front porch flimflam
Flimflam /ˈflɪm.flæm/: n. Talk that intends to deceive ... v. To swindle or dupe
This page contains the original post Front Porch Forum published when I joined the conversation about the new Hubbard Park trail on Oct. 26, 2022, plus the response I was trying to submit before FPF terminated my account on Nov. 2.
I can't show what the other people's posts said because of FPF's rules against copying others' forum posts. I can say that everything of consequence to me (regarding the people who were critical of me and my opinion, disparaged me and my opinion, publicly accused me of being something that I am not, and twisted my words into something I never said) is addressed in what I was trying to get published as a response before Front Porch Forum terminated my account.
[As I've mentioned elsewhere on this site, if you're interested in getting an idea of some of the other writing of mine that Front Porch Forum deemed acceptable and published (which again, was all of it), you can find examples on VTDigger or The Montpelier Bridge.]
Original FPF post, published in response to an ongoing thread Oct. 26
Respectfully, I strongly disagree with the expressions of support for this new trail and have trouble understanding these positions.
But first: If you will perceive any opposition to this trail as an attack on people with disabilities and/or mobility issues, then you should know that you're missing the point of what I'm saying. This isn't an attack on people with disabilities and/or mobility issues. We should be able to voice opposition to something without any implied animus toward other people.
Having said that, I do believe that we need to re-think, as humans, our positions and actions when it comes to what is killing the planet and all living beings on it, and weigh them against what we do that is considered "normal" or "for the greater good."
What I can say is that if I were someone with a disability and/or mobility issue, I wouldn't want the plant, animal, and general ecological and environmental devastation that was done for this trail in Hubbard Park to be done on my behalf. Nor would I expect, or wish, that the natural world would have to conform to me, or that I should have the natural world shaped to mitigate other natural occurrences like the weather, so that I could enjoy a specific part of nature in some specific way. I can't make you believe me. You'll just have to take my word for it, and understand that this is the perspective I am coming from. You can also take my word that I'll never set foot on this new trail, and I'll be very grateful once all the destruction, noise, and exhaust from this project has ended.
This ship has sailed. I get it. What I have trouble understanding is how people who understand the climate crisis, humanity's devastating impact on the planet, and the calamity of a thought system that is human-centric and individually selfish to the detriment of all living beings and the Earth itself, can celebrate what was done in Hubbard Park and call it "great."
I wrote an LTE about this for the Bridge in the most recent issue: https://montpelierbridge.org/2022/10/letters-to-the-editor-oct-19-2022/
But these recent FPF posts have raised more issues.
Anyone who's been to the park knows that most people who will benefit from the "accessibility" of this trail will have had to arrive at the park by car or some other fueled transportation. You may argue that the personal car is key to accessibility. I have a lot of other things to say about cars.
And what of the trail's other endpoint, the tower? Yes, it's interesting to see from the ground. But anyone who truly needs the accessible trail to get to the tower is not going to be able to climb the tower "for a priceless view of Vermont’s little capital and the mountain ranges beyond." What next, an elevator for the tower? I suspect many would object to that on the grounds of the "historic nature" of the tower's architecture. But you're all OK with the ruination that was done to the literal historic nature in order to make this new trail?
If the goal was to provide a truly accessible trail, then it should've been blazed into the hillside behind the Capitol, and made accessible from downtown.
Of course, that wouldn't have excused the project, and the annihilation and destruction would've been compounded by such a trail's creation. But at least the rationale and justification for such a trail would've been more sound, if not any less questionable and objectionable.
Nor do the justifications for any others' use of this trail make it acceptable. There are lots of trails in the park already, in addition to wide roads. This trail was not necessary.
"Reasonable accommodations" does not include cutting new trails through wilderness. "Reasonable accommodations" is generally a term of labor and disability law, and is most widely referenced in relation to the ADA. The ADA was enacted to "[enable] society to benefit from the skills, talents and purchasing power of individuals with disabilities and leads to fuller, more productive lives for all Americans." That's not exactly oriented toward wilderness recreation.
