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.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Monday, April 28. 2008
The Socialist Green alarmists have co-opted - and are destroying - the American Conservation Movement with Pixie Dust, plus a comment on the Line of Scrimmage
I think so, and Climate Skeptic agrees:
As readers know, we are old-time Conservationists here. We believe in National Parks, State Parks, nature preserves, farmland protection, habitat protection, species protection, zoning, "open space", clean rivers and waters, unpolluted air, and we do not approve of the government subsidizing real estate developers and urban sprawl by building highways to nowhere.
The Audubon Society came into being to protect Egrets. The photo above of an American Egret in CT, with his breeding plumage (sent in by a reader last week), shows the reason. At the turn of the century, those breeding-season plumes were all the rage for decorating lady's hats. Thus our egrets - the American and the Snowy in particular - were hunted almost to extinction. That is called "unsustainable use."
The same applied to the market-gunning and netting of waterfowl - and the Passenger Pigeon. Of necessity, we now have hunting laws, hunting seasons, wildlife refuges, and protected species.
Thus we are not Libertarian when it comes to land-use and unsustainable and irreversible exploitation of wildlife or wildlife habitat. The Conservation Movement of John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt had to become politicized, because laws were required in the presence of competing interests: witness, nowadays, the political conflicts in MA and in Europe around the efforts to enforce sustainable fish harvests.
We simply try to be rational about it all. For example, we have no problem with oil drilling in ANWAR or off the Florida coast (as the Cubans and Chinese are doing). We have no problem with responsible logging, which effectively mimics the effects of natural wildfire on forest succession. We love to hunt and fish, and do so responsibly and sportingly. We think the earth probably has more than enough people on it. We favor nuclear power for reasons of energy independence and because it's the closest thing to a free lunch after compound interest. We feel that biofuels are a lousy idea for many reasons.
At the risk of sounding corny, we believe in good stewardship of our inheritance.
What's irrational? The Green Movement is irrational. Most of it represents feel-good ideas that are hooey: symbolic hooey that is meant to make people feel virtuous while accomplishing nothing. Witness the lightbulb craze, "organic" vegetables, "recycling" plastic bottles (totally energy-inefficient), or hybrid cars (which do nothing "for the planet" but which are great on gas mileage). It's empty vanity and fashion, and nothing more (for an example, see this foolish agonizing piece by Michael Pollan, who has caught a bad case of the vain and guilt-ridden sanctimony of the "I can make a difference" disorder).
Pure organic pixie dust for the latte liberals.
The CO2 obsession is similarly irrational, and, deep down, everybody must know it. It is irrational because it is futile, regardless of whether there is any current warming, and regardless of whether there is any man-made warming. (We suspect that it is long-term cooling.) As Steyn said yesterday at NRO:
If anybody thinks the Chinese, the Russians, and, eventually, Africa, intends to stop building fossil fuel power plants, they are dreaming. If anybody thinks wind power will ever be more than a drop in the bucket - even if subsidized as it is - is dreaming. And those who want (more) "carbon taxes" just want another cover, another excuse, to take more of our money. They can have more "carbon tax" if they reduce my income tax to compensate.
Everybody wants more power, and as cheap as possible, because power is the wonderful stuff that makes our modern civilized, efficient and lazy lives possible. The rapidly-developing world understandably wants more of it. Somebody will need to pry my Stihl saw - and my computer - from my cold dead hands.
So, to meander back to my main topic, I agree with Coyote that the CO2 frenzy and the other trendy Green frenzies have "drained the oxygen" from a Conservation movement which has many other compelling areas in which it can be, and should be, effective. And, yes, I do believe that many of those Greenies are motivated by a Socialist agenda using "Gaia" as a front. I will believe their sincerity when they quit driving and flying. However, their socialist-totalitarian streak, plus their wackiness and scolding, have damaged rational conservation goals via guilt by association.
On the other hand, I do favor the use of local, state and federal powers (and especially some non-profits which do the same things free from political considerations) for the conservation goals which are important to me, which I believe to be rational, and which I like to believe contain no ideological agenda but which certainly contain a moral and practical agenda: we do not wish to hand down a planet covered with asphalt and oceans without Codfish.
Some things - maybe just a very few precious things - should be more important than freedom and free markets, but that's where the political debates begin, isn't it? That is the line of scrimmage.
On the "values" scale, we rank individual freedom at the top of the list, but, like everybody, we also have competing values, morals, and interests.
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almost always, the worst feature of bad ideas is that they crowd out good ideas.
a person has a finite amount of time & energy, and whatever gets usurped by the dark side ain't available to enlarge the light side. Ommmmm....
You said that Maggie's was just "one more brick in the wall of Western Civ."
Put that on our tombstone, when the time comes.
epitaph @ Boot Hill Cemetery, Tombstone, AZ:
Here lays Butch.
We planted him raw.
He was quick on the trigger
But slow on the draw.
Ommm, you are so wise. We must be selfish with our energy and hold it close in our pockets and ignore women in pink bras with the exception that you may look as long as the light blinds you from noticing their breastesses. Keep the light and you will be guided well. Liberate your inner bonobo.
