As we approach the year 2000, there are a number of finalists for the title of "Major Insanity of the 20th Century." There were, during the past 100 years, many disastrous human errors, resulting in unprecedented levels of social collapse, economic deprivation, human suffering, death and genocide. Virtually all of them, and certainly the worst of them, were, at their roots, involved with some form of socialism. Coming immediately to mind are the communist varieties in Russia and in China under Mao, the nationalist variety under Hitler, and the Fabian and Keynesian varieties which, in the name of the "Welfare State," continue to plague the United States. The evidence is overwhelming that socialism, in all its many forms, is the embodiment of "man's inhumanity to man." As the failure of the century, it is a great puzzlement to find that socialism still enjoys a loyal following in our major universities, among our clergy and in the highest levels of government. Socialism and its various mutations were not only the scourge of the 20th century but unfortunately continue as major threats to the civilized world in the century ahead.
THE NEW SOCIALISM
Growing like a toadstool on a manure pile, a new offspring of socialism that has been around in its present form for less than thirty years, has the potential of being as virulent as any of its cousins. It is so cleverly camouflaged with slogans of "clean water, clean air, and beautiful scenery" along with blather about "the balance of nature," that many of its own members would dispute its relationship to the socialist family. But at its very foundation is the fanatical socialist compulsion of a conceited elite to seize the power to control the lives of others, to erect a dominating central government and to attack private property and capitalism. This semi-religious movement of "true believers" is called Environmentalism. Capitalizing on the universal desire for a better world, the movement has enlisted many sincere but na´ve people with a genuine concern about environmental issues. And, with the discrediting of communism, those displaced fellow travelers have flocked to the Environmental bandwagon where they can continue their socialist crusade under an aura of respectability. By assuming the authority to define what constitutes an "environmental issue," Environmentalists constantly drag their loyal constituents into one after another contrived, manufactured environmental "crisis."
THE BIG "E"s AND the little "e"s
In my 1983 book, "Forestry by Coercion," I divided environmentalists in a way which is still useful today. I suggested that we differentiate between environmentalists (with a small "e") and Environmentalists (with a big "E"). Small "e" environmentalists include all of us who share a concern for the surroundings in which we live and who place a high value on individual freedom which cannot exist in a society that does not respect property rights. On the other hand, the big "E" Environmentalist is not simply a professional Environmentalist, he has his own - and different - agenda. To a large extent, the Environmental area is simply where he has chosen to do battle. He uses Environmentalism as a horse on which to crusade against free enterprise, private property and technology, while pursuing his main objective: the power to control the lives of others. Although there may be some fuzziness at the dividing line, until we recognize the distinction between small "e" environmentalists and big "E" Environmentalists and until we recognize the fundamental differences between small "e" environmentalism and big "E" Environmentalism, intelligent debate in this whole area is pointless, if not impossible. Like comparing apples and oranges, failing to understand their differences is to ascribe to each characteristics they do not possess. In his heart and mind the big "E" Environmentalist dreams that ultimately he will live in a capitalist-free society; but he realizes that it is not quite respectable to say this so he barricades himself behind spotted owls, marbled murrelets, sand flies, five legged frogs and other environmental red herring, while conducting his on-going war of scare-mongering and extortion.
Certainly many environmental problems are real in that they represent problems which threaten human health or deplete the aesthetic and spiritual richness of our lives. But today virtually all of the epidemic of environmental scares are based on lies and deception. Recent impending catastrophes that are either partial or complete frauds include acid rain, the Alar apple hoax, power lines, ozone layer warnings and the biggest whopper of them all: the threat of global warming.
ECOSYSTEM, WHAT'S THAT?
e-co-sys-tem: a system made up of a community of animals, plants, and bacteria and its interrelated physical and chemical environment. That's what the dictionary says and it seems pretty straightforward. But in the movement that has become known as "ecosystem ecology," the word means both less and a lot more. It means less in that the "ecosystem ecology" hypothesis incredibly does not recognize man as having a legitimate role in nature. Instead, man is regarded as a kind of alien virus on Mother Earth and an enemy of what would otherwise be a world of harmonious, stable ecosystems. It means more in that big "E" Environmentalists have surrounded the word "ecosystem" with an aura of mystical assumptions far beyond its definition. These assumptions are not founded in science but in the pantheistic religion of Environmentalism.
