A Big Stick for Natural Preservation.


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The days are past when an open frontier encouraged entrepreneurial illusions of “limitless” natural resources. Even in Roosevelt’s day some lumber companies were beginning to adopt, in their own interest, the rule of planting a tree for each one they harvested.

On the other hand, Brinkley might have asked the citizens of such formerly socialist and horribly polluted towns as Chernobyl (Ukraine), Copsa Mica (Romania) or Bitterfeld (Eastern Germany) what nationalization did to protecttheir natural surroundings. Private enterprise is no match for government when it comes to “waste and exploitation.” One may acknowledge that Roosevelt’s land seizures often had beneficial effects without viewing them as an appropriate model to be followed today.

Brinkley is also a man of conventional assumptions concerning what he calls “the perils of Darwinism as applied to human beings.” He is embarrassed by Roosevelt’s association with Madison Grant and William Hornaday, describing eugenics as a “misguided movement… often seen as a step toward Nazism.” Worse, he respectfully discusses the contemporary “New Western History” which focuses on the “deeply racist connotations” of earlier historians’ work and the presumed oppression of “Native Americans, Hispanics, women and others” on the old frontier. The arguments of these PC hacks Brinkley declares to be “fundamentally sound… from the point of view of multiculturalism.” I guess they would be.

The author’s conventionality also extends to his language. His Theodore Roosevelt “rais[es] the nation’s consciousness”, “reinvents himself”, “thinks outside the box” and is constantly being “proactive” — as if he had been reading too many management bestsellers. Brinkley passes on the seemingly deathless myth that Indians were proto-conservationists who “used every part of the buffalo.” We are told that “cultural diversity was a predominant theme” of the inaugural parade of 1905 (because blacks and Puerto Ricans took part). The bird preservationists of one hundred years ago are described as advocating “birds’ rights;” opposition to bird reservations was due to “backward, neo-Confederate thinking”  on the part of “ex-Confederate yokels.”

(The Social Contract, Vol. XX, No. 1, Fall 2009).

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