The Greening of America
Part I of III – How Did It Happen?
Michael S. Coffman, Ph.D.
Since the 1960s an emerging philosophy
or religion based on the belief that “nature knows best” has challenged
traditional natural resource management in the United States. This new
philosophy attacks the foundational principles of private property rights.
Federal land management policy based on this new philosophy has caused
financial hardship to outright devastation to tens of thousands of American
property owners, especially in the Western United States. Those Americans
that the philosophy has harmed have often asked, “How could this happen in
America?” The answer will shock most Americans. It goes back decades and has
its roots at the international level, especially within the international
The greening of America
started with the creation of the United Nations (UN) in 1945. The following
year an organization called the International Union for the Conservation of
Nature (IUCN) was also formed to serve as the primary scientific advisor to
the UN on environmental issues. Since then, two other major international
environmental organizations have also been created to serve as advisors to
the UN; the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) and the World Resources
Institute (WRI). All three work closely together to achieve common goals.
The IUCN has as members 81
individual nations and 111 government agencies, including the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S.
National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service and other land or water based
agencies. The UN Environmental Program (UNEP), UN Development Program (UNDP)
and UNESCO are also members. Following the first Earth Summit in 1972 at
Stockholm, membership within the IUCN was opened to non-governmental
organizations (NGOs). These currently include the Sierra Club, Nature
Conservancy, National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, Natural
Resources Defense Council, the Environmental Defense Fund and a host of
other U.S. environmental organizations. Today, these environmental NGOs
members number over 859; 84 of which are international organizations.
The purpose of the IUCN
according to its 2006 website is:
The Union’s mission is to influence, encourage and assist societies
throughout the world to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature and
to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically
IUCN planning sessions with
government representatives, environmental activists and UN personnel take
place behind closed doors, excluding the media and other interested parties.
An increasing number of people are expressing great concern over this
secrecy. Government officials, UN personnel and special interest NGOs should
never be allowed meet together in secrecy.
Although the definition
initially appears innocuous, the IUCN’s primary purpose is to influence,
encourage and assist societies to change the way they view the world.
This is an enormous undertaking, historically associated with religious
movements. The concern with this purpose is that it does not define what is
meant by the phrase to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature.
Nor does it define what it means to ensure that any use of natural
resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable. What is equitable
or sustainable? Such undertakings can, and have, enormous impacts on
Americans and natural resource management. Yet the IUCN excludes all but its
selected government, NGO and UN members from participation or even knowing
what those within the IUCN are planning.
Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the World Wildlife Fund
and World Resources Institute all work with the United Nations to
develop and implement a global “ecospiritual” environmental strategy
that they call sustainable development. As members of the IUCN,
various federal agencies, environmental and UN organizations secretly
plan how to implement that strategy on the unknowing citizens of the
United States. Almost every strategy in the last 30 years has
originated within this unholy alliance.
People with a more
traditional natural resource background have attended public IUCN meetings
and were stunned at the new age, nearly religious fervor of the proceedings.
It was very apparent to these observers that the meaning behind the purpose
of the IUCN is not how most Americans would interpret them. The actual
purpose of the IUCN more closely approximates the purpose given in the
IUCN’s Ethics Working Group’s publication, Earth Ethics, in 1996:
...promote alternative models for sustainable communities and lifestyles,
based in ecospiritual practice and principles...to accelerate our transition
to a just and sustainable future.... Humanity must undergo a radical change
in its attitudes, values, and behavior.... In response to this situation, a
new global ethics is taking form, and it is finding expression in
Many find the concept of ecospiritual
practices and principles alarming. Most natural resource managers
believe that although present resource management practices are not perfect,
improvements will be made as better ways are discovered. In the meantime,
resource utilization is better than it’s ever been in the history of the
United States. Why does it require a radical change in humanity’s attitudes,
values and behavior to be sustainable? Just what does sustainable
development really mean? And how does it express itself in international
To most people sustainable
means that we manage our renewable resources in a way that maintains them
in perpetuity for man’s continued use. Dr. Steven Rockefeller is often
described as the father of sustainable development within the IUCN and
worldwide. Rockefeller provides an entirely different definition in his and
John Elder’s book Spirit and Nature:
Sustainable by definition, means not
only indefinitely prolonged, but nourishing, as the earth is nourishing to
life and the self-actualizing of persons and communities. The word
development need not be restricted to economic activity, but can mean the
evolution, unfolding growth and fulfillment of any and all aspects of life.
Thus sustainable development may be defined as the kind of human activity
that nourishes and perpetuates the fulfillment of the whole community of
life on earth.
