Green Web Bulletin #75

Off-highway Vehicles and Deep Ecology

Cultural Clash and Alienation from the Natural World

By David Orton           

                    “There is no doubt that ecologism’s stress on ‘limits’ of all sorts amounts to the
                    potential curtailment of certain taken-for-granted freedoms, particularly in the realms
                    of production, consumption and mobility.”  Andrew Dobson (1)

                    “We must live at a level that we seriously can wish others to attain, not at a level that
                    requires the bulk of humanity NOT to reach.”  Arne Naess (2)

            In Nova Scotia, where I live, as across Canada and North America, there has been a growing awareness
        that there is a “problem” with off-highway vehicle (OHV) use, and there has been a growing bitter debate.
        The provincial government in Nova Scotia initiated the formation of a task force on OHVs in 2003 (3) with
        the aim of “regulating” off-highway vehicles: all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), snowmobiles, amphibious vehicles
        (Argos), jetskis, dirt bikes, dune buggies, etc. The task force accepted that OHV use was a legitimate
        “recreational” or “sport” undertaking, noted the “positive impact on our economy” of these vehicles, and
        stated that it had “no pre-conceived positions.” The task force held 24 public hearings throughout the province,
        as well as private consultations with various interest groups. This created much discussion, in which I and
        several other supporters of deep ecology have participated. (4) It also created a lot of media interest and
        many letters to the editor in provincial newspapers. Deep Ecology (DE), which is a philosophy, but, perhaps
        more importantly, is also part of  a larger green movement in many countries and cultures, can help us
        understand that the clashes between those who ride off-highway vehicles and those of us, who are opposed to
        this, are fundamentally clashes over basic values and the meaning of life. Such clashes, at their heart, concern
        how our industrial societies will relate to the natural world and how human societies themselves are going to be

        Deep ecology considerations
            Deep Ecology the philosophical perspective which underpins this essay and the analysis presented, was
        first articulated by the Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess in the early 1970s. (5) It has captured what should
        be our relationship to the natural world for post industrial society. There is a tentativeness to DE, an openness.
        It is not a set of doctrines, so it is hard to convey what its essence is. At the same time, as Naess says,
        "...nearly all supporters of the deep ecology movement are likely to believe they have found some truths." (6)
        DE sees humanity as part of Nature, as inseparable from it. If we ignore Nature we injure ourselves. DE is
        part of the larger green movement, the first social movement in history to advocate a lower material standard
        of living from the perspective of industrial consumerism. (7) Social justice for all humans is very important, but
        it must defer to the well-being of the Earth and all her life forms.

            We act in this world based on how we SEE reality, and our ethics are based on this. This also involves a
        view of “self.” Those who strongly support, and those who strongly oppose OHV use, appear to have quite
        contrasting definitions of self. One Nova Scotia critic of OHVs spoke of such riders embracing what she
        called a “culture of entitlement” in contemporary society, where “I earn, therefore I am; and the more I earn,
        the more I am entitled to.” (8)

            For supporters of DE,  the personal self  seeks to move beyond anthropocentric consciousness, so that the
        personal self becomes an ecological Self (also known as Self-realization in this philosophy) and comes to
        include all other beings and the planet itself. The harassment of wildlife or the scarring of bog lands by ATVs
        is felt as personal pain and injury. The Land is seen and felt as an extension of self. Nature is not to be
        “mastered” but to be adapted to. The ecological Self is often experienced by those who may be philosophically
        unaware but who have a strong sense of place, that is, persons rooted in the local area where they live and
        come to know intimately and feel compelled to personally defend it. You have to stand with the trees and
        animals, if you want the trees to stand and the animals to live. DE requires that its supporters be involved in
        speaking up for the Earth and defending her against all assaults, including those by OHVs. Consumer society
        gives a sense of false self-identity through the acquisition of material goods, necessary to expand an economy
        that operates without any sense of ecological limits. Off-highway vehicles need to be looked at from this
        perspective, to understand the evident alienation from Nature, which so many OHV riders exhibit with their
        belligerent embracing of speed and noise imposed on others and the natural world. Earth-centered societies
        need entirely different green economies to those of capitalism or socialism, with their multiplication of human

            For deep ecology supporters, the natural world is real, despite the critique of post modernism. However the
        social world, which fundamentally impacts the natural world, as with the OHV issue, IS socially constructed
        and rests on usually fundamentally unquestioned assumptions. We need to use the OHV debate to bring out
        and challenge these social assumptions, and offer alternative definitions of self. Deep Ecology has a different
        viewpoint or a different ontology from the typical OHV world view.

