Thanks to Scott Greacen for bringing my attention to this blog post about the lethal mud slide in the Cascades of Washington. It appears to be well-researched, and if true a major property rights advocate who opposed any kind of development limitations which might have saved lives, may well have become a victim of his own ideology. I take no joy nor do I claim there is any “poetic justice” in the matter – the events are pure tragedy – but maybe someone will learn that the universe is apathetic to our notions of freedom and justice. That “big bad government” is trying to regulate you, it does not follow that the basis for that regulation is wrong. And not all opposition to development is rooted in “alarmism.”
From the article:
In fact, the warnings of the state were not only ignored, but actually defied. For in a strange twist, the law inspired some people to fight the state’s efforts to “meddle in the private affairs of residents”. As the news of the slide came out, it turned out that one of the main activists protesting the 2006 zoning law to prevent runaway building in hazardous areas was Thomas Satterlee. He was one of the leaders of the activist anti-government “Patriot” movement, organizing armed militias in the area to fight back against the “big bad Government.” In the 1990s, he tried to declare the area as “Freedom County” and hoped to run it without any oversight from state or federal law; all of his efforts were struck down, eventually reaching the Superior Court. Satterlee was also a big advocate of the “Sovereign Citizen” movement….
In the case of Oso, Washington, Satterlee was particularly active in fighting the 2006 zoning law, whose primary intent was to prevent excessive building in the region, especially in hazardous zones below the landslide. His acts of defiance influenced his neighbors, who also ignored the law and the warnings of expert geologists. Instead, they chose to live in a clearly identifiable area of great hazard. Some of the victims of the slide, who knew about the risks and openly ignored expert advice, are no “innocents” who had no warning. Those who never heard of the risk, however, bear no blame for staying in a danger zone. In another ironic twist, Satterlee apparently paid the ultimate price for his defiance of experts: he and his family are among the missing and presumed dead.
I’m sure the property rights advocates around here will find a million ways to distinguish the situation from their own circumstances. I just hope their lessons are never as harsh – for themselves or anyone else.
There is much more about the history of the situation through the link, including some chilling before and after photographs. And there’s a long history of warnings from those “urban environmentalists” so fun to demonize.