The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty - April 1995
By Russell Madden, Instructor in Communication at Mt. Mercy College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa
[READERS SHOULD WELL CONSIDER HOW & WHY THIS MOVEMENT HAS ENDURED AS LONG AS IT HAS - IT HAS RECEIVED BACKDOOR SUPPORT FROM THE LIBERAL POLITICAL ESTABLISHMENT - PREVIOUSLY, FROM THE (BILL) CLINTON ADMINISTRATION DURING THE 1990'S AND PROSPECTIVELY, FROM BOTH THE (HILLARY CLINTON AND BARACK OBAMA PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGNS), AND ALSO THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION WHICH IS 'DISCRETELY' TRYING TO INFLUENCE U.S. PUBLIC OPINION ABOUT ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES, AND THROUGH THEM, THE OUTCOME OF THE 2008 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS]
The violations of private property rights that have flowed from the environmental movement and its adherence to the erroneous theory of "intrinsic value" have already caused intense hardships for many people. Individuals have been prevented from developing their land as they best see fit because of claims by environmentalists that such usage would threaten an endangered species, a coastline, a wetland, or the general "character" of some landscape. The contention is that efforts to enjoy the benefits of these properties would destroy the value which that land or animal or plant supposedly possesses by its mere existence regardless of its relationship to specific human beings.
Unfortunately, as the old saying goes, "You ain't seen nothin' yet."
Generally, owners are allowed to retain title to the property under question but are prohibited from altering it in any way which does not follow some (usually ambiguous and frequently self-contradictory) governmental law or regulation. While they suddenly find themselves denied any say in what to do with that land, these hapless owners are still permitted the privilege of paying taxes on the property in question. This type of titular ownership devoid of control fits the definition of that economic/ political system known as fascism.
Given their successes in gaining governmental control over many disparate pieces of private property situated near so-called "ecologically sensitive" areas, the advocates of environmental fascism have gained confidence and grown bolder. They are now advocating a move that takes the environmental movement from a practice of petty theft to grand larceny on a breathtaking scale. The more radical practitioners of the theory of intrinsic value are no longer satisfied with the passage of laws that prevent the removal of a tree, the building of a fence or house, or the dumping of a few loads of dirt without permission. Their new Holy Grail is to create millions of acres of wilderness zones that will not merely regulate human usage, but will prevent anyone from venturing into such areas for even esthetic enjoyment. It is the intrinsic theory of value taken to its ultimate conclusion: the total elimination of human beings.
The Wildlands Project
The North American Wilderness Recovery (Wildlands) Project suggested by the Earth First! movement and its founder, Dave Foreman, proposes a violation of property rights which is so outrageous that many people might be tempted to dismiss it out of hand. It would be easy to assume from its ludicrous provisions that the Wildlands Project would stand no realistic chance of passage; that defenders of private property could easily ignore it and devote their efforts to other concerns.
Yet fifty years ago, who would have supposed it credible that a snail, an owl, or a tree on one's own land would become excuses for the ecological fascism that has already spread its tentacles not only into American society, but throughout the entire world? The micro-management of land usage we have witnessed in the past thirty years now aspires to "macro-management" of the entire continent.
In these wilderness preserves, all evidence of humanity would be erased. All dwellings, the roads that link them together, the power lines that feed them, and any and all other man-made constructs would be removed and destroyed. Plants and animals—not people—would become the definers of value and usage. The needs, interests, or desires of human beings would be ruthlessly excised from any "ecological" decisions by the central planners of this ecological fascism. People would become subordinate to lower life forms in a crazy flip-flop of values and priorities. The needs of other species-not the protection of human rights-would become the new basis and rationale for politics if those who accept the credo of Earth First! have their way.
This movement becomes less a wild-eyed-pie-in-the-sky and more of a scary potential reality when you realize that other-wise reputable scientists support the general premise if not the specific details of such widespread preservation attempts. John Robinson, a biologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society, believes preservation should be done on a "landscape level." Another biologist from Oregon, Reed Noss, suggests that conservation must be practiced on a scale large enough to include not only endangered animals or plants, but also supporting flora and fauna and entire ecosystems in which natural selection and adaptation can occur.
