placed a ban on herbicide spraying on all USFS forests and BLM "followed suit". We rejoiced. ...
The ban that has protected our public forests since 1983 is now being threatened. The USFS is about to make a motion to dissolve the injunction. ... Judge Burns, pressed on one side by the timber interests as represented by the USFS, and on the other by preservationists, has opted for mediation prior to dissolving the injuction. We are not optimistic about this turn of events.