Monday, October 09, 2006

Screw Duncan Hunter: Deer and the Channel Islands

Duncan Hunter is among the worst members of Congress. This story of how he managed to derail National Park Service plans to eliminate non-native deer from the Channel Islands is classic.

Hunter has no say over the Park Service--his purview is defense. He managed to get an amendment in the military budget to ban the extermination of these deer. Why? It's hard to say exactly. My guess is that he wants to keep them open for his hunter friends who are also big campaign contributors. He's come up with some really loony excuses--his idea to make the park's deer hunting accessible for wounded veterans seems particularly nutty.

This has always been the problem with the way Congress operates. Hunter is so powerful that he can drive important policy without any knowing. Had the Times not covered this, it probably would have disappeared into the white noise without anyone noticing.

Why does it matter? The deer are non-native. Native ecosystems in California are almost completely gone. The Channel Islands are particularly sensitive. So long as the deer are on the land, the native oaks won't grow back. It's that simple. Now as a nation, I'm not sure that enough people care about these issues. Perhaps environmentalists have not made the argument that these things matter strongly enough. But flat out, these deer do not belong here. It's not as if deer are rare in the United States. But these deer are particularly sizable and rich hunters, more than a few of whom happen to be large contributors to the Republican Party, want to hunt them.

Particularly infuriating to this environmental historian is the argument made by one pro-hunting person who says, “The reality is, any kind of ecosystem evolves.” Funny, isn't it. The Republican Party will use Darwinism and evolution when it is convienent for them. They'll use Social Darwinism to justify their social and economic policies. They'll make something up about how nature works when it fits their anti-environmental purposes. But God forbid, people actually teach Darwinism in the schools so that people know what in the hell it is.

Plus, this argument is such a cop-out. Yes, ecosystems evolve. But with this logic, humans can do whatever they want to the Earth since it is just part of the natural evolution of things. This reminds me of the argument anti-environmentalists right-wingers often use out of the Book of Genesis, where God gives mankind free reign to dominate the Earth. This is a hopeless misunderstanding of this text, but it serves present right-wing political purposes. So does this kind of horrible mangling of evolution.

So I'd like to thank Duncan Hunter personally for such fine leadership on this issue. A real shining light of this wonderful Congress.