Vironomics, or –
The Anti-Industrial Revolution vs. "Species Chauvinism":
Trashing the (Human) Economy

by Erich Veyhl, Land Rights Letter, March 1993
(Expanded Nov. 3, 2000)

Suzuki: "... there is no alternative but to begin to rapidly decrease the consumption of our populations... And I've talked to Al Gore about this many, many times, and he understands clearly. He said that when the public understands profoundly the change that's needed, politicians will fall all over themselves to get aboard."

“We have to develop case studies where environmental regulation has in fact created jobs, where it's in fact improved people's lives, because we have a lot of these same kind of stories and we're not just getting them out there,” EGA strategist Debra Callahan said in her proposals to counter “wise use.”

But while the EGA PR strategy includes a “mainstream message” and a publicity campaign using “stories” to make it look like environmentalists care about people, the environmentalist strategy on the economy itself is very different. The economy is not what environmentalists fundamentally care about.

The distinction was illustrated when a representative from the Pew Charitable Trusts, concerned over strategic appeals to “economics”, asked,

“I want to know whether the economic piece in this political battle for the forest is the link that environmentalists have missed ... or whether – I know this would be somewhat controversial to say – whether it represents a sort of last retreat, in an ultimate defeat.”

In reading the following environmentalist views on economics, quoted from transcripts of the discussions, keep firmly in mind that this was a conference on establishing and coordinating political strategies for the actions of extremely influential and powerful environmenalist organizations being funded with hundreds of millions of dollars from some of the wealthiest foundations and corporations in the country.

An underlying premise of most of the conference strategizing was the understanding that all of what they call the “extractive industries” – meaning anything from logging to mining to grazing – must be shut down almost everywhere they are campaigning for “protection”. And homes, let alone other “development” in rural areas (“eco–systems”), are anathema.

Some participants urged banning all logging in national forests using the political leverage they gain through Federal control over the land in the name of the “public” – which shows what to expect next when they nationalize more private land.

But a participant in a forestry session commented, uncontroversially, that it is “terribly important to think of private forests in the context of public forests as well. Species don't know the difference where the property line goes” – which shows what to expect even if they don't nationalize all the private land. [Within a few years, the entire national environmentalist lobby openly endorsed shutting down logging in National Forests.]

Another telling comment from the forestry session:

“I think the question, how much is left, is it 2%, is it 5%, is it 7% really is not a very productive question to ask in terms of designing – designing reserves and designing the landscape or looking at the landscape ecology through the eyes of conservation biology... What we need are large areas connected to other areas so we begin to look at the landscape the way plants and animals look at the landscape.”

How the spotted owl “looks at the landscape” is one of the more widely known uses of animal surrogates for control over land under the Endangered Species Act. The following comment from an activist at the forestry session suggests what Interior Secretary Babbitt meant when he recently advocated expanding the Endangered Species Act to cover entire ecosystems to avoid “crises” over single species like the spotted owl:

“But for the spotted owl I think a great deal of the land, the trees would have been lost by now. And I should assure you that the spotted owl wasn't their chosen instrument. Those who are using the spotted owl in legal reasons to stop logging or to put it on hold for the time being would much rather have a broader ecosystem definition to hold onto and to use in their litigation.”

Having to find one surrogate at a time is so inconvenient.

Conference participants frequently spoke of “The Transition” – without being very specific about what the “transition” is to. For example, one discussion focused on activism in Montana,

“where there is a tradition of grass roots organizing on the part of the environmental community, with many groups employing field organizers who really know what they're doing. It's a place where there has been some thinking already, that's been going on about the economic future of how to make the transition from a state that is heavily dependent on resource extractive industries to – [pregnant pause] something else. Studies, you know, responsible studies have been done on that.”

What is the “something else”? They don't know.

One funder who had previously been involved in the “peace movement” candidly made it clear that worrying about the economics of “transitions” is a waste of time. “Anyone,” he said,

“who looks at [the economic] conversion, that effort [by the “peace movement”] – with anything other than a romantic eye – sees that it's zilch. It had almost no impact whatsoever. And I think it's not at all dissimilar to what is happening in the environmental areas when non–profit funders, most of whom have no experience with the bottom line, are supporting groups who equally have no experience of ever running a business, managing a business, starting a business, who are gonna go in and advise loggers who have no high school education and are making $40,000 a year, how to convert to being some other kind of economy in the middle of the woods that is gonna produce $15,000 a year at best, and expect that they're gonna embrace it. It's just folly, and on this kind of issue, there [are] times – it happens all the time naturally, where you simply say, it is unacceptable to continue to do that activity, whether it's logging, whether it's a type of polluting, toxic polluting or whatever, you can't do it, and if it means shutting a plant down, or if it means stopping a pulp mill in Sitka or what have you, that's what has to happen. And all of these little plants, the transitions that aren't gonna make these people who have no ability to transition, by and large, to comparable jobs, feel any better. I at least have answered that question for our funding, thinking it's a big, big mistake to go in that direction.”

Another was briefer:

“There are local communities that are going to go over the abyss in the short run.”

And –

“Forks, Washington just cannot continue to exist, the way it has. It's gonna be either a different kind of economy or its not gonna be there.”

If the economy can't be dealt with, perhaps they can buy off the victims, suggested one participant in the forestry session:

“Is there any attempt or usefulness in trying to ratchet up the level of compensation that's spoken about for the timber workers to sort of peel them away from the real, you know the culprits – more the corporations. I'm just wondering if that's just economically impossible or if – Because it doesn't seem as if there are that many timber workers, but they seem to be a very strong political force.”

Answer by the session leader:

“I think it's quite possible. It means taxing, taking back the enormous profits that these corporations have reaped ... And that means in some cases confiscating their assets.”

