#15 Around the Campfire; Anticonservationists of the Twentieth Century
I harp on the need for conservationists to study the history of conservation because without such knowledge, we can’t learn from earlier battles. We can’t know what worked and what didn’t work. We can’t fully understand today’s anticonservationists or know how to best fight them. A key lesson from conservation history is that Nature lovers win when we fight, when we don’t back down, when we resist the sirens of balanced, win-win solutions. I recall a people-process guru in the 1970s who tried to train Wilderness Society staffers in how to work with those we thought our foes. He explained that there were no issues, only people, and if we talked everything would be rosy. That was tommyrot then, and it is tommyrot today. History shows it so.
The prairie-dog-poisoning Nature Conservancy is the big, fat case of playing kissy-face with Nature haters today. But, sadly, such softheaded puffery is widespread now in the push for conservationists to sit down with wolf-haters, public land-haters, and other surviving nineteenth-century landscalpers and try to understand their views and needs. If only we would do so, we would learn how to work with them. Community-based solutions will put people into wildlands in a happy way, and we won’t need lines on maps and set-asides to protect biodiversity. Such is the path of the worn-out, beaten-down surrender-monkeys of conservation. Such also are the dreams of those with a smiley-face view of human nature. They are able to hold their tummy-warming beliefs because they are politically naïve and historically ignorant. They violate the first rule of combat: know thy foe. Sun Tzu would grind them into bloody dust before the morning mist had burned off the field.
From the early stirrings of American conservation in the nineteenth century up until today, there has been a fierce resistance to conservation, sometimes well organized, sometimes scattered, but always powerful—particularly in the West and Alaska where most of the public land lies.
In an earlier Campfire, “The Great Barbeque” #9, May 7, 2007, we looked at the landscalpers up until 1890 or thereabouts; here we will meet the landscalpers of the twentieth century. Indeed, the history of the public lands in this—the Public Lands Century from 1890 to today—is a three-way donnybrook between conservationists, resourcists, and landscalpers.
Please click on the attachment below to read the entire “Campfire.”
Dave Foreman is the founder of The Rewilding Institute, co-founder of The Wildlands Project and Earth First!, and author of several acclaimed books on wildlands conservation. Books: Rewilding North America | Man Swarm: How Overpopulation Is Killing The WIld World | Take Back Conservation …among several other Rewilding books you can find here. [Photo: Dave Forman in the barren grounds of Nunavit, Canada © Nancy Morton]