News Story on Oso Landslide Quotes Geologist Who Thinks Firebombers Are "Eco-Patriots"

April 1, 2014

Here is an update to this story: Paul Kennard Does Not Link Oso Landslide to Logging

Yesterday, The Seattle Times published a story on a nine-years old timber harvest that Times reporters believe may be linked to the tragic landslide in Oso. The article, "State used outdated data to allow logging on slope," argues that part of that harvest was in an area that had previously been restricted.

The story notes there could be several factors contributing to the slide:

Geologists studying the slope have cited multiple factors that could have contributed to the slides, from excessive precipitation to erosion of the hill’s base by the Stillaguamish River to logging.

Of the scientists quoted in the story, only one is willing to point the finger at the timber harvest as a source of the landslide: Paul Kennard. This is notable, because Kennard has a long history of extreme and unscientific attacks on anyone he disagrees with.

Two examples stand out.

First, after the University of Washington's Center for Urban Horticulture was firebombed in 2001, Kennard wrote letters to the editor to both The Seattle Times and Seattle P-I calling the firebombers "eco-patriots." He wrote:

...I do not condone the burning of libraries (as was reported in the story). However, in a general sense, a strong argument can be made that those who unleash untested genetic engineering products into the natural world for short-term commercial gain are the real eco-terrorists. By extension, those opposed to such risky business are actually eco-patriots.

Setting aside his unscientific claims about "genetic engineering," he praises those who firebombed the building as "eco-patriots," limiting his concern to the burning of "libraries." He also calls scientists working on research he doesn't like, "terrorists."

We value scientists for unbiased thinking that rigorously follows data and is careful to distinguish between fact and emotion. Kennard's comments praising firebombers are totally inconsistent with the scientific ethic, not to mention wildly unethical.

That isn't the only obnoxious outburst from Kennard.

In 2007, in another letter to The Seattle Times, Kennard referred to geologists who work for timber companies as "geo-ostitutes," i.e. geologist prostitutes.

Despite this history of extreme and unscientific personal attacks, Kennard is treated as an expert by The Seattle Times reporters. Kennard's comments on geology should be treated in the same way we would treat comments from Fred Phelps on theology.

It is a common lament that politics is becoming more extreme, that science is ignored and that thoughtful comment is driven out by extreme attacks and name calling. Paul Kennard embodies all of those negative trends. It is more evidence of why we have so much difficulty making science-based decisions about environmental protection.