The Clare Spark Blog

November 25, 2012

The Tea Party and the Greens

American Progress, 1872

This blog responds to a blog on Pajamas Media, that has been revived today:

Tea Party activist, Walter Hudson, has written a blog for Pajamas Media that asserts this provocative claim: “Government owns much of the land in the United States and therefore controls its use. However, government should only own that which it needs to execute its proper function, which is the protection of individual rights. Public parks and wildlife reserves do not protect rights, and the land which constitutes them ought to be sold to private interests.”  Moreover, Hudson makes it explicit that the protection of the wilderness by the national government, is the rule that makes all his other scenarios abhorrent, even threatening as the road to mass starvation.

(Hudson was first motivated to write his blog by an LA Times article that transmitted the agenda of the National Resources Defense Council, as follows:  Curbing global warming, creating the clean energy future, reviving the world’s oceans, defending endangered wildlife and wild places, protecting our health by preventing pollution, ensuring safe and sufficient water, and fostering sustainable communities, but Hudson foregrounds the wilderness as [non-sacred] space to be sold to private interests.)

While it is true that the Green movement of the 1960s and 1970s was taken up by hard leftists as a rational entry into apparently unrelated social movements, the wholesale rejection of basic science that Hudson’s blog and many of the ensuing comments demonstrates, is not only alarming to me, but if representative of the new direction of the Republican Party, would likely result in a permanent statist regime in the United States, for we defy the immutable laws of science at our peril.  Sadly, most of us do not even know what they are, and yet we vote for, or oppose, environmental legislation that will determine the future of our species and all of life on Earth, and the journalists and bloggers we read are rarely trained in the relevant sciences, but they do abhor the “nanny state” as an unmerited intrusion on individual rights.

I have long criticized the term “nanny state” as absurd and sexist, proposing instead the term “watchbird state” (see No one has been more critical of illegitimate state power than I have been.  However, it is also true that American power was initially built on 1. Relatively unspoiled Nature that would be ruthlessly exploited and abused by many settlers as they industrialized and moved on West; and, later 2. The European wars of the 20th century that left America as the only great power still standing.

Thus “American exceptionalism,”so defended by segments of the Right, has the possibility of arrogance attached, unless it refers solely to a rational Constitution that encouraged a meritocracy (along with protection of the general welfare), but keep in mind that the “self-made” millionaires in finance and industry of the 19th century benefited from the virgin land, a rapidly expanding population of immigrants,  and during and after the Great War, from the errors of American rivals in Europe and elsewhere.

There are branches of “ecology” that appeal to mystics and to the counter-culture, for the promise of interdependence and harmony that some ecologists, especially deep ecologists (Kirkpatrick Sale was one such popular publicist), is attractive to those who imagine Nature as an inexhaustible source of nourishment, with adherence to “deep ecology” as a permanent return to the Breast or Womb. These constituents will not agree with Herman Melville, who famously described beauteous Nature as concealing “the charnel house within.” Similarly, there have been upper-class primitivists who idealized the social relations of indigenous peoples everywhere, imagining, with Diderot, that their preferred natives enjoyed freedom from puritanical (i.e. mother-imposed) strictures that excessively restricted sex and aggression. The point is to avoid “splitting” the conception of Nature as either entirely benign or entirely threatening, for Melville was possibly influenced by his resentment of a domineering mother.

I have been reading right-wing publications for many years now, and sense that many of its constituents do not possess a rational assessment of any authority whatsoever. It seems that some don’t want to be pushed around, even if the pushing is for their own good and that of their children.  This is infantile conduct.

Reasonable persons can differ on the role of the federal government versus more local entities versus individual choices, or even on whether or not global warming is man-made and reparable,  but what cannot be neglected is a rigorous education in the sciences, starting from the first grades onward.  As long as education is held hostage to persons with an anti-science agenda, we are digging our own graves.

For a related blog see


  1. With all due respect to your article, is there not abundant evidence that repression of science learning is every bit as much present on the left as opposed to the right? Is not the steady dumbing down of educational standards in US public schools as a result of curriculum emphasizing “self esteem” advocated by leftist academics and politicians is a far greater threat to the learning of science in our country than any of the mentioned offenses by rightist leaders?

    Comment by Allen Logue — December 3, 2012 @ 3:43 am | Reply

    • I would not call the “self-esteem” movement to be part of the “Left.” It is a policy dreamed up by social psychologists associated with the progressive movement to compensate for centuries of policies and images that deemed certain groups to be ugly and inferior. The 19th century was generally agreeable to science, but irrationalism is now the order of the day.
      In general, I try to specify groups within such broad categories as “Left” or “Right.” Each side in the culture wars is too diverse for easy labeling.
      What we now call “the Left” used to be understood as social democratic reformism, with no resemblance to Marxism or Marxist-Leninism.

      Comment by clarespark — December 3, 2012 @ 4:04 am | Reply

  2. Interesting blog entry. Thank you.

    Comment by Michael Meric — November 30, 2012 @ 5:50 pm | Reply

  3. Should you wish to have at hand, Ms. Spark, a quote from a noted scientist regarding the general lack of scientific knowledge as you expressed in your latest blog, you could hardly do better than this one from Carl Sagan, if you are not already familiar with it:

    “We live in a society absolutely dependent on science and technology and yet have cleverly arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. That’s a clear prescription for disaster.”

    — Quoted by Anne Kalosh in Hemispheres, Magazine of United Airlines (October 1994), from her interview article titled “Bringing Science Down to Earth”, reprinted beginning on page 99, specificially on page 100, in the book titled “Conversations with Carl Sagan,” Univ. Press of Mississippi, 2006 – 167 pages.

    To update Sagan’s comment, here is a news release on Feb. 15, 2011, from the News Service of the University of Michigan wherein Jon Miller, a researcher at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR), reported that, “In 1988, just 10 percent of U.S. adults had sufficient understanding of basic scientific ideas to be able to read the Tuesday Science section of The New York Times, … (then) By 2008, 28 percent of adults scored high enough to understand scientific ideas at that level.” However, Miller continued, “Despite the improvement, the American public has a long way to go …”

    Comment by Larry Grannis — November 25, 2012 @ 9:57 pm | Reply

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