The Endangered Species Act: An Animal Not Worth Saving?

Article excerpt

Mark it in red on your calendar: April 22 is Earth Day, the most revered observance of the secular year. Or not so secular - environmentalism is a high-gear crusade with the ritual and doctrine of a religion.

The environmental congregation - and its "holy see," the Environmental Protection Agency - pay intense attention to propagation of the faith. Take, for instance, the campaign to create eco-kids.

Thirty states now mandate environmental studies in primary and secondary schools (state legislators are as trendy as national pols). What often happens is that true-believing and superficially informed teachers scare the tadpoles out of their rompers by preaching end-of-the-planet tales as gospel.

A Colorado 7-year-old, the Washington Times recently reported, was overflowing with apocalyptic propaganda about rain forests. "If all those trees get cut down, we won't have any oxygen because, without trees, we won't have new air," she said. And what then? "We would die," the child replied somberly "Everything in the world would die."

That example is not atypical. Alston Chase, the astute columnist on environmental matters, has noted that social engineering has been part of the ecological movement's agenda from the beginning.

The school-yard indoctrination, intellectually corrupting if nothing else, is akin to the hysterical (and often cynical) effort to preach "safe sex" and use of condoms to the very young and to terrify them about AIDS and human sexuality.

In both the environmental and the sexual indoctrination, these youngsters have no experience by which to assimilate the horror stories fed them. Isn't that child abuse?

The antidote to the distorted guff that infects adults as well as children - stuffing "too credent ears," as Shakespeare had it - is sound information, rationally presented. A lucid and evenhanded example is the new book, Noah's Choice: The Future of Endangered Species, by Charles C. Mann and Mark L. Plummer. It is also uncommonly readable.

Who does not subscribe to biodiversity? Preserving the magnificent variety of the Earth's species (animals, plants, algae, fungi and bacteria) is no doubt a worthy pursuit. However, the effectiveness of the 1973 Endangered Species Act is "fictional," the authors contend.

What is very real, however, is public hostility toward the governmental power embodied in the law and the authoritarian manner in which the law routinely is administered.

Mann and Plummer detail a dolorous number of instances of blunt federal power that have ignited public rage at Washington. The snail darter episode may be the best known of these large-caliber enforcements, but it is far from exceptional. …