]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]    THE GREEN BIGOTS       [[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[ 
          By Dr Thomas Sowell (synd. column, 1/17/86)

     The wilderness recreation lobby is called many things, but the 
best name I have heard for them is "the green bigots." Bigots think 
that their way is the only way and that other people don't count. This 
has long been the attitude of those who call themselves environmen-
talists.
     The green bigots try to give the impression that they are trying 
to save the last few remaining patches of wilderness, before it 
disappears under a covering of asphalt and concrete. In reality, the 
land owned by the National Park Service alone is larger than Great 
Britain. The land owned by the US Forest Service is large than France. 
In addition, the Fish and Wildlife Service owns land that is larger 
than Holland, Israel, Belgium and Switzerland -- combined. Moreover, 
the federal government has been buying up still more land to add to 
this in recent years, despite budget deficits and other crying needs.
     Many people are unaware of how vast an area has been set aside, 
at public expense, for outdoor recreational purposes. Nor are they 
aware of how relentlessly the wilderness recreation lobby has used its 
political clout to make it more difficult for millions of ordinary 
citizens to have access to this enormous expanse of land that is 
supposedly being "preserved" for "the people."
     Tourist facilities are being torn down. Access by automobile and 
bus is being blocked. Powered tourist boats and rafts are scheduled to 
be banned from the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. The point 
is to give preferential access to those with the lifestyle of the 
environmentalists and keep out ordinary city people with limited vaca-
tion time and kids who cannot be turned loose in the wild. If you 
don't have the leisure, the money, the physique or the "commitment" to 
a special lifestyle, then the wilderness recreation lobby doesn't want 
you allowed in any more. All their talk about the "the people" is 
political rhetoric. If you can't afford to have your family learn 
mountaineering, horseback riding, skiing, camping or the mysteries of 
white water canoeing, you are going to have less and less access to 
more and more public land.
     The perpetuation of such special privileges for the environmen-
talists into the indefinite future is referred to politically as con-
cern for "posterity." That is, the posterity of the environmentalists 
is to continue to enjoy the same advantages over the posterity of the 
rest of the society -- which is to continue to pay, and continue to 
find obstacles put in their way when they want to see what they have 
paid for.
     What society pays for the recreational privileges that a small 
and affluent group of Sierra Clubbers and other environmental extre-
mists want limited to themselves is not simply the money to maintain 
and acquire public land. Nation-sized expanses of land contain vast 
amounts of resources that could mean many jobs, much housing, and an 
improved standard of living for many Americans. The issue is not whe-
ther there should be any recreational wilderness, but whether there 
should be some sense of balance between the wilderness recreation 
lobby -- the green bigots -- and the large majority of Americans.
     Under the pressure from these lobbyists, the Environmental Pro-
tection Agency recently proposed a plan to save fish from "acid 
rain." The cost worked out to about $16,000 per fish. It was typical 
of the heedless zeal of environmentalism.
     Like other special interest groups, the wilderness recreationists 
try to represent their own particular benefits as NATIONAL benefits -- 
and to ignore the costs to others. Their "party line" is preached as 
the only truth, not only to tourists, but in a constant din in the 
media. It is virtually impossible to watch a TV nature program with-
out getting a political speech about how government ought to preserve 
land from encroachment by "man" (said with just the right amount of 
distaste).
     Some of the green bigots are now resorting to sabotage against 
industries operating in the wilderness, such as loggers and oil compa-
nies. They even have a book on how to sabotage those who dare to think 
that they have the same rights as the self-anointed environmentalists. 
[This clearly refers to "Ecodefense", reviewed on the 7th floor of the 
ibrary, P.B.]
     What environmentalism illustrates, to a frightening extent, is 
how vulnerable this democracy has become to the rhetoric of small 
groups made shrill by self-righteousness. Their political success 
reveals how unthinkingly we have become conditioned to respond on cue 
to certain pious words, much like the conditioned reflexes of Pavlov's 
dog.
                              *  *  *

     [Dr Thomas Sowell, a syndicated national columnist, is a Senior 
Fellow at the Hoover Institution and author of numerous (and 
outstanding) books on social, racial, economic and philosophical 
subjects. As a black, he is also a victim of contemporary American 
racism in the sense that people who do not know the work of this great 
intellect believe that, as in so many other institutions, he is a 
mediocrity filling Affirmative Action quotas.]


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