Kaibab Journal

Kaibab Journal Grand Canyon Logo

Random Fragments

Archive - January 2006

A Sensible Backcountry "Management" Plan for Grand Canyon

The New Digs

Snow Blind

Highest Ranked Blogmeister in Arizona!

Sauce for the Gander

On the Nature of the University and the Learning Process

Hiking South Canyon in Grand Canyon

Wiretaps, Terrorism and Balance

In a State of Denial

  I don't know how others manage, but the holidays really wreak havoc with my blogging.  And, they make it difficult with my keeping up with other blogs.  Well, the new year is upon us, and life settles back down to a routine that, once again, allows me to renew my participation on a (more or less) full time basis.  --df

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

     A Sensible Backcountry "Management" Plan for Grand Canyon -  I am not much of one for New Year's resolutions.  But, I do tend to contemplate on my life and what it is I want to do.  One thing I want to do more of is backpack in the Grand Canyon.  I have logged many thousands of miles during over 200 trips and nearly 300 nights spent camping in the backcountry.  But, I have only done one overnight backpacking trip into the canyon over the last two years (2004-2005).  I consider the Grand Canyon as my number one hobby, and I also actually get some mileage out of it insofar as research (that helps me maintain my academic credentials at the university).  So, while I did do many fantastic day hikes last year, I was really up for a big trip.  In large part, this was accommodated by a mild winter and easy access to North Rim viewpoints (although the paved highway is closed, the Forest Service roads are open, and some are regularly plowed/graded).  So, this past Wednesday, I was off to the canyon for a five day trek in the area of Fishtail Mesa, which I will add to my blog in the coming days ...

     I did spend some time thinking about canyon-related issues, which is inevitable when you must spent upwards of 12 hours a day in your sleeping bag because it is cold and dark!  Daytime temps were great - in the 60s, but overnight lows were close to freezing.  One of these issues I revisited in my head is the crazy way in which the National Park Service tries to micromanage the Grand Canyon backcountry user, and the awful incentives they have for improved service.  In consideration of these issues, I would like to propose a plan that is less intrusive and more flexible than the current state of affairs, and that doesn't degrade the backcountry for others to experience.

Only require permits for improved campgrounds.  I have always thought it was silly to give out permits for the Indian Garden, Bright Angel and Cottonwood campgrounds without any charge, as was done in the past (before 1997).  These have treated water, individual campsites, picnic tables, pack bars and decent restroom facilities.  All of these services are valuable and I have no problem paying for them.
     But, why should someone pay exactly the same price for a permit to spend two nights in the Bright Angel campground as they would to spend two nights at Tanner Rapids?  At Tanner Rapids there are no facilities of any kind and this is at the foot of a trail that the Park Service fixes up only on an irregular basis.  Well, the simple answer is that one shouldn't have to pay the same price for these two vastly different sets of conditions.

To charge more backpackers, the park service will have to provide improved facilities.  There are a host of sites in the Grand Canyon that can really use an upgrade in this regard - Deer Creek, Thunder River, Horseshoe Mesa, Hance Rapids, Tanner Rapids, Hermit Rapids, and Clear Creek all come to mind.  All of these sites can be congested, and without suitable facilities they do get degraded.  One look at (or, whiff of) the awful vault toilet in Deer Creek convinced me to head for higher ground to do my business.  So, to collect revenue from these backpackers, the facilities will have to be vastly improved.  This not only improves the condition of the site, it also improves the experience of the backpacker to these more remote locales within the canyon.

