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Conservation vs. Environmentalism Part I

I am not an environmentalist. I am a conservationist. There is a difference. That difference really is summed up by the focus of the efforts. A conservationist wants to conserve nature for the benefit of man while an environmentalist has as focus nature itself. I often say the latter is a religion with mother nature as a god. Conservation, on the other hand, is anthropological.

Often, in conservation, a view must be taken that the needs of man outweigh the needs of the animal. I’ve yet to meet an environmentalist who did not believe in the theory of evolution as the driving force in nature. Yet they always seem to remove man from that equation. Evolutionarily speaking we weigh the needs, not just of the animal, but of THE OTHER ANIMAL with us being an animal too. Of course we are the only animal on the planet able to weigh such things. This Greater Sage-Grouse can’t decide not to eat the food it just found because it might be needed by its lesser grouse cousins or some other bird or mammal species. It eats all it finds. Humans are smart enough (or should be) to know that we should manage our resources. We should take care of them for the future. Some part of that is aesthetic. Creatures are worth protecting and managing just so we have them around for the future generations to admire the plumage or behavior of. In other words, even as a conservationist I see that animals have intrinsic value. This means I’m not out to just kill them all. However, I am also not in favor of emptying the zoos, spray painting the furs, or going vegan. If you want to keep a dog, that’s fine with me. If you want to say “he is my dog, and I am his master” that’s a perfectly reasonable thing to say in my thinking.

We are master of this planet.

If you are part of the Judaeo/Christian tradition then you believe that God made this planet for man and gave man dominion over the animals. This is a view that stands in direct opposition to environmentalism which teaches that we are animals too. Not only does the tradition say man has dominion but it implies that man does not belong to the group over which it dominates.

But even if you aren’t part of that tradition and you hold to a strictly evolutionary tract mankind is still the apex predator. If evolution is about survival and success of a species then we are successful. If we are nothing more than animals, top of the kingdom of Animalia, then we have no more obligation to our prey than a lion does to his own.

In my view conservationism is a philosophy that allows people of both mindsets into it.

If we are master of this planet by God, then we are charged to execute that dominion in wisdom. It is not wisdom to put animals before people but it is also not wisdom to destroy them completely and remove them from the use of man. If we are evolved, we evolved intellect, that intellect allows us to conceive of our environment in a way that no other animal on the planet can. If evolution is about survival then we should understand that our intellect is tied into our survival. If that is true I reach the same conclusion that we should maintain animals for our use in prudence but use them and the land for our benefit.

I see no benefit in worshiping animals or nature.

The linked article about the Grouse in question tells about a plan which it says was carefully crafted and which had the input of ranchers, state officials, and scientists. It states that this plan is under review by the Trump administration’s Ryan Zinke who is the Secretary of the Interior. The article does jump the gun a bit in its doom and gloom pronouncement. This is simply a review and no rules have been changed. The goal of the review is to see if there can be changes made that benefit man while still protecting the animal.

You see, I suspect that the author is an environmentalist who is just using the language of conservation. I suspect this because his logic seems overridden by his emotion. The author’s clear confusion on this issue is evident in this sentence, “Efforts to revise the sage-grouse management plans violate the best available science, place Western economies and communities at risk, and are ill-timed because existing plans haven’t been given a chance to work. ”

He’s actually claiming that an “Effort to revise” violates the best science. No, it doesn’t. It’s an effort to revise. In the end it may actually revise in favor of the original plan or make it more restrictive on ranching. Or it may conclude that new science and study over the last two years has shown the Grouse is not in danger after all. It might conclude many things but an effort to revisit a policy should not be stopped.

Grouse Range Map

Why pick one species over another?

Why do humans decide which animals to protect and which not to? Simply because we are masters over them. We like the elephant, we find it useful and interesting, so we want to protect it. We don’t care so much for the disease spreading mosquito so we destroy it by the millions and are actively working on ways to genetically alter them to kill eve more. So we pick a grouse with a small range and very little impact to save. Why? Because it’s “iconic” as the author of the article states. It looks interesting to us with the white, and the star-like rays of its tail feathers. It’s no cockroach, that’s for sure.

When people talk about life many forget that plants are alive too. Vegans, I laugh, munch on a living tomato never thinking of the death they cause. Why? Because they choose one life over another. This is arbitrary based on their own likes and dislikes. Of course I’m not saying we should let the Greater Sage-Grouse go extinct, nor am I saying that we should not take steps to protect this shared resource. I’m just saying that the mindset behind why we decide to do this should be clearly anthropological rather than mystical.


Greater Sage-Grouse is an iconic species of the West, but its populations have declined by about 95 percent. When previous regulatory mechanisms on federal lands did not abate threats to the species, concern grew that the species might be listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Source: Ryan Zinke wants to break many conservation efforts | TheHill

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