Re: SOC/ENVIRO: Review of Wallace Kaufman's "Coming Out of the Woods"

Date: Sat Mar 03 2001 - 14:04:06 MST

The following is some personal correspondence incited by my sharing the
review I passed on in this thread earlier today. The first is from a friend
of mine who disagrees with me about most everything. My reply follows:

> One again. This little review looks at the extremes and damns the core
> principle. Sure, we've all know since high school that Thoreau was not the
> real, hard core nature guy he pretended to be. Yes, he returned to
> civilization pretty quickly. Yes, if you move out to the swamps, there
> be snakes and stuff, and even back-to-nature hippies don't want to get too
> cozy with poisonous snakes. Who doesn't know this? This is not creative.
> Tell us something we don't know.
> With religion, especially organized religion, you tend to judge it by the
> snake handlers and anti-sex fundamentalists, even though they are likely a
> minority of those who participate in organized religion. With
> environmentalists, you tend judge the movement as a whole by those who call
> for moving to the swamps to live with the snakes. You obviously miss the
> point. The point is that our lovely suburbs and industrial parks are
> squeezing out the snakes in the swamps at a rapid pace. Deny this, as I
> suppose you will, but it is reality. So, the point is not to move back to
> the swamps with the snakes, but to ask ourselves what our modern society is
> doing exactly that is destroying the remaining wilderness and is it
> we can slow down just a little. O.K., feel free to make fun of these
> do-gooders who move to the country only to learn that they don't have the
> true grit to live in the backwoods, if it makes you feel smug and superior.
> But is doesn't prove "Technology -good; Environmentalism - bad". The
> to the country" bit is an ethic, not a detailed prescription. It says, "
> Think twice before it is too late." So don't give us this crap about
> not being a real outdoorsman and, therefore, the environmental/green
> is all bunk. It doesn't logically follow. (Yes, Marx was a scholar who
> owed people money and was maybe lazy in some ways and not an oppressed
> industrial worker, but this doesn't mean the oppression did not exist much
> he described it.)
> I agree with the sentiment that there is "no turning back." All six
> (?) of us can't move to the swamp (where would the snakes live?) but we can
> try to minimize the damage our society does to what is left to the
> I accept the principle that "In wilderness is the preservation of the
> " Good farmers leave a field or two fallow some of the time. He can
> possibly produce more crops by planting these fields rather than letting
> them lie fallow - for a while, dumping fertilizer on them etc., but the
> effect is only temporary. In the long run, the crop yield is reduced.
> sure your technical people can figure a way around this, or think they can,
> but it is a practice that has stood the test of time. It is not
> to leave a field fallow. It is practical, though low-tech, science.
> Finally, the "no turning back" argument is one I've been using to argue
> against the libertarian fallacy ("ethic") for several years. With 6
> people, or whatever the number is now, just as we cannot return to life in
> the wilderness, we cannot return to a life without a significant amount of
> government. Make fun of the Greens with the "no turning back" you silly
> fools, but this is the same problem with libertarianism, but because you
> the "antigovernment" ethic, you can live with libertarian fallacy that we
> turn back. You say, oh well, we do need government for some things . . .
> libertarians aren't unreasonable - they don't believe in NO government just
> NOT MUCH government, but you are no different from the green hippie who
> back from a month or a year living in the swamps to the comfort of a hot
> shower and air conditioning.
> Environmentalism is an ethic and an aesthetic - it is better to preserve
> wilderness, it is better to minimize the environmental impact of our
> enterprises. It is an aesthetic because green is pretty and makes us feel
> human, warm and happy. Libertarianism is an ethic and aesthetic - it is
> better to minimize government when you can, it is better not to fuck with
> people and let them do their own thing. It is an aesthetic because it
> good to do one's own thing without government fucking with you. Of course,
> cannot turn back, but this doesn't mean we have to reject the idea that
> wilderness is a good thing, worth preserving, even if we don't want to live
> in the swamp ourselves.

Before you react so strongly, you might want to know that Kaufman IS a strong
conservationist, as am I. He's just seen what I've seen, which is that the
logic of the green ideology is inconsistent not only with the fundamental
values of liberal democracy, but also, ultimately, of civilization itself.
This sort of thing has happened before. You can start by smiling and
pledging a commitment to "liberty, equality and fraternity", and end up
chopping off people's heads on a grand scale.

Read this:

    <A HREF="">International Forum on

and then, before you say that these are inconsequential extremists, do a
little research -- as I have done -- into just who the people are who are
featured in this article. The people who organized and spoke at this
conference are cited and relied on as leaders by both the Sierra Club and
Greenpeace. They are heroes on America's college campuses and don't have to
try to get their voices heard in government and the media. A couple of them
were cited as fundamental authority by a recent presidential candidate in a
book he wrote a few years ago. And they have a LOT of money to spend to
propagate their views: Buying a year-long weekly series of full-page ads in
the NY Times isn't cheap and you can bet that Jeremy Rifkin's Turning Point
Project didn't spend their last dollar on those ads.

You say, "This little review looks at the extremes and damns the core
principle." I respectfully disagree. What I seek is exactly the core
principle. And, as it turns out, this is also what the people who lead the
mainstream environmental movement have been steadily doing for the last 35
years. The truth is that the logic of their ideas -- their core principles
-- is driving the political expression of their policies into a collision
course with other values they reject, but which I maintain are fundamental to
the maintenance of a free society. Ideology DOES matter to political
parties, and the leadership of the environmental movement is increasingly
pushing their ideology into conflict with the values of the Enlightenment.

This does NOT mean that one must seek to pave over the planet in order to be
true to ideals of liberty and skeptical inquiry. But it does mean that one
has to be honest about how one places relative value on humanity and the
non-human world.

Finally, there's a practical element in my opposition to the growing and real
connection between mainstream environmentalism and the "anti-globalist" and
anti-technology ideology of people like Rifkin and followers in Greenpeace.
The folks who push these ideas simply cannot succeed as they would wish to in
time to do what they would like to do, which is stop the economic progress of
the Third World before we lose all of our wilderness areas. The ONLY
practical solution to that problem is to develop technologies that will allow
the 3 billion people who live in conditions of starvation to mere abject
poverty to have what every human being wants -- security from want and a hope
for prosperity -- without completely despoiling the natural beauty of this

       Greg Burch <>----<>
      Attorney ::: Vice President, Extropy Institute ::: Wilderness Guide -or-
                                           ICQ # 61112550
        "We never stop investigating. We are never satisfied that we know
        enough to get by. Every question we answer leads on to another
       question. This has become the greatest survival trick of our species."
                                          -- Desmond Morris

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