In fact, Title V, Section 508(c) of the ADA states that "consistent with the  Wilderness Act no agency is required to … modify any conditions of lands within a wilderness area in order to facilitate such use." This reasserts that agencies aren’t required to alter the character of a wilderness area to provide accessibility. We can nitpick that Hubbard Park isn't a federal wilderness area and therefore Montpelier can do what it wishes. Or we can agree on the principle that the ADA, or any other law, does not require that this trail exists.
This was a choice. It's well past time we all look beyond ourselves and our conveniences, preferences, and wishes to think about what's in the best interest of humanity, the planet, and all living beings – both locally and globally.
Attempted response, attempts made Oct. 26, Nov. 1, Nov. 2 (and planned for Nov. 3-5 on the assumption that I'd be allowed one per day)
[Thanks, all, for discussing. I wanted to reply sooner, but wasn't allowed until today. Ask me about it. My character limit has been cut in half since I last wrote, so I'll try to address the five replies in four parts instead of two. If you're inclined to respond, I ask you to please wait until all four are published in two to four days. Thanks. Part I]
This isn't a careless thought experiment. I was honest about being able-bodied, and that I can say that no matter what, I wouldn't want what was done to nature to be done for me. Because I have no guarantee of being able-bodied, it seems reasonable, in this context, to frame my thoughts about this new trail by considering a future in which it's possible I won't be able-bodied, and how or whether that might change my mind.
I do understand that I can't directly know the lived experience of anyone who isn't able-bodied or is mobility impaired – nor could I ever claim to know the experience of an entire group of people of any kind. I never claimed to know. I only truly know me, and in this case, I only speak for myself. Which I made clear.
I believe that human activity and behavior is destroying the planet. I won't ever alter from an unwavering reverence for the natural world, and all living beings, and a belief that humans don't deserve, and shouldn't have, primacy in the ecosystem – especially as a justification for planetary destruction. Which means that I can't personally justify the trail project for me, or for anyone else.
Being able-bodied was all most of you know about me. My experiences, education (formal and informal), and relationships (personal and professional), and how they've shaped me, haven't been used as qualifications for offering an opinion about this new trail.
If it's necessary to provide a credential to speak about equity in access for all, maybe this will do and also be relevant to you.
For nearly the entire pandemic, I've been pushing for the [Hunger Mountain Co-op] to live up to its mission and provide equity in access for all. During a public health crisis, the Co-op for the willing, able-bodied, and those assumed to be otherwise healthy isn't the same as the one for those whom – whether because of disability; mobility impairment; immunocompromised state; other related health issues that also are beyond their control; or risk assessment and respect for the known and unknown effects of the virus – Covid is a truly dangerous situation, and the inside of the store a serious threat.
While its Covid policies have fluctuated and have been effectively non-existent for months, the Co-op has repeatedly refused to bring its Curbside program up to a level that meets the needs of all community members, denying equal access for all to the store – mostly based on financial reasons. I won't stop trying – not just for me, but for anyone who depends on the Co-op to meet their needs.
If you'd like to know more, reach out.
Returning to the main topic: My environmentally based objections to this trail were made in response to posts made by able-bodied people who were celebrating the trail largely for its utility to them personally and/or other able-bodied people. For those who truly need it, I wonder how accessible this five-foot-wide trail will be when it's overrun by school groups, parents with strollers, dog walkers, runners, and more able-bodied folks who are being encouraged to use it because of how "amazing" it is. But I'm being (unfairly) targeted for not caring about disability rights and access?
The ignoring of the attempts I made to avoid such misguided critiques of my objection to the new trail does, however, lead to a thought experiment:
What would the response have been if I'd dishonestly implied, either directly or by omission, that I was disabled or mobility impaired? I'd never do that, but would my overall message have been received differently? Would I, and my opinion, have been accepted as a spokesperson for an entire community of people – of which there are many unique subcommunities – with a disability or mobility impairment? I never claimed to be speaking on behalf of anyone but myself. Nearly the entire criticism of me has been based on a false premise.
