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Someone has to say it out loud: the Endangered Species Act is a
disaster. In fact, it may be the stupidest law enacted since
Prohibition. Like Prohibition, the ESA reflects the will of a powerful
minority, who prevail for a time, until the rest of the world realizes
that the objective is unrealistic, and that the medicine is more deadly
than the disease.
The bottom-feeding sucker fish in Klamath Lake has brought this issue
into focus more clearly than the thousands of less prominent examples in
recent years. The ESA declares that the sucker fish has more right to
water than 1,400 farm families who depend upon that water for sustenance.
How stupid is that?
Step back a moment – from the sucker fish, the bald eagle, the grizzly
bear, and the snail darter (and from the thousands of species no one has
ever heard of) – and consider the idea this powerful minority of
environmental extremists has been able to force upon the world with the
ESA: Non-human species must be preserved no matter what the cost to
This idea is even more stupid than the idea that government should
prohibit humans from drinking “intoxicating liquors.” The ESA seeks to
prohibit nature from ending the existence of species.
Government could not stop people from drinking “intoxicating liquors”;
it has no chance of preventing species from becoming extinct. Attempts
to do so give rise to massive investment in unnatural processes that are
destined to ultimate failure.
Suppose for a moment that the ESA were, or could be, successful. Would a
better world result? I don’t think so. To preserve all the species
that happen to be on earth at this particular time in history would
require an end to change. Progress would have to come to a screeching
Would the world be a better place today, had the environmental
extremists been in power, say 300 years ago, or a thousand years ago?
Suppose for a moment that in order to preserve the non-human species, as
the ESA seeks to do, progress had been halted by global decree in 1001.
We would be looking at a life expectancy of, perhaps, 40 years. If we
were very lucky, we might have a horse to transport us to a tavern where
we might drink rot-gut whiskey to relieve the daily misery. Of course,
we would still have the pollution of the transportation system to deal
with, as well.
Suppose progress had been stopped before Columbus arrived on this
continent, which is the destination to which modern environmentalists
say we should return. We might expect to live 45 years. Our food would
be a daily struggle, and our transportation system would still be
polluting by the shovel-full. Ah yes, a wonderful life for non-human
species, perhaps, but a situation for humans to which only environmental
If the ESA could be 100 percent successful today, it would be a tragedy for all
who come after us. If we stop progress today, we condemn the people of
future generations to the limits of our knowledge – and we have only
begun to understand how wonderful life can be.
Nature intends for life on the planet to change. And it will – with or
without the ESA. Do you think the ESA would have prevented extinction
of the dinosaurs? Hardly. Change is progress. Human intervention in
that process cannot improve the result, it can only slow the process.
The very idea of trying to save species flies in the face of the natural
process. Environmental extremists contend that species loss is
“unnatural” as the result of the habitat destruction by humans. This
suggests that habitat modification by humans is not natural. How
ridiculous. It is perfectly natural for humans to modify their habitat
in any way their intellect and energy will allow. Inappropriate
modifications bring natural consequences. Both human and non-human
species learn from those consequences. Those species that can adapt
through the learning process survive; those that fail to adapt, don’t.
Nor should they.
If the condor can no longer live in its environment, nor find another
suitable environment – so be it. Such a thought sends shivers down the
spine of PETA people, and others who hold non-human life to be of
greater value than human life. They would contend that the “web of
life” depends upon all species, and the loss of any species weakens the
web that supports human life.
This argument has emotional sway, but fails the test of historic
reality. This argument means that our life today would be better if
dinosaurs still roamed the earth. How silly. The “web of life” lost a
major chunk of its being when the dinosaurs departed the planet. I say
good riddance; I’d hate to have to compete with those guys for food and
The planet will survive if the condor doesn’t. The planet may no longer
need whales, grizzly bears, or red-legged frogs. Believe it or not, the
planet would survive even if the Klamath Lake sucker fish bit the
dust. But the farmers, whose lives depend upon the water that
accumulates in Klamath Lake, may not survive, if government continues
its foolish effort to stop progress and preserve every species that some
environmental extremist says is endangered.
Philosophically, the ESA is a flop. But the ESA is not really about
saving species, this is only the sales pitch used to stir the emotions
of humans who are suckers for a cuddly puppy dog, a kitty cat, a panda
bear, or an injured anything. Environmental extremists have exploited
the natural human compassion for animals, in order to use the law to
torture humans whose behavior or lifestyle is different from what the
environmentalists think it should be.
Similar to the teetotalers who used the law to torture humans whose
behavior included taking a drink back in the roaring ’20s, environmental
extremists use the law to force other humans to behave as the
environmentalists think they should.
Logging is a sin to environmental extremists; use the ESA to end
logging. Mining is a sin to environmental extremists; use the ESA to
end mining. Farming in the Klamath Basin is a sin to environmental
extremists; use the ESA to end the farming. An ESA industry has arisen,
which specializes in twisting the law to impose behavior modification on
people who hold a different view.
It is time to send the ESA, and the industry it has spawned, into
It took 13 years to repeal the 18th Amendment (Prohibition). We have
suffered under the ESA for nearly 30 years, but only in the last decade
has it become the weapon of choice for environmental extremists. If the
American people, in their collective wisdom, can overturn the extreme
values of a powerful minority of teetotalers, the American people can
overturn the values of a powerful minority of environmental extremists.
Our children and grandchildren will applaud us if we do, and curse us if
we do not. The world will be a better place when we stop letting the
extremists impose their views on the rest of us. It’s time to tell your
elected representatives to repeal the ESA, the modern prohibition to