We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Wednesday, January 7. 2009
Readers know that we at Maggie's are ardent conservationists and some like Bird Dog are fair amateur naturalists, but we are neither pagan greenies nor Gaia worshippers - and we have no problem with forest fires. The link last night to two pieces about the Spotted Owl brought to mind Alston Chase's 1996 In A Dark Wood: The Fight Over Forests and the Myths of Nature.
Here's a 1996 review of the book from Reason:
We view the Greenie movement as political, with little seriousness about real conservation issues. The owl was a tactical tool for the urbanite sentimentalists. They are all about political tactics, and there is no Teddy Roosevelt in them.
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The Greens envision the environment as perfect before man arrived. They will allow for an idealized hunter-gatherer population like Indians, but no more. More and more you see restrictions on recreation as benign as hiking that treat second (or third) growth New England forest as some kind of primeval paradise! No wonder the numbers of people hiking and camping is down.
As an environmentalist, and someone who spent much of his formative years in the great outdoors, I am appalled by the Greens and their cohorts.
I actually joined Greenpeace for about 20 minutes back in the 80's, right before they started engaging in outrageous and illegal stunts to promote their increasingly fringe causes and beliefs. It wasn't long before they alienated a whole core group of people, such as myself, who have alot to offer the environmentalist movement - an understanding of the beauty and bounty of nature, balanced with an appreciation for business and productivity/growth.
Today, I'm more a supporter of the Nature Conservancy, which I gift regularly. They use the market to buy and maintain lands which are preserved for parks. I can appreciate this approach alot more than Greenpeace's.
It is worth noting that in all my years of camping and hiking, I met more full blown capitalists than I met crazy tree huggers. The tree huggers know far less about nature than your average person - I doubt many could survive alone in the forest, but most of the people I've camped and hiked with thrive on it.
I found this book to be fraught with factual errors, and was most notable for the omissions of inconvenient facts. This book is intended to give us the picture of a gentleman who is a moderate, and a voice of reason against eco-terror, but instead what I found was a thinly disguised argument in favor of clear cutting - but the author cannot even remain consistent with that argument, as most of his examples of sustainable systems are drawn from areas where selective cutting has been practiced. Many of the misrepresentations that are evident here are easy to spot if you are willing to research the vast array of literature available on this subject, but the majority of his audience is not going to be able to take the sort of time to thoroughly research both sides of the question. Don't waste your time.
We are in favor of selective clear-cutting, especially in areas where there is aggressive government fire-suppression. Clear-cutting sort-of imitates natural fire.
I guess we'd prefer no fire-suppression, but it isn't PC.
What we have here is APOSTACY! ["apostasy n. , pl. -sies . Abandonment of one's religious faith, a political party, one's principles, or a cause."]
Chase was an anti-establishment hippie protestor of the 70's who writes in his Preface the following (long but fascinating):
"In a Dark Wood represents the culmination of [my] wandering, which began in April 1973. I was a burned-out college professor then, outraged by the war in Vietnam and depressed by student and faculty assaults on the liberal arts. Seeking renewal, my wife and I did what many of my students had done: returned to nature. We purchased an old homestead in the remote mountains of Montana and moved there in 1975, after I gave up my academic tenure. But before leaving academe, in January 1974, I took an entire college class to the ranch for winter term. The course I offered was called "A Retreat Seminar on Environmental Ethics."
"At the time I thought of myself as an environmentalist, as I still do. But I wondered: What was the connection between the political revolution I was witnessing on campus and the sudden concern for nature? Was environmentalism, a political movement, successfully achieving its aims, which were supposedly defined by the science of ecology?
"My effort to answer these questions prompted me to write Playing God in Yellowstone, which appeared in 1986. At the time (and, indeed, even today), that park was governed by a principle known as "ecosystems management." Until beginning work on Playing God, I had never heard of this policy; but, knowing that it was supported by the environmental community, I fully expected to find that it did indeed preserve natural values. Instead I discovered that Yellowstone was losing critical vegetation and wildlife, and that the cause of this decline was precisely the "environmental" philosophy itself.
"This conclusion shocked many people, including me. But even more uprising was the public response to it. As expected, the Reagan administration hated Playing God, even banning sale of the book in Yellowstone. By contrast, I was pleased that the work was warmly received by most scholars, including many in the National Park Service. The most disturbing reaction came from environmentalists, who either ignored the book or, alternatively, portrayed its author as both curmudgeonly and conniving. Despite my efforts, I failed to stimulate debate on ecosystem management within the conservation community. Environmentalists simply would not discuss the issue. Even when I pleaded with George Frampton, then director of the Wilderness Society and at this writing assistant secretary of the interior, to look at the evidence I had collected, he refused.
"This was my epiphany. By writing Playing God, I had unwittingly violated an unspoken taboo. Belief in the mysterious ecosystem was deemed an absolute requirement for those who called themselves environmentalists. The subject was simply not open to discussion. To these faithful, the concept retained political appeal despite its failures. But what was the source of this allure?
"Rather than pursue this question directly, I decided to leave the subject and write a different kind of book, which would become In a Dark Wood. I set out to explore the anatomy of the fight over old-growth forests and threatened species in the Pacific Northwest — the biggest preservation conflict in history in terms of area size, economic cost, and number of human lives affected. I would interview all sides of the dispute — mainstream environmentalists, radicals of all persuasions, loggers, millworkers and their bosses, forest rangers, federal and university scientists — to discover what had driven them to this collision.
"Yet, while researching this book, I found to my surprise that these fights over owls and old trees also concerned the ecosystem. Like the archvillain Moriarty in the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, this evanescent and elusive idea kept cropping up in the most surprising places. I had to know: Where did it come from, how did it grow, and where would it lead?
"These are the questions I ultimately sought to answer in In a Dark Wood. And the conclusions were far more disturbing than I had anticipated. An ancient political and philosophical notion, ecosystems ecology masquerades as a modern scientific theory. Embraced by a generation of college students during the campus revolutions of the 1960s, it had become a cultural icon by the 1960s. Today, not only does it infuse all environmental law and policy, but its influence is also quietly changing the very character of government. Yet, as I shall show, it is false, and its implementation has been a calamity for nature and society."