By most accounts, Al Gore’s "Global Earth" concert was an underwhelming success. While large crowds turned out for the concerts, most of them were there for the music and understood little of the message that came with it. Outside the USA, the young crowds blinked blandly at Gore’s impassioned message and failed to grasp or even consider his urgency. Many didn’t even know who he was. Rock bands arrived by jet and limo and left the same way. Madonna fake strummed her guitar and then went back to her castle.

Worldwide, television audiences were meager at best. According to the BBC, ratings in Britain were abysmal. In the US, the three hour event finished last in the Nielsons.

So was it the hypocrisy of the event that turned people off or is it simply a matter of global apathy?

I vote the latter.


I’ve always considered myself a conservationist, but I’m not sure my reasons for conserving have been as lofty or high-minded as the likes of many affluent mainstream environmentalists. I’ve conserved out of necessity more than any politically-driven agenda. I don’t conserve to be hip; I conserve because I can’t afford to do otherwise. I have determined to live modestly and conservatively so I can still screw off and be lazy, as is my preference.

I live in a small house because it’s easy to maintain. I can vacuum the cat hair in ten minutes. It’s economical to heat in the winter and easy to cool in the summer. I live alone and don’t use much water because I have better things to do than worry about my lawn. I go to the laundromat once a month, whether I need to or not. I flush every third time on average, because I forget to flush the other two times. And no, I don’t put the seat down, which has nothing to do with energy conservation but is an enlightening aside and a warning to any woman out there who wants to make toilet seat positioning an issue, political or otherwise.

Lately I’ve been having some thoughts on conservation, however, that most of you will find shocking, even heretical. Recently I scanned the headlines, searching for conservation stories and what I discovered was noteworthy. In almost every instance, proposed water and energy conservation measures were always linked to future population growth.

In Tucson, Arizona, for example, a report noted that, "the population to be served by Tucson Water is projected to increase from 638,936 in 2000 to about 1.2 million in 2030 and 1.3 million in 2050." It determined that massive conservation efforts must be initiated soon, in order to deal with the population explosion that is already underway.

In Utah, the story is the same; our population is expected to double by 2020. The Utah Rivers Council notes that, "the State of Utah Division of Water Resources plans on meeting future water needs for Utah through a combination of water conservation and development of new water sources." URC proposed "meeting future water needs by raising the water conservation goal to 30%, a 5% increase over the current goal, combined with other creative approaches such as water reuse and agricultural water transfers as a more cost-effective approach to meeting future water needs."

So what is the broader, more long term purpose of conservation? Clearly, it’s not so we can somehow bring this consumptive madness to a halt and get back to our simpler roots. And it’s definitely not so we can have more time to goof off. No indeed. According to all these studies and warnings, our duty to conserve is based on the absurd notion that we have some obligation to maintain a future population almost double what it is now.

We’re conserving in 2007 so that we can help assure the very nightmarish future we fear the most—a nation and a planet so overpopulated as to eventually assure its destruction.

Consider these observations on population by former Senator Gaylord Nelson, the founder of Earth Day, in a landmark 1997 essay,

What Will Happen to Wildlife Habitat?

Population growth has already destroyed half the nation’s wetlands and the major portion of habitat for birds and other animals. There is something wrong with a society which remains complacent while this kind of irrational destruction erodes its life-sustaining resource base. With twice the current population, will there be left any wilderness areas, remote and quiet places, and habitat for songbirds, waterfowl and other wild creatures? Certainly not very much.

New Cities, Suburbs, Housing Developments:

At the rate of urbanization since 1977, the urbanized area of the United States will double by about 2050 from 155,000 square miles to about 312,000. This is an area larger than Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan combined. If we permit that to happen, what will our country look like and be like?

National Parks, National Forests, Wildlife Refuges, BLM Lands and Wilderness Areas:

With twice the population, what will happen to the last of our great natural areas which are already experiencing serious degradation from population pressures? The short answer is, they will be gone--rare and special places like our national parks and national forests will evolve into modified theme parks and Disneylands--the process is already underway.

Despite water and energy conservation efforts, population growth will still cause urban, suburban and exurban sprawl. Turning down your sprinklers ultimately only assures more lawns. Cranking down the thermostat only guarantees more air conditioners. Does anyone out there in the environmental community advocate smaller homes? Or fewer gadgets? Of course not. How could they? Environmental groups are funded by some of the most consumptive billionaires on the planet.

Take a drive past the Moab hospital to see David Bonderman’s latest 15000 square foot mansion. Bonderman, one of the most successful corporate raiders in the world, also sits on numerous environmental boards and has been called "the greatest conservationist in America today," by one of his donor recipients, the Grand Canyon Trust.

As sprawl consumes more habitat, what chance does wildlife have by the end of the century, if population growth is left unchecked?

As the demand for controlled adventure recreation grows, as a population so disconnected from its natural past, yearns for distractions, ‘theme park Disneylands" will continue to proliferate across the country.

And so..we’re supposed to CONSERVE, so all this can come to pass?

Are we insane?

If we truly want a better future for our grandchildren, is this the path to take? If I thought Bonderman’s greedy habits and those of his pals were intended to bring all this madness to a precipitous end, I could almost admire them. Maybe that’s why the Grand Canyon Trust gushes such praise. Somehow though, I doubt it.

Instead, even the allegedly most enlightened among us, the leaders of the environmental movement, continue to convince us that we can save the planet by using energy efficient shower heads and buying a Prius.



So if all this grim news is stressing you to the limit, I have some good news. Relief is as close as your very own STRESS ERASER. Never mind simply breaking away from the Madness and taking in a nice sunset. According to the inventor of this latest gadget, "ergotropic tuning is a biological process that changes the way the nerves in your body respond to stress...It causes your nerves to respond faster and more strongly to stress."

What to do???

The makers of the STRESS ERASER have discovered that, "the secret to stress-free living is found in reversing ergotropic tuning. From a biological perspective, there is no other way."

Just 15 minutes a night, before bed, and we can all "experience the joys of stress-free living as soon as possible."

The makers of this product guarantee that "you will feel good again within 30 days," or they’ll refund your money. All this for only $299 (plus shipping and handling).

Nevermind that the STRESS ERASER is just one more 21st Century electronic device that provides a technological solution to spiritually and morally bankrupt hearts, consumes electricity and requires the consumption of more natural resources just to develop and construct it.

You can visit their web site at: www.StressEraser.com for your free trial.

Just in case you think I’m making this shit up.


NOTE: I first penned this more than five years ago. An update follows...JS

With most of the peoples of the world angry at each other, and as we sit on the brink of yet another war, is it any wonder that a sense of hopelessness and despair permeates the battered spirit of any human who takes the time to actually think about our dilemma? Nothing ever seems to get better. We just run the cycle, over and over. Recently I picked up a copy of LIFE magazine and turned to its table of contents. The editorial for that issue was titled: "Palestine--Will we ever find a solution?" The story recounted recent acts of senseless violence and wondered if political manueverings on both sides could ever result in a peaceful outcome. A few pages later, a reviewer criticized the inane and violent aspects of recent media fare. Have we reached rock-bottom when it comes to bad taste and displays of physical horror, the writer asked.

The answer to both questions was--NO. I was reading a LIFE magazine from 1948. A half century later, resolving the "Palestine Problem" is just as elusive, the violence more intense than ever. In the media, beautiful young women are eating horses’ rectums on national television ("Fear Factor," NBC) and depictions of violent behavior have never been more graphic or disgusting.

So is there any place on this planet that offers hope? Is there any tiny corner of our Earth where resolution comes easy, where our differences are set aside? Where we are all equal in each other’s eyes? My friends...there is such a place and it was right under our noses...

The four-way stop.

