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Ed Driscoll

Of ‘Nature Fakery,’ Eco-Destruction, and the Nature of Fakery

February 25th, 2012 - 3:59 pm

At the Hoover Institute, Bruce Thorton dusts off a favorite term of pioneering conservationist Teddy Roosevelt:

At the turn of the twentieth century, President Theodore Roosevelt became embroiled in a public controversy over how some writers and naturalists described the natural world in overly anthropomorphic and sentimental terms. In a 1907 article attacking Jack London, among other writers, Roosevelt popularized the moniker “nature fakers,” those writers whom Roosevelt called “an object of derision to every scientist worthy of the name, to every real lover of the wilderness, to every faunal naturalist, to every true hunter or nature lover. But it is evident that [the nature faker] completely deceives many good people who are wholly ignorant of wild life.”

The “nature” the sentimentalists described was not the real nature, but one conjured from old myths and imaginative projections of human ideals onto an inhuman natural world. Unfortunately, a century later “nature fakers” are still promoting their sentimental myths about nature, only now with serious repercussions for our national interests and security.

These days “nature fakery” lives on in school curricula and popular culture, from Earth Day celebrations to Disney cartoons like Pocahontas. Only now this myth is renamed “environmentalism” and disguised with a patina of scientific authority. Worse yet, this allegedly scientific information provides the basis for government policies that impact our economic productivity and national security. The furor over global warming illustrates this unholy alliance of ancient myth and misleading science. For years we have heard claims that the evidence for global warming caused by human-generated “greenhouse gas” is “incontrovertible,” as the American Physical Society claimed last year in a policy statement, and that “if no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth’s physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur.”

In a recent column titled “The High Priests of Eco-Destruction,” Michelle Malkin writes that the nature fakers themselves aren’t opposed to causing their own significant disruptions to man’s physical and ecological systems:

Despite repeated judicial slaps for their “determined disregard” for the law, the Obama administration continues to suppress documents related to that junk science scandal. Last month, House Republicans threatened to subpoena the Interior Department for information. Call it a greenwash.

—Water wars and the Delta smelt. The infamous, endangered three-inch fish and its environmental protectors continue to jeopardize the water supply of more than 25 million Californians. Federal restrictions have cut off some 81 billion gallons of water to farmers and consumers in Central and Southern California. Previous courts have ruled that the federal biological opinions used to justify the water cutoff were invalid and illegal. Last September, the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of California admonished two federal scientists for acting in “bad faith.” The judge’s blistering rebuke of the Obama administration scientists concluded that their slanted testimony about the delta smelt was “an attempt to mislead and to deceive the Court into accepting what is not only not the best science, it’s not science.”

GOP Rep. Devin Nunes, who represents the hard-hit San Joaquin Valley area, noted that Salazar recently “doubled down on the illegal policies of the Department of Interior and attacked critics as narrow minded and politically motivated. Ironically, these were the same basic criticisms levied against his department by the federal court.”

While Salazar manufactures a new biological opinion on the matter to get the courts off his back, unemployment and drought plague the Central Valley. And the White House stands by its “scientists.”

—Dams in distress. In Siskiyou County, Ore., local officials and residents announced last week that it intends to sue Salazar and Team Obama over their potential removal of dams on the Klamath River. Once again, the administration’s systematic disregard for sound science and the rule of law is in the spotlight.

Salazar is expected to make a decision by the end of March on environmentalists’ demands that four private hydroelectric dams be demolished to protect salmon habitats and “create” demolition and habitat restoration jobs. Opponents say Salazar has already predetermined the outcome. Green activists blithely ignore the massive taxpayer costs (an estimated half-billion dollars) and downplay the environmental destruction the dam removals would impose. GOP Rep. Tom McClintock put it most charitably: “To tear down four perfectly good hydroelectric dams at enormous cost is insane.”

People of faith aren’t what’s bedeviling America. Blame the high voodoo priests of eco-destruction in Washington who have imposed a green theocracy on us all. Science be damned.

Speaking of fakery, at Scientific American, a presumably “liberal” columnist explores Peter Gleick’s recent immolation, and works hard to talk himself into believing that lying to advance the right left cause is perfectly justified. After hemming and hawing over the philosophical pros and cons, here’s his conclusion:

Kant said that when judging the morality of an act, we must weigh the intentions of the actor. Was he acting selfishly, to benefit himself, or selflessly, to help others? By this criterion, Gleick’s lie was clearly moral, because he was defending a cause that he passionately views as righteous. Gleick, you might say, is a hero comparable to Daniel Ellsberg, the military analyst who in 1971 stole and released documents that revealed that U.S. officials lied to justify the war in Vietnam.

