Taking an unreasonable position carries advantages.
Deny climate change, for example, and you win as soon as anyone argues the point, because just addressing an argument is a validation of its seriousness.
Another benefit of an unreasonable position is taking it opens space for your allies to make an advantageous deal. You see this now in the federal budget fight, which is being fought on ground prepared by those Republicans in Congress who, for awhile last summer, refused to raise the debt limit.
President Obama must negotiate a budget in the context of severe, forced cuts (sequestration) created as a result of the radical actions of those Republicans who threatened last year not to raise the debt limit.
The same dynamic is playing out, too, in the Adirondack land use struggles, as the new environmental organization Protect the Adirondacks! reopens questions on which opposing sides have spent years reaching compromises.
Compromise is not in the vocabulary of the leaders of Protect the Adirondacks!, people like Peter Bauer and Bob Glennon who have made careers out of polarizing the Adirondack debate.
With their group’s name, Protect’s leaders pay homage to Earth First!, notorious for its connection to acts of eco-sabotage.
Protect’s sabotage has involved trying to dynamite deals on which others have spent years of effort, such as the Adirondack Park Agency permit for Adirondack Club & Resort in Tupper Lake.
Most recently, Protect the Adirondacks! has sought permission from the courts to sue to prevent the APA and Department of Environmental Conservation from building snowmobile trails in the fashion agreed upon through years of good-faith negotiations.
Negotiation does not suit a group that adorns its name with an exclamation point.
Protect the Adirondacks! cannot lose. The lawsuits bring the group attention, which brings donations. Its adversaries are forced to treat its arguments seriously. And its radicalism makes other groups with environmental agendas, like the Adirondack Council, look reasonable by comparison.
So don’t look to the members of Protect the Adirondacks! to listen to reason or work toward compromise, now or ever. They have another mission — to hold the radical ground — and they do it well.
Will Doolittle is projects editor of The Post-Star. He may be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter at @trafficstatic.
Note: In my column last week, I mistakenly identified John Caffry as being from Queensbury when he is from Glens Falls. I apologize.