Whose World Lost?

Steven Spielberg’s The Lost World is supposed to be fiction, but unfortunately one plot line of the blockbuster is all too real. When Spielberg associates his character Nick with the real-world environmental group Earth First!, he not only gives credence to the views of the group, but also unknowingly captures the true essence of the organization. In fiction, and in real life, it is a story of zealotry and violence.

In the movie, deposed InGen CEO John Hammond, a surviving character from Jurassic Park, secretly sends the “good guys,” including Nick, to an island to study and photograph dinosaurs as they might have lived millions of years ago. The new CEO, however, sends a hunting party to capture the animals for a dinosaur zoo that could help rebuild the now bankrupt InGen Corporation.

When the good guys realize the hunters have arrived after them to capture the dinosaurs, Nick dramatically announces that he was sent by John Hammond for just such an emergency. Who is Nick? Former Navy Seal? Green Beret? CIA? Nope. He’s with Earth First!, the environmental group known for its eco-terrorist activities.

What does this use of an Earth First! character mean? Oddly enough, the actions of Nick and the real-life Earth First! perfectly parallel one another, giving movie-goers a glimpse into the death and destruction that can be caused by good intentions gone awry. For Nick and for the real Earth First! good intentions are enough.

When Nick frees the dinosaurs caged by the hunting party, it causes them to trample the hunters’ base camp, destroy the communications equipment, and kill several members of the hunting party. What is interesting here is that it is not the object of Nick’s scorn, the leaders of the hunting party, who are killed but their poor islander guides. Likewise, it is not the object of Earth First!’s scorn, timber industry executives, who are maimed by their actions, but rather the loggers. Score one for good intentions.

Next, Nick finds a baby Tyrannosaurs Rex with a broken leg, chained to a tree by the hunting party as bait to lure the mother T-Rex. He then takes the baby back to his base camp in order to mend its leg. Predictably, the mommy and daddy dinosaur come to the rescue of their child. As a result, one of the good guys is killed, the rest are nearly killed, and all the communications equipment destroyed. Score two for good intentions.

Now that both parties’ communications equipment is destroyed, the remaining survivors take part in a forced march across the island, through the area where the dreaded Velociraptors live, to an abandoned communications hut to call for help. As expected, most of the supporting cast is killed. Nick survives. Score lots more for good intentions.

Even though we have to remind ourselves that this is fiction, we realize the consequences of such good intentions are only too real. Let’s review them: much of the hunting party is dead, their communications equipment is destroyed, one of Nick’s party is dead, his party’s communications equipment is destroyed, and the rest of the supporting cast are corpses. We do not need to go to the movies to see this, we can open a newspaper instead.

Who is Earth First!? It is an environmental group whose credo mirrors that of the Fascists and Communists of old. The group’s mantra calls for “no compromise in defense of Mother Earth” and its literature advocates a new world order and class structure based upon the defense of the environment. It’s been noted that the Unabomber, Theodore Kaczynski, may well have been inspired by the writings of Earth First!’s most radical fringe, which argues for war on modern technology.

What does Earth First! do? They are perhaps best known for putting metal spikes in trees and on roads to injure loggers and road crews in wilderness areas. When a logger’s chainsaw hits a spike it kicks the larger-than-average blade directly back at the worker, most often striking his throat or upper shoulder, maiming or possibly even killing him. It is telling that Earth First!, so strong in its zeal to protect the sanctity of a tree, is unwilling to consider the sanctity of human life as well.

Earth First! has also made headlines for sabotaging equipment used by road crews, loggers, and power plant workers. They have destroyed hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment by putting sugar in gas tanks, for example, and have even been arrested for transporting explosives. Though in that instance they accidentally blew themselves up, maiming only themselves for a change. Usually, however, it isn’t Earth First! who suffers the consequences. It’s the worker unable to provide for his family because he cannot work with booby-trapped equipment or in an area laced with dangerous metal spikes.

The film probably sends a moral lesson that Spielberg did not intend to impart – how good intentions can go wrong, causing more harm than good. It also inadvertently exposes Earth First! for what it is: a seemingly well-intentioned organization whose zeal injures those who do not share its agenda. As a result, Nick’s actions, and the actions of Earth First!, make clear the limits of such zealotry: it is often uniformed, seldom persuasive, and repeatedly ineffectual.

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