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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
Interviewee: Mark Lesney
Interviewee: Dr. Larry Harris
Date: July 27, 1994
L: This is an oral history interview with Dr. Larry Harris. It is being conducted in Newins-Ziegler Hall.
It is July 27, 1994. The interviewer is Mark Lesney. Dr. Harris, could you tell us something about
your educational background and how you got here to the University of Florida?
H: Yes. I was born and raised in western Iowa. I went to Iowa State University on conditional
admission because I was the very first person in my lineage to ever aspire to college. My father
did not have the blessing of education nor did he have any interest or regard for education. I had
to fight my father to actually go to college, which I did. I had conditional admission, so college,
from even my first application, was a fight. It was a fight with my parents to get into college. It
was a fight with admissions to get in, and immediately then, I was carrying that burden of "do well
or else you are out of here." That really kind of shaped my notion about being a fighter, I think.
[Laughter] At Iowa State, I remember I wanted to be a park ranger or a savior of nature. When I
went to Iowa State, a quite well-known agricultural college, they said, "You cannot do that. You
either have to major in forestry or in zoology. There is no way that you can major in the
environment or anything like that."
L: When was this?
H: That was 1960. As a hunter and a fisherman and I really reveled in nature, so I, for no very good
reason, chose the zoology track and proceeded on a remarkably natural history-oriented
educational program. Iowa State was on the quarter system back then. And as you can
appreciate, the state of Iowa has very, very high educational requirements and very high
educational standards. Being on the quarter system and having these very high standards or
what they thought were extremely high standards, I took every "ology" ever been invented. This
spanned from embryology and physiology to dendrology and meteorology and geology and
etymology and ornithology and mammalogy. So inadvertently, totally inadvertently, I was trained
as a natural historian.
L: That is rare for these days.
H: Yes. I took [a lot] of botany and forestry, and you personally will find it interesting that John
Gordon was an assistant professor of forestry there at that time. Fred KAISER (PLEASE VERIFY
SPELLING), who is now chief of the forest survey unit of the forest service, and people like that
were there. Fred was a fellow student of mine and many of the people who came through that
program have done very well.
Okay, so I really had a burning desire to help people--a missionary syndrome. Having been
trained in natural history, I got involved in a Christian faith and life community there on campus.
The Protestants were sufficiently divided that no single denomination could afford to have a unit
on campus. Therefore, the various Protestant denominations pooled their resources and
established a communal Protestant Christian center on campus. I got very involved in that and
that led me into the Civil Rights Movement and into being a preacher for awhile--only inasmuch as
our Christian center was so activist that we offered services at Indian reservations and/or at
parishes and congregations that needed temporary stand-in services. We would drive out from
Ames, Iowa, Saturday and provide a full service for a parish that needed temporary fill-ins.
I became a civil rights activist at a time when much bloodshed was involved. I came down South
on voter registration in 1962 and it was very, very violent. I knew I wanted to continue this
heartfelt expression of helping people. I imagined someday that maybe I could be a professor. I
had a fantasy I could be a professor and be a good professor, and Christian, an inspiring
professor that could change the vision of people to optimism and growth for the good of humanity.
This dovetailed then with the Christian center, the civil rights activism.
My major in natural history then led me to join the Peace Corps. I had worked in Texas in 1963 as
an intern and I did extremely well with Texas Parks and Wildlife. That was the year John Kennedy
was shot in Texas and I was aggrieved extremely. I was a Kennedyphile through and through and
I was active in Young Democrats in Iowa. It was an off-election year, so Kennedy came out to
Iowa and campaigned for Iowa Democrats. Of course, the Iowans are enigmatic in that they are
very deeply conservative and they feared Kennedy very much. I am sure a lot of Iowans clapped
when he was assassinated. That political chemistry was in there, also.
Part of the reason I joined the Peace Corps was because I had been advised by my godfather at
Iowa State University to apply to Texas Agriculture and Mechanical University. Because I had
done so well in Texas Parks and Wildlife, it was a shoo-in for me to go to Texas A&M University
until they heard of my civil rights activism--at which time I was rejected and canned. That is what
caused me to go into the Peace Corps. I was very, very hurt by that and I can remember my
godfather and godmother on the Iowa State University campus saying, "Larry, you should not be
hurt. This is the will of God and God has sent you a message that you would not want to work
with people like that."
H: [They said,] "You have a different calling." So I took my civil rights activism and my lay political
aspirations or leanings and joined the Peace Corps. I did two tours in the Peace Corps at a time
when the Peace Corps was considered to be a Communist or Marxist kind of a thing. Again, I had
to fight my parents. I had a terrible fight with my father at the time because he was a racist [and]
he was bigoted. I had a fight with the local community because they thought going to college was
bizarre in the first place. And giving away the best years of your life--they just thought I had lost
all of my marbles.
