| Advancing the principles of
in the 21st century
|II. Land Issues and Property|
One of the key factors incorporated in the adoption of sustainable development principles in Agenda 21 is the control of land use practices. In addition, Agenda 21 incorrectly asserts that too many people cause ecosystem destruction, loss of critical habitat and the threat of possible widespread ecosystem collapse. The Convention on Biological Diversity is an attempt to address these two assertions. For instance, Article 8 of the Convention on Biological Diversity (Biodiversity Treaty) calls for the establishment of "a system of protected areas or areas where special measures need to be taken to conserve biological diversity."1 It also calls for the promotion of "environmentally sound and sustainable development in areas adjacent to protected areas with a view to furthering protection of these areas." While this may sound innocuous, this rather simplistic language obscures the real cost of protection demanded by the treaty.
The premise put forth by Freedom 21 holds that land use practices are best addressed through incentives for private property owners, not government reserves. Similarly, overpopulation is a meaningless term that lies entirely in the eye of those beholding others. Chapter 1 of Freedom 21 shows that human population levels are not the problem claimed by some. Additionally, Freedom 21 shows that governments are formed to provide for their people; not control them.
A companion to Agenda 21 and the Biodiversity Treaty is the United Nations-funded Global Biodiversity Assessment (GBA). The United Nations contracted the World Resources Institute to write the GBA to provide the justification and implementation strategies for Biodiversity Treaty. To protect biodiversity, claims the GBA:
Representative areas of all major ecosystems in a region need to be reserved, that [reserved] blocks should be as large as possible, that buffer zones should be established around core areas and that corridors should connect these areas. This basic design is central to the Wildlands Project in the United States (Noss, 1992), a controversial ... strategy ... to expand natural habitats and corridors to cover as much as 30% of the U.S. land area.2
Figure 1 A depiction of what the Wildlands Project might have required if the Convention on Biological Diversity was fully implemented according to recommendations by the UN funded Global Biodiversity Assessment. The red areas are wilderness reserves and corridors and the yellow areas buffer zones. An earlier version of this map was used to stop the ratification of the Convention on Biological Diversity in the U.S. Senate. (Used by permission from Environmental Perspectives Incorporated, Bangor Maine)
The reference to Noss, in turn, states that the Wildlands Project requires that:
One half of the land area of the 48 conterminous [United] States be encompassed in core [wilderness] reserves and inner corridor zones (essentially extensions of core reserves) within the next few decades... Half of a region in wilderness is a reasonable guess of what it will take to restore ... natural disturbance regimes, assuming that most of the other 50 percent is managed intelligently as buffer zone.... Eventually, a wilderness network would dominate a region and thus would itself constitute the matrix, with human habitations being the islands.3
Protection of biodiversity and ecosystems within the framework of the Biodiversity Treaty and the precepts of The Wildlands Project would require setting aside between 40 to 50 percent of a landscape into core wilderness reserves and interconnecting corridors, all surrounded by buffer zones that are heavily regulated to further protect the wilderness reserves. To be "sustainable" by using this approach would require cramming people into islands of human habitation surrounded by seas of wilderness. Also, concurrent with this vision of sustainable development, there must be no urban sprawl, and the ideal solution would be for all people to work, shop and recreate within walking distance of their residence. The plan would require abandoning natural resource management and use in the "reserves." The national wealth and human rights would be reduced accordingly.
Such an approach drastically reduces the land area within which humanity could live, prosper and utilize sustainable natural resources to grow food, create wood products, or even benefit from water resources. Consequently, the United Nations-funded GBA states that, "Population growth has exceeded the capacity of the biosphere." The GBA goes on to say that it is "estimated that an 'agricultural world' in which most human beings are peasants should be able to support 5 to 7 billion people.... In contrast, a reasonable estimate for an industrialised world society at the present North American material standard of living would be 1 billion."4 Since the human population of the earth is now estimated to be around 6.5 billion people, this approach would require that citizens of developed nations reduce their standard of living to the level of subsistence farmers, or reduce the human population by nearly 85 percent - or something in between. Neither this rationale nor these conclusions are reasonable or acceptable.