Meta D. Chopra
i get SO PISSED OFF whenever i can't find my inner peace
"For example, we have no problem with oil drilling... off the Florida coast (as the Cubans and Chinese are doing)."
The Chinese are drilling off the Florida coast?? And they look so far away on a world map! Apparently it's true -- the world really IS getting smaller!
I was thinking just this morning that it had been a while since we heard a good rant valued essay here. Thanks for writing such a nice piece.
Having been around (and active) back when the word "environmentalism" entered the public lexicon, I've been constantly chagrined at how politicized "the movement" (whatever that means) has been waylayed by the eco-nuts. Today's, it's global warming; back then it was global cooling and a truly amazing afinity for hugging tree trunks. Wood is evil, in case no one's mentioned it lately.
I thought it interesting that you mentioned fish harvests, as, personally, I think that should be one of our top priorities. We're screwing up big-time, and nobody notices or cares.
Pet fantasy: Make a new gravestone for Rachel Carson, inscribing on it something like "Has 20 million deaths to her credit, generally considered the greatest mass murderer in human history."
Then sneak it into the cemetary late one night and replace the original.
Just for fun.
Yes, the Chinese are drilling off the Fl. coast. With the Cubans.
rachel carson Silent Spring
made up stuff for us to sing
mosquito-love said her i-ching
malarial death she rescuing
Beautiful essay, BD. One of your best. We remember when envirolooney David Brower unhinged the Sierra Club in the 60's, and then the brief moment of hope when they fired him as too radical - but alas. In the early days of the Sierra Club, Sierra lands were selling for under $1 per acre, but the club was more interested in selling calendars. Later, they spent millions filing lawsuits. In the meantime, Ducks Unlimited - for which habitat loss was simply unacceptable - bought and preserved over 10 million acres of waterfowl habitat. Imaging what a preservationist (vs. obstructionist) Sierra Club could have done!
BD: You're right -- further investigation shows that it's the Chinese the Cubans hired. Gosh (Doc asks innocently), why didn't they just hire Exxon Mobil?
Gwynnie: Growing up in an environmental hotbed like California in the 70's, I have to admit that, even then, most of the people I knew considered the Sierra Club to be full of kooks. To be thoroughly cynical (or sexist, depending), the "hot tip" of the day was: if you want to pick up chicks, join the Sierra Club. Something like 90% of its membership (or lack-of-member..ship in this case) was female.
They still supported a few good causes here and there, though, but the day they lost me forever was when they opposed the new ball park for the S.F. Giants -- a ball park being build inside the city limits. Pray tell me what the hell business it was of theirs? If the city had been planning on building the new ball park in, say, Yosemite Park, then they might have a beef.
And I just had a thought.
[always a scary moment -Ed]
Have you ever noticed that you haven't seen the Sierra Club in the news in years?
I wouldn't be a bit surprised to hear that their membership started taking a nosedive into obscurity the day they opposed the ball park. The thing is, we'd been wanting a new ball park for decades, and then we FINALLY get a nice piece of land set aside -- and here comes the Sierra Club to oppose it.
Obscurity, you are your own reward.
Yes, they have become invisible. But they never did anything worthwhile themselves, anyway.
Important stuff... your thoughts, BD.
Mind if I disperse them liberally?
Great essay BD. I've considered myself a conservative-libertarian on most issues. When I couldn't reconcile my libertarian views on the environment, I felt kind of hypocritical. Screw it. When your right, your right. Who cares where your political philosophy lies, sometimes we need barriers and restrictions for our own well being.
"Some things - maybe just a very few precious things - should be more important than freedom and free markets, but that's where the political debates begin, isn't it? That is the line of scrimmage."
I think that this may be a false dilemma.
As you value the complexities of natural systems you might extend concern to human social systems. Simple, brute force management of natural systems fails. It must be done with insight and finesse, sometimes proceeding by indirection or apparent regression - i.e. sometimes the forest needs to burn to be healthy over deep time.
A deeper understanding of human social systems yields analogous insights. Brute force regulation to achieve preservation and remediation has demonstrably failed in many or even most cases, and it has done so in ways that also harm human social systems. This is a clue.
Those who advocate giving increased attention to liberty, the small l libertarians come to mind, offer policy approaches to preservation that often work better.
A policy to privilege a thriving cod fishery now and in future leverages human social systems. An open access commons is a certain tragedy but ownership reverses the incentive to over-exploit. ITQs have had some success in doing this.
A policy to privilege healthy forests is similar. Long term, transferable leases of forest tracts - such as are used for management of Canadian "Crown Lands", especially the Community Forest Agreements - creates incentives for good management. The value of the asset can be increased while yielding present benefits as well.
Rather than dismissing libertarian approaches, by dismissing Libertarian views, it may be wiser to engage with these key insights and work to develop policies that are improved by their inclusion of provisions that consider incentives and human social systems. The structure of governance is at least as important as specific policy provisions. When liberty is discarded, dismissed as a luxury we can no longer afford, poverty is a frequent result. People aren't the problem, they are the solution. When they are misdirected they misbehave, and the reverse.