Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Every year I visit and rephoto a U. S. Forest Service study plot near Prescott, Arizona. This study plot was set aside in 1946 as a means to determine the best method to restore ecological health and function to damaged land in the U. S. West. The major method tested by this plot is the method considered by liberal environmentalism as a panacea for all that ails land in the American West. That method is — protecting the land from the impact of humans or as some people would say it: “returning the land to nature,” or just plain “protecting the land.” The photo shown below shows the result of protecting a piece of rangeland in the arid southwest from all human use for 66 years. What did the land look like when the project began? A U. S. Forest Service scientist said, "Pretty much the same as now, but the trees were smaller."
Another thing you should know is: this year has been one of the wettest in years for this area. Wet means more growth. How much growth do you see on this area that has been "returned to nature?"
How well has liberal environmentalism's panacea worked? Compare the above photo to the one shown below of the land immediately adjacent to the study plot (just outside the fence). This land has been used by humans, mostly as pasture for livestock, for those same 66 years.
As you look at these two photos ask yourself which form of management -- protecting the land from humans or allowing humans to use the land -- would you consider most effective? Which would you consider most embraced by nature? Which would you consider more “natural” judged in terms of its results?
Below are another couple of photos of same areas -- outside and inside the study plot -- taken a couple of years ago. They are presented side by side for more effective comparison. As I said, I've been photoing this area for a number of years.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Can't we just get along?

You’ve heard it a million times. You’ve probably said it yourself...

If we could just stop fighting and work together, things would be so much easier. There would be so much less hate and strife and arguing......

Or, why don’t politicians compromise? Then they wouldn’t just be fighting all the time and wasting our money doing it. Instead Obama blames the Republicans for not compromising. The Republicans blame the Democrats for refusing to work together, yadda, yadda, yadda.


I thought I had found the holy grail of  “working together” in the contentious area of environmental politics some years ago when I attended a meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, of ranchers and environmentalists dealing with the issue of predators, livestock, and “predator control.” (You can’t get much more contentious than that.)

At the time of this get-together everyone who attended was involved, in one way or another, in a controversy over the Arizona law that governed what ranchers could do to protect their livestock from natural predators such as mountain lions and black bears. This battle had become so contentious that one of the activists involved, a woman who had made the reintroduction of Mexican gray wolves into the Southwest her life work, became fearful that the battle would so galvanize ranchers against environmentalists that wolf reintroduction would be jeopardized. That's why she and a friend from a ranching family had called this meeting. To see if anything could be done to lower the heat of battle.


Kowboy Kumbaya

What was to be different about this meeting was that it was to be conducted according to the principles of “conflict resolution.” One of the women (the one from the ranch family) was self-schooled in this sort of facilitation. Her approach, which is familiar to most of us today, was totally new to most of us (me, for sure) at the time. Briefly, It consisted of helping those of us from both sides of our predatory divide to discover that we want the same things — healthy ecosystems, a sustainable lifestyle, clean air, clean water, etc.,  — after which, the theory goes, we would stop fighting and join forces to work together to achieve these shared goals.

The teambuilding went surprisingly well. Those of us on the environmental side were surprised to hear ranchers adding goals that we thought only we cared about — sustainable open space, sustainably plentiful populations of wildlife... One rancher even said, “Healthy populations of predators.” but another qualified his statement with, “Maybe not too healthy.”


This Kowboy Kumbaya was made possible by a simple but powerful process implemented by our facilitator.: Whenever one of us would list as one of our goals a policy rather than a result, i. e. whenever one of us would say something like: “I want all the cows off public lands!” or “I want all streams protected from grazing!” she would ask us what we would like to achieve by doing that. How would we expect that move to change the land? How would it look? How would the rangeland ecosystem be better?  And she would keep asking questions like this until we answered in terms of ends instead of means — There’d be more plants and less bare dirt. Less nonnatives. More wildlife.

Some of the ranchers offered policies as goals, too — fewer regulations, more freedom — and they got the same treatment: How would the land look if they got what they wanted? How would it be better?


The reason she did this is because she knew we all agreed on ends, we all wanted healthy rangelands, functional watersheds, lots of wildlife (Who doesn’t?). But she also knew we had been fighting over means — preservation versus production, grazing versus protection — for nearly a century. What she was doing was calculated to keep us from going down that same old road.

Those of you who have read posts in this blog in which I observe that liberals identify the solution to any problem as the imposition of a liberal policy will recognize why she picked the approach she picked.