As discussed in Chapter 1, there is no "overpopulation crisis." Likewise, the Biodiversity Treaty requirement of setting aside nearly one half of a nation in wilderness is not a wise or popular policy option. A better alternative promulgates policies that promote private ownership of land by people who live on, or benefit from, its sustainable use. Worse, the Biodiversity Treaty would actually spawn ecological damage by implementing "hands-off," non-management regimes resulting in fires, deteriorating health, wasted sustainable resource segments, foregone national growth, and unrealized benefits to property owners. Freedom 21 stresses the approach of living in and using natural resources by applying proven sustainable development systems that perpetuate themselves while maintaining biodiversity and a healthy ecosystem.
The approach encompassed by the Convention on Biological Diversity requires either denying people a fulfilling and healthy life or forcing a radical reduction in human population, or both. Since there is little public support for this approach in the United States or local communities worldwide, those advocating it are advancing the notion that government must have the authority to allocate property rights. Such authority would allow government to forcibly require individuals to comply with the governing authorities own version of the "public good" (Rousseauian model - see Preface), as opposed the "will of the people" (Lockean model). This is objectionable to a citizenry well acquainted with freedom and protected rights.
Agenda 21, the Biodiversity Treaty, and the GBA bestows equal rights to ecosystems, plants and animals with the rights of human beings. Since humans no longer have rights superior to those of nature, a strong central government is needed to parse out rights equally. This concept is central to the goals set forth during the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat I), held in Vancouver, May 31 - June 11, 1976. The United Nations model of land policy and property rights was officially articulated in Agenda Item 10 of the Conference Report, in which the Preamble states:
Land...cannot be treated as an ordinary asset, controlled by individuals and subject to the pressures and inefficiencies of the market. Private land ownership is also a principal instrument of accumulation and concentration of wealth and therefore contributes to social INJUSTICE (emphasis added); if unchecked, it may become a major obstacle in the planning and implementation of development schemes. The provision of decent dwellings and healthy conditions for the people can only be achieved if land is used in the interests of society as a whole. Public control of land use is therefore indispensable....5
The United Nations report goes on to say that, "Public ownership or effective control of land in the public interest is the single most important means of ...achieving a more equitable distribution of the benefits of development.... Governments must maintain full jurisdiction and exercise complete sovereignty over such land.... Change in the use of land ...should be subject to public control and regulation...of the common good."6 This vision of property rights is diametrically opposed to that which Hernando de Soto (see Chapter 1) found to be required to attain national prosperity. It is also counter to the American experience. Government must nurture property rights and the self-interest of citizens. In the process of protecting these things, government should craft incentives designed to encourage property owners to sustain natural systems. Such resource management is in the individual and national interest.
Policies designed to strike a proper balance can often be financed by licensing and permitting on current multiple use public lands, and by licensing and taxes based on a "user-pays" the owner principle for all lands to ensure scientific fact collection and management programs. One need only look to the past 100-year history throughout the United States on both public and private land of hunting, fishing, trapping, grazing, logging, and other such resource use and management to see the wisdom and successful history of such an approach.
Figure 2 The federal government already owns or controls 33 percent of the United States, most of it in the Western states. States and counties own another 9 percent. America does not need more public land.
Many in the United States believe that public land is highly desirable because it ostensibly provides public benefits. What most do not realize is that the federal government already owns or oversees 33 percent of the American landscape. State and local governments own nearly 10 percent, for a total government ownership of over 40 percent. Increasingly, such public lands are being shut down and management programs dismantled because of extreme philosophies that attempt to equate human dignity with animal ownership. It is also becoming obvious to many that government has effectively become the worst manager of land in the United States as well as other parts of the world. Because of the recent quasi-religious belief that "nature knows best" and that human natural resource uses such as logging are intrinsically "bad," millions of acres of federal forest lands in the West have accumulated enormous fuel loads. In 1988, the spectacular Yellowstone National Park fires burned 36 percent of the Park at such high temperatures that they seriously and adversely affected the replacement succession of plants.7
Fourteen fire fighters died on Storm King Mountain, Colorado in 1994. In 2000 Americans witnessed the incineration of 6.6 million acres of forestlands on television in blazing color. While the forest burned, U.S. Forest Service biologists argued and dithered over whether they could permit fire lines and fire retardant slurry drops to contain the fire. Four firefighters died in Washington the following year as biologists once again prevented desperately needed slurry drops. What delayed them? These biologists argued for hours whether the fire retardant slurry might harm the endangered Bull Trout. Meanwhile, the fires vaporized those streams and boiled the Bull Trout. By 2002, over 6 million acres burned taking 14 lives. The 2003 California fires alone claimed over 20 lives.