Rockefelleris professor emeritus of religion at Middlebury College in
Vermont. As the son of Nelson Rockefeller
family, he has powerful connections. For example, he
currently chairs the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. During his active tenure at
Middlebury and following he was fully involved within the IUCN promoting
this quasi-religious concept of sustainable development.
senior consultant to the second World Conservation Strategy project in 1990
made the connection between sustainable development and religion very clear.
He said that, “Sustainability calls for a fundamental transformation in
how people behave. Changes in behavior can be assisted by laws and
incentives. . . to a new morality. . . and a new moral conception
of world order.”
(Italics added) The World Conservation Strategy is a project of the IUCN,
UNEP and WWF started in 1980.
Rockefeller and Elder go on
todescribe the shocking actions
needed to achieve sustainable development:
Make sustainability a primary goal of economic and develop-ment policies,
reflecting that goal in budget and investment decisions; establish the
commit-ment to sustainability in law; make liable those who deplete
biological wealth or damage the health of people or ecosystems;
include environmental costs in the prices of energy, raw materials, and
manufactured goods; use economic instruments to provide incentives for
sustainable action; incorporate changes in environ-mental health and the
stocks and flows of natural wealth in national accounting systems.
This vision of how economic
systems should function is explored many times in IUCN and UN documents. It
is at the heart of the IUCN’s
Covenant on Environment and Development (CED)
The CED treaty is written but not yet released for ratification. It is the
granddaddy of all treaties and is designed to fully enforce Agenda 21.
Agenda 21 is a comprehensive forty chapter United Nations set of
goals that was signed by the United States at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio
de Janeiro. It spells out UN
requirements for sustainable development within every nation,
including the United States. Not surprisingly, the IUCN had a big part in
writing Agenda 21 and most other environmental treaties for the UN.
Agenda 21 and its
implementing treaties provide a web of interlocking international laws that
regulate virtually every aspect of human interactions with the environment.
Hence, as members of the IUCN, international and national agencies and NGOs
have contributed to the writing of treaties and polices that the federal
agencies then enforce.
Agenda 21 was
converted into United States policy in a 1996 policy document entitled
Sustainable America. Sustainable America and a host of sub
documents were written by the Clinton’s
President’s Council on Sustainable Development
Of the 26 appointees to the PCSD by President Clinton,
nearly half represent organizations or agencies which are also members of
the IUCN. IUCN members could therefore
heavily influence the decisions of the PCSD to reflect those of the IUCN.
The changes required by
Agenda 21 and Sustainable America represent a radical departure
from America’s historic culture and the lifestyles of U.S. citizens. It
would mean a complete shift from the constitutional basis of “life, liberty
and the pursuit of happiness” to one of protecting nature at all costs.
This concept of sustainable
development, of course, is a deeply held view for those who believe in the
sanctity of “Mother Earth.” For the past thirty years, the quiet
implementation of these quasi-religious policies and treaties have caused
inestimable harm to tens of thousands of American citizens. None of that
would have been possible, however, without the creation of a new science to
justify the need for denying landowners their private property rights.
In 1980 the IUCN released
the first World Conservation Strategy in collaboration with UNEP, UNESCO,
FAO and the World Wildlife Fund calling for
“a new ethic, embracing plants and
animals as well as people.”
From this evolved the holistic
of conservation biology.
Conservation biologycenters on the largely unproven assumption that nature knows
best. Consequently, all human use and activity should follow natural
patterns within relatively homogenous
soil-vegetation-hydrology landscapes called ecosystems..
Ecosystems, however, don’t fit well within the political boundaries
of man. Any single ecosystem may cross several national, state and local
political boundaries as well as many property owners. To be effective
therefore, environmental law had to be superior to property rights and
political jurisdictions. Government had
to be reinvented to apply the new science.
This largely unproven
science was introduced to U.S. colleges by providing endowed chairs and
grants to natural resource colleges by
As students began to graduate with conservation degrees in the late 1970s
federal agencies like the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and
others – all members of the IUCN – changed the qualifications for employment
as field managers to include those holding conservation degrees.
Following the first World
Conservation Strategy in 1980, Dr. Michael Soulé was tapped to create a
professional society and a scientific journal that centered on the new
science of conservation biology. Soulé successfully formed The Society for
Conservation Biology in 1985 and published the first the Conservation
Biology journal in 1987. Soulé, also the society’s first president,
outlined the purpose of conservation biology in the journal’s first issue:
The society is a response…to the biological diversity crisis that will reach
a crescendo in the first half of the twenty-first century. We assume
implicitly that…the worst biological disaster in the last 65 million years
can be averted…. We assume implicitly that environmental wounds inflicted by
ignorant humans and destructive technologies can be treated by wiser humans
and by wholesome technologies.