By steering our discussion from means to ends, from what we wanted to do to what we wanted our environment to be, our facilitator was creating a liberalism-free zone; and she was doing this precisely because she recognized that without creating a zone free of the assumption that the solution to any problem is the imposition of some policy or other collaboration is impossible.

In other words whether our facilitator knew it or not, she was affirming that liberalism stands as an obstacle to collaboration, to working together. Why is that?

If someone firmly believes the solution to any problem is the imposition of a specific policy, then it becomes impossible to “meet in the middle?” What middle? For liberals there is no middle, there is only, “My way or the highway.” Or more accurately, “The liberal way or the highway.”


If, on the other hand, two factions, no matter how politically opposed, are able to get past all the “My way or the highway” talk to admit to themselves, and to one another, that they all want healthy ecosystems, functional watersheds, plenty of wildlife, clean water, clear air, then the next question is, “How do we achieve it?”

Notice the “we?”


Those of us in our group realized the importance of this when we moved our meetings from locations in Phoenix to the lands of some of our rancher participants. On those desert rangelands we found that the ranchers among us were already achieving the goals we supposedly “co-discovered” in those facilitated meetings. In fact, all of the ranches we visited were healthier and more ecologically functional than the cattle-free preserves I, as a committed environmentalist, was working to create. From that I concluded that working together 6-6 style could be more powerful than victory for our side.

Kumbaya on the range.

Second, these solutions were being achieved in the spirit of teamwork, collaboration, cooperation, community, peace, love, etc.. That’s what liberals are all about, right? There was no confrontation, lawsuits, demonstrations, divisive politics, or people chaining themselves to trees. What could be more Kumbaya than that?


How out of the ordinary was this? Ranchers and environmentalists have been at odds at least since John Muir, the founder of the Sierra Club tried to stop grazing in the California Sierras in the late 1900s. Billions have been spent by both sides. Much bad blood has been created. Some real blood has even been spilled. What I had stumbled onto seemed to be a way to end this hundred year range war, and who knows what other disputes it might solve environmental and otherwise.


I was so impressed with what we were learning, both about the land and about working together, that I wrote a book about it — Beyond the Rangeland Conflict, Toward a West that Works, As a result of the success of that book, and because the ideal of working together is so seductive to both sides, I became a speaker in high demand. For more than a decade speaking engagements came looking for me, and I took the story of 6-6 around the West to a whole spectrum of audiences —  environmentalists, ranchers, vegetarians, beef producers, college classes, garden clubs, and just plain folks.

Some of the stories I brought to these audiences included:

• A ranch family in Nevada and a rancher in Arizona who developed the process of using cattle to restore ecosystem function and a healthy plant community to devastated mine sites on which standard reclamation practices had failed.
• A New Mexico rancher who stewarded the ranch he managed to such a state of ecological health that it was more attractive to nesting songbirds, including one endangered species, than two adjacent preserves, one of which was called “The Bird Area.” This ranch (not the preserve) was found to host the highest known density of nesting songbirds in North America.
• A regular host to 6-6 meetings who liked to show off his ranch because it was obviously in better shape than an adjacent preserve owned by a major environmental group.

Consider, again (because it’s so important) that these successes were achieved without fighting, without “victory,” without acrimony (except for a little gloating — well deserved I might add.). Isn’t this what all those people who display “Coexist” bumper stickers and wear “Peace” t-shirts claim to want. It is certainly what liberal politicians culminating in Barack Obama have said they want and promised they will do.


That’s why I really didn’t think this was going to be a hard sell, especially to other environmentalists.

But it was. In fact, it was almost impossible.

To make my case about this new collaborative method, I showed my environmental colleagues dramatic “before and after” photos and side-by-side comparisons, took them to the sites, even completed demonstration projects to prove that it wasn’t smoke and mirrors. In spite of all that, the majority of them weren’t enthused or optimistic or even curious. Instead they became uncomfortable, defensive, some even became angry. “I feel like I’m being attacked,” more than one of my environmental audience members said.

At first I was puzzled by this response. I questioned whether I was presenting the material effectively, or whether the successes I was reporting were as outstanding as I thought. But I was getting positive feedback on my presentations, too, and I was getting plenty of requests for more presentations, so I was pretty sure neither of the above was the problem.

I even began to wonder if environmentalists really care about the environment, but that didn’t seem to make any sense. The people I was talking to seemed to care so much and so honestly about trees and birds and open space that accusing them of not “really” caring didn’t make any sense. So, I gave that up too, at least until I learned that it was true in a way I had never understood before.


