I'm working on a new book -- co-authored with Claudia Nissley -- on consultation in cultural resource management (CRM) and environmental impact assessment (EIA). The final chapter, as currently configured, comprises tongue-in-cheek guidelines for people who want to avoid meaningful consultation. By sheer coincidence I was working on a piece of this chapter today, and was inspired to write the following:
On the other hand, it’s sometimes helpful to expand the range of alternatives thrown on the table – not for extensive, expensive consideration, but just for discussion – so those that might actually work get lost in the noise generated by impossibilities.
Outside the cultural resources and environmental arenas, the National Rifle Association in the United States is, as we write this (early 2013), giving us a fine example of alternative expansion. Faced by massive popular revulsion at gun violence in the wake of the massacre at Newtown, Connecticut, the NRA is proposing improved mental health as the solution. It’s hardly debatable that improved mental health would reduce the number of nutcases with guns, but fixing the nation’s mental health is a big, complicated job. By shifting the focus from the relatively easy task of banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines to the near-impossible job of curing the mentally ill, the NRA is skillfully muddying the water and, in all probability, once again preserving its members’ ostensible right to own whatever kinds of weaponry suit their fancy.
Now if I could just figure out a way to apply this principle to CRM and EIA.....