The "ecosystem ecology" dogma of big "E" Environmentalism insists that:nature knows best everything is connected to everything else succession is an orderly process of community development that culminates in a climactic, stabilized, self regulating ecosystem biological diversity promotes ecosystem stability the primeval stability of nature is the supreme good and the prime objective of Government left alone, ecosystems remain stable when people meddle, systems collapse the cutting of trees is a rape of Mother Earth all things are created equal things, like trees, frogs and rocks, have rights preservation requires isolating ecosystems from humanity once wilderness is defiled it is gone forever people are merely elements in a larger system which is the state, and have no status apart from the state "all nature is sublime, only man is vile" mankind has become a plague upon itself and Mother Earth Al Gore, a High Priest of Biocentrism, will be the next president, thus melding religion with state
Each of the above is either false or unproven.
"Ecosystem ecology," in concert with biocentrism, has escalated from a promising science into a highly political movement that today is less a science than a program for social control, insisting that protecting ecosystems is the highest imperative of government.
Ecology, the branch of biology that deals with the relations between living organisms and their environment, was for years a pure interdisciplinary undertaking essential for understanding the complexity of living systems. But it has been transformed by Environmentalists into a semi-occult Delphic priesthood, whose oracles, like Al Gore, are given the power to decide what is best for nature, and therefore which of us should sacrifice and which should benefit.
Ecosystem theorists warn that since global survival depends on the existence of "balanced" ecosystems, and none can be located, then catastrophe is obviously imminent. If mythical "healthy" ecosystems are supposed to maintain "all their parts," but no actual ecosystem can be found that does so, then humans must be killing nature. And since individuals, left alone, pursue "selfish" goals such as wealth and liberty, then a strong central government is obviously needed to protect ecosystems from the onslaughts of humanity. Only the coercive power of the state, Environmentalists insist, can protect us from ourselves. Al Gore himself has warned " We are reaching the point beyond which an ecological collapse is inevitable because we have tilted so far toward individual rights." Gore has indeed reinvented government so that it has shifted its goal from protecting people to that of safeguarding ecosystems from people.
However, many ecologists reject the ecosystem concept as having crossed the line from science into ancient mythology and is, in essence, merely recycled holism and teleology. These dissenting ecologists stress that it is competition among creatures and not self-regulating, purposeful ecosystems that characterizes the dynamics of nature. Invoking the rigorous standards of modern science, they insist that theories about complex "wholes" are not testable and therefore not scientific. Sure enough, when ecosystem ecologists attempted to locate a "self sustaining ecosystem" they could not. However, this only proved to them that the world had been so screwed up by humans that catastrophe was imminent.
But though the critics of the stable ecosystem theory have solid science on their side (as do global warming skeptics), they have failed to influence public opinion and policy. Ecosystems ecologists have a political agenda and their opponents do not, so it is natural that the former and not the latter are able to inspire social change. Never mind that there is no scientific evidence to support this doctrine, it has become the official policy of the United States government, which has proceeded to invent a new class of crimes based on allegations of harm done, not to individuals or society, but to ecosystems. You can go to prison today for filling in a mud hole in your own back yard.
O.K., so since the whole ecosystem theory is nothing more than fantasy; a combination of junk science and kooky religion chasing a rainbow, truth and science will prevail and the discredited ecosystem theory will vanish into the dustbin of history. Right? Wrong - at least in the foreseeable future. America's ruling classes - the media, government, universities, church hierarchy, the judicial system, the teaching professions and the Environmental organizations - have such a huge investment in ecosystem management theory that the facts be damned, they cannot afford to abandon the faith, no matter how discredited. In any event, people do not desert articles of faith just because all the facts are in contradiction. Our goal, then, should not be to try to convince Ecosystem theorists of the error of their ways, but to try to minimize their influence and the damage they seem dedicated to inflict.
Further, since ecosystem ecology lies at the very foundation of the insane Endangered Species Act, all forest practice regulation, the worship of wilderness, and all the mystical dogma of Environmentalism, it is absolutely unthinkable to question its tenets. In addition, most research grants come from either the government or the big liberal foundations and, unfortunately, you can get any kind of "proof" you are willing to pay for. Most recently, a "scientist," investigating the "harm" to human health caused by high voltage power lines, was found to have ignored any data that conflicted with his politically correct conclusions. He had been working with a 3.3 million dollar grant and apparently felt obligated to give his grantors their money's worth. All research grants go to those who will endorse the environmental party line and none go to its critics. Apparently scientists can be bought, just like lawyers.
Historians in the future will look back to our time with wonder. How, they will marvel, could a society that had reached near-genius status in technology have remained, emotionally and politically, still in the stone age? How could such a technologically advanced society have swallowed, hook, line and sinker, the propaganda of a primitive pagan theology that cost thousands of jobs, destroyed communities, ran roughshod over property rights and cost billions of dollars, all for the dubious assurance that the sex life of a common reclusive owl that few had ever seen would be enhanced?
Although ecosystem ecology is on a political roll, as good science the Environmental movement's show horse is dead. Common sense says that when you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount. However our enviro-government, supported by the vast Environmental lobby and the media, can be counted on to deny that the horse is dead change riders appoint a committee to revive the dead horse blame global warming increase the horse's funding pass legislation declaring "this horse is not dead" accuse Kenneth Starr of having killed the horse beat the horse accelerate the rate of environmental crises fabrications so as to distract us from the stench of the decaying carcass. Confiscate all guns
"Letting nature take its course" has been a disaster. The experience with the Yellowstone elk herds, as they increased from 3,172 animals in 1962 to over 30,000 animals in 1988, demonstrates that the twin goals of noninterference with nature and of preserving pristine natural habitats are incompatible. Both wildlife managers and conservation biologists are being forced to acknowledge that nature reserves can't be left to nature alone to manage. Ecosystem ecology is beautiful theory, but it does not happen to be the way the world works. It makes nice poetry, but it is not good science.
But even as evidence against the stability hypothesis mounts, its believers assume positions of power and prestige. Although false, the idea of stable ecosystems and the "balance of nature" remains unquestioned in today's environmental politics. Both state and federal governments seized upon these ideas as a rationale for extending their control over the lives of citizens through such powerful and arrogant agencies as California's Departments of Forestry and Fish & Game and the EPA on the national level. But the fatal fallacy of Environmentalism is that saving nature means arresting change whereas the only constant in nature is change. Since all biological systems are inherently unstable and since evolutionary change produces a constant stream of unique conditions, no single state of affairs can be either "healthy" or "unhealthy." The earth can be "healthy" for human or "healthy" for dinosaurs, but it is never just plain "healthy." Habitats can be good for deer or good for owls, but never merely good for wildlife.
A micro-example of the insidious evil of ecosystem theology is found in the regulation of private timberlands in California under the California Forest Practice Act of 1973. This Act was intended "to encourage prudent and responsible forest management calculated to serve the public's need for timber and other forest products.." and "to assure that the goal of maximum sustained production of high-quality timber products is achieved." In practice, however, the State Board of Forestry, which has the responsibility of administering the Act, is totally dominated by big "E" Environmentalists and accepts the imperatives of ecosystem theory as a higher duty than the intent of the Act. And, since the cutting of any tree is a disruption in the progress of nature toward a "stable, climactic, self-regulating ecosystem," there is a basic incompatibility between tree harvesting and "the supreme good of the primeval ecosystem." If you cut a stand of 200 year old trees, you have set the "holy" ecosystem climax back by 200 years. So, true to the mandates of the ecosystem hypothesis and contrary to the Act itself, the hidden, unspoken agenda of the Board has been to do everything it could to discourage "prudent and responsible forest management" on private lands. With every meeting of the Board, it becomes a little less attractive to be a tree farmer in California. The Board's actions remind one of the Vietnam War: "In order to save this village we must destroy it."
Although of almost unlimited power, the Board realizes that it is not politically feasible at this time to criminalize the cutting of privately owned timber on private land. Instead it has chosen a back-door approach to accomplish its goal. If, in the guise of "protecting the environment," tree harvesting could be made so expensive through regulation, fees and fines that there was no economic benefit to logging, then all tree cutting would grind to a halt and the sacred ecosystems could regain their "health." At this point, Californians would not only not be getting "production of high quality timber products" (one of the goals of the Act), they would be getting no forest products at all. Since 1974 the Board has piled one wasteful, worthless expense or restriction on top of another to discourage timber harvesting but, until about 1993, the value of stumpage rose even faster than the Board could raise expenses, so tree farmers continued to receive increased net economic benefits. Since 1993, however, stumpage prices have leveled off and, for various reasons, there is little prospect that they will again resume the rate of increase in real value they enjoyed for so many years. So now the Board's program is closing the gap and regulatory expenses are in sight of attaining their goal.
THE TWILIGHT OF FORESTRY
Since before the beginning of the century, forestry was considered to be at the top of the conservation movement. But with ecosystem theology growing like a wild fire out of control, forestry was swept aside and, when challenged, the forestry profession meekly surrendered its credentials without a fight. Forestry concentrates on timberland management with the primary objective of growing and harvesting trees. Forestry, the ecosystem theorists argued, was not sufficiently "holistic." Since "holism" became a hot item, Schools of Forestry rushed to change their names to Schools of Environmentalism and today at every graduation send forth a wave of young missionaries eager to spread the gospel. A feeble compromise with Environmentalists was attempted with a thing called "New Forestry," but all it did was to substitute what "feels good" for what had worked well in the past; it still involved the cutting of some trees and so was unacceptable. As a result, forestry today, instead of being in the forefront of the conservation movement, has found itself very much on the defensive. But what could foresters expect when one of their main preoccupations - the cutting of trees - is considered a high crime and a mortal sin against the "sacred" ecosystem? Environmentalists give lip service to "good" forestry but what they really want is "no" forestry.
