WNJ Opinion: “No” is No Environmental Policy
Photo credit: firstpeople.us
By Anthony P. Mauro Sr
On many environmental policy issues in New Jersey, certain anti-hunting group leaders take the same position on every new initiative: “No.”
Excuse the slang, but, “No,” is no environmental policy, at least not a policy with any substance. Whether we are building a home, paving a new road, constructing office space, erecting a manufacturing plant or some other initiative the issue should be measured using a cost/benefit analysis between environmental impacts and economic benefits to society. Unless we have each resigned ourselves to dwelling in tents and living off the wilderness many of our modern day living choices comes with real environmental impacts.
Functioning ecosystems sustain human societies. The food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe are the result of natural processes on which we all depend. On the other hand, building homes, roads, office space and manufacturing plants provide employment opportunities and paychecks for people to feed their families, generate tax revenue that subsidize programs that are of benefit to society and offer opportunities for better living.
The key to weighing the merits of environmental tradeoffs is understanding the mechanisms of conservation (sustainable use) and how we might make use of them to work with Mother Nature so that we don’t compromise the integrity of our environment as we sustain or achieve our societal needs or preferences.
A good illustration of the flaws inherent in a “no” policy can be made from public testimony during the recent hearing on NJ Department of Environmental Protection Black Bear Management Policy. The testimony of animal activist groups such as NJ Sierra, HSUS and others was based on an animal rights philosophy; bears shouldn’t be hunted because they have a “right” to live. Ultimately, the statements made by these groups relied on emotional appeals and half-truths (such as hunting doesn’t cull problem bears.)
While a “No” policy may be useful posturing for stopping a bear hunt it does not resolve the substance of the matter, which is conservation (sustainable use); the creation of a balance between bears and habitat and minimizing bear/human conflicts.
Hunting is Mother Nature’s method of ensuring ecosystem balance. She does not grant animals “rights,” in fact, she uses a food web of predator/prey relationships (animals killing and eating plants other animals) as a means of sustaining life on earth and providing equilibrium in the ecosystem. If Mother Nature were to give plants and animals “rights” to live then how would life on earth be sustained? What would living things use for subsistence?
A managed bear hunt not only provides a source of food for the hunter and his or her family, but in New Jersey’s case will help to provide equilibrium in the ecosystem with respect to available habitat and will assist in minimizing bear/human conflicts. Black bears are territorial creatures and culling opens up more territory for bears to recede from human contact as well as achieve reduction of aggregate numbers.
A common appeal made during the testimony by animal activists was, “Bears were here first and we shouldn’t kill them because we encroached on their wilderness.” There are two inherent problems in this statement. The first is that it divorces humankind from nature, when in fact we rely on nature for our everyday survival as much as any other living creature and no less than the earliest day our human forms occupied the earth. We’ve simply institutionalized the process through animal farming, agricultural farming and food distribution to the marketplace.
The second problem is that the statement lacks ownership. Yes, humankind developed wilderness to accommodate modern day living; however, no one opposing the bear hunt has razed their homes or businesses to provide more living area for burgeoning black bear populations. The statement is void of intellectual honesty and does nothing to address the bear quandary.
There was one more group at the Black Bear Policy hearing that should concern all conservationists; radical environmentalists. There is evidence that certain organizations operate under the veil of environmentalism as a means of advancing anti-industry and anti-globalization agendas rather than promoting legitimate environmental stewardship. These groups threatened law suits and misuse of legal loopholes to stop the bear hunt.
I use the term “radical environmentalists” because their movement does nothing to acknowledge the mechanisms of conservation or promote true ecosystem health and they fail to see humankind as part of nature. Their covert mission is to destroy industry, which is more likely to harm society while doing little to help nature.
There are many instances when people and groups use “No” as a shroud for environmental stewardship, but it is not wise to consider “No” as sound environmental policy. Understanding the precepts of conservation and giving equal significance to both environmental and economic variables is crucial for societal and environmental health.
Anthony P. Mauro, Sr is Chairman and Cofounder of the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance, New Jersey Outdoor Alliance Conservation Foundation and New Jersey Outdoor Alliance Environmental Projects. He is also an author of books on conservation, including “Color the Green Movement Blue.”
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