From The New Yorker:
By Jedediah Purdy
August 13, 2015
Madison Grant (Yale College 1887, Columbia Law School) … belonged, like his political ally Teddy Roosevelt, to a Manhattan aristocracy defined by bloodline and money. But Grant, like many young men of his vintage, felt duty-bound to do more than enjoy his privilege. He made himself a credible wildlife zoologist, was instrumental in creating the Bronx Zoo, and founded the first organizations dedicated to preserving American bison and the California redwoods.
Grant spent his career at the center of the same energetic conservationist circle as Roosevelt. This band of reformers did much to create the country’s national parks, forests, game refuges, and other public lands—the system of environmental stewardship and public access that has been called “America’s best idea.” …
Grant has been pushed to the margins of environmentalism’s history, however. He is often remembered for another reason: his 1916 book “The Passing of the Great Race, or The Racial Basis of European History,” a pseudo-scientific work of white supremacism that warns of the decline of the “Nordic” peoples. …
Grant’s fellow conservationists supported his racist activism. Roosevelt wrote Grant a letter praising “The Passing of the Great Race,” which appeared as a blurb on later editions, calling it “a capital book; in purpose, in vision, in grasp of the facts our people most need to realize.” ….
For both Muir and Thoreau, working, consuming, occupying, and admiring American nature was a way for a certain kind of white person to become symbolically native to the continent. …
Ironically enough, Madison Grant, writing about extinction, was right: the natural world that future generations live in will be the one we create for them. It can only help to acknowledge just how many environmentalist priorities and patterns of thought came from an argument among white people, some of them bigots and racial engineers, about the character and future of a country that they were sure was theirs and expected to keep.
If only those evil old WASPs who invented conservationism in America hadn’t held outmoded ideas of “environmental stewardship,” but had instead subscribed to today’s slash-and-burn conventional wisdom about the wonders of mass immigration, they wouldn’t have saddled us with all these racist National Parks.
Extinction is too good for the likes of them.[Comment at Unz.com]