In spite of the billions of dollars spent to advance these preservationist schemes to protect the ecosystems of the earth, they are not working. In his book, Playing God in Yellowstone, environmentalist Alston Chase found that instead of creating healthy ecosystems, the preservationist approach utilized in the Wildlands Project and Convention on Biological Diversity was, in fact destroying them. "I fully expected," reflects Chase, "to find that [ecosystem management] did indeed preserve natural values. Instead I discovered that Yellowstone was losing critical vegetation and wildlife, and that the cause of this decline was precisely the 'environmental' philosophy itself...."8 Chase then states what caused the failure of ecosystem management, "By 1987...the 'hands-off' form of preservation was unofficial U.S. policy, wreaking havoc on a host of plants and animals"9 that require grassy, brushy and young forest habitats that follow man-caused disturbances.
This nature knows best philosophy almost caused the extinction of species such as the California condor ranging from Santa Barbara, California to the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Every possible effort was made to save the species. Since it was reputedly a very shy animal (since disproved), wilderness areas were created to keep human activity away from the birds. Without disturbance such as grazing and ranching, however, the grass and low brush grew into tall brush and scrub oak, eliminating the very habitat that was critical to the condors. By 1965 the wild population of condors had dropped to 80 - 120 birds. By the spring of 1986 only six remained, with just one breeding pair.
By "seeking to 'preserve habitat,' conservationists created 'Wilderness' or 'Wildlands' conditions that diminished and even eliminated the early plant successional stages - open meadow and savannas - on which the bird was dependent."10 The only thing that saved the condor from certain extinction was a captive breeding program launched in 1980s with the last wild bird taken captive in 1987. The breeding program has been very successful and by 2004 there were 214 birds, with 90 released back into the wild - of which are in Arizona and 5 in Baja California. By 2004 another 24 awaited release.11 Today, the National Park Service touts how curious and fond of people the condors are in Grand Canyon National Park tourist sites.
There is a better way to attain sustainability of both natural resources and human dignity other than the nature knows best concept of ecosystem management. Ecosystem management increasingly oppresses communities by strengthening a remote central government. Contrary to the popular belief that property rights cause ecological harm, all evidence suggests that property rights can enhance sustainable development. On the other hand, when ignorance prevails, government is corrupt or land is cheap and abundant, the self-interest and greed of unprincipled individuals will result in unsustainable ecological harm. The reason is obvious. If land is too expensive to replace, and landowners depend on such land year after year to generate a living, they will naturally take care of that land to ensure that it will continuously produce a living. Even if a landowner plans to sell their land, they will desire to maximize the selling price by making sure that the land is in the best possible condition and producing at a maximum rate.
A free press and an educated citizenry remedy ignorance. An educated and free people who guard and defend their rights avoid corrupt government. Private property rights zealously protected by ownership and sustainable use minimize cheap (and therefore misused) land. The role of government is to protect and encourage these rights that benefit the common good. More and more people in the world are becoming educated. UNESCO estimates that illiteracy in the developing world has fallen from about 75 percent in the early part of the 1900s to below 20 percent among the youth of today.12 Farmers and land managers in developing nations can be taught how to manage their land to minimize ecological damage with minimal bureaucracy and cost.
The second reason for past damage to ecosystems - cheap and readily available land - is now a thing of the past. Land is becoming too expensive to treat with callous disregard - except, it seems, when it comes to use of public land. Almost all environmental damage during the past fifty years is not from misuse of private land, but from government infringements of private property rights and expansion of public property rights in things such as timber or pasturage or wildlife that are held in trust by government for the benefit of all citizens.
