At a meeting of the Lake County Commissioners on Tuesday, Feb. 18, Lake County Commissioner Mark Albertson raised an interesting point when members of the Lake County Umbrella Watershed Council (LCUWC) were talking about all the different projects throughout the county; and that was marketing to the state about the work done in Lake County on improving the health of the forests and waterways.
That brings up an interesting point, and one in which I have had a few conversations with people outside of Lake County. That is no one believes me about all the renewable energy that is in Lake County, whether it is solar or geothermal. How Lake County is working towards totally offsetting its carbon footprint, and working towards healthy forests and streams.
When I mentioned all the work that is being done in Lake County my friends look at my dumbfounded and often do not believe me. Commissioner Albertson has it right, in a way the County has not been advertising its success across the State for all to see, read and hear.
In a way Lake County is flying under the radar, and often being lumped with the other rural counties. Fairly often people’s reactions in the urban areas to rural places like Lake County is that they do not care about the environment, the water, or air pollution; as many urban voters feel that rural voters only care about overturning water pollution and air pollution regulations.
But it really comes down to getting the word out and across. Just relying on projects to speak for themselves will just get lost in the canacopy of messages that are swarming out there. I know the role of special interests, especially environmental special interest groups, have been a topic of discussion at the Commissioners meeting; especially as it relates to Cap and Trade. But the messaging can work both ways, it is just that special interest groups that consider themselves pro-environment have done a better job with delivering the message to the voters in the urban areas than have groups that represent farmers, ranchers, and other groups that do care about the environment but would not be consider environmentalists.
Some of the earliest conservation groups were hunters, ranchers, and farmers; back in the early days of protecting land in the western United States. Yet over the decades their has been a divergence and a walk away from that thinking and belief anymore. In a way being a farmer, hunter, and rancher is not being an environmentalist anymore. I personally believe that this divergence of thinking started in the 1980s and has only gotten worse.
Now it is time to get back to that thinking, but it would require more as the way of communicating with voting groups and making sure the message reaches the people have changed over the past twenty years. The message needs to show that rural areas like Lake County do care about the environment, but the messaging system needs to change.
We need to spread the word far and wide, to people in the big cities who might never make it to Lake County to see for themselves; but those are the people that need to be targeted with a mix of messages and messaging systems.
Commissioner Albertson has it right that we need to do a better job, but it is not impossible.