In the first chapter of the
textbook of Conservation Biology, Soulé further explains the initial
strategy of conservation biologists:
In many situations conservations biology is a crisis discipline. In crisis
disciples, in contrast to “normal” science, it is sometimes imperative to
make an important tactical decision before one is confident in the
sufficiency of the data.... Warfare is the epitome of a crisis discipline.
On a battlefield, if you observe a group of armed men stealthily approaching
your lines, you are justified in taking precautions, which may include
firing on the men.
This almost unbelievable
arrogance and militancy formed the fundamental understanding of right and
wrong for many of these early conservation biologists. Many graduates
holding to these radical ideas were hired by our federal and state agencies.
It shouldn’t be surprising that those government employees holding such
extremist views are quite hostile to all people using government lands for
any purpose. Likewise, many of those regulating private land are
naturally prone to believe that property owners must be controlled to
protect Mother Nature. Although mellowed with time, many of these
conservation graduates hold senior management positions today.
Tragically, the change that
occurred within our natural resource colleges and government agencies did
not come about from a healthy debate based on solid scientific evidence.
Instead, it came from an unethical, or perhaps even illegal, collaboration
between federal, NGO and UN change agents to advance their agenda. Not only
were affected landowners and resource users not included in this process,
they were not allowed to even be aware of it. In a very real sense, early
conservation biologists declared war on traditional science and resource
management without bothering to inform their alleged enemy – the general
public, specifically landowners – that they were at war.
Certainly not all federal
resource managers or even many of those who graduated with a conservation
degree ascribe to the militant approach taken by Soulé. Nonetheless, various
degrees of this mindset have permeated our federal agencies at every level.
For instance, a March 30, 1994 United States Bureau of Land Management (BLM)internal working document on Ecosystem Managementbrazenly equated human beings
as merely a part of nature; “All ecosystem management activities should
consider human beings as a biological resource.”
The reduction of humanity to the level
of a “biological resource” has had an enormous impact on the internal
culture of these agencies. Many employees no longer view themselves as
servants of the people and stewards of the resource, but as righteous
protectors of nature from humans who they believe damage her.
Nature’s welfare becomes more important than human welfare. This helps
explain why many of these federal employees can often enforce regulations
that harm or even destroy the lives of property owners and resource users.
They honestly believe they have a moral responsibility to protect nature
from man’s perceived damaging activities no matter what the cost.
biology has matured since Michael Soulé penned his uncompromising words in
the 1980s. Credible scientists, without personal agendas, use methodology
derived from conservation biology to investigate natural relationships.
Nonetheless, conservation biology is a young science that has been
politically forced to become the flagship science used in resource
management decisions. There was, and still is, little justification in the
adoption of conservation biology or other aspects of sustainable development
as the foundation for federal policy. Every American should know that the
United States is implementing international policy has caused great harm to
American citizens unnecessarily.
First Published in the 2006
fall issue of Range Magazine.
Next installment, "The Emerging Earth Religion" will be in the
winter of 2007.
IUCN. 2005. About the IUCN. World Conservation Union. http://www.iucn.org/en/about/
McDonnell, Thomas. 1994. The American Sheep Industry. Personal
Rockefeller, Steven, 1996. “Global Ethics, International Law, and the
Earth Charter.” Earth Ethics. Spring/Summer. Earth Ethics
was a publication of the IUCN’s Ethics Working Group in 1996. It is now
a publication of the Center for Respect of Life & Environment. http://www.crle.org/pub_eeindex_spr96.asp
C. and John C. Elder. 1992. Spirit and Nature: Why the Environment Is
a Religious Issue. (Boston: Beacon), p. 8.
Prescott-Allen, Robert. 1990. “Caring for the World.” Address delivered
at the Symposium on “Spirit and Nature: Religion, Ethics and
Environmental Crisis,” Middlebury College, Middlebury, Vt,
Rockefeller and Elder. Spirit and Nature, p. 134.
The Covenant on Environment and Development can be found at: http://www.iucn.org/themes/law/cel07.html
Agenda 21 can be found at: http://www.un.org/esa/sustdev/documents/agenda21/index.htm
The President’s Council on Sustainable Development can be found at:
Rockefeller and Elder 1992,
Spirit and Nature,
Anonymous. 1992. Environmental Grantmakers Association Annual Meeting.
Speech given at the 1992 Annual
Environmental Grantmakers Association Conference. From tape recording of
this unknown speakers speech.
Soulé, Michael. 1987. “History and purpose of the society of
conservation biology.” Conservation Biology, 1:4-5.
Soulé, Michael. 1986. “Conservation Biology and the ‘Real World.’” In:
Conservation Biology; the Science of Scarcity and Diversity.
Sunderland, Mass.: Sinauer Associates.
BLM. 1994. Internal Working Document, Prepared for BLM Summit on
Ecosystem Management. Bureau of Land Management. March 30.