For the rest of the backcountry, ask users to file "hiking plans."  This way, the park can collect data on backcountry use and utilize this to plan for continued improvement in campsite facilities if the demand warrants (say, at Nankoweap, or Boucher Creek, or along the South Bass Trail or the North Bass Trail).  In these more primitive areas of the canyon, there are few maintained trails and hiking itineraries are harder to maintain.
     The hike I did last week involved two rather dramatic itinerary changes, one the day before I left for the hike and the other on the second day of the trek.  I had planned to hike around Fishtail Mesa, counterclockwise.  But, uncertainty about water sources led me to change the direction to clockwise, with a first night stop at Fishtail Spring.  But, on the second day, hauling 10 quarts of water, and making slow progress, I decided to abandon my hike around the mesa and, instead, climb a saddle into the Indian Hollow drainage, where I spent three nights camped on the Esplanade in the Kanab Wilderness Area (which doesn't require a permit).  It is not only impractical for the park service to insist that backpackers in these more remote regions stay on their itineraries, it can be downright dangerous.  When I am hiking, conditions affect my decisions about exactly what course to follow.

     The bottom line here is that the park service will still earn just about as much revenue as before, since by and far most backpackers use the well-maintained campgrounds at Indian Garden, Bright Angel and Cottonwood.  But, the park service will now have an ongoing incentive to provide better services to highly used areas, incorporating them into this group of well-maintained sites.  And, backpackers that are more adventurous and yearn for the sparse and spartan fringes of the backcountry would have less incentive to conceal their activities from the park service.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

     The New Digs -  Starting a few years ago, plans were made to rebuild the College of Business Administration at Northern Arizona University, where I teach.  Monday we had our first day in the new building.  We had to box up all our stuff (throwing out as much as possible, and much was possible) before handing in our keys to the old building by December 23.  Professionals moved this to our new buildings, and all my stuff came through unscathed.

     My first, second, third and fourth impressions of the building ... I was reminded of old time submarine movies, what with the metal railings and concrete stairs and pillars and the unfinished ceilings.  That is the way it is supposed to look.  I could half close my eyes and hear claxons sounding, with the Dean bellowing over the P.A. system (which we don't have), "Dive! Dive! Dive!"  Then, I had the impressions of a hotel.  All the faculty offices extend down the north side of the building, and we each have sliding glass doors.  So, as I stood at my office (located on the west end of the third floor) I could see all these door handles extending off into the distance.  Then, I wondered if we hadn't been relocated into the football stadium.  The unfinished look, the giant stairways, open space, and odd padding under the stairs (see the second picture, below) made me feel like we were in the concourse of a sports arena.  And, fourth, as I was standing alongside one of the railings, noting people on floors below and above me, I was reminded of the movie, "I, Robot" where the interior of the corporation that made robots had a large open central space.  Well, that's just me and the way I think.

     It will be interesting to see how the building actually functions as a college.  There are great spaces for the students to spend time, so they don't have to leave the building in between classes, or trek up to the library.  There are lots of informal meeting spaces around (see some in the first photo), and some computer stations located out in the hallways.  So, that will be a giant plus for them.  On the other hand, the sound really carries, and once the building is full of students, I suspect it will be hard to get much meaningful work done in our offices, since we all front the huge central space of the building.  Still, every faculty office now has a window to the world, so that is quite a change for those of us that used to be relegated to interior office spaces in the old building.

     There is still some work being done to get ready for classes, which begin next Tuesday.  That morning, I have a class in the new auditorium, and there is still a ways to go to get that space ready.  On April 21st the new building will be dedicated, with all kinds of activities planned for that day.  If you are a local reader, stop by and check out our new digs.

Click on any picture to see a larger image.
Open central core of building Floor with that unfinished look. Central stairway and monitor.
A coffee shop is a nice touch. My office looking towards the hall. My office ... has a window!

Friday, January 13, 2006

     Snow Blind -  Although the annual average snowfall in Flagstaff (at 7,000 feet in elevation) is something over 100 inches, it seems to me that we rarely have an average year.  We either get inundated with snow, like last year, or it is relatively dry, like this year.  I like dry years as they afford me the opportunity of doing interesting hikes at the Grand Canyon on trails that would otherwise be snowpacked, accessible along Forest roads that would otherwise be impassible.