Some blame the greed and the self-interest of property owners for causing environmental harm to America's air and water. That accusation is not only inaccurate, it is purposely misleading. Ironically, it was because no one owned the air or waterways that they were polluted. It was because no one owned the land that America's public lands were grossly mismanaged over a hundred years ago. It was the natural consequence of the Tragedy of the Commons, in which no one owns anything. Theoretically, according to the theory of the Tragedy of the Commons, everyone owns the commons. But since there was no ownership interest, there was no motivation to care for or optimize property that was held in common with the millions of other citizens. There was no reward for doing a better job or being more creative, so there was no incentive to do a better job. Everyone sinks to the lowest common denominator, the economic structure stagnates, and the infrastructure collapses.
The Tragedy of the Commons also explains to a large degree why communism and Marxism have been such dismal failures, especially regarding the environment.13 In communism, there is no motivation to protect the environment\u2014as was evidenced by the environmental devastation found in Eastern Europe and Russia once the Iron Curtain and the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990s.
Without the guaranteed right of private, transferable, unencumbered, legally protected property, a person cannot have liberty, build wealth, leave something for his children, get bank loans using land or property as collateral, or build real prosperity. It has been argued that there can be no true freedom for anyone if people are dependent upon the state for food, shelter, and other basic needs. When the state and not individuals own the fruits of the citizens' labors, nothing is safe from being taken by either a democratic majority or a tyrant. This is neither just nor wise. As noted in the book, Saviors of the Earth, "individuals, as government dependants, are ultimately powerless to oppose any infringement on their rights...due to the absolute government control over the fruits of their labor."14
Nowhere was this more apparent than in the former Soviet Union where all property belonged to the state. No one could speak out against the government for fear of their family being evicted, or their job taken away by the local communist commissar. The founding fathers of America recognized this fundamental principle when John Adams said, "The moment that the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. Property must be sacred or liberty cannot exist."15 (Italics added for emphasis) Noah Webster may have said it best:
Let the people have property, and they will have power - a power that will for ever be exerted to prevent a restriction of the press, and abolition of trial by jury, or the abridgement of any other privilege.... Wherever we cast our eyes, we see this truth, that property is the basis of power; and this, being established as a cardinal point, directs us to the means of preserving our freedom.16 (Italics added)
For people in developing nations, there are two prerequisites to having political power: electrical power and property. Sustainable development precepts as envisioned by Agenda 21 and the U.N. would deny them both. Government control of property rights shifts all power into the hands of U.N. bureaucrats, strong central governments, and their NGO partners. Without property rights, the world's poor will forever be impoverished, diseased, miserable, dying early, and powerless to do anything to improve their lives.
James Madison addressed this principle when he said that "Government is instituted to protect property of every sort; as well as that which lies in the various rights of individuals.... this being the end of government, that alone is a just government, which impartially secures, to every man, whatever is his own."17 As a consequence when the first Ten Amendments to the United States Constitution were ratified, the Fifth Amendment was included to guarantee protection of private property: "...nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."
Inalienable property rights are historically the bedrock of the American system of government. The government could take private property through eminent domain for a public USE, but it had to pay for it. Instead of protecting citizens, however, environmental regulations are used to systematically strip landowners of their right to use their property without payment of any compensation - often with enormous loss of property value to the owner. Agenda 21 proposes doing so for UNUSED land. This approach is exemplified in the United States by the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The ESA implement CITES (Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species) and four other U.N. treaties that became "the law of the land" when signed and ratified by the United States. This lesson alone has caused great distress in the United States and accounts for the enormous skepticism Americans feel when the subject of any new U.N. Conventions or Treaties are broached or even rumored. Today, such U.N. proposals are viewed as intrinsically flawed by many Americans.
The freedom to own property and develop it for the benefit of its owner is a key reason for the societal prosperity and economic strength of the United States. The right of private property allows creativity, innovation and risk-taking to find a "better way" to do or make something in a manner that is not possible in a heavily regulated society operating under heavy government mandates.