            General deep ecology ideas which can be brought into focus in the off-highway vehicle discussion are:
         “- A belief in the intrinsic value of nonhuman nature;
          - A belief that ecological principles should dictate human actions and moral evaluations;
          - An emphasis on noninterference into natural processes;
          - A critique of materialism and technological progress.” (9)

            Some particular deep ecology conceptions have been useful for this debate:
        1)  NON HUMAN-CENTEREDNESS. Humans do not have a privileged position. As a species, we are
        just one member of a community of all beings, each of which is the result of billions of years of evolution.
        There is no belief in a hierarchy of organisms, with humans on top. Deep Ecology is about a needed new
        relationship to Nature, where all species of animals and plants have their own intrinsic values that are not
        determined by humans. The Western industrial cosmology of industrial growth (equated with “progress”),
        has no place for the defence of wild Nature or animals in their own right. This industrial cosmology or
        world view would have trouble understanding the wonderful words of Calvin Martin, speaking about
        animistic hunter/gatherer societies: “Only a fool would imagine himself as somehow exclusively a HUMAN
        being.” (10) Industrial societies have disenfranchised all other beings and the natural world itself, at the
        same time as human communication and mobility have exploded. Overwhelmingly, OHV discussions are
        about some humans in conflict with other humans. This is not unimportant but is just part of the OHV story.
        Deep ecology enables us to see beyond the human focus of the debate.

        capitalism to commodify the Earth, its animistic spirituality had to be undermined. A future Earth-centered
        society will need to be organized around an ecocentric morality that has an essential spiritual or sacred
        dimension and is not based on economics. ”Suiting or gearing up” for riding a powerful and noisy ATV or
        a snowmobile and putting on a totally enclosing  helmet, removes a person from any sense of an
        interdependent relationship with wild Nature and with other people.

        ECOLOGICAL CRISIS. A society oriented to continuous economic and population growth, a
        consumerism without end, where “profit” is the principal determinant of all value, and where the economy
        controls the society, cannot be sustainable in the long term. There is a direct link between the robbing of the
        Earth’s natural wealth and increased OHV use. Take, for example, industrial capitalist forestry - pulp mill
        clear-cut forestry. This type of industrial forestry has not only destroyed the rich biodiversity of the Acadian
        forests in the Maritimes region of Canada, as elsewhere, for a handful of tree species sought by the pulp
        and paper industry, but it has, through its road and trail networks and clearcuts, effectively promoted OHV
        use. Another example would be the recently installed (since 1999) natural gas high pressure pipeline,
        snaking across Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to United States markets, which opened up previously
        inaccessible areas to OHV use. The gas line is buried in expropriated “rights-of-way,” bitterly resented
        by many rural people. This main natural gas line has various feeder lines, leading off from the main line,
        which provide more routes for OHVs.

        has said: "The ideology of ownership of nature has no place in an ecosophy." (11) (Within the philosophy of
        deep ecology, ecosophy is a term used to mean the personal code of values guiding one’s interaction with the
        natural world.) No one can own the Earth, whether from a state, individual, indigenous, or collective point of
        view. Actually, the Earth owns us, we are its creatures. We need "usufruct use" instead of so-called private
        ownership of the natural world. This means that there may be the "right of use," but one is ultimately
        responsible and accountable to some form of ecocentric governance much wider than human society. “Private
        property” or “ownership” is a social convention, arrogant in its conception that humans can “own” other species
        and the Land, in Aldo Leopold’s sense, itself. “Private property rights” cannot be advocated by the ecologically
        conscious as a main defense against the off-highway vehicle rider.

