(editor'snote)


“I blame environmental organizations every bit as much as developers and strip miners,” writes Michael “Jurassic Park” Crichton in his new best-selling novel, State of Fear. In various speeches he has advocated lifting the ban on DDT because “it did not cause birds to die,” stated that “environmentalism has already killed somewhere between 10 and 30 million people since the 1970s,” and argued that “a belief in extraterrestrials has paved the way, in a progression of steps, to a belief in global warming.” Crichton maintains in State of Fear —a lurid thriller about ecoterrorists that's larded with footnotes and a creepy “Author's Message” at the end—that global warming is actually a hoax.

Crichton is a reverse Copernicus, defying the prevailing scientific consensus but dead wrong with his facts. In “Pulp Fiction,” reporter Daniel Glick quotes several highly respected scientists who pound Crichton for his pernicious nonsense. Not surprisingly, Crichton has become a willing tool of the right-wing intelligentsia, media, and political forces opposed to addressing global warming. Worse yet, mainstream TV, including the Today show and ABC's 20/20, has fawned on him, without giving equal time to the likes of Gus Speth, the dean of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, whose well-regarded book on global warming and other ecological problems, Red Sky at Morning, carries real weight because it's true.

One theme running throughout State of Fear is that environmental groups, including Audubon, are “exploiters,” acting in their “self-interest.” It's not worth wasting space here dignifying Crichton's falsehoods about Audubon. What I find most offensive is his gross caricature of environmentalists in general as some sort of scam artists. This hardly jibes with the people portrayed in “Score One for the Desert,” by senior editor Keith Kloor. On his two extensive reporting trips to Arizona's Sonoran Desert over a six-year period, Kloor got to know a noble band of unsung conservationists who helped craft and promote a landmark plan that balances biodiversity and development. “Tucson Audubon, for instance, made dozens of presentations to local civic groups, religious organizations, and rotary clubs,” he writes. Thousands of volunteer hours paid off, as both public officials and developers came to embrace this vision. One developer, having given up almost half his open space in exchange for a higher density of homes, became a big backer. “If you create a better community in the end, doesn't everybody win?” he asks.

Michael Crichton declined requests from Audubon for an interview, “citing fatigue from his long book tour,” Glick writes. Once he recovers, perhaps he owes it to himself and to his readers to step out of his vivid imagination and into the real world, to see how these Arizona environmentalists and others like them have created better communities for everybody—not in their self-interest but in the public's. If there's a book in this someday, footnotes won't be necessary to prove the point.



© 2005 National Audubon Society

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