THE WAY THINGS REALLY WORK IN THE WOODS
There is nothing that man does, or is likely to do, in the forest that is not matched at some time in some place by nature. Even the "catastrophic" clearcut is outdone by "natural" wildfire. Clearcutting drives out wildlife; wildfire burns it alive. Properly done, clearcutting does no damage to the soil; wildfire can sterilize it or result in accelerated erosion. There is nothing "unnatural" about silviculture; it only seeks to emulate, control and speed up natural processes. In contrast to ecosystems theorists, silviculturists, recognizing that evolution is chaotic and random, do not believe that there is any one condition that plant communities "ought" to be in. Nature has at its disposal the tools of fire, wind, floods, erosion, siltation, landslides, avalanches, glaciers, volcanoes, ice storms, mammal browsing, insects, and disease. It uses these tools with gay abandon and can make man's impact seem puny. As the environmental historian, Donald Worster has said, " The climax notion is dead, the ecosystem has receded in usefulness, and in their place we have the idea of the lowly 'patch.' Nature should be regarded as a landscape of patches, big and little, changing continually through time and space, responding to an unceasing barrage of perturbations. Nature is fundamentally erratic, discontinuous and unpredictable."
The cutting of any tree, or of a hundred trees, or of a clearcut, results in some environmental change. Depending on the silvicultural system used, the environmental disturbance can be slight or extensive. But in any case, the environment is not destroyed, it is simply changed, and what happens in every case of change is a tradeoff. One set of environmental characteristics is replaced by another; some organisms suffer from this change, while others benefit. The environment is neither better or worse than before, only different. The change is neither "good" nor "bad" in itself, except in the subjective eye of the beholder. Environmentalists condemn a clearcut as a "disaster," but rhapsodize over a wildfire burn as "a rebirth of nature." So, since nature is in a constant state of change and since change is neither good nor bad, then for any individual or group to decide what specific kinds of change are acceptable is fine if those preferences are applied to their own ownership, but to force them onto others is sheer tyranny.
Although the cutting of trees in itself has no meaningful environmental significance, cutting does have prodigious economic consequences in that the uncut tree has a stored utility which upon cutting can be put to use. Therefore, since all forms of silviculture are "natural," and of no true environmental consequence, it is the economic effects that should be controlling. All concern about regulating tree cutting for "environmental health" is therefore misplaced and a waste of time and money. Since only about 2% of California's timberlands are harvested in any given year, from the standpoint of overall effect on the environment, it really doesn't matter how trees are harvested. Government regulations, such as those currently imposed under the perversion of the California Forest Practice Act, merely result in reducing the economic benefits of tree farming and, while of ominous political significance, they are environmentally irrelevant. All the regulation needed to insure a permanent timber supply is inherently contained in the free market.
Given the resounding worldwide success of Environmental propaganda, can we possibly extricate ourselves from the socialist trap in which we have become enmeshed? Certainly time is running out. The Environmental takeover of the forests of California has been accomplished with only a whimper here and there, having been welcomed by people who acted as if they were being liberated rather than enslaved. The big test for Environmentalism will be the selling of a world government of central planning to cope with the "dreaded specter of global warming." If Al Gore and Co. succeed in hoodwinking the world, they will have hit the jackpot of their dreams and civilized progress will slow to a crawl.
Can we possibly escape this fate? It is too late for the forests of California, but we still have much to lose. As with nuclear energy, the problems are not scientific but political and likewise the solutions do not lie with science but with politics. The destructive process of "command and control" government could perhaps be stopped but we would have to recognize what the attacks on modern society really are and where they are leading us.
This kind of problem is not exactly new. Quoting Machiavelli (1530) in The Prince: "It happens then as it does to physicians in the treatment of consumption, which in the early stage is easy to cure and difficult to understand; but when it has neither been discovered in due time nor treated properly, it becomes easy to understand and difficult to cure. The same thing happens in state affairs; by foreseeing them early the evils which might arise from them are soon cured; but when, from want of foresight, they are suffered to increase to such a height that they are perceptible to everyone, there is no longer any remedy."
We should take this savant very seriously.
Send your comments to and request additional copies from: Bill Holmes Bb3313@thegrid.net
Any part (or the whole) of this document may be quoted, copied, plagiarized, folded, stapled or mutilated without the consent of the author or anyone else. WHH 10/1/99
William. H. Holmes
Harry V. Wiant, Jr. 113 Scenery Dr., Morgantown WV 26505 Phone (304) 599-6618 Fax (775) 796-8717 My web site: http://www.geocities.com/harryvwiant/