            What makes Nova Scotia “different” in a Canadian context, when considering OHV conflicts, is the high
        percentage of “private” forest land ownership in the province compared to the national picture. In Canada,
        about ten percent of productive forest land is privately owned (the rest is crown or public land), while the figure
        for Nova Scotia is 70 percent private. Small “woodlot owners” in the province (among which the writer would
        be listed) number about 30,000 individuals. (Woodlot is a human-centered terminology. It implies that the
        function of a forest is to produce timber for human consumption.) The small woodlot owners’ sense of private
        property rights is on a major collision course with the entrenched “right to ride anywhere” beliefs held by many
        OHV users. Theoretically, i.e. legally, private landowners can prevent OHV use on their lands. The reality on
        the ground is very different. Apart from this important “fact” about the OHV conflict with private property
        alleged rights, the OHV issue in Nova Scotia, with its many contradictions, is generally comparable with the
        situation throughout Canada.

            Deep ecology advocates that no woodlot owner should have the right to destroy their woodlots for
        economic reasons. We believe that if responsibility to the Earth and to future human generations become
        factored into ownership criteria, as they should, until ecocentric governance is brought in as part of an overall
        paradigm change, then woodlot owners need to be socially acountable for their behaviour. Such behaviour
        cannot include OHV use which mutilates the environment of the woodlot, or destructive forestry practices.
        Ownership should be seen as a privilege, attached to a definite set of obligations. Those who destroy or
        degrade their woodlots should suffer definite social and criminal sanctions. The model to aim for, until
        ecocentric governance arrives, is passing on the woodlot in a better condition, bearing in mind the interests of
        all the plant and animal species living there.

        5) WE HAVE TO LIVE THE DE PHILOSOPHY to the largest extent possible. This means "voluntary
        simplicity", leaving perhaps footprints but not tire treads, minimizing consumption, and having a bioregional
        focus. Advertising creates “needs” as part of an expansionary consumer capitalism, like the alleged need for
        off-highway vehicles to experience the outdoors. For many of the populace, these then become erroneously
        defined as “vital needs” and part of a taken-for-granted lifestyle that is not to be called into question. For
        someone influenced by deep ecology, it is the overcoming of material desires and taking personal
        responsibility for one’s own actions, which is part of living as simply as possible. This is also on the personal
        spiritual self purification path, part of the hardening preparation for the eco-warrior in today’s world, to
        break from the death course of industrial society. This DE view of personal responsibility is opposed to a
        more traditional “Left” view, of tending to explain individual behaviours as totally socially determined.

            There are real contradictions and ambiguities that the deep ecology activist faces. For example, DE does
        not sufficiently address the “use” of Nature by humans: thus is there a role for OHVs?  There is also a
        tendency by some university-based deep ecologists, particularly in North America, to “accommodate” to
        industrial capitalism and to mute the subversive essence of this philosophy. This tendency would thus stress
        more reformist, rather than radical solutions to environmental problems. But DE can theoretically arm the
        activist, who seeks a deeper alternative to the industrial status quo.

            Deep ecology once accepted, enables “alternative visions” to be raised around particular environmental
        issues, here off-highway vehicle use. Usually, “working the system”, for mainstream environmentalists e.g.
        here trying to impose  a regulatory regime on OHV users, but not fundamentally challenging their “right to ride”,
        means that deeper ecological visions are seen as counterproductive to the tasks at hand and are excluded
        from public discussions. Questions raised publicly about the destructive, “more economic growth” trajectory
        of industrial consumer capitalism, growing human populations and the coming end of the fossil fuel economy,
        etc. are not welcome, when the focus is on how to “regulate” OHV use.

            I have come to see such OHV discussions as irresolvable without a fundamental values shift, involving as
        they do a clash of cultures - in the sense of starkly competing definitions of what constitutes “the good life.”
        The case has been convincingly  made, that the present North American consumer lifestyle, as model for the
        world's population, would require several planets. (12) The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,
        with its call that greenhouse gas emissions must be cut 50-70 percent if the atmosphere of the planet is to
        remain hospitable, points to the ending of the fossil-fuel driven industrial capitalist economy. All of us must
        learn to live much more simply and less intrusively on this one Earth we share.

            The escalating use of off-highway vehicles, will not be ended until there is a basic shift in values within
        industrial consumer society, which will end this society as we have come to know it. The work of contributing
        to such a values shift, aims to foster alternative visions of the “good” society, so that such visions become part
        of the public discourse and result in fundamental changes in behaviour. This is what some have called
        "paradigm warrior" work. The paradigm shifts which are needed are really out of our individual hands. But
        our incremental work in critiquing the dominant paradigm of values and proposing an alternative is important
        and does contribute to such needed paradigm shifts. To end or severely restrict off-highway vehicle use is
        ultimately a paradigm shift change, not a regulatory issue.