     But, for the owners of the Arizona Snowbowl, the erratic snowfall (even though they are located a couple of thousand feet higher than the city) makes the business one of feast or famine.  Just a few years ago, they were only open for four days over the winter skiing season!  So, they approached the City of Flagstaff about using reclaimed water for the purpose of snowmaking in order to better stabilize their season.  The city council accepted, and hearing were held by the Forest Service (which controls the land).  The Forest Service concluded that this use would be acceptable.  Of course, then the usual suspects challenged the ruling and proceeded to federal court.

     The Snowbowl owners agreed not to initiate the building of the water pipeline and the rest of the snowmaking infrastructure until the court challenges were settled.  This past Wednesday, Federal District Judge Paul Rosenblatt ruled in favor of the Forest Service and Snowbowl.  Here are some snippets from that decision:

Plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate that the Snowbowl decision coerces them into violating their religious beliefs or penalizes their religious activity.  (p. 56)

Plaintiffs have failed to present any objective evidence that their exercise of religion will be impacted by the Snowbowl upgrades.  (p. 56)

The Snowbowl decision does not bar Plaintiffs' access, use, or ritual practice on any part of the Peaks.  The decision does not coerce individuals into acting contrary to their religious beliefs nor does it penalize anyone for practicing his or her religion.  (p. 58)

While Plaintiffs may find it offensive that lands that have cultural and religious significance to them also host recreational activities, this cannot justify a "religious servitude" over large amounts of public land.  (p. 59)

     Well, you might think that was the end of this story.  But, of course, that isn't the case.  Opponents have vowed to revisit this issue before the Flagstaff City Council as well as block the construction of the water pipeline to the Snowbowl.  As far as they are concerned, there is no end to this issue until they get what they want.

     Of course, most of the opponents (the Sierra Club, the Flagstaff Activist Network and the Center for Biological Diversity were parties to the lawsuit) to Snowbowl's upgrade and snowmaking really couldn't care less about Native American religious practices.  As the judge ruled, these practices can, and are, accommodated on the San Francisco Peaks.  Instead, this is just a red herring.  What these groups really object to is homo sapiens.  They detest human use, and enjoyment, of the the outdoors.  They consider humans to be separate from nature rather than a part of nature.  But, it is in our "nature" to transform and use the world around us - hence food, clothing and shelter.  And, we also transform nature in order to enjoy what it has to offer by building ski resorts, hiking trails, floating rafts down rivers and flying helicopters over areas of fantastic scenery.

     In time, according to cosmologists, the sun will expand that burn away the earth's atmosphere, and no amount of protesting will stop that from happening.  Much sooner, at least in geological time, we are likely to get hit by an asteroid that will do damage that humans couldn't possibly match, as occurred when the dinosaurs were ripped out of the evolutionary progress of life on earth.  Preserving nature for that ultimate end is indefensible.  Denying our nature and our humanity is a philosophy that is as shallow as it gets.

Previous blogs on this topic:
Don't Drink the ... Snow
Cultural Bigotry

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Panoramic view of the Inner Basin of the San Francisco Peaks from the summit of Mt. Humphreys.
Click on the picture for a larger image.


     Highest Ranked Blogmeister in Arizona! -  Well, highest ranked insofar as elevation is concerned, and maybe for only about 20 minutes or so, and only yesterday ... when I hiked up to the top of Mt. Humphreys, the highest point in Arizona.  I love this hike, and our extremely dry winter has made this trek possible even at this late date.  In fact, I was stymied on this hike last June because of the enormous snowfall that still remained from last winter!  I left my truck at 8:03 am and reached the summit at 11:00 am, staying there for about 20 minutes.  I returned to my truck at 1:38, making this about a 5.5 hour round trip hike.  It was cold on the way up, but moderate to warm, low on the mountain, on the return.  The wind kicked up from the saddle to the top, and it was fierce at the very top, practically able to push you over!  In fact, on the return, with the wind blowing in my face, I wore ski goggles for about 20 minutes - until I lost enough elevation to mitigate the worst of the wind.

