"Nativism:" Naive or Necessary?

“The cry is for ‘nativism,’ a longing for the return of the natives to pre-European perfection. Our land is imagined to have been perfect when in the care of the American Indian, who was thought to roam these mountains and plains in pre-Adamite innocence. Most of us now understand that every brand of human has always been hard on every land in which he has lived — as the lands have always been hard on him.”
In the Boulder, Colorado Daily Camera, Gordon Wickstrom manages not to sound like a strident Darwinist while defending the early practitioners of fish planting. Still, after reading this, I wonder if the loss of one-fifth of all living species every thirty years is not enough to make even the most ardent “naturalist” wonder if we shouldn’t go to extraordinary measures to protect the diversity we still have. (If you care to examine the details, a link-rich Web page on species extinction is maintained on The Well by Dr. David Ulansey, Professor of Philosophy and Religion at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco.) I think it is fair to say that blithe romanticism has a place on neither side of the argument.

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  • I agree that it is naive to view wildlife management and ecological issues in this manner, but it is what is taught in every university in the Western world. Man is as much a part of the natural environment as a monkey, a spider, and a wolf…all of which also impact their environments in positive and negative ways. Arbitrarily picking some time in the past as the hallmark of perfection is definitely a romantic notion. It would make far more sense to try to preserve what we have today, than it does to try to undo several centuries of immigration and development.