        The off-highway vehicle world view and “Wise Use”
             The N.S. task force on OHV use produced an interim report in February 2004, entitled “Out of Control”,
        (13) with a list of 48 recommendations for further public discussion and written comment. These
        recommendations can change in the final report but they have served as more fuel for the public OHV debate.
        The interim report advocates some progressive measures. But overall, it is a tinkering document, which will
        facilitate and legitimate OHV use. A final report of the task force will be produced after the public had a period
        of time to respond. The period to respond to the interim report has been extended mainly due to lobbying by
        the OHV industry and organized rider groups, who have been mobilizing to oppose the regulatory thrust of the

            The interim report advocated a greatly increased trail network and OHV infrastructure throughout the
        province, with initial government funding, later to be financed by users, which would lead to more OHV use.
        The infrastructure even included “core funding of OHV user associations.” So a task force set up to
        supposedly bring under control a definite social and ecological problem, ends up suggesting measures which
        will increase OHV use!

            Many of the recommendations in the interim report, which essentially put forward a motor-vehicle licensing
        model for off-highway vehicles, sought to introduce some controls. For example, mandatory registration for
        all OHVs ($50 per year) with license plates on each vehicle at the front and rear; children under 14 cannot
        drive OHVs; requirement for third party liability insurance; OHVs can only use designated trails on public
        (crown) lands; written permission required from private landowners; OHVs excluded from wilderness posted
        areas; permits required for rallies involving more than 50 OHV riders, etc.

            At the public meetings I attended and from newspaper reports of other meetings, with a handful of
        exceptions, most critical comments tended to be a discussion about "bad apples" who were spoiling it for the
        rest. But from my perspective, the barrel of OHV apples is mainly rotten. Or perhaps more charitably, there
        are more bad apples than good ones. The audience was mainly older and male, with few young people. The
        sentiment from the OHV users at the meetings was that the “bad apples” were not present. The right to use
        off-highway vehicles was taken for granted. Many of the persons present seemed to belong to organized ATV
        or snowmobile clubs, whose speakers emphasized how “responsible” they were. There was much talk of the
        “conservation credentials” of the various organized OHV clubs, with members building bridges over streams,
        having wardens to enforce trail etiquette, raising money for various good causes, etc. OHV spokespersons
        also emphasized and openly lobbied for what they called “multiple use” of trails, for example the TransCanada
        Trail. The forest industry also stresses multiple use, even though their “use” destroys the use for others. Many
        regard OHV multiple use in the same way, when encountering an ATV or trying to navigate a deep mud
        wallow created by OHVs on the TransCanada Trail or on old logging woods trails.

            What struck me in the talk about conservation credentials, was the absence of OHV organizations (and
        organized hunters and anglers) from any public representation in the fight against industrial forestry (clear cutting
        and spraying), mining, or for increased wilderness areas in the province. Conservation of these groups, was one
        of narrow self interest. Those who have been at the forefront of environmental issues in Nova Scotia are
        generally those who have sought to enter woods and wild places non-intrusively.

            Most of the speakers at the public meetings, who often were the officers of ATV or snowmobile clubs, spoke
        of how they loved the “sport” of OHV use. Forests, non forested areas, waterways and coastal marine areas,
        and wilderness were seen as some kind of outdoor gymnasium for humankind. There seemed to be little
        awareness of OHV impacts on other species or the ecology. One of the serious limitations of such public
        meetings is that those who are  “organized” tend to turn out, while those who oppose a particular practice, who
        can be substantial in numbers, are unorganized and often do not turn out.

            The proposed controls in the interim report, have became the target of an organized “right to ride” campaign
        to overturn many of them. This attack is being fostered by the industry producing these vehicles (Motorcycle
        and Moped Industry Council and Canadian All-Terrain Vehicle Distributor’s Council) and the organized
        umbrella associations of ATV and snowmobile riders within Nova Scotia - the All Terrain Vehicle Association,
        (media reports speak of about 31 ATV clubs in Nova Scotia)  and the Snowmobile Association of Nova Scotia
        (which has a reported 21 snowmobiling clubs). Petitions have been organized by user groups denouncing the
        interim report with the new proposed regulations, with the title of this report, “Out of Control”, being seen as
        particularly inflammatory.