Click on any picture to see a larger image.
Residual snow overlooking
the Sunset Crater area.
Your humble blogmeister - well
bundled against the cold and wind.
Top of Mt. Humphreys looking
to the north.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

     Sauce for the Gander -  During the "big box" campaign last spring, the proponents, largely funded by Wal-Mart, ran a newspaper ad that compared restrictions against these stores as one step on a slippery slope to more restrictions on the freedom of voluntary association.  To drive the point home, they used a photo that showed a book burning scene out of 1930s Germany.  There was no mention of Hitler nor of Nazis.  In fact, the book burners appeared to be members of the S.A., the military wing of Hitler's political movement.  Did the analogy go too far?  Well, it is a fair point to argue - today it is shopping, tomorrow it is housing and, the next day, it is what you can read.

     Of course, no such discussion emerged from this ad.  Instead, there was sharp criticism of the mere use of Nazi-related imagery to convey a political point.  And, such use is usually a show stopper, and likely to be more counter-productive to the side using it.  On this issue, the folks at the Friends of Flagstaff's Future were all over it like a cheap suit, lambasting Wal-Mart for stooping to such references.  Wal-Mart execs apologized for the ad, pulled it from the paper, and, as I recall, canned the ad agency responsible for putting it together.  End of story?  Of course not.  The FFF won't let this issue rest - at the showing of the anti-Wal-Mart movie, The High Cost of Low Price (blogged about here), the FFF brought along flyers showing the offensive ad, and their executive director raised the issue in her introduction to the movie.  Apparently, whenever the question of Wal-Mart comes up in the future, here in Flagstaff, this will be part of the story.

     So, last week, a federal judge ruled in favor of allowing Snowbowl to use reclaimed water to make artificial snow on its ski runs.  And, what did the opponents of this ruling have to say?  As quoted in the Daily Sun on Friday, January 13, 2006 (p. 2):

Opponents called [Judge] Rosenblatt's decision a racist action tantamount to "genocide."

"It is another sad day in the history of ... the Navajo Nation ... [where] genocide and religious persecution continue to be perpetrated on Navajo people ..." Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. said.

[Save the Peaks Coalition member Klee] Benally's sister, Jeneda, compared Rosenblatt's decision to the Holocaust, in terms of legality.  "When Hitler was in Germany, what he was doing to the people there was considered legal..."


      And, where is the FFF on this issue?  Or, the ragtag bunch at the Flagstaff Activist Network?  Or, even the leaders of the Save the Peaks Coalition?  Nary a peep out of them so far.  And, don't hold your breath for any peeps any time soon.

Friday, January 20, 2006

     On the Nature of the University and the Learning Process
     Yesterday, Flagstaff received its first appreciable snow of the winter, and even that wasn't all that much, as can be seen in the photo I took from my office in the new College of Business Administration building on the campus of Northern Arizona University.  My old office didn't have a window, so now I am much more aware of prevailing weather conditions (see
The New Digs).  While it was a modest snowfall, it came down hard and fast, and the temperature dropped like a rock.  And, it was quite sunny in the hour before sunset, which led the streets to get very icy.  Traffic accidents were numerous in the late afternoon, as drivers easily misjudged the severity of these conditions.

     One of my classes this term is a large one - over a hundred students - and held in an auditorium.  Mostly they are freshmen and sophomores.  I decided to take the opportunity in yesterday's class (the second one of this new spring semester) to give them what one of my students later referred to as a "pep talk."  It encompassed a lot of my thinking about what it is that is actually going on in this environment, and may serve as a springboard for later blogs about what I think this environment really should look like.  I have condensed my talk down to the essentials, which I hope the interested reader finds not too belabored.

Why are you here?