Conversely, in a tightly-controlled society, a misguided yet politically active and powerful minority who do not like urban sprawl, or property owners, or who believe certain human activities overload the ecological system, or who oppose all animal use or animal ownership, can force the passage of laws to implement their vision of the "public good." These laws deny landowners who happen to have the last remaining open space, the right to develop their land to its full economic potential. As a result, these landowners unjustly bear the total cost of what the rest of society demands in the heat of the moment or imagined imperative. If society seeks to attain a public good, such as preventing urban sprawl, or protecting the environment from the cumulative effects society has created, it should be made to justify its actions and provide the financing for it. If society cannot afford to pay for the public good, it merely indicates that society places a lower priority on it than on something else it is willing to pay for. Never should the responsibility for acquiring public goods be borne on the backs of a few hapless landowners.
At the heart of Agenda 21's "sustainable development" is the concept of biological diversity. Advocates of this concept argue that in order to maintain biodiversity, government must employ sustainable practices. Conversely, to attain sustainability, biodiversity must be maintained or enhanced. From that circular logic comes the incorrect assumption that urban sprawl, increased population pressure, and other human activities result in the destruction of biodiversity. This destruction, in turn, imperils the sustainability of ecosystems and therefore the earth.
As noted in the discussion of poverty above, Germany and England have some of the highest population densities per square kilometer in the world, yet have healthy, non-natural habitats. The reason for this phenomenon? Healthy ecosystems do not have to be "natural" or pristine, they should be diverse in their species composition and resilient in the variety of successional plant stages available to animals as sustainable uses are accomplished throughout any natural system. Variety, not monolithic systems, is the key to biodiversity.
Four primary features above and below the ground comprise biodiversity:
Plant species define the horizontal and vertical components that then in turn provide the habitat and niches for other plant, animal and fungi species. Therefore, an ancient forest is not always necessary to produce the habitat needed for many species that are found in ancient forests.18 Other forest conditions may often duplicate the horizontal and vertical structure needed by such species to live.
Another anomaly in the "increase" and "maintain" biodiversity argument is the hostility toward, and failure to accept, the movement, arrival, and departure of plant and animal species in our world. As conditions of climate and human activity evolve and transportation vectors increase, "non-native" or "invasive" species appear with greater frequency. They, more often than not, "increase bio-diversity" and environmental resiliency. Only when they are exceptionally harmful should they be controlled by large-scale programs as would be the case with harmful native species such as brown recluse spiders or poison ivy. In all other cases, local communities should weigh their harmful and beneficial aspects and apply control regimes or restrictions if needed.
Supporters of Agenda 21 and the Biodiversity treaty unjustifiably and repeatedly use species extinction to justify state regulation of land, property, and human activities to achieve their vision sustainable development. Predictions of the extinction of 40,000 species a year are found in many key United States and United Nations documents. Yet Norman Myers picked that number out of thin air in his book The Sinking Ark: A New Look at the Problem of Disappearing Species:
...Let us suppose that, as a consequence of this man-handling of natural environments [the clearing of tropical forests], the final one-quarter of this century witnesses the elimination of 1 million species - a far from unlikely prospect. This would work out during the course of 25 years, at an average extinction rate of 40,000 species per year, or rather over 100 species per day.19
It is obvious that Myers picked 40,000 species per year merely as a propaganda ploy. There is no evidence to support such a claim. None.
On the other hand, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has determined that prior to 1600, the background extinction rate was estimated to be about two species per decade. This increased to thirteen to twenty per decade from 1600 to 1850, then skyrocketed to over 100 per decade from 1850 to 1950. Inexplicable to those proposing radical solutions today, it then plummeted in the last half of the twentieth century to just over a dozen per decade and then down to three per decade after 1980.20
The decline in extinction after 1950 came before the Endangered Species Act in the U.S. and appears to have been driven by an public becoming increasingly educated and concerned about the importance of species status and abundance. Today, while diligence must be maintained, the threat to endangered species is a problem that is more manageable than at any time in history.
Rather than 40,000 extinctions annually, the true figure is perhaps closer to 3-5 per decade. Yet, the United States continues to impose a very harsh Endangered Species Act that is used to arbitrarily deny people the use of their property without any compensation from the society that created the problem in the first place. The same is true world-wide where developed nations and UN bureaucracies seek to impose "solutions" to the natural resource issues of lesser developed sovereign nations.
