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Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
North County Times
January 3, 2000


Deadlines being what they are, once again I am writing 6 days into the future. Assuming the whole Y2K thing has passed without prompting the complete breakdown of society, this is my first column of the 21st century. Big deal you say. Considering that the Lone Ranger died today, an omen if ever there was one, it seems foolish to take anything for granted.

What does one say to a new century? How does someone attach meaning to such an important, yet arbitrary point in time? Does any of this even matter? Is there any reason to believe any indigenous species will survive to see the 22nd century? How many of us care if they do? For those of you who have yet to catch on, my mood is quite pensive.

The 20th century actually ended for me on the morning of December 24th, upon my reading a letter to the editor in the NCT. A letter from Phil Gilbert of Valley Center, insisting that the Nature Conservancy was an elitist group, made it quite clear how anthropocentric our species is. It also helps underline how little the majority understands about the environment. With all due respect, Mr. Gilbert's letter made me laugh, which I'm sure is not what he intended.

Bemoaning the fact that feral sheep and pigs are being shot on Santa Cruz island, to protect native species, Mr. Gilbert completely misses the point of environmental restoration. He also wrongly assumes killing animals for food is more humane than just killing them. Environmentalism is far less myopic than animal rights. The Nature Conservancy is about conserving native biotic communities, not invasive exotic species. If this "everyman" actually knew anything about the flora and fauna of Santa Cruz Island, he would comprehend the folly of believing that feral livestock could live in harmony with native species and the environment that supports them.

There there is problem with Mr. Gilbert's assumption that Santa Cruz Island is suppose to be a National Park. If that was the case, why was it necessary for the Nature Conservancy to buy the island to protect it? He also assumes that the only reason to own land is for human utilization. How old paradigm is that? Continuing the property rights theme, For years people have insisted that if environmentalists wanted to save open space it was up to environmental groups to buy the land and save it. If an environmental group wants to buy land, and just to leave it alone. whose business is it other than the property owner. I'm sure Mr. Gilbert believes that he has the right to do with his property as he sees fit, regardless of how damaging his choices may be.

This letter also shed light on the double standard being imposed on environmentalists. Now, as soon as main stream conservation groups start to acquire land, for restoration, these same people have a problem with their conservation approach. I guess property rights only applies to resource extraction types.

Perhaps the best way to define the 21st century, is the environmental century, where the rules will be changing faster than ever before. a lot of it out of our control. Nature will see to that. As they say at Earth First, "nature bats last." The Nature Conservancy is just making sure that there are still some level playing fields. Happy New Year, and let the games begin.

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