Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Contract with the Earth 17: More on the Muir-Pinchot Debate

In my latest reading of A Contract with the Earth, Newt Gingrich and Terry Maple talk more about the Muir-Pinchot debate, which I discussed in my post, "A Contract with the Earth 14: The Muir-Pinchot Debate".

Gifford Pinchot was President Theodore Roosevelt's head of the U.S. Forest Service, and he believed in conservation but also using the forests to benefit the economy. Newt and Maple state on page 161 that Pinchot "believed that forestry managed wisely should yield economic benefits, whereas romantic preaching was doomed to failure." That "romantic preaching" was done by John Muir, who was more of a preservationist because he thought that nature had spiritual value for people.

Newt and Maple quote Georgia Tech professor Bryan Norton, who offered definitions of conservation and preservation. Norton says the following:

"To conserve a resource or the productive potential of a source-generating system is to use it wisely, with the goal of maintaining its future availability or productivity...To preserve it...is to protect an ecosystem or a species, to the extent possible, from the disruptions attendant upon it from human use."

Newt and Maple then say that "Intense conflict has been generated from these distinctions as they are practiced today, but there is plenty of opportunity to find common ground." And Newt and Maple appear to see value in both points of view. On the one hand, like Pinchot, they talk about how devastating the environment has a deleterious economic impact on human beings, for resources are plundered and the sea-food business suffers when certain sea-creatures vanish. On the other hand, Newt and Maple resemble Muir in that they point out how nature inspires us as well as advocate the preservation of biodiversity.

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