Greenwashing Our Valley

Greenwashing Our Valley

The Ameya Preserve folks have done it again — they’ve listed property in their development in the Fantasy Gifts section of the 2007 Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog. I can’t get a direct link to the page, but if you scroll through, you’ll find it — there’s a photo from the Ameya website on page 126, that same photo that looks like it must have all the color values punched up — it’s too green for that time of year, and the sunrise (?) seems improbably purple considering how much light is on the hillsides. The Neiman Marcus people have also photoshopped in this ridiculous male model in a brown leather jacket in on the left side of the photo — does he come with the deal? He doesn’t look like he’d last long here, but then again, that’s probably part of the “fantasy.”

The marketing text is the usual Ameya greenwashing blather: It claims that by buying a piece of land here you’ll be “helping to protect much of this land for future generations”. The Ameya Website advertises itself as a “wildlife preserve” — but the problem is that none of the land has been put in any kind of legal conservation trust. It’s all bullshit. They say they’re only going to develop 500 acres of the nearly 11,000 acre parcel, but there are no binding agreements. It’s all just advertising.

This is a lovely parcel of land — but it’s hardly the mountain paradise they’re advertising. It’s very dry, mostly sagebrush, and that entire side of the Paradise Valley is absolutely riddled with rattlesnakes. There are huge rattlesnake dens all up and down that side of the valley (the hot, dry, sunny side). Did I say it’s dry? This isn’t some piny woods with a mountain stream running through — it’s a high, dry basin full of sagebrush and scrubby trees — a landscape I’ve become quite fond of, but one which folks coming in from the wet Midwest and East tend to read as “dead” and “ugly.” It takes a while to get used to, which since the place is being marketed as a second- and third-home “community” probably won’t happen.

But I think what bugs me the most about the advertising juggernaut is the sheer greenwashing bullshit of it all. They’re advertising it as a “carbon-neutral” development, the claim is that they’re going to plant 17,000 trees in North Dakota to offset the carbon emissions from building the place (a claim that like the “wildlife preserve” is entirely unsupported by any legally binding agreements. It’s just a claim. Just advertising). The reality is that those 17,000 trees are slated for planting on the developer’s home place out on the grasslands of North Dakota — there’s a reason trees don’t grow there — it’s grassland — there isn’t enough water. I guess you can plant the trees and pretend that this somehow offsets your carbon debt, but if the trees don’t grow it doesn’t do much good, does it?

The Neiman Marcus ad claims that Alice Waters herself will cook you dinner in your new second home, and their website claims that Alice herself is planning to build a cooking school at Ameya:

Alice Waters has been dreaming about a cooking school for more than 30 years. I know this because I was one of a group … she gathered in the late 70’s to brainstorm about it. We met regularly to discuss Alice’s vision. One thing we were all agreed on: We would begin by teaching our students to raise the food that they served.

This I want to see — Alice herself is going to come out from the rainy west coast and teach us yokels how to raise food in a high desert basin that is pretty much unsuitable for growing vegetables? That I’d like to see — and as far as sustainability goes — that basin is too high and dry for farming, but it’s wonderful grazing for both cattle and wildlife — it’s a crucial elk habitat — are they going to teach hunting as a sustainable activity? It’s so disappointing — someone like Alice Waters should know better than to start shilling herself this way. My only hope is that Alice Water’s involvement in Ameya has been overstated in the advertising in much the same way that the “wildlife preserve” and “zero carbon emissions” have been overstated.

But the real problem is that Ameya is being developed as a gated “community” — it’s not actually a part of our little town at all — Livingston’s been lucky so far — we’ve avoided being colonized by the folks who develop “destination resorts” because town is too funky, too working-class and too windy. While there are famous people and people with money scattered all up and down the Paradise Valley, up in Clyde Park, and over on the West Boulder — we’ve escaped the sort of vacation development that has plagued so much of the west because we lack “amenities.” We don’t have a ski area. We only have a funky (and windy) nine-hole golf course. We have a town pool, but it’s only open in the summer (and it’s open to everyone). For the most part, people who have moved here have become a part of the community, and what they like about our little corner of the West is that they are welcomed in the community as members — not separated from it into some enclave of rich-person specialness. What I value about Livingston is that I can go for a drink after work and wind up sitting at the bar with people from all across the spectrum — with my plumber and one of our several famous authors or movie stars and with a fishing guide and with the person who cuts my hair. We all live here. I suppose that’s what really galls about this Ameya thing, they’re actively marketing to people who have no intention of living here, of becoming part of the community, of contributing. I think we have every right to be pissed off that someone is trying to sell our home as a fantasy gift. Ugh. Go away.

2 thoughts on “Greenwashing Our Valley

  1. Testify!
    Have you ever got it right. And congratulations! Even though the Ameya Preserve people have clearly paid for favorable Google Search and Google Blog Search results placement, your estimable blog and excellent post come up at the top of page two! The next thing you know, Alice Waters will want to post an article about high desert local produce on your blog.

  2. Below are two comments on Wade Dokken by someone, or two individuals, who worked for Skandia. If the accounts are accurate, you’ve got a real weasel in your midst.

    From – review of Dokken’s book:

    2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
    Another Greedy Executive, October 7, 2005
    By Ex Employee that knows the truth “Ex empolyee… (USA) – See all my reviews

    “This book was horrible. Wade was promoted to CEO of American Skandia, in his role he made sure to oust the previous CEO from any say in what happens with the company. This Ex-CEO was responsible for brining American Skandia to the top. After Wade drove American Skandia to the ground he was quoted saying in a management meeting “When this company is sold I’m going to get rich”. Is this someone that you have confidence in directing you where to put your money. Let’s remember that he lost so much credibility with his clients that he almost ran the company completly to the ground. Now Prudential has saved American Skandia from complete destruction. ”

    The other comment is on Phil Cubeta’s

    “Beware Montana, the “brains” behind Ameya Preserve is the former CEO of an Insurance Company, who sold the firm to Prudential in a move that bank rolled his personal fortune at the expense of nearly 1000 employees. It was a firm that grew significantly under previous leadership. In May of 2000, he took over management control and preceeded over the rapid demise of the firm. He then invoked radical cost cutting that resulted in the termination of over 500 jobs. In an internal memo in 2001, he stated how he would not take any “current income” until the financial condition of the firm improved. And while it is true that he suspended his “salary” his bonus/package that year amounted to over $3 million. After two years of searching for a buyer for the firm, he struck a deal to sell it at a despiration price nearly 8 times less than the valuation of the firm he took over just 2 years earlier. However, while employees lost their jobs, he and his management team, comprised of personal friends, personally cashed in to the tune of over $120 million. So ask yourself two questions: 1. Does this sound like the background of an environmentalist or a crooked two-bit Capitalist? and 2. Do you want to be bilked like the 500 empolyees who lost their jobs in his previous “get rich” sceme? I am not sure a development based on Morals can be conceived by a Morally Bankrupt man.”

    Posted by: HS | September 23, 2007 at 08:14 AM

    Wade sounds like a real sweet guy, true to his words – NOT!


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