I can remember talking to the local civic leaders because I had been active in the church and
things at home in a very small town in western Iowa. They just thought I was crazy. Number one,
I should have gotten out of high school and gotten a job and settled down. I can remember all of
my elders always telling me, 'When are you going to get a job and settle down?" "Get a job and
settle down" sticks in my brain. So I had to fight the city elders [and] people like my grandmother.
I remember my aunt who had loaned me some money to go to college on very stringent terms
and conditions. She really put the screws to me about repaying her loan if I went into the Peace
Corps. I had gone through college on a government-sponsored loan, and they kind of put the
screws to me because the Peace Corps was not an acceptable American activity. It was
considered an un-American activity at that point, a sort of Kennedyesque flirt with communism.
I did go in the Peace Corps to Tanganyika, old German East Africa which is now Tanzania. It is
called Tanzania because the mainland part of Tanganyika, (PLEASE IDENTIFY)
West Africa, was combined with the island of Zanzibar to form Tanzania. There again, I had
[many blessings] and some bureaucrat, God bless his soul, saw that I was trained in natural
history and wildlife and forestry. In the Peace Corps training, I had to join as an engineer.
Therefore, I was trained as a civil engineer at Syracuse University. Then I was trained in tropical
agriculture at a prominent agriculture research center in northern Tanzania.
Some bureaucrat made the decision that it was imprudent for me to build roads when I could do
all this great work for the game division. Said the other way, if I was going to be building roads in
Tanzania, why could I not build them in the parks and game reserves to enhance tourism and
ecotourism and conservation? I was assigned to the Tanzanian or Tanganyikan game division at
I did my job very loyally and very well and it was predominantly [a job of] building a game reserve,
a very large game reserve of three-quarters of a million acres. I built hundreds of miles of
boundary with machetes, 300 miles of railroad, lots of buildings--I built the house that I lived in,
airstrips. [I] literally built the infrastructure of a functioning game preserve. My heart, of course,
was in natural history. I had been trained in natural history and so I became dissatisfied
increasingly with building the infrastructure and increasingly successful at having built the
infrastructure, so I started to lean over to be the game biologist.
Then I propositioned the Peace Corps and the Tanzania Game Division. At that time, there had
been a couple revolutions and [the country] was now Tanzania. I propositioned them that I would
come back for a second tour if they would allow [me to] do biology or something that could be
useful for graduate work. Part of the motivation for this was because there were so many
traveling dignitaries in Africa in those years, people coming from rich stations in northern Europe
or North America and pontificating about African conservation.
Those of us who were working on the ground really knew that they did not know what they were
talking about except in generalities and theory. I became obsessed with the idea of doing
graduate work so that I, too, could have some credentials. Michigan State University had a very
prominent African studies program at that time. I inquired at Michigan State University and they
agreed. I went to Michigan State University. Again, I was admitted to graduate school on
conditional admission because my undergraduate performance had not been all that great [due to
my] activism in student politics and civil rights and everything else in the church.
I then was admitted conditionally and went back to Tanzania to finish the second tour of the Peace
Corps, fantasizing that it would work for a graduate degree. In 1967, I enrolled in Michigan State
University and my dreams really started unfolding and solidifying. My work in the field did indeed
qualify for the thesis for my master of science degree which was on elephant demography and
ecology. I saved all my other data on ecosystems analysis to write up for my dissertation, and I
had a very good experience using all my African field work for my advanced degree.
In order to pay the bills, I took Oxford-level grammatical Swahili. I went through college on a
Swahili fellowship. That also was extremely exciting because I was extremely fluent in Swahili
before I ever came there. But now, learning the Oxford (PLEASE IDENTIFY) was a
real blast. In order to do special problems consistent with having to take Swahili--and I did not
need to take any Swahili--I needed to use it for something. So I translated a book into Swahili,
one that you may recall from your boyhood, a very simple-minded book [called] The Web of Life
by John STIRS.
I did very well in graduate school and systems ecology just was emerging as a discipline at that
point and Michigan State University got one of three national grants to develop the new science
called systems ecology. The last year of my doctorate program, I literally moved into the electrical
engineering department at Michigan State because the gist of the proposal was that systems
ecology would be a trans-disciplinary science. The deal was that four or six engineers interested
in systems ecology would move to the zoology department. And four or six of us in wildlife and
zoology would move into the electrical engineering department.
