When I passed the book “EcoFascists” (author Elizabeth Nickson) on the new book shelf in the bookstore, my reaction was a little embarrassed. I mean isn’t “fascist” a strong word for people who mean well? After all environmentalists are concerned about ecosystems, and biodiversity, and creating corridors between wildlife areas surrounded by encroaching suburbia. And they help the salmon reach their spawning grounds, and they are against pollution in our air and water. And they want to preserve the rain-forest that is getting demolished in the third world. Who could argue with that?
I bought the book.
I read it.
The problem is that when the environmentalists (some in advocacy groups, some in government), decide that land must be preserved, the land happens to be inhabited by people who make their living off it. Take the third world: Mark Dowie, a former publisher of Mother Jones, found, after two years of travel into far-flung jungle, upland forest, and bottomland, that more than 14 million indigenous people had been cleared from their ancestral lands by conservationists. One victim of this described “Men in uniforms, showing guns, tell people that they now live in a national park. ” Mac Chapin wrote in World Watch magazine that a “CI [Conservation International] biologist…told me: “Quite frankly, I don’t care what the Indians want. We have to work to conserve the biodiversity.”
But this couldn’t happen in America, could it?
Take the town of Del Norte, California:
“Once upon a time, Del Norte didn’t need help. It was a largely ignored logging and fishing county…life was lived mostly outside. Even though 22 percent dropped out of high school and one-third couldn’t read, the smart kids, the ones who wanted it badly enough, were sent to college. Retirements were paid for. There was security in this town for ordinary people….then Redwood National Park was created.” Immediately there were job losses in forestry and the secondary jobs of providing the workers with restaurants, gas stations, movie theaters, or whatever else. Then the park expanded. More than 25 percent of Del Norte County’s population was now out of work, and these were family-wage jobs, not Mcjobs. Every year, more and more acreage was slid into the park, and more jobs vanished. Today, 31 percent of the children live below the poverty line.
Promised jobs in tourism did not materialize.
Another example: Since 1988, when the war of the woods began, the job losses in milling and logging industries in the West exceed fifty thousand. In Eureka, Montana, county commissioner Marian Roose said “We have a new eight-million-dollar school and we have no idea how we’ll pay for it now. Who is going to contribute to our local charities? Who is going to contribute to Little League? Who is going to buy the children’s stock at our annual fair 4-H sale?”
Of a county in Washington state, Nickson says: “It is as if giant psychotic five-year-olds had moved into their county, ripped out its industry, pulled up the train tracks, broke the weirs and dams, introduced predators to kill cattle and horses, and methodically ruined family after family, ranch after ranch, forest after forest. And then left, delighted at their “progress,” never to return.
When jobs disappear from rural communities, poverty goes up, families break up, and often crime goes up as does use of drugs like methamphetamine.
One strategy the environmentalists use is to get the water rights to an area. Since every rancher, farmer, etc. depends on water, they now can be forced out. In the Lahontan valley, where water rights were removed, “…one rancher, the day after signing all the papers that transferred the rights to his ranch to the Nature Conservancy, went out on his back porch, a check in his pocket that meant he could live anywhere he wanted, and shot himself.”
The townspeople of Lander Wyoming were told by the BLM and ‘Fish and Wildlife’ that they have 85 percent of the threatened sage grouse habitat territory and must restrict farming, ranching, and mining. Linda Platt (from Montana) says “you see, what the sage grouse is about is, they want to stop drilling in beautiful Wyoming. That’s the hidden agenda. These people are from Chicago, L.A. Atlanta. They won’t even drive through Wyoming, but they want to think of Wyoming as beautiful.” Similarly, another Montanan, Terry Anderson, says “One of the people instrumental in shutting down the forests told me that ‘if the spotted owl hadn’t existed, we would have had to invent it.’ The goal was to stop logging, and the supposedly endangered owl was a tool to achieve this.
The government has its own utopians: According to Chuck Leaf, who was an engineer for the U.S. Forest Service, he was told in meetings in D.C to get as much land out of the hands of private owners as possible.
The government has re-introduced wolves into parts of the west, with the result that “in some rural communities of New Mexico, school bus stops look like cages” (there have been cases of wolves killing humans.)
Well what about those salmon who are being rescued? Surely we can applaud that? Well, one set of dams recently targeted for removal provide local, renewable hydroelectric power to more than 70,000 homes and businesses in Oregon and California. If you get rid of the dams, then you have to supply the energy from a much dirtier source of burning fuel.
(Though I read recently that a majority of Harvard University students are against burning any fossil fuels at all!)
Well at least we can say that all this is good for the environment right? Well, not really. There are human activities that actually benefit the environment.
“Because thinning, salvage harvesting, cleaning up deadfall et cetera are expressly forbidden by environmentalists, between 90 and 200 million acres of Western forest is considered by the Forest Service itself to be in immediate danger of exploding in a fire that would burn so hot that not only would the seeds in the soil die, but also the dirt itself would be burned to dust.”
“The elk and antelope are gone from forests in central Idaho. The dense forests, without meadows created by natural fires or logging, are in late succession and beginning to die. Despite the propaganda, nothing thrives in an old-growth forest.”
Even sheep grazing keeps down noxious weeds and brush.
Environmental theory says that ecosystems are in balance, and you can’t remove a species without causing trouble. But thinning a forest actually results in bigger, healthier trees, assuming you don’t cut them wholesale.
Environmentalists also have the idea that any human presence or economic activity is bad for the environment, and that is not true. (Some activities of course are.) One report listed the following things as unsustainable: private property, single-family homes, paved roads, ski runs, golf courses, logging, plowing, hunting, dams, and more.
Various methods can be used for stopping economic activity. For instance “the BLM goes onto a rancher’s land to count the heads of cattle, then sends outrageous bills for cattle counting, and because the rancher can’t pay the BLM, they take the cattle…They’re cleaning the west out, that’s what they’re doing.”
Naturally rural folk who face daily incursions by the feds feel they are under a tyranny. And since their property rights and livelihoods are removed by unelected bureaucrats and organizations, maybe they are correct. Not all tyrannies are ushered in by masses of marching men chanting “Sieg Heil”. Though like the Nazi tyranny, many are ushered in by utopians of some kind.
Elizabeth Nickson says that the word “evil” may not appeal to modern sensibilities, but “what else do you call something that destroys everything it touches?”
In general, it strikes me that whatever your agenda, if you are trampling on people’s property rights in the name of nature, or trampling on their free speech rights because they might offend somebody, or in general infringing on their “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” for some greater good, you should do some serious thinking about what you are doing.