But the “mainstream message” in the EGA PR won't say that. One participant said their “next set of priorities” is to “fund economists or investment banker type expertise to be added to the staffs” of environmentalist law firms just as they have hired “scientists” in the past. In other words, if they could buy scientists to promote environmental scare campaigns and endangered species legislation to take over the landscape, why not buy economists to sell the idea that the proposals to destroy the economy are in our economic interest?

Tying it all together, Canadian zoology professor, activist, author, and public TV producer David Suzuki's keynote address made the environmentalist view of economics and its philosophical foundation crystal clear:

“Economics is very important, and no one denies that, but let us understand that economics is a very chauvinistic invention – and I don't mean male chauvinistic, it is a species chauvinistic idea. No other species on earth – and there may be 30 million of them – has had the nerve to put forth a concept called economics, in which one species, us, declares the right to put value on everything else on earth, in the living and non–living world. If we find a use for it, we declare that it has value; if we don't have a use for it, we declare that it's worthless.”

Just a few moments earlier he had said that over 90% of all identified species are insects. Whether or not there are “chauvinistic economic” concepts held by professors in the insect world, we do know that other species systematically eat each other without remorse – they evidently feel no need to “declare value” in advance, chauvinistically or otherwise. (But the next time you feel you are being eaten alive by disease–carrying mosquitoes, remember how “species–chauvinistic” it is for you – but not for them – to swat them.)

And he means it. “What you see then,” Suzuki says of humanity,

“is that the planet is under siege by the deadliest predator ever known in the history of life on earth...”
“You know very well that your profession shapes the way that you look at the world. And I'm always struck by that. My whole background as a professional is as a geneticist. And any time I get up in front of an audience like this I can't help myself – I see mutants everywhere.”

And, fellow mutant, if you thought that you have the right to live by the means of survival available to you through your nature as a human being – just as an insect lives in accordance with its nature, and that your distinctive human nature is to use your superior brain to reason and to manipulate your environment because – unlike insects – you have no means of innate, automatic survival, then you have just run straight against environmentalisms' first premise:

“We see the world,” says Suzuki,

“through filters that are shaped by our own personal experiences, and that I think is the challenge that we have to overcome – that we have to confront the perceptual filters that are preventing us from even recognizing the severity of the global eco–crisis, let alone taking serious action.”

“So I'd like to spend the bulk of my time discussing what I call 'sacred truths'. And I say that ironically because they are neither sacred nor are they true. But they are deeply held notions that we take so much for granted that we never even question them. And they lie at the heart of what I think the environmental crisis is all about.”

“And I think the first sacred truth that we have to deal with is a belief – and it's easy to understand why we believe this sacred truth because in Canada 80% of Canadians live in urban centers. We live in a human–created environment. And it becomes easy to believe, then, that we are not like other organisms, that we're different and special, that human beings by virtue of their great intelligence lie outside of the natural world, that we control our environment and manipulate it. And I think that's at the heart of this deadly problem that we face.”

So you are not only wrong thinking that you can and should control your environment for your own benefit using what you erroneously think is superior human intelligence, the cause of your errors is that you are deluded by “filters” that warp your perception of the “true” world around you. In failing to intuit the special metaphysical insights of environmentalists, you fail to grasp that you are really no different and no better than the insects.

No wonder Suzuki finds it “chauvinistic” that we intellectual “mutants” should develop a science of economics while insects do not.

But there are means of dealing with you.

In the last few years “sustainable development” has become an environmentalist buzz–word. Its approximate meaning is that government should control all actions of individuals to prevent activity incompatible with environmentalist phobias over “eco–systems.” If you had thought that “sustainable development” meant something more sensible, like “don't eat your seed corn”, meet the Anti–Industrial Revolution and its concomitant police state:

“We start with the premise,” said Con Nugent agreeing with Suzuki,

“that the current use of the earth by humans is unsustainable and that the damage is done through billions of micro–economic behaviors, and that stopping, modifying, or transforming those behaviors at any place along the economic spectrum from raw materials to the landfill, through law or through culture, is what we do in this business.”

“What I am involved in now,” Suzuki had said in his keynote address,

“is trying to establish the evidence that we are living in a completely unsustainable way, I think sustainable development is a swiz [sic], it's a terrible hoax that's been foisted on us, because we equate development with progress and usually growth...”

“[O]nce you establish the reality of the ecological footprint of our species, especially coming from the industrialized world, you recognize that we are past 59 minutes, and that there is no alternative but to begin to rapidly decrease the consumption of our populations. Now that is absolute anathema to the powers of our ... respective countries, but until we begin to talk about limits to growth and the need to de–develop – and believe me, the major cutbacks will be easy.”

“We now have to begin to define a vision of a sustainable future. And then we have to say, how do we make a transition in ten to fifteen years.”

[So expect the EGA “strategy” to lead to a new rash of rosy–sounding “visions of sustainability” in environmentalist PR blitzes on the economy as they demand more and more power to throttle industry.]

Suzuki has friends in high places who support this anti–industrial vision to “rapidly decrease consumption” and “de–develop”. They are ready to implement it by force of law as soon as it is politically feasible as this description of Suzuki's friend Vice President Al Gore makes clear:

“And I've talked to Al Gore about this many, many times, and he understands clearly. He said that when the public understands profoundly the change that's needed, politicians will fall all over themselves to get aboard. They don't lead. They are smart at following the thrust.”

If there is any lingering doubt about the impact and acceptance of Suzuki's philosophical and political vision at the conference, his keynote address brought sustained, thunderous applause from the audience and was frequently referred to with enthusiasm throughout the three day conference.

Copyright © 1993 Erich Veyhl and Land Rights Letter. All Rights Reserved

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