New Endangered Species: Man
The logical conclusion of such premises is the removal of human beings from the entire earth, the largest ecosystem that exists. Then and only then would "Gaia" be restored to health.
While the eco-fascists have not yet announced such a far-reaching target, according to Michael Soule, creator of the Wilderness Project, they are unconcerned with "the limitations of time and space." They are committed if necessary to a centuries-long endeavor to restore much of North America to its pristine condition before the advent of humans altered these landscapes. Noss would like to see "at least half of the land area of the coterminous states" (emphasis added) included in this "hands off" zone. Additionally, these zones would be bordered by buffers in which only limited human activity would be allowed. Eventually, land occupied by people would exist only as isolated pockets within the greater wilderness areas.
Spokesmen for such groups as the Society for Conservation Biology, The Wilderness Society, Defenders of Wildlife, and even members of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service offer support for the general idea of the Wilderness Project. Peter Brussard from the University of Nevada at Reno believes that the Project "certainly is justifiable scientifically." Luckily, not a biologists accept that position; Deborah Jensen, a biologist with The Nature Conservancy, does not believe that the goal of conserving biodiversity requires such an approach as the Wilderness Project.
Even if those touting the Wilderness Project do not believe it possible to create such a massive preserve in one fell swoop, they may yet achieve their final goal piecemeal. Efforts are currently underway to set aside 139,000 square miles in the Great Plains for a buffalo sanctuary; the Paseo Pantera project seeks to connect wilderness areas in Central America; British Columbia is linking a new 4,000-square-mile park with Alaska and the Yukon Territory to create a 33,000-square-mile preserve; Congress is considering setting aside 11,000 square miles in California; the Nevada Biodiversity Project seeks to set aside hundreds of square miles of mountains; and Noss recently received $150,000 from the Pew Charitable Funds to further planning for wildlands set-asides.
In response to this proposal, some people were rightfully outraged. One woman from Nevada said that, "Proponents of the project are incredibly insensitive to the values, freedoms, and property rights of the many millions of people who live in and love" these lands. She characterized these ecologists as "an arrogant urban elite with a compulsion to live out their fantasy at our expense" (italics in original—which is a remarkably accurate description of statists of any stripe.
Another man from Arizona stated that this idea "illustrates all the absurd flaws in the ecocentric mind—... that balanced ecosystems don't include humans, [and] that government coercion can override human nature." Absurd, yes ... but no more so than might describe the mind-sets of Marx or Lenin. Unfortunately, the "absurd flaws" of their political system did not prevent them from imposing it across a significant fraction of the globe over a seventy year time span. The idea of the Wilderness Project is still relatively new and controversial, yet its supporters may become powerful beyond any rational expectations.
Some of those advocates believe it is important to "halt the spread of nature's most dangerous predator and competitor"; that lands should be cared for by people "who wish to restore themselves to a natural (i.e., tribal) state"; that "27 representatives" and "over 50 scientists also support the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act."
Even if the Wildlands Project itself is not implemented, its very radicalism makes other, more subtle eco-fascist strategies seem reasonable. This kind of strategy has been used repeatedly in the environmental movement: push an outlandish policy then propose something even crazier so the first proposal appears rational in comparison. Given the plethora of environmental laws strangling our country and shredding our property rights, this approach has been an effective one.
As has been pointed out by other writers, collectivists and statists who have been unable to achieve the degree of control they desire over our society through economic arguments have shifted their plan of attack to a "moral" appeal based on the false premises of "intrinsic value," "animal rights," and the supposed imminent destruction of the very environment upon which we depend for survival.
A new coat of paint, however, does nothing to alter the essence of who these eco-fascists are and what they believe. As a song from the Sixties said, the new boss is the same as the old boss. The struggle against collectivism is far from over: it has merely shifted to a new playing field. And as do most collectivists, the eco-fascists say they want to do this to us "for our own good."
1. Elizabeth Pennis, "Conservation's Ecocentrics," Science News. 9-11-93, pp. 168-170.
2. Science News, "Letters," 11-20-93, pp. 323, 334.