Frankly, Plum Creek's plan doesn't get me all that riled up. Environmental groups here in Maine have made much of the company's plan to subdivide 975 houselots in the remote Moosehead region - which sounds like an awful lot, but really, it's roughly the equivalent of adding another Limington (1141 households) or Readfield (867 households) into the north woods (source: US Census). I grew up next to Limington, and to tell the truth, those 1141 households across the Saco River were pretty benign.
So until Saturday, I'd been inclined to look at the Plum Creek "debate" as yet another instance of well-to-do, self-styled environmentalists getting worked up about the quasi-mystical Nature on the frontier in order to avoid thinking about the nature we use and abuse every day. After all, while the hearings were going on and street thespians were prancing around in moose costumes, international diplomats in Bali were struggling to drag the United States to sign a watered-down agreement that may end up being little more than an eleventh-hour doomsday pact. How's that for perspective?
But then I met the Plum Creek supporters - or rather, two particular supporters - who reminded me that as foolish as the environmental movement can sometimes be, at least it's not as blatantly desperate, greedy, and stupid as the fools who swallow and serve the gospel of a corporate panderer.
Upstairs from the big hearing room, Plum Creek had set up a hospitality room "for supporters only," and naievely thinking that I might have an intelligent conversation there, I moseyed inside. Within five steps of the door, a grumpy old man with a rental-cop authority complex stopped me and told me I had to leave, because the room was only for supporters.
Now, the guy's little bulldog demeanor was funny enough, so I laughed him off and asked him how he was so sure I wasn't a supporter. He essentially told me that I fit the profile, which I can only assume to be someone under thirty years old (I don't think my clothing - a hooded high-school football team sweatshirt, Dickies, and an olive green jacket - screamed "environmental terrorist"). I explained my position, gave him the name of my employer, which has adopted a neutral position to try to negotiate a consensus compromise, and generally assured him well enough to leave me alone for a while.
I took a picture of the room and helped myself to some coffee. But the geriatric bouncer really didn't like the photography, because he stormed back over and told me to use a styrofoam cup. This confused me - was my choice of a reusable ceramic cup how he was profiling me as an antagonistic Earth Firster? But no: he just wanted me to leave, immediately.
This was at the head of the buffet line, and within earshot of everyone in the room. I wondered loudly how Plum Creek could have its reputation as a steward of public access when this was how it treated sympathetic members of the public in its "hospitality room."
A second fellow came over and tried to lead me away from the small knot of supporters in the buffet line - the "good cop." His name was Ron. We had a slightly more productive conversation, but at one point he complained that "you people" want to cut off public access to the northern forest. I told him that I wanted no such thing, but that Plum Creek's sale of one thousand McMansions would fairly certainly restrict public access to large portions of the forest immediately, and introduce thousands of future complaints about hunting and industrial forestry from newly suburban neighborhoods in the forest. After about five minutes, he ended the conversation fairly amicably, and also asked me to leave.
Thinking back on it, I came to see these guys and their paranoid lack of perspective as representatives of all the things that are terribly wrong with Plum Creek. The corporation and its supporters have been working hard to establish an "us against them" mentality in northern Maine, and they were particularly resentful that they were subjected to a hearing in Portland. But these divisions are bullshit, and counterproductive.
The two men I spoke with, like many Plum Creek advocates, act as though they are defending a terribly abusive relationship. Plum Creek has worked hard to promote the idea of Greenville as a struggling town in need of a savior. As a result, Greenville and its more gullible citizens have resigned themselves to low self esteem and a slavish devotion to the company's plans. Sure, Plum Creek knocks us around sometimes, but we deserve it. We need it. And damn anyone who thinks otherwise.
The Plum Creek bouncers have a lot in common with the working stiffs who want George Bush to keep burning coal until we've got the Inferno on Earth. You could say "screw 'em," but they're already screwed beyond all hope.
Listen, Greenville, you've got a lot going for yourself - Moosehead Lake, mountains, and millions of acres of wild Maine forest. Stick up for yourself and don't take any more crap from Plum Creek's political machinations.