But another philosopher my students and I are reading, the utilitarian John Stuart Mill, said that judging acts according to intentions is not enough. We also have to look at consequences. And if Gleick’s deception has any consequences, they will probably be harmful. His exposure of the Heartland Institute’s plans, far from convincing skeptics to reconsider their position, will probably just confirm their suspicions about environmentalists. Even if Gleick’s lie was morally right, it was strategically wrong.

I’ll give the last word to one of my students. The Gleick incident, he said, shows that the “debate” over global warming is not really a debate any more. It’s a war, and when people are waging war, they always lie for their cause.

Umm, if it’s “a war,” who are you at war with? God? Mother Nature? Your fellow man who disagrees with you? If it’s the latter, does that man that violence is justified in the name of “war?” The “moral equivalent of war” argument has been used to justify a century’s worth of bad decisions by the left. But if you’ve shaved off the first three words of that formula, who will you attack next?

Of course, as the old cliché goes, truth is the first casualty of war. Even eco-war, I guess.  But perhaps what’s relatively new are members of the left who are willing to publicly admit they’re lying, as we explored in 2010, when a member of the Journalist, the self-described “non-official campaign” to elect Obama in 2008 tweeted:

As I noted back then, legacy media house organ Editor & Publisher ran a piece in 2007 that advocated similar tactics for the man-made global warming crowd titled “Climate Change: Get Over Objectivity, Newspapers.”

Not to mention former CBS anchorman Dan Rather telling Bill O’Reilly back in 2001 that “I think you can be an honest person and lie about any number of things:”

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Bill O’Reilly: “I want to ask you flat out, do you think President Clinton’s an honest man?”
Dan Rather: “Yes, I think he’s an honest man.”
O’Reilly: “Do you, really?”
Rather: “I do.”
O’Reilly: “Even though he lied to Jim Lehrer’s face about the Lewinsky case?”
Rather: “Who among us has not lied about something?”
O’Reilly: “Well, I didn’t lie to anybody’s face on national television. I don’t think you have, have you?”
Rather: “I don’t think I ever have. I hope I never have. But, look, it’s one thing – “
O’Reilly: “How can you say he’s an honest guy then?”
Rather: “Well, because I think he is. I think at core he’s an honest person. I know that you have a different view. I know that you consider it sort of astonishing anybody would say so, but I think you can be an honest person and lie about any number of things.”
— Exchange on Fox News Channel’s The O’Reilly Factor, May 15, 2001.

And former Democrat Congressman Paul Kanjorski of Pennsylvania, who lost his reelection bid in 2010, telling his constituents in 2008 this his party lied to take back Congress in 2006:

“I’ll tell you my impression. We really in this last election, when I say we…the Democrats, I think pushed it as far as we can to the end of the fleet, didn’t say it, but we implied it. That if we won the Congressional elections, we could stop the war. Now anybody was a good student of Government would know that wasn’t true. But you know, the temptation to want to win back the Congress, we sort of stretched the facts…and people ate it up.”

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Back in 2004, Thomas Sowell said:

There’s something Eric Hoffer said: “Intellectuals cannot operate at room temperature.” There always has to be a crisis–some terrible reason why their superior wisdom and virtue must be imposed on the unthinking masses. It doesn’t matter what the crisis is. A hundred years ago it was eugenics. At the time of the first Earth Day a generation ago, the big scare was global cooling, a big ice age. They go from one to the other. It meets their psychological needs and gives them a reason for exercising their power.

And justifying lying. Fortunately, then and now, the American public as a whole are much smarter than the nature fakers, and as Steve Hayward writes in the Weekly Standard, they don’t much like being bullied:

The Gleick episode exposes again a movement that disdains arguing with its critics, choosing demonization over persuasion and debate. A confident movement would face and crush its critics if its case were unassailable, as it claims. The climate change fight doesn’t even rise to the level of David and Goliath. Heartland is more like a David fighting a hundred Goliaths. Yet the serial ineptitude of the climate campaign shows that a tiny David doesn’t need to throw a rock against a Goliath who swings his mighty club and only hits himself square in the forehead.

Oh say, almost forgot. If it really is a war as Scientific America claims, if the American people want it concluded bad enough, it can be over — or at least the fighting by the aggressors greatly reduced — by Christmas:

Related: “NY Democrat Rep. Kathy Hochul Admits at Raucous Town Hall: ‘Basically, We’re Not Looking to the Constitution’ when it Comes to ObamaCare Mandates – Raw Video 2/24/12.”

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