What is it that men possess that sets us apart from the rest of life on earth?
Opposable thumbs? Tool-making instinct?
No. What sets us apart is the mind; men alone are driven by more than mere instinct.
Plants can respond to their environment, but only in a limited manner. A plant may grow toward sunlight and stretch its roots down to water, but in the absence of either, it will die. It cannot learn to provide for itself if what it needs to live is not present in the environment.
Lesser animals survive on their instincts. Pleasure and pain goad them to action. Hunger induces a quest for food, thirst a quest for water. No animals can produce that which they require; they must find it in nature.
Man alone is capable of production. Man alone is capable of molding nature to his will. Man has learned to grow his own food, provide for his own shelter and transportation and protect himself from his enemies.
Now we just need to learn to protect ourselves from our fellow man.
Case in point /_” numerous organizations of the environmental and liberal bent have been campaigning for the decommissioning of four federal dams along the Snake River in Oregon.
Their argument, in a very small nutshell, is that the dams are detrimental to salmon spawning and should be decommissioned to allow salmon to easily exist in the Snake River.
These same groups minimize the impact of the dam decommissioning saying that only a “few” farmers who depend on the water would be affected and only a “small” portion of the region’s power is produced by the hydroelectric plants connected to the dams.
The advocates for decommissioning the dams are essentially saying that the livelihood of the people who depend on the water stored in those dams doesn’t matter to them. That farmer, whose blood, sweat and tears have paid for his families existence, stands to lose it all on the whim of someone who has decided that fish are more important than people.
News flash – the West didn’t settle itself. You, me, most of us now living in the western United States would not be able to sustain ourselves if our forefathers had not seen fit to use their minds to provide for our needs.
Anyone who thinks that Fort Collins would exist today without Horsetooth Reservoir or the Colorado Big Thompson Project is a fool – yet name one such project that could be built in today’s political climate.
These days, instead of building water projects, governments are buying up the water currently used for irrigation. The municipalities aren’t doing so because it’s cheaper than building dams – they are doing it because the people who turn on the tap in the kitchen and expect water demand it.
These are the same people who demand that we value fish, mice with shorter tails and rodents who burrow in the ground, over the men who made their very existence possible.
Here’s what I demand. I demand that people take a look around at how they got here. The earth and its resources are tools for the minds of intelligent men, tools to be used carefully and conservatively.
It’s time to stop taking for granted the food on our table, the water from our tap and the electricity in our wires. Our society has become too fat and happy to see the hardship that drove our ancestors to action.
Those who do not learn from their own history are doomed to repeat it. Personally, I don’t need to be shivering and hungry in the dark before I take a lesson from the past.
Scott Wilkinson is a senior majoring in civil engineering.