            A few speakers told harrowing stories of how off-highway vehicle use had transformed their lives for the
        worst. Their rural privacy was now gone, there was no peace and quiet anymore. The smell of OHVs “lasted
        forever” said one critic. Sometimes alcohol was involved. One person said that ATV meant for him “alcohol
        tolerated vehicle.” The individuals who did speak up critically for the larger human and ecological community,
        if they are from rural areas particularly, sometimes expressed fear of retribution. Some were unwilling to speak
        publicly about the negative influences of OHVs and spoke privately to the task force members. Those who
        were critical sometimes spoke about the futility of more regulations - that it was just “sweet talk”, when there
        was no enforcement in what passed for the back country in Nova Scotia. There was a clash of cultures in the
        meetings I took part in, with strong feelings and tensions just below the surface that could easily erupt. The
        view being expressed in this essay was very much a minority one. Many more have however spoken at the
        public meetings, or written letters to the editor in favour of greater regulation of off-highway vehicles.

            The tinkering restrictions suggested by the task force on OHV use have been strongly opposed by the
        industry itself and the organized rider associations. I believe that many so-called recreational OHV users will
        swell the ranks of the “Wise Use” movement in Nova Scotia, if some additional regulations are eventually
        imposed. Wise Use, a social response in North America to the rise of radical environmentalism, in this
        context means that all of Nature is available for HUMAN use. From such a viewpoint, Nature should not be
        "locked up" in parks or wilderness reserves, and human access to "resources" always must have priority.
        Riding a powerful machine and an ingrained belief in the ‘right’ to go anywhere, for many seems to be part of
        the cultural definition of “self.”

            Wise Use forces have organized in the past in the province around logging and forest spraying issues. They
        become an angry and intolerant public presence when an environmental issue becomes highly visible and some
        significant social change seems likely. For example, at a meeting in Nova Scotia in 1984, an alleged Education
        Seminar organized by the Atlantic Vegetation Management Association involving the chemical industry and
        government regulatory agencies concerned by widespread citizen opposition to forest biocide spraying,  three
        ideologues of the "Wise Use" movement spoke - Ron Arnold, Dave Dietz and Maurice Tugwell. The essential
        message was "It takes a movement to fight a movement." (14) In other words, neither industry nor government
        according to Arnold, can by itself successfully challenge a broadly based environmental movement. As
        off-highway vehicles have started to come under a needed critical scrutiny, the OHV industry has come forward
        to defend its economic interests. OHV riders will become its foot soldiers. Demonization and scapegoating of
        the opponents to the alleged recreational use of OHVs should now be expected and is already starting to take

            Perhaps there is a limited and carefully circumscribed role for OHVs in a work-related capacity, but there
        should be no role for them as recreational vehicles. It is important that activists try to socially isolate the large
        numbers of so-called recreational or sport off-highway vehicle riders with their communal outings, and the use
        of such vehicles for hunting, fishing, and trapping. These are the vehicles which constitute the main problem.
        This means, I believe, not opposing at this time, the rural person living in place who has an ATV or a
        snowmobile for chores like bringing in the winter wood, who themselves often suffer from the “organized”
        recreational OHV use by others.

            Putting a down payment on an off-highway vehicle (for example a high-end ATV can be upwards of
        $12,000 per unit or a snowmobile can retail for over $10,000), does not give one right of entry to Nature.
        The machines are becoming larger and more powerful. To enter the outdoors does not require a motorized
        vehicle to make oneself a participant. What we should bring to the outdoors, are a humble and non intrusive
        attitude; plus one should be self-propelled, using for example, skis, snowshoes, walking shoes, a rowing
        boat or canoe, or a kayak. This means also being responsible for one’s own safety and return to the point
        of entry. Off-highway vehicles are part of a commercial culture where any technology can be developed and
        marketed, irrespective of its long term impact on the environment or other human beings. This has to change.
        We must live, if we want a future, within ecological limits.

            People reading Off Road Rage see the necessity for a fundamental change in popular consciousness, to move
        self-definitions away from the acquisition of consumer goods like ATVs and snowmobiles, and blindness to the
        damage done to the natural world by such machines. We need a fundamental change in our ecopsychology, to
        move to what Naess has called the ecological Self, perhaps best expressed and taught so far in the Councils
        of All Beings inspired by deep ecology, where people gather and try to be a voice for other life forms, such as
        animals and plants, and for the wind, rivers, mountains etc. The OHV discussions can be one more entry to
        such a change in human consciousness.