Finally, after years of frustration puzzling over why this method that seemed to hold such promise never really “took off”, I was the one who finally got the message. I came to the conclusion that environmentalists’ lack of interest in the 6-6 approach wasn’t because it didn’t work or because it wasn’t being described effectively. It was because of something environmentalists don’t know about their movement or even about themselves.

Search the environmental universe on the internet and you’ll find all sorts of claims about what we absolutely MUST! do in order to save the planet. You’ll find sites claiming that, in order to keep from destroying the environment, we have to impact nature less by using less, producing less, and reproducing less. We have to stop eating meat, destroy capitalism, reduce economic growth, end America’s consumerism, reduce the number of humans on the planet (in some cases by incredibly cruel means such as epidemics, war, eugenics, suicide...,) And, not only that, we have to base our lifestyles, economic system, spirituality, selection of leaders, even the way we choose to die, on the same.

That’s why my presentations about the 6-6 method left so many environmentalists uninterested, angry or feeling threatened. First, because the successes of 6-6 proved that the practices contemporary environmentalists insist are absolutely necessary if we are to solve our environmental problems really aren’t necessary at all. In fact, 6-6 brought to light a whole list of instances in which applying those liberal remedies not only didn’t solve the problem, they made it worse.

Beyond that, 6-6 revealed that there is a means to restore and sustain the health of the environment that doesn’t villainize capitalism or America’s unprecedented economic success, doesn’t involve confrontations, lawsuits or divisive politics, and doesn’t require the election of ecofacist politicians to whom we must relinquish our freedoms, from the most public to the most private, from the most trivial to the most momentous.

And the great majority of contemporary liberal environmentalists faced with that choice rejected it.


When liberal environmentalists found themselves in the situation of being presented with with an effective way to solve environmental problems that inspired opposing factions to work together but that didn’t succeed because of liberal policies, and in some cases succeeded in spite of them, they revealed their true priorities. They chose to maintain their allegiance to the liberal policies even though it was now clear that those policies caused some of the very problems they are purported to solve.

To put it another way, for contemporary liberal environmentalists, the environment is the means and enacting liberal policies is the end. It is not the other way around.

So, it appears we don’t really have groups working to achieve positive, concrete environmental goals as things now stand. What we do have is a number of liberal political groups that use environmental issues, both real and manufactured, to sell liberal policies and liberal candidates. By so doing, they increase their control over government and the rest of us while they make money, grow their power and prestige, consider themselves world saviors, do a lot of self-backpatting, etc.  In other words, environmentalism is an economic endeavor just like any other economic endeavor —mining, ranching, lobbying, lawyering, politicking, and, just like those other economic endeavors, it has environmental, social, and economic impacts, in many cases worse than the impacts of the groups the liberals allege to protect us from.


But what about those of us who really want to deal with the environment in a functional, accountable way? I know there are plenty of us out here who want to solve its problems, resolve its issues, realize its opportunities, and achieve goals which most of us share. And there are plenty of us who would rather do it by working together where possible and competing where appropriate.

The successes achieved by 6-6 and groups like it reveal that the best way to achieve what I just described is via the workings of conservatism — applying individual initiative, personal accountability, the free market, and rewards for results. Applying this approach automatically puts us on course to work toward concrete goals by means of which we can gauge our effectiveness and recognize our shared interests, and that works whether you’re liberal or conservative.

So why aren’t there lots of conservative environmental groups out there satisfying this very real demand that they are most qualified to satisfy?

The answer (the subject of the next post) will surprise you.

Friday, January 6, 2012



A diverse group of people removing their liberal blindfolds.

With the political pendulum swinging to the right, conservative victory is likely in the upcoming election. Some say this rightward swing is so pronounced that conservative ascendancy in federal and state government is likely, perhaps, for years to come.

If that is the case, the diminishing or even the demise of contemporary liberal environmentalism is virtually assured.

Which means, it’s time to start designing the conservative environmentalism that will replace it.

Those of you who consider yourself green to the core may despair at hearing this, but you should be celebrating instead. By making this transition, environmentalism will be shedding a number of debilitating dysfunctions that are endemic in liberalism.

One liberal dysfunction that a conservative environmentalism wouldn’t suffer is a systemic blindness that affects all of liberalism in all of its issue areas, environmental and otherwise.


I learned about this blindness as I experienced my own evolution from eco-radical to conservative environmentalist. Early in my transition, I ran across a way of managing our relationship with Nature that, at the time, was named “Holistic Resource Management” (changed now to Holistic Management). According to this management system, when dealing with nature in a way designed to produce a certain result, one should always “assume you are wrong.”

When I made passing mention of that in a conversation with my wife. Her response was short and to the point, “If you assume what you’re doing is wrong,” she said. “Why would you bother to do it?”

 I had to admit that was a pretty good objection. As I thought more and read more about this very counter-intuitive directive, however, I realized it actually makes very good sense. In fact, I believe assuming that we are wrong can add to our chances of success of just about anything we do.

How’s that?

The reason we should assume we are wrong, according to Holistic Management, is to make sure that we monitor what we’re doing so that we’re aware of whether if it is working or not. To someone who is dealing with nature (or with anything in a results-directed way) the reason for monitoring what you’re doing should be obvious. If you don’t keep track of how things are going you could create an outcome that is very different than what you intend — an unintended consequence, so to speak — that could be very difficult, even impossible, to reverse.

However, if we assume we’re wrong (or at least that the possibility exists that we could be wrong), and we monitor what we’re doing, chances are pretty good that, if things do start to get off track, we will become aware of it. Having thus been alerted, we have the opportunity to stop doing what isn’t working and do something different or even to take a different approach altogether.

To clarify this with an example that has to do with our discussion here: If the people who were trying to save the threatened fish, the spikedace, on the Verde River (covered in a previous post) had considered that there was a possibility that what they were doing might not work, they would have been much less likely to have continued to apply that policy until they had exterminated the very creature they claimed to be trying to save.

What caused the extermination of the spikedace in the Verde, then, is the fact that the liberal environmental groups that intimidated the U. S. Forest Service into removing grazing from the riverside assumed that they were right. They assumed they were right not only to the degree that they did not monitor the situation sufficiently to become aware of the fact that their policies were changing the river in such a way that it was becoming uninhabitable to the spikedace, but when U. S. Forest Service scientists did take note of that fact, the environmental groups exerted sufficient pressure to have those scientists removed from the case.

Even the horse is incredulous.

To this day those environmentalists consider the Verde debacle to be a success. They consider it a success in spite of the fact that, after the policy was installed, the river did change and the spikedace appears to have been extirpated (none have been seen in the river in 15 years). Those self-designated spikedace-savers consider what they did on the Verde to be a success because the campaign to save several “threatened” or “endangered” native fishes, including the Verde River spikedace, did succeed in getting grazing removed from 900 miles of riverside in the American Southwest.

This reveals the core flaw in contemporary liberalism, environmental and otherwise. Contemporary liberalism identifies solutions as a matter of the installation of policies — liberal policies. And once that policy is installed liberals consider the problem solved. In other words liberals always consider themselves to be right. That’s how liberals apply their own blinders, and that’s how they blindfold themselves to realistic assessments of the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of their policies.

Take the Drake Exclosure mentioned in a number of other posts: Environmentalists consider management of the denuded Drake to be “right” in spite of the fact that it has continued to deteriorate during 65+ years of being protected from being used (impacted) by humans.

Photo inside the Drake

They consider their policy of protection to be “right”, in spite of the fact that the unprotected land outside the Drake is in better condition and supports a more diverse and more plentiful community of native plants and animals (see below).

Photo outside the Drake (Photo taken same day.)

How about another example. In California it has been found that the “threatened” Bay Checkerspot butterfly has ceased to exist on land where grazing has been stopped, in some cases to “protect” the butterfly. Guess which land environmentalists consider to be managed the “right way.”

Moving beyond the environmental aspect of liberalism: Consider the Occupy Wall Streeters and their call for an equitable redistribution of wealth: Do you think they consider that policy to be the right thing to do? Absolutely.

Do they think they consider that there is any way in which it could be wrong? Absolutely not!

If the Occupiers get their way, and their policy is made law will they monitor to see if it’s working?

Or, if things start to go wrong (which happens every time this policy is tried), will they do everything they can to cover up its shortcomings? Will they propose more regulation? Stricter penalties? Will they say we need to give it more time? Will they blame their failures on others: the rich, the 1%, human greed, Republicans, Conservatives, Bitter clingers.....

Plug any other liberal crusade/campaign into the above scenario — universal healthcare, cap and trade, renewable energy, affirmative action, etc. — and it will fit perfectly.

All liberal policies and the actions that make up those policies are considered to be the right thing to do because they are morally right, at least within a liberal frame of reference.

