Why America is burning

By Henry Lamb
web posted August 14, 2000

The fires that are raging across the west are just the beginning of the consequences of inept environmental management policies that the Clinton/Gore administration has inflicted upon the people of America.

This administration has legitimized and legalized the pseudo-religious earth worship of environmental extremists. These emotion-based, tree-hugging policies can only result in even worse disasters if common sense continues to be ignored in favor of "sustainable" propaganda.

Satellite image of U.S. wildfires
Satellite image of U.S. wildfires

The Sierra Club, Wilderness Society, and other environmental groups, proudly wage their anti- logging campaign, describing chain-saws as murder weapons, and loggers as pawns of corporate resource rapers. The federal government, now manned by former executives of these organizations, dutifully responds by closing forest roads and outlawing timber cutting .

The nightly news reports as much as five million acres destroyed by wildfire. There is no inventory of the toasted wildlife. There is no measure of the tons of pollution released into the atmosphere, or the miles of streams that will be filled with ash and sediment when rain finally falls.

The best defense against forest fires are firebreaks. Roads through the forest serve this purpose, and roads allow firefighters access to the flame. Common sense. So the Clinton/Gore administration adopts a policy of closing forest roads - to the cheers of environmental organizations who prefer to blame the fires on climate change caused by use of fossil fuels. Go figure.

A second defense against forest fires is thinning the growth. Selective harvest of mature and diseased trees keeps the fuel supply at a minimum. Common sense. So the Clinton/Gore administration adopts a policy of non-removal of any trees, even those blown down by storms.

Environmental organizations file law suits by the dozens to prevent any timber harvest by invoking the Endangered Species Act to protect some obscure so-called endangered bug or beetle. It's acceptable, however, if those same bugs and beetles are roasted in a massive barbeque.

Forest fires, though, are not the most serious consequence of this extreme reverence of the earth. The same extremism has prevented exploration and development of oil and coal reserves in the United States. More than half our energy comes from foreign sources. The Clinton/Gore administration reflects the wish of the extreme environmental organizations to eventually ban the use of fossil fuel and force Americans to rely on solar, wind, and other ‘alternative' fuels.

"Force" is the active word here. Technology - in pursuit of free markets - will supply an alternative source of energy when it is advantageous to do so. Extreme environmentalists are unwilling to rely on the marketplace, and are using government to force the market to accept technology that is neither adequate, nor environmentally appropriate.

A drive through the windmill farms East of Oakland, California will convince most people that mile after mile of giant, noisy windmills - through which eagles fear to fly - is far more destructive to the environment than a modern oil well, which can produce far more energy per square foot of land, than windmills or solar panels.

Environmental extremists are lobbying to remove hydro-electric dams on rivers across the country to protect some species of fish. To them, the fish are more important than the humans who depend upon the electricity, or upon the income produced from use of the waterway. Environmental extremists claim that naturally-bred fish are superior to hatchery-bred fish, and club the hatchery-bred fish to death, while claiming that the same species is endangered.

The consequence of this earth-worshiping nonsense will inevitably be an energy shortfall. As bad as the forest fires are, they are nothing when compared with the absence of energy. As bad as high energy prices are, they are nothing when compared with the absence of energy.

If a crash program were launched today to meet the anticipated energy demands of 2020, it is unlikely that the demand could be met. But there is no crash program. Instead, there are policies in place that make it nearly impossible to build a new nuclear generating plant, or to build a new oil refinery, or to even pump oil from known oil reserves. The entire coal industry has been nearly shut down for fear of releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. But it's acceptable to burn the forests, which releases more carbon dioxide in a single fire than coal burning plants release over many years. Go figure.

Perhaps the worst consequence of this environmental extremism is the growing acceptance of the idea that somehow government knows best, providing, of course, that government is informed by the former executives of environmental extremist organizations. Government is consolidating its power to control, not only land and resource use, but the lives of individuals as well. The opposite side of every new power government assumes, is the loss of freedom for individuals.

The Conservation and Reinvestment Act, heralded by the Clinton/Gore administration and environmental extremists alike, as the most significant conservation legislation since Teddy Roosevelt - represents an incredible loss of freedom for private land owners. Propaganda surrounding the proposed law says that only "willing sellers" will be asked to sell their land to the government. The fact is, however, this administration is well-practiced in making "willing sellers" out of any individual who is targeted. What's called multi-media enforcement of an arsenal of regulatory procedures can - and has - crushed individuals who dare stand between the federal government and its goals.

Environmental extremists have succeeded in transforming America from a nation where common sense informed responsible environmental stewardship into a nation where the color of science is used to camouflage what is actually a form of paganistic earth worship. Environmental extremists have infiltrated our institutions of higher learning, our schools, our government, our churches, and they are succeeding in transforming our nation.

The wildfires that are burning across the country are an early warning of the consequences yet to come if this environmental extremist philosophy continues to shape our public policy.

Henry Lamb is the executive vice president of the Environmental Conservation Organization, and chairman of Sovereignty International.

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