Also published in The Daily Caller on Mon. March 14, 2016
On March 14th the National Wildlife Refuge System, presently a 95-million-acre network of lands and waters, celebrates its 113th anniversary. One of my favorite places, the Bear River Bird Refuge in Box Elder County, Utah is part of that network. Hearing the birds’ early morning songs and watching the sunrise over the reeds in the refuge is a powerful experience, and one that I treasure. My love of those early mornings belies the way in which this, and the rest of the refuge system, is managed.
The National Wildlife Refuge System, like so much of modern environmental policy, is premised on the idea that there exists some correct balance of natural factors, and that if left alone nature will yield the appropriate outcome. Achieving that balance is the ultimate goal, and it is generally claimed that achieving this balance is predicated on the near complete removal of human influence from the environment.
The assumption that there is a balance of nature is emotionally appealing, but outdated, wrong, and rejected by most modern ecologists. The assumption is, however, alive and well among the general public, political activists, and many of those who implement environmental policy.
Rachel Carson, author of the seminal 1962 work Silent Spring, and editor-in-chief for the Fish and Wildlife Service is perhaps most responsible for popularizing the idea of a balance of nature. Carson promoted the notion that there is a delicate and static balance of nature that stands in danger of being upset by humans. Carson claimed that it took “eons of time” for life to reach “a state of adjustment and balance with its surroundings.”.
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My Take - The most important information to take away from this piece? Rachel Carson was a writer - a great writer - but she wasn't a scientist. She was a writer with a science degree writing for the Fish and Wildlife Service about work real scientists were doing. The second most important thought to take away from this piece - she was wrong once again. If anyone could ever carry the title "The Mother of Junk Science" - It's Carson. Let's try and have clarity on this - it's important!