republished with permission of the author
Released: May 2, 2001
Man: The Endangered Species
By Glenn Woiceshyn
Imagine you are a farmer whose livelihood depends on water from a nearby reservoir.
The government knows this but cuts off your regular supply to save some fish. You suffer
crippling damages to crops and livestock-but are told that the fishes' "interests"
A tall fish tale? No, it actually happened on April 6, 2001, in the Klamath Basin
to about 1,400 Oregon farmers who produce hay, potatoes and cattle on roughly 200,000
acres of land. Enforcing the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Bureau of Reclamation cut
off the water that these farmers normally receive-and desperately need-from the Klamath
Irrigation Project (near the Oregon-California border) to protect "endangered" Sucker fish
According to state representative Bill Garrard, this single government action
"sacrifices more than $65 million in farm income and risks more than $45 million in
secondary income to the local community."
The endangered Oregon farmers had requested an injunction to restore irrigation
flows; but on May 1 U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken effectively fed them to the fish:
"Threats to the continued existence of endangered and threatened species constitute
This vicious government assault on Oregon farmers is but one of countless examples
of the ESA being used to block productive activities-i.e., activities beneficial to
people-such as farming, mining, forestry and hydroelectric power. The Northern Spotted Owl
became famous when timber production was virtually halted in the Northwest to protect the
species. Near Bakersfield, California, a farmer was arrested in 1994 by Fish and Wildlife
officers for inadvertently killing five Tipton kangaroo rats while plowing his own field.
His tractor and plow were seized as "murder weapons." Under the ESA, he faced heavy fines
and three years in prison. Most recently, the ESA was used by environmentalists to block
power generation in the Northwest, thereby contributing to the costly blackouts wreaking
havoc on Californians.
What motivates environmentalists to protect "endangered" species, with so much zeal
that they are oblivious to the harm inflicted on people?
Some environmentalists assert that "species diversity" is extremely beneficial to
man. But environmentalists are the staunchest opponents of genetic engineering-which has
vast potential for creating new species. Some environmentalists assert that an endangered
species could possess medical secrets beneficial to man. But, in 1991, when
taxol-processed from the Pacific yew tree-was discovered to be highly effective in
treating certain forms of cancer, environmentalists blocked harvesting of the yew tree.
Whenever man's needs conflict with the "interests of nature," environmentalists take the
side of nature.
The real motive behind environmentalism is stated by David Graber (a biologist with
the U.S. National Park Service): "We are not interested in the utility of a particular
species, or free-flowing river, or ecosystem to mankind. They have intrinsic value, more
value-to me-than another human body, or a billion of them."
This "intrinsic value" ethic means that man must value nature-not for any benefit
to man, but because nature is somehow a value in and of itself. Hence, nature must be kept
pristine despite the harm this causes man. We must halt activities beneficial to us, such
as farming, forestry and treatment of cancer, in order to safeguard fish, birds, trees and
Throughout history, people were told to sacrifice their lives to God, the
community, the state or the Fuhrer-all with deadly consequences. Now we are being told to
sacrifice our lives to nature. And current environmental legislation, such as the ESA,
provides government with massive powers to enforce such sacrifices. What disasters could
such power lead to?
Some environmentalists have expressed their wish. "Until such time as Homo sapiens
should decide to rejoin nature," writes biologist Graber, "some of us can only hope for
the right virus to come along." City University of New York philosophy professor Paul
Taylor adds: "[T]he ending of the human epoch on Earth would most likely be greeted with a
hearty 'Good Riddance.'"
While extreme, these anti-human sentiments are logically consistent with environmentalism's "intrinsic value" philosophy: Since man survives only by conquering
nature, man is an inherent threat to the "intrinsic value" of nature and must therefore be
eliminated. Environmentalism makes man the endangered species.
The only antidote to these haters of mankind and their anti-human philosophy is to
uphold man's right to pursue his own life by means of his productive activities. Congress
should begin the process of rescinding the ESA and any environmental legislation that
allows government to sacrifice people to nature.
Meanwhile, Oregon farmers desperately need water to save their crops and cattle,
and will stage a peaceful, "last hope" protest on May 7, in Klamath Falls, Oregon. The
Bush Administration has the authority to grant exemptions to the ESA and should do so
unequivocally in the name of man's right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
Glenn Woiceshyn is a senior writer for the Ayn Rand Institute in Marina del Rey, Calif.
The Institute promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The
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