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COLUMN

Bush’s Environmentalism: Anti-Nature, Pro-Man

Matt Craighead

President Bush recently came under harsh criticism from environmentalists on several policy matters. He rejected the Kyoto global warming treaty, supports drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, delayed regulations that ban new roads and logging in 58.5 million acres of national forests, and so on.

These folks say that Bush’s agenda is anti-nature. I agree -- but that’s not the whole truth. The truth is that President Bush’s environmental agenda is pro-man.

Compared to most animals, man is a weakling. He has no sharp claws or teeth, no venom to immobilize his prey. He is not camouflaged in his environment. He is not the fastest runner, nor the best swimmer. Yet he prospers in every environment, from the Sahara desert to the Himalayas, from the rainforests of Brazil to the plains of North America. After all, man has something that no one else has -- man’s mind. He lives by shaping nature to meet his needs.

It was man’s mind that allowed him to master fire, converting it from a source of fear into a source of strength.

It was man’s mind that allowed him to invent tools and weapons, starting with the first Stone Age hammer or spear.

It was man’s mind that allowed him to develop agriculture, freeing him from constant fear of starvation.

Today, it is man’s mind that allows him to travel from one side of the country to the other in just a few short hours. It is man’s mind that allows him to enter a few digits on a cellular phone and talk to anyone from anywhere. It is man’s mind that frees him from endless toil and back-breaking labor and permits him leisure, which allows him to spend his youth learning rather than working.

And it is man’s mind that is under assault by the environmentalists.

Environmentalists are not fighting for clean air and water for humans. If this were so, they would support hydroelectric dams. After all, these dams produce electricity without any air pollution, and the water in the reservoirs created by dams is clean and valuable. Instead, environmentalists attack dams because they block fish and impede the river’s “free flow.” In other words, fish and rivers are more important than people. Have we reduced ourselves to druidism?

This is hardly the only example. We are told that man must sacrifice himself for wetlands (commonly known as “disgusting swamps”), or for the snail darter and the spotted owl. Women with ovarian cancer must sacrifice their lives for the sake of the yew tree.

No, environmentalists are not out to fight for the interests of man. Instead, they value nature above man.

According to David Foreman, founder of Earth First, “wilderness has a right to exist for its own sake, and for the sake of the diversity of the life forms it shelters; we shouldn’t have to justify the existence of a wilderness area by saying: ‘Well, it protects the watershed, and it’s a nice place to backpack and hunt, and it’s pretty.’”

David Graber of the National Park Service tells us that he values wilderness “for its own sake, not for what value it confers upon mankind ... We are not interested in the utility of a particular species, of free-flowing river, or ecosystem to mankind. They have intrinsic value, more value -- to me -- than another human body, or a billion of them.”

In accordance with this belief, environmentalists seek to shackle mankind. They seek to shut off man’s need to shape his environment. They want to shut off man’s mind and, ultimately, his life. Look at the policies that Bush has fought, and this becomes clear.

The Kyoto global warming treaty is based on bad science. The UN’s projections of warming depend on impossible worst-case scenarios, and their climate models, when run backwards, do not accurately predict climate changes over the last century. Over 19,000 scientists have signed a 1998 petition stating that “there is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide ... or other greenhouse gases is causing or will ... cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate.”

The Kyoto treaty’s emission requirements would require massive cuts in energy use, for questionable gains -- perhaps only one-seventh of a degree less warming over a half-century. When the United States faces an energy crisis caused by decades of environmentalism, it borders on lunacy to adopt Kyoto.

Environmentalists attack Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) oil exploration for equally bad reasons. Alaska has huge stretches of undeveloped land, including 100 million acres of land set off by the U.S. government in 1980. ANWR itself is 20 million acres in size, and the region being discussed for development is only 1.5 million acres. The footprint of the drilling operations would be far smaller--just 2,000 acres. Seventy-five percent of Alaskans support drilling for oil in ANWR, and even the AFL-CIO supports it, since it will create about 250,000 union jobs. Exploration of ANWR should not be controversial; it should be common sense.

Finally, the bans on roads and logging in the national forests are outrageous. A forest that no one can use is pointless. If forests are “valuable,” we must ask, valuable to whom? Forests are not an end in themselves; instead, they are valuable because they are useful to man. Banning roads and logging is a short step from creating a “human exclusion zone” -- a concept that should put terror in any man’s heart.

The contradictions of environmentalism are evident in a simple example. Both beavers and humans build dams; beavers even cut down trees to build their dams. Yet beavers are exempt from the attacks of the environmentalists, because it is “natural” for them to do this. Well, it is natural for man to build dams and cut down trees, to build factories and coal-burning power plants. It is natural for man to build computers and cell phones, to build cars, airplanes, and space shuttles.

In fact, these things are more than just natural -- they are essential to the human way of life. Environmentalism, on the other hand, is opposed to the human way of life, and, ultimately, to human life itself. Bush’s response to radical environmentalism is indeed anti-nature and pro-man, and it thus deserves our highest praise.