Green Hands — "Green Hands"
Comments to the National Park Service
on their Benefits-Sharing Draft Environmental Impact Statement

Thank you for your careful consideration of the field of impact in the Benefits-Sharing Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Extending that field to the social environment shows the kind of innovation and creativity necessary for meeting the challenge of new technology.

However you have failed to consider a significant part of the social impact.

On page 272 of the DEIS you mention that "A number of people were concerned about topics that are outside the scope of this EIS, such as whether or not the NPS should support U.S. intellectual property laws.” But you have defined the scope of the investigation as extending beyond just the physical environment to a social one. Therefore you need to consider the ethical impact of your proposals on how the NPS carries out its mission, and the impact on the culture at large.

On page 106 you describe the purpose of the NPS as conservation not only of park resources, but also of "park values." What are these? Section 1.4 of the 2001 Edition of National Park Service Management Policies emphasizes that conservation is for "the common benefit of all the people of the United States."

Any action the NPS takes on the issue of benefits-sharing will impact the larger culture. This is not just a question of law, it is a question of a basic cultural paradigm: the value of the Commons.

Popular economic theory today holds that the market is the source of wealth; this results in the privatization of natural resources we used to consider were held in in common by all. Patents on genes in agricultural plants force farmers to buy seed every year, instead of planting some from last year’s harvest. Patents on medicines the World Health Organization has identified as “essential for priority health care” make them out of reach for many people. Patents on results of scientific research actually make research more difficult (see <http://sippi.aaas.org/survey/AAAS_IP_Survey_Report.pdf>).

NPS's decision on the subject of benefits-sharing will support the spread of privatization -- or it can affirm the value of the Commons. Each time we give our Commons to corporations, we get further locked in to the market mindset. The mandate of the NPS asks us to be more creative than that: to find a solution that will foster the common good.


© Copyright 2006 Catherine Holmes Clark

This comment was submitted to the National Park Service on their site on 1 December 2006. It was not published in the newspaper.

For more information:

  • The Yellowstone Case - on the site of the Emonds Institute, one of the three organizations that took the NPS to court.
  • The final (October 2009) Benefits-Sharing Draft Environmental Impact Statement, on the NPS site. For their comments responding to the concerns I expressed above, see Chapter 5, section 5.3.9.2, or sarch the document for "privatization." Basically, they fall back on the already-in-place public policies on intellectual property rights, which frame those rights as commodities to be bought and sold.

The Green Hands columns (published in the six Nashoba Publications papers) on this subject are

UPDATE: