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Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Off the deep end
Nicholas Kristof is one of the more liberal columnists at the New York Times, which unfortunately isn't saying much. Paul Krugman and Bob Herbert definitely are. William Safire and David Brooks definitely aren't (Safire could personally witness Saddam and Osama kill each other in a knife fight and would still believe they were working together). Thomas Friedman is supposedly a liberal, unless you consider his positions on the issues, especially Iraq. Maureen Dowd is the cutesy liberal--everything is a silly turn of phrase in her columns. If there's something important to say that she can't figure out how to say in a cutesy fashion, she won't say it.

Kristof, to his credit, usually provides some useful information in his columns. But his conclusions are frequently befuddling, and sometimes just completely absurd. Today's column, for instance (you knew I had a point coming sooner or later here!). Kristof argues that snowmobiles should be allowed in Yellowstone National Park:

President Bush's policy toward the environment has been to drill, mine and pave it, so it's understandable that environmentalists shriek when he pulls out a whetstone and announces grand plans for Yellowstone National Park.

Yet in the battle over snowmobiling in Yellowstone, it's Mr. Bush who is right. And, to me at least, the dispute raises a larger philosophical question: should we be trying to save nature for its own sake or for human enjoyment? Forgive my anthropocentrism, but I think humans trump the bison and moose.
Putting human interests first doesn't mean that we should despoil Yellowstone, or that we should drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or that we should allow global warming. We have a strong human interest in preserving our planet. But we should also allow ourselves to enjoy this natural world around us including the grandeur of Yellowstone in winter instead of protecting nature so thoroughly that it can be seen only on television specials.

Nick--we used to have nature all around us, and didn't need to go to Yellowstone or watch TV specials to see it. Human "enjoyment" has already trumped the bison and moose almost everywhere on the planet. Places like Yellowstone where wildlife has a fighting chance are few and far between. If people want to experience it, let them do so on nature's terms--on foot. Leave the friggin' snowmobiles out of there, even the cleaner, quieter four-cylinder models. We've overrun most of the planet; let the other species have something.