- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 18, 2004

First they destroyed the gasoline station, so you have to drive miles out of your way to get gas. Then they destroyed a parking lot. Now they want to destroy a dam and a reservoir supplying more than 2 million people with water.

No, these are not al Qaeda terrorists. These are our own home-grown fanatics — and the places mentioned are all in Yosemite National Park.

They call themselves environmentalists, but a more accurate term would be green bigots. What makes someone a bigot is his wish to deny other people the same rights he has. That is the hallmark of the environmental zealot.

Green bigots operate internationally, just like the more famous fanatics. They are trying to stop the building of a hydroelectric dam in Uganda and they have already got “nature preserves” created in various parts of Africa — which are vast lands where Africans are forbidden to hunt for food because the green bigots prefer keeping the land “natural.”

African economist James Skikwati in Kenya put the case against affluent Western environmental extremists very plainly: “Wealthy countries want the Earth to be green, the underdeveloped want the Earth fed…. What gives the developed nations the right to make choices for the poor?”

A hydroelectric dam in Uganda would bring electricity to millions of Africans, but it would annoy the delicate sensibilities of Berkeley environmentalists who like waterfalls.

By and large, the green bigots use politics, nuisance lawsuits and physical obstruction, rather than violence. But some booby-trap trees, threaten those who cut them with injury or death. And they use the media to spin their party line.

A recent newspaper story — headlined “Renaissance at Yosemite” — refers to new restrictions on visitors to Yosemite National Park, created at the urging of environmentalist groups. “The fight to get people out of cars and onto bikes and buses has been won after years of bitter wrangling,” the story says.

If people wanted to get out of their cars and onto bikes and buses, they could have done so at any time, without any wrangling. We are talking about green bigots forcing millions of Yosemite visitors to do what the green bigots want, rather than what the visitors themselves want. Such ego trips by coteries of self-exalting people are treated in the media as idealism, rather than the petty tyranny it is.

Making it a hassle to drive a car in Yosemite means letting the green bigots regiment visitors in buses. Instead of going where you want, when you want, you will go where the park bureaucracy wants to take you.

When you are in your own car, you can stop and get out to walk around when you see something you like, or just go to the bathroom when you need to. When you are regimented in buses, you can go only when and where the bus schedule permits. For children and the elderly especially, this can make needlessly stressful an otherwise enjoyable experience.

The last thing you can expect to learn from most media accounts of green bigots’ activities is other people’s objections to their power grabs. Instead, there is a whole vocabulary of misleading words papering over and sugarcoating the plain fact green bigots feel entitled to impose their vision at the cost of other people’s rights. Thus, it is called a “renaissance” to lose your right to choose what to do in Yosemite.

There is never a lack of excuses when people want to boss other people around. There are many vague and lofty words about a “fragile” or “sensitive” environment — but ask the green bigots for concrete criteria for determining if a particular environment is or is not “fragile” or “sensitive.” Then ask for hard evidence. You are unlikely to get any.

The story about the Yosemite “renaissance” speaks of the new changes having “restored” the Merced River. I have watched the river flow and cascade through Yosemite more than 20 years without seeing anything that needed to be “restored.” Maybe honesty needs to be restored.

Thomas Sowell is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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