     The university exists to promote your learning and to bestow upon you certain credentials that, to the best of our ability, attest to the level of education you have attained.  But, learning is an odd thing.  It occurs within you.  When you sit down to think about what really goes on here, maybe 95% of it is happening on your side of the classroom, not on my side ...

How do you learn?

     Well, if you really want to learn about the world, you must read.  You must read all the time ... [T]he oral tradition has the advantage of convenience – it is much easier to listen to me than it is to read a book ...  I am a pretty good talker, but there is an inherent superficiality to what I do – I can’t provide you with the depth needed for you to be considered educated, and certainly not in this venue ...

     Learning is not an easy task.  It is extraordinarily difficult.  To excel, and to reach your maximum potential, you must be focused on your studies.

Do you want to reach your maximum potential?

     If you do, you must be able to ignore the distractions that abound – for most of you, the primary characteristic of this experience is that of living away from home, and it is a huge change.  You have friends that want to do things, go places, see the sites, or maybe just go drinking in the woods.  Once you become part of that world – the world of distractions – you are letting this opportunity slip away, and you will not be able to reach your maximum potential ...

     If you want to learn, you must be committed.  Fully. 100%.  Otherwise, you really have ask yourself, “Why am I here?”  It can’t be your second priority, or your third.  It can’t be a part-time effort if you have a full-time schedule.  It can’t be the pursuit you are most likely to cut back on when distractions arise.  Not if you want to learn to your maximum potential.  For you, there is no such thing as a holiday, a weekend or a vacation.  You do have plenty of time to catch up on other aspects of your life between semesters.  But, during the semester, stay focused if you expect to fulfill your potential.

     That doesn’t mean that you study 24/7.  You can’t do that and learn much.  You will need time to relax, to unwind, to take a walk around campus, or to go to a basketball game or a movie.  But, you must find the right balance and you must know where your priorities lie in order to maintain that balance.

     So, if you have better things to do with your life then going to school, my suggestion is to do them.  When you’re ready to focus on your education, return to school.  When I was in graduate school, I took off for two and a half years to spend as much time as I could hiking in the Grand Canyon.  It was great and I loved it, even though I was dirt poor…

     Most of my time, energy and effort goes into the preparation of materials and my presentation of content to you.  I’m not really sure that is where my efforts should be directed, but I am not in charge of this process.  My major responsibilities here are clear – I am to evaluate you and assess to what degree you have learned the material that is expected of you  ...  That is my primary role.  And, I am well-suited for this role – I have a Ph.D. in economics and I know what this material consists of.  And, that, fundamentally, is what the university is concerned with in this process – Am I competent to judge you?  And, their answer is “yes.”

     So, how do I do this?  I wish it was as easy as sticking electrodes in your heads, turning on a machine, and reading a number off a dial.  But, it isn’t that easy.  What I have to do is have you demonstrate to me what it is that you know about economics.  If you cannot convey to me what you know, then, quite frankly, you don’t know anything, no matter if you think otherwise.  Knowledge is irrelevant if you cannot access it and communicate it coherently to someone else.

     So, I have a variety of assessment tools that help me to make the judgment about your level of learning.  You know what those tools are.  You have the ability to work out what is the best strategy for doing well on these tools.  You know the way in which your performance will be judged – you have seen the grading scale I will use.  Still, we do face some enormous constraints in all of this.

     The biggest constraint has to be that it is impossible for me to treat you each on an individual basis in this process.  I cannot personally tutor each and every one of you, and assess you exclusively.  There is not the time necessary for that – not in a class of forty, and certainly not in a class of over one hundred.  Indeed, the university has many expectations for how I spend my time beyond that spent just on this class.  So, you are processed as a group.  That probably sounds rather cynical, but that is what we are doing.  Unless otherwise directed by the administration of the college, or the university, I will treat each and every one of you equally.  I want you to think about that.  Equally.  That means, I cannot be fair to you as an individual.  I do not assess one student’s circumstances relative to another student.  In fact, I cannot do this – it would be impossible.  So, I treat you all the same ...

