Can the native plant ideology be defended with name-calling?

On Monday, March 26, 2012, the San Francisco Forest Alliance (SFFA) gave a presentation to a neighborhood association in San Francisco about the Natural Areas Program.   SFFA expressed its objection to the destruction of healthy non-native trees and vegetation which is useful to wildlife, the use of pesticides, and the closure of trails in the so-called “natural areas” as well as the money being spent on these destructive projects. 

Park Bathroom Paradox. Courtesy San Francisco Forest Alliance

Jake Sigg, one of the leading proponents of native plant “restorations” in San Francisco was invited by the neighborhood association to give a rebuttal.  For some reason that remains mysterious, Mr. Sigg chose to speak exclusively about Mt. Sutro which is not owned or managed by the Natural Areas Program.  Therefore, there was a bit of a disconnect in these two presentations, with the common theme being only the destruction of non-native trees for the purpose of restoring native plants.

During his presentation, Mr. Sigg said that SFFA’s presentation was “disinformation” and/or “nonsense.”  However, he provided no specific examples of these misdeeds, so SFFA is unable to respond to these accusations.

The following day, March 27, Mr. Sigg published an exchange about the SFFA presentation with one of his fans on his internet blog, “Nature News from Jake Sigg.”  Mr. Sigg’s fan said he “…was so aghast at this evening’s display of ignorance and mendacity…”  And Mr. Sigg agreed:   “The ignorance and ill will of the Forest Alliance was on full view for anyone caring to look.  The cherry-picking of facts, the distortions and outright lies were transparent.”

The presentation by the Forest Alliance was based on public documents and nothing was said that could not be documented by the public record.  So, naturally SFFA was mystified by these accusations.  SFFA allies wanted to know if the SFFA presentation contained any factual errors, so they asked Mr. Sigg, “What were the ‘outright lies?’”

Mr. Sigg responded to the question, but not with an answer:  “I don’t have any reason for answering this, as I’m time-short…”  In addition to being busy, Mr. Sigg wasn’t really in a position to answer the question because he admitted that he hadn’t listened to the presentation:  “I listened to the presentation for the first five minutes, then decided my time was better spent tightening up my talk outline; there wasn’t enough substance to make listening worthwhile.”

The accusation of lying, and the refusal to be specific about it, is particularly ironic because of Mr. Sigg’s plea during his presentation that “demonizing the other side is not leading to accommodation or understanding.”  On this we can agree.  Calling people liars and refusing to tell them specifically what you think they are lying about, is clearly not leading to “accommodation and understanding.”

4 thoughts on “Can the native plant ideology be defended with name-calling?”

  1. I went to his blog. What is more disturbing is the anti-immigrant/misanthropic tone. Does he believe the environment can be saved if we could get rid of people? What is the ideal population for California? How many people are too many people?

    Webmaster: Yes, Don, we also find the anti-immigration rhetoric disturbing and much of Jake Sigg’s blog is devoted to that theme. However, keep in mind that not all native plant advocates share Mr. Sigg’s opinion of immigration. People come to their opinions from a variety of different routes, just as critics of the native plant ideology do. Avoiding generalizations regarding the motivations of our opponents is an important element in our more cosmopolitan view of the world.

  2. Additionally, in January of 2005, when the city of Oakland was being pressured by UC and various agencies, and Jake Sigg, to use pesticides on the acreage they oversee in the hills, Sigg said in response to East Bay Pesticide Alert/ Don’t Spray California’s presentation on the dangers of a pesticide approach and abundant alternatives, that, he had been using pesticides his whole life and he was fine. We pointed out that at his age, he was of the last generation to have grown in the womb and lived his young years without the onslaught of synthetic chemicals causing sickness and death everywhere around us. He might be able to tolerate exposure to such chemicals, which is different than saying he is “fine”, but this says nothing about how the rest of us are affected, and how nature is crumbling beneath this toxic legacy.

    If you go to our website you can read more about the Oakland hills issue here:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: