Jewish World Review Sept. 24, 2004 / 9 Tishrei, 5765

Thomas Sowell

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Green versus Black | Among the many luxuries that wealth can buy is insulation from reality — the most dangerous luxury of all. Another dangerous luxury is a sense of being one of the wonderfully special people with superior wisdom and virtue. Environmental extremism flourishes among those who can afford both luxuries.

Did you know that people in the wealthy San Francisco suburb of Sausalito, across the bay, own 80,000 acres of land in Kenya? What are they doing with it? They are setting it aside as a nature preserve, in order to keep poor people in Kenya from hunting animals for food on those 80,000 acres.

There are laments from Wildlife Works of Sausalito, the owners of the land, that poachers are hunting in this sacrosanct wilderness anyway and that 20 percent of the meat sold in Nairobi comes from animals killed in this preserve. According to the San Francisco Chronicle: "With half the population living below the poverty line, the temptation to poach for bush meat is strong."

What are rich people doing, in the first place, trying to stop poor people on the other side of the world from getting something to eat? They are feeding their own egos by hindering poor Africans from feeding themselves.

It's not a racial thing. The green zealots would stop anybody from doing anything they don't approve of. They talk grandly about "protecting" this, "preserving" that, or "saving" something else.

From what? From other people. Nor is this just a matter of buying up things to keep them out of other people's hands. Far more often, green zealots want the government to deprive other people of the right to use land or resources for their own purposes, rather than for the recreational or other purposes preferred by the green zealots.

They want bans on the building of housing under "open space" laws. They want "historical preservation" laws to keep old buildings — even an old racetrack — from being torn down, because that could be a prelude to building homes for other people.

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In the United States, those other people have just as much right to the "equal protection of the laws" under the Constitution. But what is the Constitution when the green zealots are on a crusade?

Denying other people the same rights that you claim for yourself is the essence of bigotry. People who call themselves environmentalists could more accurately be called green bigots.

Selfishness is never a pretty thing but it is at its ugliest when it masquerades as some kind of lofty nobility. That pose not only gets the green bigots good press, it also helps recruit the young and uninformed to their movement — especially the young who have been misinformed on college and university campuses.

There is another selfish aspect of the green bigots that the media never seem to discuss: Restrictions on the building of new housing raises the value of existing housing — and the leaders of the environmental movement usually already have theirs.

As David Whelan of Forbes magazine put it: "They preserve their 25 percent annual appreciation by extending everyone else's commute."

Every community has to have nurses, teachers, and policemen, but people in these occupations are seldom paid enough to be able to live where they work when local housing prices skyrocket because of laws banning the building of homes on most of the local land. That means commuting from far enough away to be able to afford a house or an apartment.

It is not just the poor who cannot live in the places where affluent environmentalists have political clout. People making a hundred grand a year often cannot afford to live in Palo Alto, adjacent to Stanford University, or in much of Marin County or San Mateo County, adjacent to San Francisco. Especially if they have a family to support.

These are all enclaves "protected" by the green bigots.

People with children are being forced out of these places so much that schools are being shut down for lack of students. The black population of these places is also declining, even though the total population is rising. But green trumps black.

What "protecting," "preserving," and "saving" mean is using the law to impose the will of the green bigots on others.

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JWR contributor Thomas Sowell, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, is author of several books, including his latest, "Applied Economics: Thinking Beyond Stage One." (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.) To comment please click here.


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© 2004, Creators Syndicate