     I cannot make a decision that is “fair” to the individual.  Instead, I have to make a decision that is fair to the group.  It is your responsibility to be here for exams.  If you cannot be here, then you are most likely going to get a zero.  That is a standard of equality that is applied to every student.

     But, there are always exceptions.  And, I am open to finding a special accommodation for a problem of an extraordinary nature.  One semester, I had a student hospitalized with a kidney failure – of course I made a special accommodation.  But, I am not going to make special accommodations for you when you have trouble squeezing school into your busy life.

     I can do this because ... this is not your one and only chance to take microeconomics, and if the circumstances of your life swamp your willingness and ability to participate in this process, there will be other opportunities that you can avail yourself of.

     Although it is up to you to learn, we are all in this together.  We have a deadline that we have to adhere to.  You have materials that are assigned to you, and you have a schedule showing what will be done in each class over the semester …  Your goal is to learn about economics.  It is my hope that at the end of this semester you not only feel like you have learned about economics, but that you have also demonstrated that to me through your performance on our various assessment tools.

     I am inclined to wish you good luck, but I don’t think that luck really has much to do with it.  Instead, I’ll encourage you to work hard and to seize the opportunity you have to expand your knowledge of the world around you.

Monday, January 22, 2006

     Hiking South Canyon in Grand Canyon - Eric Dhooge and I headed up to the Marble Canyon region for a day hike in South Canyon, which feeds into the Grand Canyon some thirty miles below Lee's Ferry (where the river runners put in to raft through the Grand Canyon).  The forecast was for a clear day - and it was stunningly clear - but with temperatures on the cool side, and only a maximum in the low 50's expected at the river...

Read the Full story, South Canyon Day Hike
in the Hiking Grand Canyon section of the Kaibab Journal

Thursday, January 25, 2006

     Wiretaps, Terrorism and Balance - Recently, a reader asked me about the controversy of the Bush administration’s use of warrantless wiretaps relative to our expectations of personal privacy.  The issue is often framed by liberals as if some line in the sand has been crossed when we lessen the extent of such liberties.  They refuse to acknowledge that we live in a world where tradeoffs are made every day, and that we seek to find the right balance.

     That is, if we were to pursue a policy of maximizing our personal privacy, then we must expect that terrorist activity will increase because we have eliminated one source that could be used to track their activity.  I don’t know anyone who really believes that is what we should do.  On the other hand, if we maximize the chances of tracking and catching terrorists, we would completely sacrifice our personal privacy and we would be living in a police state.  I don’t know of anyone who believes that is what we should do either.  Rather, we seek a balance between these two competing ideals.

     In statistics, we talk about the concept of type I and type II errors.  In fact, this is used in all fields of study.  They are most easily explained in the context of the criminal justice system.  The type I error can be stated as “the probability of convicting an innocent man” while the type II error is “the probability of setting a guilty man free.”  The problem arises from the fact that if you want to lessen the chances of convicting an innocent man, you must accept the outcome that the chances of setting a guilty man free will rise.  Conversely, if you want to reduce the chance of setting a guilty man free, then you will have to accept the chance that you are convicting more innocent men.

     The tradeoff cannot be ignored.  We cannot decide that we will only convict guilty men.  It just doesn’t work that way.  Instead, we look for a consensus about what the balance should be between these two types of error.

     In the case of the NSA wiretap program, we can state the type I error as “the erosion of personal privacy” and the type II error as “letting terrorists go undetected.”  Clearly, we would like each error to be as low as possible.  But, as noted above, nobody wants to live in a world where either the type I error was zero or where the type II error was zero.

     Before the attacks of 9/11, we had a balance between these two errors that probably enjoyed a wide consensus.  Afterwards, we sought to find a new balance.  My perception of the public’s view on this was to accept a rise in the type I error in exchange for lessening the type II error.  If that included the ability of the Justice Department to inquire into the library records of a suspect, then so be it.

