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MANAGEMENT AS HOLY GRAIL

Instead of actually listening to what the professors in my natural resource classes said, I often count the occurrences of the word "manage" or a variant thereof. "Management," we are told, is the Holy Grail of natural resources professionals. Considering the multi-billion dollar budget of natural resource agencies, the cost of living on this Earth has risen considerably since the Pleistocene, when hand-eye coordination and well-calloused feet sufficed. Nowadays, one who questions the wisdom of redesigning the natural world to our specifications is an eco-radical, Luddite, or worse.

Our obsession with meddling in the ecological affairs of others derives from a larger cultural impulse that demands immediate gratification. Nothing is off-limits to being packaged, marketed, and presented to us as The Answer to life's inconveniences. For $24.95/month, you can manage your anger, personal finances, emotions, time, orgasms, marriages, and human resources (what does THAT term tell you?) The word is also a euphemism for more insidious activities. Boise Cascade proudly points to its massive stump-scapes as "responsible management." The public relations industry spends $30 billion/year to screw with your brain by, in its words, "managing the information and perceptions that bring business results." And when a corporation is held accountable for the blood on its hands, it initiates another round of lies, known as "crisis management" or "damage control."

Control has become the byword for modern urban life, and I suspect it is no coincidence that many people feel profoundly without meaning. A keen observer once remarked to a natural resources field class, "We have taken the chaos out of nature and put it into our own lives."

Our species is in desperate psychological need of non-management. The Wilderness Act is the most profound natural resources law ever passed. The Forest Service insists upon a pathetically small Wilderness designation in the Wasatch-Cache, as elsewhere, preferring instead a "roadless prescription," because Wilderness is radically visionary. It asks that we confront nature on its own terms. It recognizes that, no matter what our models say about the benevolence of our "management," we possess no right to screw with nature, because it is a non-consenting object of moral standing.

Ironically, a deliberate hands- off policy toward nature may become perfectly utilitarian. The frontier has had a profound effect on the American mind. But what becomes of our mind when the frontier is gone, when the last spark of mystery, intrigue, and wildness vanishes from our collective experience? What effect is had on the human psyche to know that nothing defies our presence, or that of a child who learns that looking skyward is hazardous? When we succeed in "managing" the last scrap of rainforest, tundra, and desert, we will have lost more than is measurable in board feet, visitor days, or AUMs. We will have ceased to be fully human.

Jim Steitz
Sierra Student Coalition
Utah State University

(Note: Jim Steitz is a good friend and focused activist who is finishing his BS in Environmental Studies as an A student, suggesting he has listened to some of what his professors have said!)


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