We have a running joke in our family. We will see a beautiful field or forest as we are driving and we will exclaim ‘you know what we need there is a paved lot with a mega Walmart that would look so good.’ It is hard to believe but there are people who can see these things we jest about as right. President Trump, the developer, is proving to be one of these people. Environmental regulations are holding back the development of factories and businesses. Land (they seldom use the word nature) of course is to be developed for the good of humanity they exclaim. The assumption is ‘land’ without development or some business use is wasted. Therefore, they have no qualms about selling federal lands for economic use. Land is in fact defined economically, as a natural resource fundamental to the production of all goods, including capital goods.
Trump is planning to rid the regulations on land for the noble ideal of production of goods. In other words land has no purpose beyond its economic feasibility. That is why they use the terms of property (something you can own) or land. Now they do in their dichotomy; say they want to preserve nature. But nature is something that is separate from land. This is of course very Orwellian.
This view allows them to think there is too much federal land that is not developed. The preservation of Nature or the environment does not enter the equation. They are separate things. Air and Water are commodities to use to create goods for the greater good of humanity. Therefore its quality is secondary to its use for production. Over and over again you see this viewpoint.
When I first encountered trees they were commodities; they were to be treated as the tree in Shel Silverstein’s book the Giving Tree. A commodity given to us in love to use as we see fit. They were for climbing. They were for breaking off branches for swords or clubs to use in play. They were for eating their fruit and so on. I only began to appreciate them later as more than a commodity. I learned that oaks live longer than me and some had been around since George Washington. They were in a sense my elders. As I began to develop an aesthetic I noticed the different barks, leaf color and sizes, smells (cedar always my favorite), flowers and the different contours of shapes formed by their branches. As I began to understand our interconnectedness with all things something that cannot be avoided, I noticed their uses for food (nuts and fruits and if you are Euell Gibbons bark), shade, birds, their production of oxygen and other things. I began to appreciate trees as necessary not only as a commodity but as a necessary part of my life beyond consuming. They nurture other parts of me. Today I am literally a tree hugger. Maybe as I drive down the road I should see a paved lot and joke ‘It would be good to see a grove of trees there”.