Ron Arnold - Philosophical Father of The Wise Use Movement - February 3, 1993, Boulder, CO
It is an honor to be here and to have this opportunity to share with you some of my experiences and viewpoints.
The environmental debate was put succinctly by Edith C. Stein in a little publication last year called the Environmental Sourcebook and I quote from it for just a second..."The Environmental Movement challenges the dominant western world view and its three assumptions. First, unlimited economic growth is possible and beneficial. Second, most serious problems can be solved by technology. Third, environmental and social problems can be mitigated by a market economy with some state intervention. Since the 1970s, we heard increasingly about the three assumptions of the environmentalist paradigm wherein, first, growth must be limited, second, science & technology must be restrained, third, nature has finite resources and a delicate balance that humans must observe." That's the end of the quote.
I feel that fairly represents the debate that we are faced with here tonight. I am an advocate of Western civilization. I agree with its 3 basic assumptions. I see environmentalism as a regression to the past prior to Western civilization--based on those 3 competing assumptions with which I do not agree. Based on the 3 assumptions of western civilization, I see environmentalism as the destroyer of the economy, as the destroyer of material well being - as the destroyer of industrial civilization - as the destroyer of individual liberties and civil rights. For those reasons, I fight against environmentalism as a matter of principal, as a matter of ethics, as a matter of survival. The same reasons for which I see environmentalists fighting against industrial civilization.
I find that I am not alone in my fight against environmentalism. During the past decade as the environmental movement has come to power and dominance, thousands of people - hundreds of thousands of people have been hurt by its laws - its court cases and its administrative regulations. They have been hurt by the loss of their jobs - by the loss of their private property - by the loss of their business enterprises - and, perhaps most poignantly, by the loss of their personal dignity, in being despised as spoilers of the environment--with by their own passionately held views that they are using the earth properly--being contemptuously disregarded by self-righteous environmentalists who believe they and they alone have sole possession of the truth. These thousands and hundreds of thousands have come together in a groundswell of public opinion and have organized into a movement of social change to challenge the assumptions of the environmental movement.
I call it the Wise Use Movement. Others do not agree with that. Although it is 20 years behind the power curve of the environmental movement it is growing rapidly. Our organization - The Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise - can now count more than 1500 different groups in the Wise Use Movement. We don't know exactly how many there are. We know there is a little bit more than that because they are on our mailing list. Like the environmental movement, the Wise Use Movement has many leaders and no one can speak for the whole movement. The vast bulk of the Wise Use Groups nearly 1000 of them are concerned mainly with protecting private property from taking by environmental restrictions. The majority of private property rights groups are located East of the Mississippi. The next largest segment of the Wise Use movement is the pro jobs anti-regulation cluster - about 300 groups that we can count spread more or less evenly across the county. The smallest segment of the wise use movement is concerned with commodity use and motorized recreation on federal lands. We count about 200 of these federal lands groups most of them located in the 11 Western states. They make up about 10% of the overall Wise Use movement. The total combined memberships of these groups is relatively small and difficult to determine. But we're pretty confident that there are at least 3 million people in all of these 1500 groups.
Most of you have probably seen direct mail fund raising packages from the top dozen environmental groups telling you all about the Wise Use movement. They tell you we are an industry front - that we have no grass roots following - that we are evil incarnate and that you should not consider our ideas seriously. I doubt that any of you heard this tape of what the environmental movement actually thinks about the wise use movement behind closed doors. It is the reporting of a session held in October 1992 by the environmental grant makers association. The title of the tape is The Wise Use Movement - Threats and Opportunities. The Environmental Grant Makers Association is a consortium of 138 foundations and corporations combined with the top fifty or so environmental organizations in America. This is what they said about the Wise Use movement in private after 9 months of intensive and I imagine very expensive investigation. "The Wise Use movement is active in all 50 states. Its membership is demographically representative of the general US population representing women, minorities, all age groups and educational and economical levels in its leadership and membership. The Wise Use movement is overwhelmingly grass roots in its membership and leadership. Its lexicon and message have correctly identified the economic damage being done by the environmental movement and has powerful appeal to the general public. The Wise Use movement represents a serious threat to the legitimacy of the environmental movement. Environmental organizations must counter the Wise Use movement by concentrating on their own grass roots organizing...particularly in communities that have been economically damaged by environmentalist restrictions. A coordinated campaign must be mounted to discredit the Wise Use movement with adequate funding for many years to come." I recommend this tape highly. I was very interested in its contents...I think you would be too and I'll be happy to supply the exact address so you can buy it from the place in Berkeley California where I bought it.
The Wise Use Movement generally believes that man and nature can live together in productive harmony. We believe that unlimited economic growth is possible and beneficial. We believe that most serious problems can be solved by technology. We believe that environmental and social problems can be mitigated by a market economy with some state intervention. We fight environmentalism because we do not believe that growth must be limited, because it is always my growth that must be limited and some authoritarian that does the limiting and we found over the years that authoritarians aren't a whole lot smarter than we are and they don't produce much food, clothing and shelter, which the wise users of the land do. We fight environmentalists because we do not believe that science and technology must be restrained. Science and technology built the civilization that made this institution possible - not only its building and power supply and infrastructure - but also its ideas and ideals and its freedom of inquiry. We found over the years that most authoritarians are good at restraining science and technology but don't provide much transportation and power or new ideas.... We fight environmentalism because we do not believe that nature has finite resources and a delicate balance that humans must observe. A resource is a natural object that must be transformed by work into something useful. Natural objects are finite.....work is not....resources are not. We can always find ways to do more with less - to become more efficient - to do it better - to be more intelligent in our actions - more sensitive to what we do....unless some authoritarian forces us to stop working.
As for the balance of nature...In a revision that has far reaching implications for the way humans see the natural world and their role in it, scientists at the 1990 annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America, one of the nation's premier associations of ecological scientists, announced they are forsaking the old stable equilibrium model of nature. The balance of nature concept makes nice poetry but its not such great science, said Dr. Stuart T.A. Pickett who is a plant ecologist at the Institute of Ecosystems studies of the New York Botanical Garden at Pilgrim NY. He was representative of the entire consensus. Ecologists have mistakenly operated on the assumption that normal condition of nature is an equilibrium in which organisms compete to co-exist in essentially stable state. The idyllic image of perfect balance led to a doctrine--enshrined by environmentalists--that nature knows best and that human intervention in nature is bad by definition. That is the assumption on which all environment laws in America have been based. The assumption has been challenged and abandoned by numerous scientists. The Wise Use movement says it is time to rework every environmental law on the books in the light of new understanding and to expand environmental education to include protection of the economy.