     Is it the right balance?  Only time will tell.  If the Justice Department tries to randomly search library records, I suspect that the public would turn against this erosion of personal privacy and the balance would shift.  But, as best I know from what I read, the Justice Department has not ever exercised its power to look at even a single library record.  So, clearly this power hasn’t been abused.

     So, the NSA is intercepting telephone calls between foreigners that are suspected Al Qaeda members, or have links to this group, and Americans.  I don’t have a problem with that.  They aren’t searching through everyone’s phone conversations to see if there is such a communication.  They have already targeted the person on the Al Qaeda end of the line.  And, this is not done in complete secrecy.  The leaders of Congress are in the loop, although the loopy members of Congress are not.

     During the Civil War, President Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus, jailing thousands of opponents to the war.  He did so in order to more effectively prosecute the war effort.  Today, there is hardly a peep about this erosion of liberty, even though the Supreme Court later ruled it unconstitutional.

Monday, January 30, 2006

     In a State of Denial - In the Sunday edition of the Arizona Daily Sun is a letter from Ann Ralles protesting the use of the term "eco-terrorist" to describe particular acts of arson.  We've heard this babble before, especially from Marcus Ford in late 2004.  The proposition is so devoid of intelligence and rationality, that I am not surprised it has become a mantra of liberals.  So, with fingertips poised over the keyboard, here is the letter I sent to the editor:

To the editor:

     I heartily join with Ms. Ralles (1/29/2006) in “strongly object[ing] to the use of the term ‘Eco-terrorist’ to describe suspected arsonists.”  But, then, I also strongly object to the use of the terms “reason” and “logic” when applied to the words “liberal” and “crazy person.”  So far, I don’t see either of those things happening.

     I, for one, am glad that we can employ the phrase “eco-terrorism” to distinguish that particular group of lunatic nut jobs from those that engage in suicide bombings, whether with explosives wrapped around their chests or in control of airplanes flying into buildings.  It conveys exactly who these people are without resorting to using terms like “expletive deleted.”

     Apparently, in Ms. Ralles’ world, language should be vague and obfuscating, and our ability to make distinctions should be limited to whatever she finds acceptable.  And, denial ain’t just a river in Africa.

     So, let’s continue to use the term “arsonist” to describe people that start fires because they like to watch buildings burn, or because they want to rip off an insurance company, or because they are trying to enhance their job prospects as a fire-fighter.  And, when arson is carried out as part of a crusade that is anti-science, anti-development and anti-human, let’s continue to call these people “eco-terrorists.”

     Since my earlier retort (to Marcus Ford) predates this blog, here is that letter, dated December 17, 2004.  Ford's letter was prompted by some home fires in Maryland that were reported in the media as possibly being the result of eco-terrorists.  As I recall, that turned out not to be the case, which just goes to show that not all arson can be classified as eco-terrorism.

To the editor:

     In a recent letter, Marcus Ford argues that “ecoterrorism” is a misnomer, in that burning down empty buildings is not serious enough to be considered terrorism, and that motives are irrelevant in considering whether any act is terroristic or not.

     Not only is this view illogical, it borders on being delusional.  Violent acts, meant to intimidate, are the very essence of what “terrorism” means.  Dictionary.com defines terrorism as, “The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.”

     Can burning down empty buildings constitute terrorism?  Yes, if it is unlawful, violent, aimed at property, and is done with the intention of intimidation or coercion.  The recent fires in Maryland may, or may not, constitute ecoterrorism.

     Still, this terrorism certainly does exist.  In, perhaps, the most infamous example, on October 19, 1998, part of the Vail ski resort was torched by members of the Earth Liberation Front, causing some twelve million dollars in damage.  They claimed to be motivated by protecting lynx habitat, and meant this act of terror to serve as a warning.  Their motive was (and, continues to be) one of intimidation and coercion.

The Kaibab Journal