Monday, February 10, 2014


Few pieces of legislation have been as harmful to life -- specifically, to human life -- as the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Forget all the supposed "good intentions." For get all the "compassion" for the nonhuman world. The ESA, an overt thrust at engineering the biosphere, was from its inception guaranteed to fail of its supposed purpose. It creates a powerful incentive for property owners to "Shoot, Shovel, and Shut Up:"

If, while hunting for dinner, you instead find an endangered species—the half-jest, half-serious advice would be “shoot, shovel and shut up.” Kent Holsinger, a Colorado attorney whose work centers around endangered species issues, told me that he has seen many landowners lose significant value due to a listed species being found on their property.

A commenter to the cited column expands upon that incentive with an anecdote:

Couple years ago I went to look at some Florida land, possibly to buy. The owner pulled a shotgun out of the back of his van. " What's that for?", says I. "Rattlesnakes and scrub jays" muttered the owner. Its not a joke, its another powerful example of unintended consequences of stupid regulations put in place by stupid ignorant politicians whose motivation is never anything but getting re-elected. If Florida really wanted to save the scrub jay, they would pay landowners for promoting habitat. This sort of thing works great for pheasants and ducks in the Midwest, but these are laws advocated by hunters and land owners who support what works, not some fancy sounding moonbeam dream.

Columnist Marita Noon makes the usual point: that the conservation of endangered species is better served by giving landowners positive incentives to protect them: subsidies, property tax breaks, and the like. But the ESA makes no such provisions, and those who use the ESA as a club against landowners would probably rather die of a coral-snake bite than entertain any such notion. They don't value the ESA for its "protective" effects upon "endangered species," but for a far more venal reason.

The proof lies in this alone: Despite the ESA, the ever-expanding list of "endangered species," and the draconian penalties it wields -- has anyone ever challenged those penalties on Fifth or Eighth Amendment grounds? -- the species of nominal concern have not flourished under its "protection." Yet the environmentalists who circle the wagons around the ESA at every slightest suggestion of a revision or amendment are, by all accounts, entirely unconcerned. Why?

When a law is passed to address a "crisis" promoted by a special interest group, a peculiar dynamic comes into play. The interest group uses the law as evidence that the importance of its crusade has been acknowledged by the political elite. That enhances the group's perceived legitimacy and aids in wringing further contributions from its supporters. However, it is vital that the "crisis" itself be preserved, for without it, the contributions would dwindle and the interest group itself would be endangered.

Compare that effect to others of recent note, such as the incentives that now exist for state governments to encourage smoking.

Beyond the above, there's the lunatic sub-group of the environmentalist movement: the sector in which the animating force is hatred of Mankind:

"Human happiness, and certainly human fecundity, are not as important as a wild and healthy planet. I know social scientists who remind me that people are part of nature, but it isn't true. Somewhere along the line -- at about a billion years ago, maybe half that - we quit the contract and became a cancer. We have become a plague upon ourselves and upon the Earth. It is cosmically unlikely that the developed world will choose to end its orgy of fossil-energy consumption, and the Third World its suicidal consumption of landscape. Until such time as Homo sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along."

[David M. Graber, National Park Service research biologist, quoted in the Los Angeles Times, October 29, 1989, and in Julian Simon's The Ultimate Resource]

There could be no clearer statement of hatred for the only truly critical species on Earth: Homo sapiens sapiens. And a surprising number of persons, including college biology professors and others perhaps less widely celebrated, would agree with it, at least among persons of a compatible bent.

Such arrant dismissals of a human being's right to life aren't confined to the environmentalist Left, of course. But in that sector the contempt for Mankind is strongest, perhaps because the environmentalists have a cloak of "compassion" for "the natural world" to obscure it with. That their crusade explicitly excludes Man from "the natural world" is, of course, a requirement.

However, we have a weapon against the eco-fascists that would not serve us as well against other left-wing communities: they are fatally self-contradictory about rights. They don't grant a right to life to any creature; remember that PETA routinely slaughters "rescued" animals and calls for others -- remember Knut the polar bear cub? -- to be killed because "they're no longer part of their natural environment." Yet the eco-fascists will casually talk about the "right" of this or that species to flourish unmolested, while granting no such right to Man.

It's clear that to such persons, "rights" really mean "our preferences for animals over humans." But once that's established, such preferences can be defeated and dismissed; after all, most humans prefer humans, for fairly obvious reasons.

If the current turgid economy has any silver lining, it's that when money is tight, special interest groups tend to have a much harder time. Contributions are slower and smaller; persons with their own well-being on their minds are less well disposed toward causes irrelevant to their own interests. This is not to discount the importance of the fanatical core of the eco-fascist Left, which cannot be stilled short of its own extinction. Yet the more temperate American, whose paycheck -- if he still gets one -- covers an ever-diminishing fraction of what he needs and / or wants, will be disinclined to deed any portion over to those whose activities are at best indifferent and at worst massively inimical to his personal fortunes.

No, it doesn't presage the extinction of hard-left environmentalism. But it's a start. Why, if the movement should shrink below some critical threshold, we might even see an open season! Keep your shotguns and shovels handy.

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