To liberals we all have a right to have enough money, to have access to health care, to have a place to live, to have day care for our children, a diaper service. And, we have a right to a healthy environment, species have a right to not be made extinct, etc. And all liberal policies that facilitate those rights are also right.

Because liberals believe all of those policies are “the right thing to do,” to ask whether or not they work (whether they get the right results) is to utter an irrelevance. We’re all taught, “You should be honest no matter what the consequences.” Or, “If you do the right thing, whatever happens is what is supposed to happen.”

Complain about redistributionist tax policies, i. e. say they don’t work, and you will be called greedy or a pawn of wall street.

Get into an argument about energy policy and you’ll quickly be confronted with, “We have to develop alternative fuels because we’re going to run out of oil someday and drilling for oil just gets us into wars in the Middle East. Anyway, it wrecks the planet and just makes filthy rich oil companies even richer.”

Environmental policy? “Why shouldn’t we protect as many species as possible from the environmental impacts of humans? Humans don’t have the right to use the planet purely for our benefit, and the animals were here first anyway!”

Presenting all issues as a matter of right and wrong is what makes liberalism so seductive because it means you don’t have to be an ecologist to know what to do to keep a small, rare fish in Arizona from going extinct. Never mind if you exterminate the fish in the process. It’s not your fault the fish died out in spite of the fact you did the right thing to save it.

Nor do you have to know anything about ecology to know how to restore damaged rangeland in Arizona. You protect it. And if that land doesn’t get any better, in fact if it gets worse, you say you didn’t protect it soon enough, or long enough, and if the unprotected land next door is in better shape, you ignore it and continue to do what you know is “the right thing to do.”

Regarding the economy, reduce all issues to a simple matter of right and wrong and you don’t have to know anything about economics to know how to manage the largest economy on Earth. Do the right thing. Redistribute income. Put government in charge of health care, in charge of everything. As long as government is run by people like you, i. e. liberals, i. e. people who want to “do what’s right,” no matter what happens you can consider yourself morally superior to those who refuse to go along with you whatever the reason.

But is protecting the spikedace really the right thing to do if it exterminates the fish?

Is protecting rangeland, like that within the Drake Exclosure, really the right thing to do if it dooms that land to a future of deteriorating desertification?

And, Is creating a more equitable redistribution of wealth the right thing to do if it creates the kind of economic collapse happening, as I write this, in Greece, the country with the most aggressive redistributionist policies in Europe? Or Portugal. Or Spain, Or France, Or England...

Once again, we can thank one of the planet’s pre-eminent conservatives — Mother Nature, as well as the spikedace and other plants, animals and ecosystems — for showing us that issues — environmental, economic, political — are not just about morals (right and wrong) they are about practical matters, too — survival, ecological function, jobs, energy, wealth.

And we can thank them for demonstrating to us that results do matter.

All we have to do to avail ourselves of this insight is listen to Mother Nature, little fish, butterflies, the true condition of the economy, etc.. And the only way we can listen is if we assume we are wrong.

Friday, November 4, 2011


As I have said before on The Right Way To Be Green, one of the things we do on this blog is learn from Nature. From that you might assume that what you stand to learn in that way has to do with ecology, and you would be right -- but only to a degree. Nature can teach us about much more than ecology.

For instance, Nature makes an excellent teacher (one of the best, I believe) on economics, because Nature, more than anything else is a marketplace (link She makes a great teacher on politics, too — specifically, conservative politics because she, herself, is a conservative. (link)

Another topic Nature can teach us about is peace, as in world peace or peace among nations or peace of any sort. Here’s how:

It is conventional wisdom among ranchers in the American Southwest ranchers that, if there is a dominant male mountain lion whose territory includes all or a significant portion of their ranch, it is in their best interest to leave that lion alone even, if he kills an occasional calf or colt. Experience has taught these ranchers that an alpha lion maintains a sort of peace and order within his territory. Young males stay away because they know that, if they encounter the alpha male within his territory, he will challenge them and quite likely he will win the challenge. Perhaps even kill them.

Contrast this with what happens if the rancher takes offense at having a calf killed by the dominant lion and hunts him down. All of the territory the old lion had ruled and pacified is then open to contest. As such it attracts all the young males in the area to come and vie for ascendancy, to make this their territory. Fighting among themselves, they expend more energy than they would otherwise, make more kills than they would otherwise to acquire that energy, leave kills partially consumed to avoid being attacked while they eat them. In some cases females and kittens even become casualties in this melee.

