Nature Bites Back

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How are shark and alligator attacks, mosquito infestations and the West Coast electricity shortage related? The main cause in each case is that great ideological enemy of mankind, environmentalism. Thanks to government controls, there are signs that nature is gaining the upper hand over man in the great biological struggle that we have been fighting since Adam and Eve.

Environmentalism is bound up with the theory that we should not kill animals, even sharks, because they have rights. Their rights trump our rights to swim safely. This is also true for other dangerous animals, provided that they are large or cute or have some other trait that captures our attention.

No one has claimed that mosquitoes have similar rights, though why not? Probably because it is too preposterous and the nasty little things are so inherently and obviously menacing. Or perhaps someone recalls that they are among the most ruthless disease carriers. Instead, we are told not to use pesticides against mosquitoes because the stuff poses dangers to other non-human life forms.

So too with electricity. We are told that drilling for oil and building power plants somehow scar the earth, that our consumption is coming at the expense of the earth and creating "global warming." No surprise, then, that we wake up one day to find the lights flickering and all things that use electricity suddenly not working as they should.

Now, if a person held environmental views privately, there would be no downside. A person who believes sharks and alligators have rights is free to put them in his swimming pool.

Or perhaps someone is against all things electric and gas, and so burns candles for light and eschews driving. He eats only non-perishables or things he grows. He would rather die than be hooked up to a respirator. Good riddance.

So too someone may think mosquitoes are fabulous and so breeds them in his living room — in which case the bugs shouldn’t be allowed out without a leash, lest the bug owner be shot.

But that’s not the way these people work. They want to force all the rest of us to adopt their sense of things, and the fastest way to do that is through the state. Egged on by fanatics, the legislature passes a bill that empowers a bureaucracy, which is protected by the courts. That’s modern green statism in a bug larva.

The case of mosquito control is a good example. Not a month goes by when some court somewhere doesn’t rule against the right of a company to manufacture an insecticide or spray it to kill the pests. Sure-fire killers like DDT are out, but so are new products deemed an environmental threat — the sole ground on which they are judged.

That is because the federal government and its courts tend to treat all pesticides, not as wonderful human inventions for beating back disease, but as pollutants, which are considered evil. (Increasingly, a bureaucrat’s pollutant is a consumer’s perfume.)

The EPA enforces the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodentcide Act (FIFRA) in a manner that makes it extremely difficult and costly to obtain approval for the use of a pesticide. To understand the kind of legal minefield that has been erected, see the legal page at PestLaw.com. The folks here keep up with every horrible detail.

The mosquitoes are doubtlessly very pleased by this litigation. But the rest of us are now at greater risk for disease. West Nile is just the beginning. If the civilization destroyers keep at it, we might find ourselves fighting back malaria. The darndest thing about it is that we know exactly how to kill these pests. It’s the government and its interest groups that are preventing us from doing it.

This is the price we pay for having given in to the fundamental premise that nature has any rights at all, much less rights that are superior to man’s. We only have to imagine what our forefathers would have done, confronting the vast wilderness in the New World, if they had to deal with the EPA. There would have been no development. In fact, the small population would have been wiped out.

We can thank God and good sense that they were permitted to tame nature to create the safest and most prosperous society in human history. And yet what used to be called "the battle against the elements" must be renewed in every generation. Mankind must be ever-diligent in its attempts to control or kill the sharks, the mosquitoes, and any other animal that threatens our well-being.

Controlling nature, beating it back, is disease control by another name. Albert Jay Nock once pointed to the grave irony that the craftiness that makes man superior to other life is so often turned toward destructive purposes. He didn’t live to see environmentalism, but the movement to permit free-range mosquitoes, alligators, and sharks is his irony taken to the most astonishing extreme. Larva or man: one must go.

Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. [send him mail], is president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama.

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