Nations do not need such harsh laws to protect biodiversity. As long as the mosaic of different habitats is found over an entire landscape, most species will continue to flourish. Neither biodiversity nor sustainability is threatened.21 Whether a forest is harvested using the much maligned clearcutting harvesting technique or selective cutting based on age or species, biodiversity and sustainability are not necessarily harmed with the knowledge we have available today. In the midst of this reality, a formerly extinct species of giant woodpecker was recently "rediscovered" in 2005 after 60 years of benign neglect in the southern United States bottomland forests. These forests have been logged and farmed and hunted and grazed during and long before the woodpeckers reputed demise. The natural forests of an area, for instance, may have had less than 5 percent in open grassland or meadows, more in coniferous forests and the majority in hardwood forests upon settlement. As people farmed and pastured the area, grasslands began to occupy the majority of the landscape, while hardwood and conifer woodlots made up the balance. The percentages and the species living in them have changed dramatically, but the various habitats found within the mosaic that is the entire landscape still exist and are still healthy.
Within cities, ornamental trees and shrubs in landscaped residential areas provide an amazing amount of diverse habitat. City parks and golf courses provide even more. Golf courses are becoming increasingly important as managers devise regimes to minimize water, fertilizer, and pesticide use while providing increased vertical and horizontal diversity between fairways. This sort of vertical and horizontal habitat structure often cannot be produced in city parks because of human safety concerns. Since urban and developed areas occupy only 6 percent of the United States landscape, urban sprawl has had little or no impact on sustainable development nationally. Documented impacts are invariably local concerns amenable to local solutions arrived at by local communities.
Whether so-called "natural processes" are occurring, or whether there is "old growth" in these stands has little to do with optimizing diversity and sustainability. In fact, research has demonstrated that valuable and potentially threatened species requiring grassy or brushy fields can be lost or diminished because natural processes leading to old-growth is allowed to occur.22 Therefore, human disturbance can actually enhance biodiversity and, as a result, sustainability. Generally, the greater the disturbance of a landscape the better the diversity - especially when a mosaic of a variety of habitats or plant successional stages persists over time.
Holistic Resource Management has produced spectacular results in arid habitats. Often, management plans recommend an increase in the number of cattle or level of timber harvesting in order to improve habitat health or to benefit certain desirable species or discourage harmful species.23 If the preservationist "solutions" called for in the Convention on Biological Diversity had been applied (see above) in those situations, ecological decline and the diminishment of local economies and communities would have resulted.24
In summary, dissemination of and support for the principles of property rights and free enterprise for the preservation of biodiversity through sustainable resource uses and the fostering of human dignity are the only rightful role and concern of the U.N. and central governments worldwide.
Current solutions contained in various international treaties and United Nations goals are often based on incorrect biological principles and will generally threaten, rather than help, species and ecosystem health. This is because they depend upon a highly bureaucratized system of protection and management diametrically opposed to time proven application of private property rights and the historical experience of American success.
Sustainable development practices calling for vast tracts of wilderness and a reduction in human activity are necessary only in rare instances, and can actually be harmful and counterproductive in most circumstances. There is no basis for creating vast tracts of interconnecting wilderness as most current sustainable development practices recommend. Biodiversity and habitat health can be optimized using existing scientifically proven management practices. Research clearly shows that application of time-tested scientific management practices on forest and range habitats enhance biodiversity and habitat health. In fact, sustainable natural resource uses providing maximum benefits to local and national economies, local communities, and human dignity and human justice should be the emphasized goal.
Property rights of landowners actually enhance sustainable development while common ownership or control through regulation diminishes it. As thoroughly discussed in Chapter 1, Hernando de Soto and Joseph Stiglitz understood that full and protected property rights are the cornerstone of wealth creation, freedom and liberty. They also provide landowners an incentive not to harm their land so they can preserve and enhance their dignity and standard of living year after year. Property rights allow such property owners to be creative in finding new ways to use land while simultaneously sustaining the environment. The wide diversity of societal goals and natural resource management practices utilized by landowners invariably results in a good cross section of biodiversity and thus sustainability of natural resources as well as human dignity and progress.