Experienced ranchers know that, by eliminating the alpha, they inadvertently create exactly what they seek to avoid — more predation, more loss of livestock. By trying to create peace they end up creating more war.

This paradigm, of alpha individuals keeping peace and order among populations of animals, may be the most common form of social structure in Nature. It serves to create an environment in which wolves, elk, hippopotamuses, African lions, baboons, chimpanzees, and on and on and on can attend to the vital business of surviving, replacing themselves, and continuing their kind.

When the alpha individual is removed from any of these populations the result is not peace or the “Peaceable Kingdom” but war, strife, and hardship. The only hope for relief from this anarchy is for another alpha to rise to dominance to install peace and sustain it.

In a preserve in Africa, which managers hoped to repopulate with elephants by reintroducing a number of orphaned males and females from other locations, a number of the young males formed into gangs which began to act in very un-elephant-like ways. Most outrageous of these acts were several instances of attacking, raping, killing, and mutilating adult white rhinoceroses — an endangered species.

Preserve managers were at a loss as to how to deal with this activity until one of them got the idea to import some adult bull elephants and see if that worked. It did. No one knows how the “word” got out to the young males. There was no obvious disciplining of the gang members, but, when the alpha social structure was restored, the young bulls stopped acting like mobsters and began acting like elephants, and stopped killing rhinos.

Considerint that, who do you believe Nature would call an advocate for peace?

Those on the right who would sustain the U. S. as alpha — as the established lion/adult bull whose power and mere presence causes lesser powers to defer and keep a low profile in order to avoid triggering a response?

Or would Nature dub as “peacemakers” liberals, such as Barack Obama, who apologize for America’s exceptionalism and seek to abdicate our position as the world’s alpha. As Obama dissembles the U. S. position as the only superpower what we see happening is exactly what Nature has told us would happen. Encouraged, as were the elephant gangs in Africa, by the lack of an alpha presence humans have been forming gangs and taking political initiative around the world. After instances of violence in the U. K., Greece, France, India, etc, etc, an eruption in Tahrir Square overthrew the Egyptian Government and demonstrated the virulence of this phenomenon with, among other things, the rape of American journalist Lara Logan. Then came more of the same with the gang takeover of Libya and the brutal torture, rape, and murder of the just as murderous dictator Muammar Ghaddafi, all with the expressed support of our president Obama.

Here in the U. S., the gang phenomenon has taken form in the “Occupy Wall Street” movement. These occupiers demand the elimination of alpha-ness altogether via the redistribution of wealth and power (redistributed, of course, by them). This, they claim is the way to fairness, love, peace, prosperity, environmental sustainability, you name it. However, as the occupations drag on and rage and impatience grows, reports of rape, theft, and violence mount as this movement goes the way of all such movements.

What can Nature teach us about all of this? She is can teach us that the alpha way to peace practiced by dominant lions, adult bull elephants (and even a super power U. S.} works. Nature has developed, tested, fine-tuned, and applied this lesson via millions of years of evolution, adaptation, and trial and error.

Via that same educational process, Nature teaches us that removing the alpha inevitably results in chaos and strife that can only be relieved by the ascension of a new alpha... and that trading the old lion for a new one can have its downside.

Consider what this means if the world trades the U. S. as alpha for whatever will take its place. What kind of alpha has the U. S. been? When the Archbishop of Canterbury asked Colin Powell if our war with Iraq was just another example of U. S. empire building Powell replied, "Over the years, the United States has sent many of its fine young men and women into great peril to fight for freedom beyond our borders. The only amount of land we have ever asked for in return is enough to bury those that did not return."

How many other nations in the history of this planet can say that?

Without the U. S. who will ascend to alpha-ness? A resurgent Russia? Communist China? A nuclear North Korea? A sharia-enforcing Islamist Caliphate?

How sure a path to peace is that?

Saturday, October 1, 2011


Sorry it’s been so long since my last post. I’ve been traveling in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and Utah. Most of my time was spent in National Parks — Glacier, Yellowstone, and the Grand Tetons (see above). — I do like open, undeveloped country. 

I learned some things there that I will eventually work into my posts here. First, however,  I’ve got something for you that came to mind as I was reading about the Republican debates and one of the issues with which the candidates were reportedly having trouble — global warming.


I have a hard time understanding why conservatives let liberals get off so easliy on the issue of global warming (or climate change or whatever they’re calling it these days.) After all, this issue plays so well to conservatism’s strengths that we should win every argument associated with it. In fact, if we conservatives use our heads on this issue I believe liberals would soon be too terrified to even bring it up.