It is truly a vortex of civility in a world-gone-mad. Total strangers, who could be savage adversaries in another venue, come together at a four-way stop and resolve what could otherwise be chaotic confusion. It doesn’t matter if the other three participants in this Great Experiment are of a different race, or political persuasion, or sexual orientation. It doesn’t matter what kind of car they’re driving or what their economic background is. We are not only all equal at a four-way, we are incredibly and consistently respectful of each other. We know how the four-way stop works and we live by that creed of civility.

So even Al Gore would yield to Ralph Nader at a four-way in Tallahassee. Rush Limbaugh and Al Franken can find resolution there. Al Sharpton and Trent Lott. Dr. Laura and Madonna. George W. Bush and Saddam Hussein...

Perhaps that’s stretching it a bit.

Of course there is that occasional deviant, who fails to abide by the rule, who takes someone else’s turn in the rotation, but even that aberrant behavior has a bonding effect on the others. When that rare event occurs and a violation of the code is observed, note the all-knowing glances that the other drivers give to each other. "That poor fool," their eyes say to each other in quiet nods and gestures. "He is not a member of the House of Civility." But even then, they forgive him and go on.

We humans may quarrel endlessly and kill each other and lay waste to the planet and show utter disregard for everything worthy of respect. But if you ever despair to the point of giving up hope, get in your car and find the nearest four-way stop and rejuvenate your spirit. It’s the place where we all can just get along.

EPILOGUE: Last month, while visitng friends and family in Kentucky, two drivers simultaneously arrived at a four-way stop. Unable to determine who should go first, one of the men drew a semi-automatice pistol. So did the other guy. When it was over, one of them was dead and the other in custody. So much for the vortex of cilvility.


Bert Fingerhut was as influential a member of the mainstream environmental community as you might ever hope to find. Until recently he sat on the board of directors of several environmental organizations, including the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, the Grand Canyon Trust and the Wilderness Society.

He is also incredibly wealthy. If being a good environmentalist can be measured by one’s monetary contributions, then Bert had few peers. But Fingerhut resigned suddenly from those boards last spring.

On May 13, Bert Fingerhut pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud. According to the Wall Street Journal, Fingerhut "made $12 million over the past decade by trading in the IPOs of mutual savings banks. He targeted banks that were about to go public and used the names of friends and relatives to open accounts at the banks." He targeted over 65 banks.

He was already rich...how much more did he need?

As part of the settlement, he agreed to return $11 million in illegally obtained profits and faces 57 to 71 months in jail. Sentencing is in September. U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie said, "Fingerhut used his Wall Street acumen to concoct a cunning scheme. He made millions by robbing everyday depositors of an opportunity to which they were entitled and deserved."

Bert Fingerhut is just one of a small group of stunningly wealthy benefactors who finance America’s environmental organizations. Is this what John Muir had in mind? Or Thoreau? Or Abbey? How many of these environmental groups benefited from Fingerhut’s illegal activity, albeit unwittingly?

This publication has, for years, expressed the concern that mainstream environmentalists have lost touch with their grassroots. What more proof can we offer? "Our side" complains bitterly about George Bush and his cronies, but where is the outrage from Utah environmentalists, when one of their leaders commits a crime? Shouldn’t that be the point? That we hold our leaders to a higher standard?

Somebody show me the difference between the "good guys" and the "bad guys." Please...

Follow these links to read more about Bert Fingerhut's guilty plea:




The Zephyr contacted SUWA board members Ted Wilson, Bill Hedden, Richard Ingebretsen and Terry Tempest Williams for comment on Fingerhut's guilty plea. We heard only from Ms. Williams who offered this for the record:

This news has saddened the entire conservation community. These actions came as a cold shock. Bert Fingerhut has been one of the great defenders of America's redrock wilderness. His passion and leadership on behalf of Utah's wildlands stands on its own. Bert is a friend. I feel great sadness for all involved, especially his family....Terry Tempest Williams

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