“There is a fine line between environmental sensitivity and environmental insanity and society is coming close to crossing it.” That’s part of the message Bruce Vincent, a third-generation logger from Montana, delivered during the latest installment of the Upson Lecture Series in early November. The lecture series is hosted by K-State’s student group, Food For Thought.
Through his many ventures, including testifying on natural resource issues before Congress, appearing on news programs such as “60 Minutes” and giving motivational speeches across the country, Vincent focused his lecture around his perspective on how to lead, not fight, the discussion over our nation’s environmental health.
Growing up in a family logging operation, Vincent watched as the logging industry came under attack for its practices in forest management. He now sees the same attack being pushed onto the agriculture and food production industries.
“As people become more removed from the farm they begin to have a stereotypical view of what we do. Now the policies that are being passed to protect us are having perverse effects on us. These policies are not dictated by reality but by the public’s perception of reality.”
Vincent said the public perception of what is happening in agriculture is being perpetuated by celebrity influence and misinformation from the media. “The media creates visuals of forest clear-cuts and men in suits, and of cows getting pulled through manure. Then HSUS comes in with a puppy, and America gets to pick what is good and what isn’t. America doesn’t know the difference, not because they are stupid, but because they have a lack of information.”
Additionally, Vincent said urban citizens are smart and they are trying to make smart decisions on difficult issues. “They make the right choice; they are just given the wrong things to choose from.”
In order to combat misinformation, Vincent suggested that people in all aspects of agriculture use a platform to address the
concerns of others. “There is a difference between leading and fighting, and we need to lead to address the public and speak in their language. We need to own the science and package the solution.”
Vincent offered three truths that he learned “the hard way” to help agriculture confront its opponents.
1. Democracy works, but it is not a spectator sport. The best way to effect bloodless revolution is to be engaged in the process.
2. When people lead, leaders follow. People don’t have to choose between clean water and agriculture, tell our leaders why.
3. The world is run by those who show up. Commit to being a part of the discussion and show up in public spaces.
At the end of his lecture Vincent praised the Food For Thought group on their efforts and asks that all involved in agriculture should be active and engaged. He also said social media is an outlet to speak up for what is known to be true and this will help agriculture maintain its license to operate.
“The next generation gives me hope. They are asking the questions that my generation forgot to ask. We are looking for a new environmental leader with a vision built on science not fear. The new environmental movement should be run by rural people so we can save the last best places in America by the last best people.”