The way to win this issue every time it’s brought up is simple. Don’t bother to argue whether the globe is warming or cooling or whatever, the data is too easy to cook. The same goes for how much of this alleged cooling or warming is due to human impact That data is too easy to cook, too, and it’s all speculation anyway. 

The only aspect of this issue that matters is... if the globe is warming, or if it’s cooling, or if it is merely experiencing “climate change” (which the Earth has been doing every instant it has existed,) the free market is the only effective tool we have of dealing with it. In fact, it has been proved every time it has been tried that the free market is the most effective way to deal with any challenge, or crisis we face, whether that crisis has been caused by nature or by accident, or by us.

But, wait a minute, you might say, the free market and capitalism is what got us into this mess so how can we use it to get out of it? How can we solve this problem and problems like it in any way but to have the government intervene against the excesses of capitalism and place controls on the free market

I want to make it clear that I know humans cause problems, plenty of them. And I know that we cause some of those problems via our use of a free market economy. Anything that is free makes mistakes (so do economies that aren’t free). 

But I also know that, when the marketplace is free to respond to a crisis, and the humans who operate within that marketplace are free to innovate and to apply their creativity, this most valuable tool ever created by humans is the most effective means we have for solving problems and defusing crises.

Want an example of the free market solving a human-caused problem? How about “overpopulation” and the associated “overconsumption” of natural resources? That’s a problem undeniably caused by humans. To boot, overpopulation is considered the root cause of all the other environmental problems for which we humans are responsible, among which, of course, is global warming. 

In the 1968 book, The Population Bomb, Paul Ehrlich predicted that:

* Humanity was overpopulating at such a rate that hundreds of millions would die from starvation and other “overpopulation-caused problems” during the 1970s, no matter what we did. 

* We were using raw materials, including oil, at such a rate we would run out of oil and many other commodities by 1980. 

* By 1985, so many billions would have died that the Earth’s population would have shrunk to 1.5 billion. 

* By 1999, the overconsuming U. S. would suffer such devastating environmental catastrophes that the life expectancy of its citizens would have dropped to 42 years, and its population would be a mere 22.6 million. 

Instead of this predicted human caused disaster, the free market and human enterprise, flourishing most notably in the U. S., have enabled the planet to support a population of 6.9 billion and growing. The U. S. population has surpassed 300 million and is growing, and our prosperity is unprecedented (in spite of the current economic crisis). Our life expectancy is at 78 and rising, and, with regard to famine, our primary food-related problem is obesity not starvation.

To underscore how wrong Ehrlich was, many of the countries that heeded his overpopulation warning now are concerned about underpopulation rather than overpopulation. The reason for their concern? Their “Ehrlich scare” birth rates are too low to produce the workers needed to keep their economies running (and to support all those seniors).

How about the government alternative, the socialist alternative? How does it work to solve crises, human created or otherwise? FDR’s New Deal and European versions of the same (Hitler’s National Socialism, Mussolini’s Facism) failed so miserably to solve the economic crash of the 1920s that they produced, instead, the Great Depression, WW II, and the Holocaust. It wasn’t until American enterprise was unleashed to win World War II that we saved ourselves, and Europe and Asia as well, from socialist “solutions.”

And what about today? How well would Europe, mired in its current socialism-caused economic crisis, deal with a major natural disaster if it were to face one? And compare how well liberal Democrat-run New Orleans responded to Hurricane Katrina with more conservative Nashville’s response to major flooding or Joplin, Missouri’s reponse to a huge tornado.

What these and plenty of other examples should tell all of us is: if we really are worried about an impending crisis such as global warming, or a new ice age, or whatever, the worst thing we can do is cripple our free market economy with the kind of overregulation, over-regimentation, and high taxation that the Obama administration has made its crusade. In other words, if we really are facing a crisis, or just dealing with the everyday problems that make life on Earth complex and challenging, the worst thing we can do is elect liberals, because socialism and government solutions are always worse than any problems they purport to be able to solve.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Every time some overinflated Hollywood celeb or irrelevant British royal says we all have to become vegetarians to save the planet, I think about how rarely I’ve seen wildlife in a vegetable field. No elk, no pronghorn, certainly no mountain lions. And if I do happen to see a rabbit or a prairie dog among the veggies, I know whoever planted them is doing everything they can to get those uninvited guests out of there to keep them from eating up the produce or polluting it with e coli.

And wildflowers? In a field of vegetables wildflowers are considered “weeds” and treated as such.