So I finished my doctorate in mathematical ecology, systems ecology, and computer simulation
and I put that spin onto my dissertation. Then I went into a post-doc at Colorado State University
in systems ecology. About half-way through my post-doctoral fellowship at Colorado State in
systems ecology, I suddenly got this letter from the University of Florida asking me if I was
interested in a position [there]. I was, but I also was getting many other offers at that time. It was
difficult for me to decide to come to Florida because the University of Michigan had flirted with me.
The University of Kansas had flirted with me.
And the University of Florida was so fractured and in such turmoil in 1971 that they were forced,
for legal reasons, to move extremely quickly and aggressively in furbishing a wildlife program.
Therefore, their assault on me out in Fort Collins, Colorado was very, very aggressive. The
director of the school at that time was John Gray (associate professor, appointed 1963). The
reason [for] the legalism was because the extremely conservative forestry faculty--very old, very
stodgy, and very narrow-minded--had denied tenure to a wildlife professor, the one and only
wildlife professor. He decided to fight that, to appeal that. And he did appeal it. There is a very,
very good and rich record, written record of that entire proceedings.
In the final analysis, I came to Florida in January 1, 1972. [I joined] a Byzantine forestry faculty.
The director of the school was incredible. He was extremely flamboyant, extremely liberal as far
as foresters go, extremely urbane and cosmopolitan such that he did not want the newly named
and newly created School of Forest Resources and Conservation to be pedestrian or parochial.
He did things like host the International Congress of Forestry Research Organizations to make a
statement--it would not be Byzantine forestry as usual [with] chain saws and measuring tapes. As
long as he was here, our programs went beautifully in wildlife and integrated natural resources
management. But he became so tired and so worn and so frazzled by the tenure fight and the
extremely conservative forestry faculty that would not change.
To make things worse, the person who was appealing the tenure decision was vindicated totally
by the hearing panel and by the University. And there is a beautiful statement released by the
president of the University of Florida in 1972 or 1973, totally vindicating the person but suggesting
that because the forestry program was so Byzantine it would be stupid to put him back into a unit
that hated him. I came here in that situation of the most and combative that you could imagine.
Bless their souls, the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences administration under the
leadership of E.T. York (provost for IFAS, appointed 1963) knew money worked reasonably well
as a salve. He and this high-spirited person, John Gray, decided that we would unify and build a
new School of Forest Resources and Conservation and it would stand on three primary legs.
[First, we would have] a new building that would get us together physically. It worked. We
dedicated Newins-Ziegler Hall, as I recall, in 1975. [Secondly, we would have] a new faculty that
believed in integrative spirit. And a research project was funded by a cooperative called IMPAC
which stood for Intensive Management Practices Assessment Center. This was a cooperative,
now referred to as a joint venture, with the forest industry which provided the land and the
resources to create and experiment, the United State Forest Service which created the money to
pay for it, and the University of Florida faculty who did the science.
Director Gray gave us an integrative agenda as well as an integrative building. We totally
revamped the curriculum and built an extremely avant-garde twenty-first century curriculum. We
implemented that in about 1975 and it was, unfortunately, twenty-five years ahead of its time. It
was so good from an integrative standpoint and that meant it was so bad from the standpoint of
the traditional foresters that they sabotaged it. I remember very, very clearly [that] one time the
director was out of town and he appointed Professor (James) J.W. Miller (Jr., professor of logging
and lumbering, appointed 1936) as acting director in his absence. J. W. Miller was an uneducated
forestry professor of extremely Machiavellian and hateful, bigoted rancor. I remember him talking
about witnessing the last hanging in Gainesville, for example.
In the absence of Director Gray, Professor Miller called a faculty meeting. The forestry faculty had
been plotting and we totally overturned years and years and years of work on this integrated
curriculum and trashed it in one faculty meeting. Then the foresters, of course, were very gleeful
about this. It was so radical and so dramatic that most of these foresters had to be retired out.
There was just a massive exodus of that crowd of foresters in the early seventies. Virtually every
forestry person who was here in 1970 was gone by 1980.
L: Was this [because of] pressure from higher up?
H: No, it was from within. Director Gray was able to see that they could not do research, and he was
able to see that research was a critical element in the future. We had with us a very prominent--
you dearly should get this person in your oral history program--and most incredible person, Verne
L. Harper (professor of forestry, appointed 1966). He had been director of research for the U.S.
Forest Service. He literally had built a research program in the U.S. Forest Service which was
radical. At that time the National Park Service, of course, could not have a research program.
The Bureau of Land Management did not have a research program. Fish and Wildlife Service did
not have a research program. And Verne L. Harper, who lives in Gainesville, had built that
research program in the U.S. Forest Service. He was here as a retiring professor. After he retired
from the forest service he chose to come to [the University].
