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ENVIRONMENTAL MAN

ENVIRONMENTAL MAN

By: L. Neil Smith

The air is the air; what can be done?                             
  -- T'Pau, "Amok Time"

Let's get the hard part over with first: I am a hunter.

Whether or not it was politically correct or socially acceptable,
whenever circumstances have permitted it, I have gone out in the field
searching for tasty animals to shoot, gut, skin, and drag back for my
family to eat. So far, excepting the occasional rattlesnake, I have
only managed to take mule deer and snowshoe rabbits; that doesn't
mean, were an elk or pronghorn antelope (possibly the most delicious
animal on the planet) to wander into my sights, I wouldn't harvest it,
as well. I'd like to live long enough to shoot a buffalo and a grizzly
bear.

So now you know the worst.

 Currently, what remains of Western Civilization is passing through
a prissy, panty-waisted period of what I choose to call "prey-pity" in
which certain individuals, usually effete urbanites who don't have a
clue where anything they eat actually comes from, denounce those of us
who not only do know, but feel a sort of prehistoric pull, some kind
of an obligation to the 150,000 increasingly human generations that
came before us to take a hand in feeding ourselves and those whom we
love.

That, in essence, was what my 1993 novel Pallas was all about.

 One hundred fifty thousand generations: if Homo sapiens has a
natural right to do anything, it is to hunt other animals. Different
species may be intimidatingly large. My hat is permanently off to the
little guys who took it on themselves, routinely, to kill mammoths
with nothing more than sharpened sticks and pointy rocks, feast on
their flesh, and build houses out of their bones. Animals may be fleet
of foot, although a patient human being can run a deer to exhaustion.
They may be difficult to see against their natural background, or
possessed of terrible teeth and claws with which to feed and defend
themselves.

H. sap. is armed with a couple or three pounds of gray neuron
pudding in his head that, over a space of fifteen hundred centuries,
generated broken stones, sharpened stones, breathtakingly delicate and
heartbreakingly beautiful flaked works of pragmatic art such as those
created by the Clovis and Folsom people, then copper and bronze axes,
spears, swords, and knives, followed by similar implements of steel.
And then came slings, spear-throwers, bows and arrows, and finally
firearms.



In his seminal book Meditations on Hunting, Jose Ortega y Gasset
dismisses those who complain that hunting deer and other animals with
a powerful scoped rifle isn't "fair". Who says it's supposed to be?
Man is a predator. The deer is his prey. Does the mountain lion worry
about whether her claws and fangs make hunting unfair? Then why should
we?

From Australopithecus afarensis, through Homo habilisHomo
erectus
Homo antecessor and  Homo heidelbergensis, people have
been hunting for millions of years, since long before they were wholly
human. We didn't really begin to get smart until we pitted our wits --
as meager as they may have been in the beginning -- against all those
natural defenses, receiving as a reward fresh protein and the complex
fats that are all-important in the process of constructing brains like
ours.

So what, I pretend to hear you ask, is the point to all this? What
does it have to do with environmentalism? Simply this: from our rawest
beginnings, we human beings have always been fully as much a part of
the natural environment as any snail darter or bouquet of furbish
lousewort.

I think that's important enough to repeat: man is a part of the
environment.

That we alter the environment by living in it is perfectly
irrelevant. So does everything alive. The greatest environmental
change the planet ever witnessed was caused three and a half billion
years ago, by a living entity, cyanobacteria, when the oxygen it
produced as a metabolic byproduct "contaminated" the primeval
nitrogen/carbon dioxide atmosphere and caused the "Rusting of the
Seas".

Don't trust any "authority" who talks about a "Balance of Nature".
There is no such thing. Nature is an ever-shifting, ever-changing
phenomenon, of which we see only snapshots: fossilized stromatolites,
trilobytes, sea scorpions, crinoids, cycads, dinosaurs, giant sloths,
our prehuman ancestors, or our own shockingly-brief lifetimes. Nothing
lasts forever. In fact nothing lasts very long at all on a geological
timescale. Even the stars themselves slowly fade until they burst and
die.

On at least a dozen occasions during its natural history, life on
Earth has nearly been wiped out -- by falling rocks, by exploding
mountains, by the collision of continents, by excessive heat and cold,
by bacteria and viruses -- and almost had to start all over again. And
yet we human beings wouldn't be here if it weren't for cataclysms such
as the asteroid impact that killed the dinosaurs (along with a great
many other species) and reduced the atmosphere's oxygen content by
about a third. Catastrophe is a lifegiving, as well as a lifetaking
process.

The great evolutionary thinkers Raymond Dart and Robert Ardrey
concluded (the latter somewhat regretfully in his book  The Hunting
Hypothesis
) that the one thing that makes us different from all of
our fellow apes, the fountainhead of our wars and symphonies alike, is
that, for millions of years, we alone have killed for a living. In
The Naked Ape, zoologist Desmond Morris underlined it, pointing out
the many physical and behavioral characteristics we still share with
animals.

The fanatical environmentalist is no better than (and very little
different from) the Bible-thumpingest evolution denier: for powerful
political and psychological reasons, neither wants to acknowledge that
we are a species of animals, a part of nature, and that anything we
do, any change we bring to the environment is perfectly natural, as
well.

Billions of tiny coral animals build vast, continent-long current-
and weather-altering structures. Should we report their crimes to the
EPA?

As a hunter -- and a human being -- I appreciate clean air and
water, blue skies, fluffy white clouds, mountains, and forests and the
Grand Prairie as much as anybody else. I grew up beside the sea --
several seas, in fact -- and miss it terribly here in landlocked
Colorado.

But nowhere is it written, except in the scribblings of fools or
charlatans, that I should -- or can -- preserve any of that by denying
or disavowing what I am. I am a predator, a carnivore, a hunter.
Better far to revel in what I am, to rejoice in it, than to take up
the burden of a tarted-up ecofascistic version of Original Sin.
Porcupine and beaver and moose all change the landscape around them,
simply by living. I demand the same right as porcupine and beaver and
moose.



I am also the child of technological capitalism. I expect to live
four or five times longer than my ancestors of only three hundred
years ago. Someday, I am confident, our species will be capable of
altering environments sufficiently to make uninhabitable planets
inhabitable. Someday we'll be able to intercept those killer stones
from the void. Through modern technology, I can see molecules right
now, or galaxies billions of light years away. And if it weren't for
the brutal and stupid thugs installed at the nation's airports by
those fools and charlatans I mentioned, I could fly to any spot on the
planet in just a few hours. When we get rid of the brutal and stupid
thugs, we can all fly to the Moon, the planets, and eventually to the
stars.

I'm not about to give up any of that for unfit species of weeds or
minnows.

L. Neil Smith is the award-winning author of 33 freedom-oriented books, including The Probability Broach, Ceres, Sweeter Than Wine, and DOWN WITH POWER: Libertarian Policy In A Time Of Crisis.


 

 
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