            Does one accept, as one mainstream environmentalist put it, “That good or bad, OHVs are here to stay”?
        If one accepts this, then the “regulatory” focus becomes all-consuming. This is certainly the case with current
        OHV discussions in Nova Scotia and perhaps elsewhere. I believe that it is an error to proceed on this path,
        because the current situation can only get worse.

            More regulations will not bring the OHV situation under control. There will be more off-highway vehicles,
        greater populations, more urban sprawl, and fewer wild places to invade. Highways can be policed but the
        backwoods cannot be. The prevailing economic growth, high personal consumption model of the supposedly
        good life, links the OHV industry and governments (provincial, federal, and municipal) in Canada at the hip,
        with mutual anti-Earth interests.

            Regulations or controls, which minimize to some extent the costs to Nature or to human society arising
        from OHV stupidities or current practice, should of course be supported. But a regulatory focus is designed
        not to call the actual industrial capitalist system itself and its cultural assumptions into question. Fundamental
        assumptions, which become reflected in OHV use, remain unquestioned, for example, the contrast between
        private property rights and the emerging concept of ecocentric governance, where animals and plants are our
        relatives, our brothers and sisters; where the Earth itself cannot be “owned” by humans; and where morality
        becomes spiritually based and not rooted in self interest, material desires and economics. As we have also seen,
        increased OHV regulations are seen as onerous and will be opposed by the “right to ride” crowd.

            There are two quotations which introduce this essay, by Andrew Dobson and Arne Naess. Dobson’s quote
        shows that an ecological non human centered society means that there will be limitations on the freedoms of the
        consumer, which are now taken for granted. But there will be a far better quality of life for humans and non
        human life forms, with which we must share this planet on an equality basis. The OHV discussion, if we avoid
        the regulatory emphasis, gives us an opportunity to explain this. If we call for a ban on the recreational or
        “sport” use of OHVs, as does this article, then what else should be disposable from our existing industrial
        lifestyles, for long term sustainability, as the fossil fuel economy comes to an end because of global warming
        and the exhaustion of this fuel source?

            This discussion leads us also into considering the quote by Arne Naess, that our lifestyles (in North America
        and Western Europe) should be a model for the rest of the world’s population, not something they cannot
        attain. We need to look at OHV use, and all the other taken-for-granted consumer goodies, from such a
        perspective. Rudolf Bahro (1935-1997), the German green philosopher and activist, who has influenced the
        theoretical tendency “left biocentrism” within deep ecology with which I am associated, (15) said in the 1980s
        that “development” was finished and that industrialized nations needed to reduce their impact upon the Earth to
        one-tenth of what it then was. (16) For left biocentrists, Earth-centered societies need entirely different
        economies. These are the kind of ideas that should become part of the off-highway vehicle debate.

            How does one change the “right to ride” mindset of many OHV riders? There are clashing cultural definitions
        of “self” in contention here. When one sees the hostility expressed towards the “tree hugger”, it can seem a
        hopeless task, but we must persevere in our work. The OHV debate is a cultural clash between a industrial
        consumerist human-centered selfishness that essentially disregards other social and ecological interests, and a
        new Earth-centered consciousness, informed by deep ecology and social equity considerations, that has been
        spawned out of the radical environmental movement and is now entering society at large. Cultural “tipping
        points” are, unfortunately out of our hands, but they do occur. Our work as deep ecology-inspired activists
        contributes to them, whether it is speaking up at public meetings or writing articles, or taking part in necessary
        body-on-the-line or in their face activities. This is the importance of paradigm warrior work, so that the
        ecocentric alternative enters public consciousness. The OHV debate is such an arena for cultural change work,
        a step on the path to ending our alienation from Nature and from each other.

        May 2004



            The Final Report of the Task Force came out in November 2004. It contained 39 recommendations for action.
        The minority Conservative provincial government, which has a political power base in rural Nova Scotia with a
        more generally favorable attitude towards OHV users than in urban areas, foot-dragged but ultimately responded
        to this Final Report with its own "Off-Highway Vehicles In Nova Scotia: Provincial Direction And Action
in October 2005. There was considerable discussion in the media that the government was watering down
        the Task Force's final recommendations.

