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Talk isn't cheap when you have to mean it

 March 7, 2005 By Ric Costales Guest columnist

As any student of American history knows, and every veteran has experienced first hand, free speech is not free. It has come at great sacrifice, yet it is something we have come to take for granted. It is one of the greatest shields for our liberty, yet is often demeaned when words are used toward selfish ends. And it is, as Americans, our birthright.

Thus, I respond with more than a little irritation whenever I hear the hackneyed expression, "talk is cheap."

Talk is anything but cheap, and there is no better local example of this than the mess we have right here in the Klamath watershed. For example, when a few people got together to decide how to implement their own ideas of how the environment in the Basin should be managed, we ended up with a lawsuit over the use of water. Life will never be the same. How cheap were those discussions?

Or how about when politicians and governmental agencies under the influence of political winds get together to "solve the Klamath problem?" What is the cost of this rhetoric when all the pandering merely boils down to inaction and uncertainty that gnaws away at our livelihoods, communities, families and souls?

How cheap will the unfulfilled promises to Tribes in the Basin turn out to be?

And, finally, what is the tab when all the fire and brimstone from various "spokesmen" serve to immobilize politicians, intimidate participants and, generally, confuse the public?

Along with showing the "hidden" costs of verbiage, these examples highlight the point that the expenses escalate exponentially when not followed by sound, principled, humane, resolute action. It is virtually impossible to achieve this sort of action when the original discussion did not begin with these requirements.

Thus, Bob Chadwick, at the inspiration and behest of Alice Kilham, is attempting to put these essential horses in front of the cart that is wildly careening through our lives.

Chadwick works with groups to resolve conflict by helping to ground them in the honesty, openness, humanity, inclusion and rationality that - had we begun this way - would probably have avoided much of the heartache we now find ourselves experiencing.

During the past eight months, "Chadwick sessions," as they have become known, have enough momentum to offer a glimmer of hope to more than 100 Basin residents who have availed themselves of the opportunity - farmers, ranchers, tribal members, fishermen, agency people and other concerned citizens.  

These sessions are being held at various locations throughout the Klamath watershed to seek out people who need to be heard on these matters. Yet, this demonstration of good faith is only as successful as those affected and motivated by events in our Basin make it. While in no way are these sessions empowered to dictate or enforce solutions, they nonetheless can inform and inspire those that do have these powers. Lacking such input these managers are operating "blind." It is up to us to help them see.

The next Chadwick session is in Tulelake to hear the voices of the Upper Basin, another critical piece of the Klamath puzzle. I encourage anyone who feels he or she has something to contribute to join us at the Tulelake Fairgrounds March 16-18. Register with the OSU Extension at 883-7131.

The cost of admission? It's cheap: simple, honest, heartfelt talk. You can't afford to pass this deal up.

The author

Ric Costales, a timber faller for 25 years in the Klamath watershed, has been active in resource issues. While previously focusing on the politics of the environment (he introduced the idea of the Bucket Brigade to community leaders in the Upper Basin), he is currently helping develop on-the-ground solutions as chairman of the Scott River Watershed Council.

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