An attorney giving a close reading and accurately quoting what I wrote would mean the end of this part of the conversation right here. My words were cherry-picked, leaving out the most key word – "natural" – to try to make a point. That might be "good lawyering" to defeat an opposing argument or try to get a judge or jury on one's side, but it's bad ethics in an open discussion among community members in a public forum. I was more than clear about my opposition to this project being based on its impact on the natural environment (both locally and globally) and the living beings in it – and not about people with disabilities or mobility impairment.
I understand that the nature-harming built world has been made for someone like me. I don't wish for inequity in access to the built world. As a society, we know better. I expect us to be better. But I wasn't discussing the built world – the world humanity has created that disregards and destroys nature to the point that we cordon off our remaining natural, life-giving spaces as human escapes.
I didn't frame the ADA as a "ceiling that caps the rights of people with disabilities." The thread began citing accessibility and a questionable definition of "reasonable accommodations" to imply a legal obligation to create this trail. I pointed out the stated intent of the ADA, and a relevant section of it concerning wilderness accessibility, and whether the law required what was done in the park. It does not.
I never presented "the idea that an accessible world is one people with disabilities ask for because they want to be pampered to at the cost of enacting 'devastation.'" Also never was "deriding equal access for our fellow human beings," or "endorsing the idea that the inclusion of vulnerable groups is somehow an immoral or selfish thing for those vulnerable groups to ask for."
Re: that "It's ok to have nice new things and this is one of them." In short, this thinking (from which none of us are truly immune in this culture), and its use as a justification, is responsible for many of the world's problems. As humans, we need to radically alter this perspective. And fast.
Re: the recent history of that land. The selfish acts of humanity that led to the demolition of what was once "virgin forest" is a justification for the further destruction and devastation that was recently done to the wilderness? Wilderness that was restored to counteract the original ruination of that land?
Does that fit with Mr. Hubbard's land bequest "to … in his words, 'preserve wilderness' for future generations"? If you've read what I've said about American settler colonialism and Indigenous land, you know I'm not here for a wealthy, White settler (or descendant) and "his land." Nonetheless, did Mr. Hubbard imagine that the preserved wilderness he was gifting to the city would be attacked by fossil-fuel-burning, exhaust-belching machines that would kill plant and animal life, destroy habitats, alter the natural formation of the land, and have far-reaching damaging repercussions for the entire planet and all living beings on it?
Which brings me to the assertion that what I'm voicing opposition to, and the basis for that opposition, is "micro level," and therefore not really that important in the face of "reasonable public policy." Reasonable to whom? I'm truly stunned by this way of thinking.
I firmly stand by what I've said because of this project's short- and long-term effects on this specific place where I – where we all – live. And because of its effects on all the living beings whose lives were ended, or radically altered, or forever scarred, and the forest ecosystem that was disrupted, by what took place for no larger reason than the horribly detrimental view that humans are most important, and human wants take primacy over everything else – including knowledge.
But what really stuns me is the lack of seeing the connection between what took place here and what's happening all over the planet, and the myopic thinking that implies that so long as it's just "our little city" that seeks these "improvements," it's OK, no harm done. As if Montpelier is unique.
If you saw what was being used to make this trail, from the smallest ear protection to the largest earth mover; if you understand what planet-destroying acts need to happen to first create, and then transport those things to Montpelier (many of them likely wrapped in reams of more PoisonFutureTrash, aka plastic, for shipping) before they even begin doing what they do to the wilderness; if you know what's needed to run those machines, and how its obtained; if you understand the environmental and human costs of all the above; if you understand what will need to be used for people to reach this accessible trail; if you understand what it signals to profit-driven, planet-destroying industries to use their products for something like this project; if you understand what else those products will be used for, and what will happen once they are deemed expendable; if you are capable of thinking beyond yourself or your own small part of the world and see how that fits into what is happening across the globe right now because of human activity; then how can you look at this project and view it on any other scale than a gigantic one?