            The main thrust of the Task Force to promote off-highway vehicle use, but in a more regulated manner by the
        provincial government, has remained constant. Ecological considerations continue to remain quite secondary to
        those of a more human-centered nature.  This includes the position in the Final Report to "develop and publish
        the blueprint of a comprehensive off-highway vehicle network of trails and areas." Yet the consciousness among
        the general public over the off-highway vehicle issue has greatly increased in Nova Scotia because of all the
        discussions that have taken place. Some positive regulatory changes have now been made. They are for example:
        private landowners must now give written permission for OHV use; there is compulsory vehicle registration; all
        rallies now require mandatory permits; drivers must complete safety courses. Also, courts in the province have
        upheld by-laws which ban off-highway vehicles within town limits. Some doctors in Nova Scotia specializing in
        child trauma injures, also fought a highly visible campaign in the media to ban children under the age of sixteen
        from riding OHVs because of the very real death and injury potential for younger riders. Although not ultimately
        successful, now children younger than 14 cannot drive OHVs except on closed supervised courses.

         June 2006



        1. A. Dobson, Green Political Thought, 3rd ed. (London and New York: Routledge, 2000), p. 165.

        2. A. Naess, “A European Looks at North American Branches of the Deep Ecology Movement,” in
        Philosophical Dialogues: Arne Naess and the Progress of Ecophilosophy, Nina Witoszek and
        Andrew Brennan, eds. (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 1999), p. 224.

        3. The task force on off-highway vehicles was called the “Voluntary Planning Task Force on Off-highway
It made available before the public meetings were held a background 13-page position paper
        called “Off-highway Vehicles in Nova Scotia”, dated October 9, 2003. Several short quotes and
        facts are given in my essay from this paper. It is important to point out something about the organization
        “Voluntary Planning”, which organized or fronted the OHV debate. Voluntary Planning is a government-
        funded and staffed, mainly business-oriented group of chosen and self-selected volunteers bound by a
        policy of confidentiality. The Chairman and Vice Chairman of V.P. are appointed by the provincial
        government and there are four permanent staff paid for by this government. The first meeting of the V.P.
        Board was held back in 1963. V.P. has presented itself in Nova Scotia for over 40 years as a selfless,
        self-described “non partisan” and “moderate” public-spirited body of citizens. But the reality is that through
        V.P., the business class, the voice of the status quo, has presented its concerns and analysis as those of the
        average citizen. Through V.P. and its various sector organizations e.g. forestry, mineral resources,
        environment and economy, agriculture, etc. the provincial state apparatus and public funds have been
        mobilized for private interest groups. V.P. has been intimately involved with the promotion of the interests
        of commercial forestry right from its beginnings justifying, for example, clear cutting and forest spraying.
        (Foresters regularly invoke the mantra of site-specific forestry but in Nova Scotia, according to a recent
        environmental report, clear cutting is used over 90 percent of the time.) The discussion on the various issues
        involved with the use of OHVs has been heavily conditioned by the taken-for-granted or “of course”
        assumptions of those defining the agenda for public discussion.

        4. I attended three public meetings and gave a presentation at one of them called “Off-highway Vehicle
        Use: A Reflection of Industrialized Society’s Alienation From the Natural World.”
        presentation was later re-written and published as an 800-word Opinion article in the main provincial
        newspaper, The Chronicle Herald, on February 28, 2004, under the title “OHV Use: Alienation from
        Natural World.”
The mainstream environmental movement within Nova Scotia supported the interim
        report of the task force and rallied behind it. Thus the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Nova
        Scotia Chapter, stated: “This document represents a positive step towards a culture of environmentally and
        socially responsible OHV use in Nova Scotia.” ( Wild East: The newsletter of CPAWS Nova Scotia, 4,
        Spring 2004, p. 4.)