Conversely, public ownership of land or its excessive oversight through regulation often invokes the "Tragedy of the Commons" in which no one is responsible for, or benefits from, good management. Thus minimum or aberrant management is applied resulting in environmental damage and loss to local and national interests. This, unfortunately, is the preferred solution being advanced by the U.N. These "one-size-fits-all" laws, however, provide no incentive to produce either a better product from the land or protect the environment more effectively and cheaply.
Urban sprawl is not a threat to sustainable development - especially in the USA. Urban and developed areas occupy only 6 percent of the United States. This can be verified by anyone flying across the U.S. and indeed most other parts of the world. While some may not like the appearance and driving requirements that urban sprawl can create, residential areas offer a rich diversity of habitat conditions that provides more diversity than is generally assumed. Most urban areas are surrounded by rural or semi-rural land that complements the biodiversity mosaic in any given region, even in the more highly populated nations.
Environmental laws should be based on and enforce the historic common law principle, "harm and nuisance," whereby a person cannot pollute or throw their trash on their neighbor's land. Simply, no person can harm another's land, river or air. To do so has always been a violation of common law.
Less, not more land should be made public. Over 40 percent of the United States and a variable amount in other parts of the world is commonly owned or controlled by government. Except for relatively modest land areas specifically targeted for unique environmental purposes, history has demonstrated time and again that publicly managed land and water is often poorly cared for, resulting in environmental harm.
Overpopulation is not a problem, it is the challenge. Human population is the hope of future generations and the challenge for government whose job it is to nurture and protect all humans.
Notes and Citations
1 "In-situ Conservation."
Article 8(a). Convention on Biological Diversity.
2 V.H. Heywood and R.T. Watson, ed. Global Biodiversity Assessment, (London, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995). Section 22.214.171.124.3, p. 993.
3 Reed Noss, "The Wildlands Project," Wild Earth, 1992, p. 10.
4 V.H. Heywood and R.T. Watson, ed. Section 126.96.36.199 p. 773.
7 "Environmental laws curb firefighting," Washington Times, September 1, 2000.
8Alston Chase, In a Dark Wood; The fight over Forests and the Rising Tyranny of Ecology (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1995), p. xii.
9 Ibid, p 252.
10 Ibid, p. 253.
11 Ibid, and personal communication with Dr. James Beers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, retired.
12 Bjorn Lomborg. The Skeptical Environmentalist (London, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001), p. 81.
13 Michael Coffman, Saviors of the Earth? (Chicago: Northland Press, 1994), pp. 273-274.
14 Ibid, p. 2-3.
15 John Adams. "Defence of the
Constitutions of Government of the United States," Works, (1787)
6:8-9. In: C. Francis Adams, ed. (Little & Brown, Boston,
1850-1856). 1854. Vol. 14:560. Also In: Philip Kurland and Ralph
Lerner, Eds, The Founders Constitution (Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 1986), Ch. 16(17).
16 Noah Webster, "An
Examination into the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution,"
Pamphlets (October 10, 1787), p. 58-61. In: Philip Kurland and Ralph
Lerner, Eds, The Founders Constitution (Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 1986), Ch. 16(17).
17 4 Letters and Other Writings of James Madison, 174. Taken from the essay "Property" written in 1792 and published in the National Gazette, March 27, 1792. See also The Papers of James Madison 266 (Riland, ed, 1977).
18 Michael Coffman, The Philosophy, Politics and Science of Biodiversity (Bangor, ME: EPI Publishing, 1995), p. 21-22.
19 Norman Myer, The Sinking Ark: A New Look at the Problem of Disappearing Species (Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1979), pp 4-5.
20 B. Groombridge, ed., 1994 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals (Gland, Switzerland: IUCN, 1993).
21 Michael Coffman, The Philosophy, Politics and Science of Biodiversity p. 28.
23 Allan Savory, Holistic Resource Management. (Washington, DC: Island Press, 1988), 563 pages.
24 Michael Coffman, The Philosophy, Politics and Science of Biodiversity p. 20-21. [an error occurred while processing this directive]