Millions in this country and elsewhere are saddled with a false premise about the natural world., which has become the lens through which they view themselves and all mankind. It is the misperception that the Earth was a small blue and green paradise until humankind came along and began spoiling it.

The truth is that the Earth has always been a place of breathtaking beauty, kaleidoscopic variety, nearly infinite dangers and cruel hard realities. In the natural world, a sip of sparkling clear surface water can cause any number of bacteria-induced deadly diseases; a scratch from a thorn-bush can lead to life-threatening infection. The Earth abounded with hazards for all living things long before humans started clawing their way toward the establishment of civilizations.

Volcanic activity spews poisonous toxins into the atmosphere. Glacial ages, lasting hundreds of thousands of years, repeatedly destroy huge forested areas of the planet, such as those of North America and Eurasia. Each time this happens, countless trees, other plants and animals that previously thrived disappear and die beneath the mile-thick ice and snow cover.

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The Sahara Desert, a wasteland of shifting sand as large as the United States, was a product of natural forces. Mankind in all of its follies, its chaos and misadventures has never, and probably could never, match the destruction to which nature herself subjects this planet and all that inhabit it.

Yet, the false premise persists, fed and nurtured by a superficial dogma and emotion-driven popular culture. Changes to the planet resulting from human endeavors have come to be considered artificial, alien and illegitimate. It seems to be forgotten that humans are as much a part of nature as anything else.

A beaver builds a dam causing a stream to backup and form a lake; it is natural. A few trees topple, blocking the stream and forming a lake: It is natural. But if the same lake was formed through the actions of a human, it is somehow deemed unnatural.

The indoctrination into the false presmise began decades ago. Children watched TV nature specials about species of all sorts battling to survive in delicately balanced environments. Again and again, mankind was portrayed as the villain, bringing about changes that endangered the creatures.

The children who watched these dramatized presentations were not taught that species becoming extinct because they cannot adapt to changing environments (often brought about by other species) is one of the natural world’s processes. Not taught was that far more than 90 percent of species that have inhabited this planet have gone extinct, with less than 1 percent of those extinctions occurring after humans came on the scene.

In our modern society most people know next to nothing about how basic necessities of daily life come their way. The complexities behind clean water flowing from their faucets, electricity lighting their rooms, their car engine starting when the key is turned: They are mysteries to all, except those who specialize in the specific fields involved.

This condition, under which people receive services, goods and benefits without understanding how it all comes about, ripens them for manipulation. There is a general disconnect from how the real world functions and from how those functions are used for the common good, not only of mankind but often for other species as well. It is this disconnect that predisposes so many to accept the false premise that human activity is a scourge upon the Earth. And those most protected from the dangers and ravages of the natural world are the ones most easily misled.

Classical environmentalism is about humans being good stewards of the Earth’s natural resources. Unfortunately this has been replaced by a religious movement masquerading as science-centered environmental activism. The core values of this movement are based on a mythical characterization of the natural world as a sort of Eden. Mankind’s harnessing of the planet’s natural resources is viewed as the original sin. Redemption is possible only if the sin is confessed and the sinner becomes committed to restoring the Earth to its natural condition.

Behind this edifice of ecological morality, cynical interests stoke the evangelical fervor for their own political and financial purposes. Our best defense comes from not only understanding the nature of the Earth but also from understanding the nature of mankind.

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Some institutions of higher education have cracked down on free speech. Even in Michigan, universities have speech codes that restrict students’ speech, campus groups have prevented speakers from delivering talks and administrators have stopped individuals from handing out certain literature.

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