        5. The eight-point Deep Ecology Platform is now usually given as the common denominator of the deep
        ecology movement, plus the distinction between “shallow” and “deep,” made by Naess in his initial
        formulation of deep ecology. The Deep Ecology Platform was worked out in 1984 by Arne Naess and
        George Sessions. It has been called "the heart of deep ecology" and has received widespread acceptance
        by supporters. It is fairly abstract and does not tell activists what to do in specific situations. It says all non
        human life forms have intrinsic value, not dependent on human purpose. For Naess the term "life" can
        include landscapes, streams, mountains and wilderness. It is used to include both biocentrism and
        ecocentrism. The concept of "vital needs" is introduced in the Platform, but not defined. Naess has written
        that these vital needs give "life its deepest meaning." The DE Platform does not mention Self-realization or
        non-violence. It emphasizes population reduction. DE supporters stress this is to be done without personal
        coercion. There is no mechanism for changing the Platform, or for further developing it.

        6. Naess, “Response to Peder Anker” in Philosophical Dialogues, p. 446.

        7. S. Sarkar, Eco-Socialism or Eco-Capitalism? A Critical Analysis of Humanity’s Fundamental
(London and New York: Zed Books, 1999), p. 227.

        8. L. Legere, “Culture of entitlement,” letter to the editor, The Daily News, 24 April 2004, p. 18.

        9. A summary of deep ecology given by Jack Stillwell in the internet discussion group “left bio.” The people
        in this discussion group are in general support of the Deep Ecology Platform and the ten-point
        Left Biocentrism Primer. Both of these documents can be viewed at the web site:

        10. C. L. Martin, In The Spirit of the Earth: Rethinking History and Time  (London and Baltimore:
        The John Hopkins University Press, 1992), p. 18.

        11. A. Naess, Ecology, community and lifestyle, translated and edited by D. Rothenberg (Cambridge:
        Cambridge University Press, 1989), p.175.

        12. M. Wackernagel and W. Rees, Our Ecological Footprint: Reducing Human Impact on the Earth
        (Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers, 1996). There are criticisms of this important text from a DE
        perspective. Although this book has brought the concept of our ecological footprint into consciousness for
        many, it remains human-centered, other species needs are a footnote; the authors work with the bogus
        “sustainable development” concept; they avoid the redistribution of wealth and accept the “current material
        standard of living” (p.24); they accept world trade and globalization; and they believe that we have to
        appeal to human self-interest to bring about social change.

        13. Voluntary Planning, Out of Control: Interim report of the Voluntary Planning Off-highway
        Vehicle Task Force
(Province of Nova Scotia: Communications Nova Scotia, February 2004).

        14. This quote is taken from a four-page summary of this meeting, dated October 25, 1984, sent out by the
        New Brunswick “Natural Resources Forest Extension Service,” meant for internal distribution only. A copy
        was obtained by an environmentalist and widely circulated. The actual quote is attributed to the Wise Use
        ideologue Ron Arnold and taken from the title of the summary: “‘Only A Movement Can Combat A
        Movement’ Environmental Campaigners Say.”
Apart from misleadingly calling the Wise Use speakers
        “environmental campaigners,” this meeting summary shows the alliance between governments and the Wise
        Use coalition of forces, in order to combat an environmentally concerned citizenry.

        15. A summary of left biocentrism, which continues to evolve, is given in the ten-point Left Biocentrism Primer.
        Left biocentrism functions as a kind of Left wing of the deep ecology movement. Left biocentrists call
        themselves “left bios” and an internet discussion group, that has been operating for over seven years, has
        functioned as one place for collective theoretical discussions. A personal letter to me from George Sessions,
        dated 4/19/98, also copied to Arne Naess, Bill Devall, Andrew McLaughlin and Howard Glasser, noted in part
        about left biocentrism: "Personally, I agree with almost everything you say in the Left Biocentric Primer...
        It's a real shame that the Green parties came under the influence of Bookchin and not your version of
        Left Biocentrism - it's obvious that's where they need to head. So, I have no necessary bones to pick with
        your idea of a Left wing of the Deep Ecology movement, more power to you and your colleagues. I
        wonder if the word ‘Left' is the appropriate one to use (as opposed to social justice)."

        16. R. Bahro, Avoiding Social & Ecological Disaster: The Politics of World Transformation, revised
        abridged edition, translated from the German by David Clarke (Bath: Gateway Books, 1994).


        The edited version of this article, under the title "Off-Road Vehicles and Deep Ecology: Cultural Clash and Alienation
        from the Natural World" has been printed  in
Thrillcraft: The Environmental Consequences of Motorized Recreation,
        2007, Foundation for Deep Ecology.

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