On the other hand, visit a cattle ranch here in the West and you have a good chance of seeing deer, elk, pronghorn, coyote, black bear, bobcat, rattlesnakes, gila monsters, road runners, Gambles quail.... the list is too long to print here. Get lucky and you might see a mountain lion. I know a rancher who has seen a couple of jaguars on ranchland here in Arizona.

As for wildflowers, as I write this, I’m looking at a ranch out the window of my camper, and I can see giant saguaros, cholla cactus, palo verde and creosote bush. The Arizona poppies, brittlebush, and desert marigolds were spectacular this spring, and the native grasses are providing plenty of forage for wild and domesticated animals alike.

An activist vegetarian responding to what I just said would point out that growing vegetables requires a lot less land than raising meat. This enables us to protect more land and allow it to return to nature so it can be home to even more wildlife and wildflowers. 

That would be an effective counter-argument if it weren’t true that raising meat on the land can benefit it ecologically even more than protecting it. 

How’s that? 

Scientists who’ve studied the matter tell us that grasslands and grazing animals evolved together and developed an interdependence similar to so many other mutually beneficial relationships in nature: bees and flowers, beavers and meadows, reef fish and coral. When cattle are managed so that they act like natural grazers, i. e., when they are kept in herds and moved across the landscape in response to conditions of moisture, season, and other natural factors, they create this same kind of interdependence. 

That’s why cattle have been successfully used to restore ecological health to land that has been damaged by mining, by raising crops in ways that exhaust the land’s fertility, and even by the environmentalists’ panacea “protection.” For instance, in Arizona and Nevada, cattle have been used to return native vegetation to denuded mine sites and piles of mine waste on which other forms of reclamation had failed. How do they do it? By stomping in seeds and mulch and nourishing the mixture with their own natural fertilizer. Sheep and goats have been used to create firebreaks and remove nonnative plants at various locations from East to West, and sheep, goats, and cows have been used to revegetate land damaged by catastrophic wildfire. 

I haven’t heard of a single case of soybeans or broccoli being used to achieve any of that.

As for all that cow flattulence and belching the anti-meat folks tout as a cause of global warming, properly grazed grasslands have been shown to be so effective at sequestering carbon in green and growing grass that some ranchers have been able to supplement their income by marketing carbon offsets created by their naturally-managed cattle

That works even if you don't believe in global warming

Acknowledging the effectiveness of these techniques the state of Florida has come up with a plan to contract with ranchers to use their livestock to improve that state’s rangelands’ ability to absorb, clean, and sequester water. One of the aims of this program is to raise the water level in the Everglades. That’s right. Florida is using cows to rewater the Everglades.

On the other hand, when grazers are removed from the land the ecological results can be disastrous.

In Central California, when cattle grazing was removed from seasonal wetlands called vernal pools, the native plants and animals that live there, some of which are endangered, were displaced by nonnative weeds in as few as three years. When grazing was resumed the rare plants and animals returned.

Also in California, the threatened bay checkerspot butterfly has disappeared from lands from which cattle grazing was eliminated -- to protect the butterfly. On lands that continue to be grazed the butterfly has managed to persist.    

Because of this and similar instances “cessation of grazing” has been recognized as one of the main threats to some of California’s most sensitive ecosystems by the California Rangeland Conservation Coalition. That organization includes The Nature Conservancy, Defenders of Wildlife, and Audubon, among others.

And, for those of you who have been reading this blog for a while, you may remember (and want to link back to) the story of the native fish in Arizona (the spikedace) that was sustained by grazing for more than a century and exterminated  in less than a decade by “cessation of grazing,” or the Drake exclosure that’s been protected for more than 60 years and is as bare as a parking lot while the grazed land right next to it is covered with native grasses.

There’s more:

Meat is the only human food that can be raised on land that is officially designated wilderness. Not so with vegetables. 

Meat can be raised on land that can also be used for recreation such as hiking, mountain biking, hunting, fishing, horseback riding, orving, downhill skiing, and birdwatching. Vegetable fields are off limits to most of those. Just try riding your orv or your horse through someone’s field of bok choy.

So, the next time you chow down on a big juicy steak or leg of lamb, give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back for saving the planet, and remember that you are enjoying the only food that can be raised within a diverse, native, openspace ecosystem in such a way that it restores, sustains, and even enhances that ecosystem.

On second thought, maybe you ought to order two steaks. It’s going to take a lot of cows to remedy all the ecological damage perpetrated by vegetarian environmentalists.