Author: Brandon Middleton
Via Aquafornia, we see the mindset that pervades the environmental community in California. Peter Moyle, a UC Davis professor of fish biology, is not a big fan of the human experience in the Golden State:
It is easy to be pessimistic about the future of familiar life on this planet, especially here in California. There are, for example, the ever-growing human population, the rise of consumerism, and the refusal of most Americans to recognize that their life style is a major contributor to the problem. Climate change is threatening to create additional drastic changes to the world as we know it. Yet the rise of tourism at Chernobyl, with wildlife a major attraction, and the wildness of the ‘demilitarized’ zone between North and South Korea point to the resiliency of our landscapes.
If anyone asks me about this resiliency, I tell them to go the South Yuba River, specifically Malakoff Diggins State Park. It is hard to imagine greater devastation to a landscape than that created by hydraulic mining in the 19th century—the washing away of hillsides, dams and ditches everywhere, and trees and shrubs cut for buildings, sluices, and firewood.
The old photos show a barren, rapidly eroding landscape and rivers empty of fish. Today, the ‘diggins’ are thick with vegetation in most places and large trees grow from mine tailings. Native frogs, fish, and insects inhabit streams flowing through the damaged landscape. Teaching a class along shady Humbug Creek, I have pointed out to students that the moss-covered log on which they were sitting was the nozzle of a hydraulic hose.
Ah, yes, our learned professors bemoaning how California became the great state it once was. Whereas most Americans look at California's past and see bold thinking, ingenuity in engineering, and an optimistic attitude that helped millions achieve a standard of living never before imagined, Moyle et al. see devastation and a landscape that should have been left untouched by humans, contrary to the need to use land and natural resources that has existed since the dawn of man.
For those who don't understand why so many people are skeptical of the environmental community, this is why: Moyle and the green movement fail to see the good of human civilization.
There is no question that Americans have not always prioritized environmental needs, or that pollution and other mishaps have occurred. But the approach has been to learn from our mistakes and that, as we enjoy livelihoods that are remarkably more comfortable than those experienced by past generations, we demand a higher standard of protection for the environment, with the understanding that completely shutting of the Earth from human development is the road to hardship.
Moyle, however, wants "reconciliation ecology," suggesting that we should apologize for how California has provided so much for so many. To him, it is a shame that humans "live scattered across the landscape with their gardens, ponds, livestock, and ability to suppress fires," and that "mining era dams and ditches now deliver water to distant cities and farms."
I, for one, appreciate the foresight of past Californians to use the state's land and natural resources in a way that continues to provide food, water, and jobs for millions. But, as Moyle demonstrates, such progressive thinking is frowned upon these days.