7 October 2010


"Hellacious Acres", Deroy Murdock's article in NRO, along with the accompanying map, is a reminder that the concept of wilderness plays a part in US environmentalism that has little echo in Europe.

I think, and the areas owned by Washington seem to support the thesis, that it is all tied up with the myth of the western frontier as having somehow defined the American spirit.

Wilderness preservation is, of course, a rather extravagant (this is the States, after all) expression of the universal not-in-my-backyardism (NIMBY) reflex of those who wish to pull up the ladder, more accurately described as dog-in-the-mangerism.

Declaring an area a wilderness puts severe limits on the construction of access roads and other facilities that would permit the hoi polloi to "spoil" areas of natural beauty, so that those with the means and leisure can enjoy the pleasing sensation of being "away from it all". And, oh yes, should those away from it all get into trouble, they can use their Blackberries to summon up Park Rangers whose salaries are paid for by all.   

Then there's the teensy problem that, left to their own devices, forests periodically renew themselves with massive fires, which threaten the houses-with-an-unspoiled-view of the rich nimbys. So they must be suppressed, again at public expense.

But that stunts the natural development of forests, in particular the new growth that sucks up an enormous amount of carbon dioxide. Nimbys also oppose logging, which turns the carbon dioxide already locked up in mature trees into non-polluting construction timber.

The whole eek!-o-freak phenomenon is NIMBY in one way or another; unsurprisingly, it is most loathsomely apparent in the country that gave birth to it.


  1. Well, maybe not so entirely loathsomely. As it happens, the national forests and wilderness areas established, most notably, by President Theodore Roosevelt, have always been natural targets of agribusiness exploiters like Big Cattle (free pasture), mining businesses (free access to mineral wealth),and of course timber corporations who are more interested in clear-cutting than in preserving forests, even virgin ones.

    There may indeed be legitimate arguments about how and for what reason national lands are preserved, but when Yosemite boasts that it can put up 5000 people per night and then goes on to establish Coke and crisp and candy machines on the most prominent natural viewpoints; when yellowstone is overrun with skimobile enthusiasts who help to trash the natural environment; and when the more chancy wilderness areas are deluged with calls from stranded tourists who want cold water delivered to them rather than rescue, not to mention those who have wandered far afield and do need emergency help, one wonders exactly what the Forest and Park sevices, underfunded as they are, are supposed to make of all this.

    America's national parks, state parks, and wilderness areas are regions of great beauty and of botanical and zoological interest and should be preserved. The problem with general access to these areas is that the great American public has a tendency to trash them, and the great American corporations have an ingrained tendency to exploit them.

    And the US Government has an ingrained tendency not to give a tinker's dam.

  2. I'm afraid that illustrates my point exactly.