The American Dream?


by Attila Gyenis



What exactly is the American dream? Is it to have a society based on fairness, truth, compassion, and liberty for all? Where all people benefit? Where we act as a community, sharing burdens as well as rewards?


Or is it a dream where money, dominance, and force determines who wins, who rules, and who benefits? Where it is acceptable to justify any action or decision as long as the bottom line is profitable?


I talked with an employee of PL/Maxxam who had no problem with Charles Hurwitz taking $50 million dollars a year from timber operations in Humboldt County. He told me that was the American dream.


I’m sorry, but I cannot agree. It is the American nightmare when a person is willing to sell out their neighbors, their community, and basic common decency for just a few dollars.


In the first place, destroying five watersheds is not creating wealth. The liquidation logging may generate money, but that is not to be confused with creating wealth. It is robbing the very things that our children, and their children, will depend on to have a quality life- clean air, clean water, and a sustainable environment.


I know, I know. According to the advertisements that are being repeated ad-nauseam, PL/Maxxam follows the strictest environmental practices in the world, I mean universe. I guess I should be relieved. Still, the watersheds remain impaired; fish and wildlife endangered; and toxic herbicides continue to be sprayed in our watersheds.


One wonders how a company, that accuses others of lacking integrity, would not feel just a little embarrassed making millions of dollars from unsustainable liquidation logging practices, and cutting down their last remaining old-growth trees.


We are at a crossroads. How do we want to continue as a society? Do we want to stay the present course? In that case, we don’t have to do anything. Everything will continue as it is. This includes the over-cutting of the forests; over-fishing of the oceans, creating more and more genetically modified foods; supporting dictators and other military regimes just because it is profitable; drilling for oil in the Arctic preserve but don’t ask us to conserve; Mad Cow disease; and a government that is more concerned about protecting corporate profit than freedom, liberty, and the public trust.


Think about it for a moment. Even though you can justify your choices today, will you be able to justify them 20 years from now? It’s easy as a teenager to justify smoking, but it becomes a little more difficult when you developed emphysema and need an oxygen tank to breath. Some choices have unintended, but predictable, consequences.


The challenges facing us are more than just the timber issues. We have reached a defining moment. Our actions (or lack of) will determine the direction of our society. If we want to change the path that we are on, we need to make different choices. In some cases, it will require us to start making choices and taking action. After all, if we aren’t making the changes that need to be made, who will?


We can no longer blindly leave decisions that affect our community to government officials, corporate executives, or the mass media. Time is of the essence. If a doctor said that you had a serious illness, wouldn’t you want to find out as much information as you can? We are facing situations today that may be critical to our survival as a society. In some cases, solutions will be obsolete if not done in a timely manner, just like closing the barn door after the horse got out. Get informed, write letters, go to meetings, talk to your neighbors, and vote.


This is not about our side or their side. This is simply about how we want to be as a society. If we want to be a fairer and more compassionate society, we need to act in a fairer and more compassionate manner. It will require integrity and personal honesty. As presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich said, “We have to have a courageous insistence on truth.” Truth is the basis for justice. Justice is the basis for liberty and freedom. And that should be the American Dream.


Published 1/6/04 in Times-Standard (Eureka, CA) as a letter to editor.

Old Growth Redwoods

One vision of a dream- a standing forest as nature intended it.





 Another reality that comes from different kind of a  dream...driven by profit





More Clearcuts

An example of even-aged managed logging.



Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC):


The Sierra Club:


Save The Redwoods League:

The picture are all from EPIC's website.


Beautiful Old Gowth Forest


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