With the leadership of John Gray and Verne Harper, they were able to see the nastiness and the
backwardness of these old forestry behemoths. So they were retired out many times under the
guise that they did not have doctorates, they did not have research programs, they had never
gotten any grant money or anything like that. So by about 1978, we effectively had created a
really avant-garde, functioning, very aggressive new School of Forest Resources and
Conservation with a very young, aggressive faculty.
One of those young aggressive faculty [members] was in the domain called forest biology which
included physiology and genetics and soil science and pathology, for example. So pathology and
forest genetics and forest physiology and all those areas were one target area. The other target
area was wildlife science. We did extremely well in building the wildlife program as did the forest
biology group. Unfortunately, the forest biology group chose to go totally reductionist science. It
was as though Descartes had been sent over on wings of angels to lead these people into the
most minuscule, petri-dish approach to managing the environment of Florida. They wielded this
reductionism flagrantly [while] at the same time the environmental era was capturing the globe.
Florida literally was being sawed off by the United States Army Corps of Engineers and floated out
into the western Atlantic. I mean very literally gouging and gutting and digging canals. Clear-
cutting deforestation in Florida is two and a half times as fast as it is in the Amazon or in Brazil. It
is continuing to this day. This was sanctioned by Florida agriculture and Florida forestry and is
continued to be sanctioned by the forestry program under the guise of "development." In Brazil,
we say that it is bad. But in Florida, it is good because of reductionist people with their face in the
petri dish. So the wildlife program and the newly formed fisheries program said, "This is crazy."
L: Going backwards from the whole concept.
H: Exactly. Opposite philosophies. The wildlife program suffered immensely because we wanted to
address thousands of imperiled species and the forestry people said, "No, no, no, you have to
focus. You have to focus. Choose a single species such as slash pine." And we said, "No, no,
no, there are thousands of species that are going to be exterminated and if we focus on white-
tailed deer or bob-white quail, it is stupid." This philosophical difference continued to work, and
unfortunately the foresters continued to have all the power and all the linkage and share none of it.
There was no way we could ever get any environmentalist into the thinking until the Florida
Museum of Natural History, I remember very distinctly, hired a new director after Director (Joshua
Clifton) J.C. Dickinson (appointed 1961) retired.
They hired a person who was a rather outspoken, very opinionated, and most people would say
radical environmentalist as a director of the Florida State Museum. His name was F. Wayne King
(appointed 1979). He came in here as the director of the Florida State Museum and started
legitimizing the word "conservation." I felt incredulous. I could not believe that after working with
ten years of being labelled a pinky, a commie, a Marxist, a radical by my forestry colleagues,
finally, F. Wayne King, in such a high position, was able to codify on campus the word
conservation for the first time. It was just such a breath of fresh air. And he brought with him
many new and aggressive programs so the Florida Museum of Natural History became the center
of conservation on campus at the same time that a very conservative forestry and wildlife faculty
continued to reject new overtures, new opportunities.
For example, I can remember from 1971-1981 all the good advisors and all the good advice we
had been getting said, "You have to assume leadership. You must assume leadership for tropical
forestry and saving the environment of the tropics." The forestry department, and at that point the
old Florida agricultural mafia, sabotaged it at every turn. We continued to hire slash pine forest
people with their noses in the petri dishes. So Florida State Museum proceeded to steal more and
more thunder. For example, F. Wayne King was able to create an endowed professorship from
A very prominent American by the name of Katherine Ordway had created a fund called the
GOODHILL FOUNDATION (PLEASE VERIFY SPELLING). As I
understand it, by law in this country charitable funds must self-
extinguish, at least in the case of the Goodhill Foundation. It was
so prescribed that the Goodhill Foundation shall give away all
this money in the spirit of conservation and then self-destruct. F.
Wayne King was so savvy, he was able to know this and we
were able to create an Ordway Professorship in ecosystem
conservation. But if you look at the record, you will see that it
was meant to be in wildlife ecology because she wanted to save
The only way that the University of Florida could justify buying the Ordway Preserve or being
involved in any kind of land conservation effort was if we could tie it to an endowed professorship.
I can remember extremely vividly the battle [of] the Florida State Museum. [It] was not an
academic program, a degree-granting unit, [but it was] stealing the initiative and creating an
endowed professorship in wildlife conservation. This riled the foresters and IFAS immensely.
They said, "No, no, no, no, no, we have the one all, be all, end all academic program in the state
of Florida. There shall be no other forestry or wildlife or conservation program in the state of
Florida. We are charged by the Florida Legislature to pig out on all these opportunities." So they
were able to bully it into--not a professorship of wildlife ecology, but a shared professorship in
I remember sitting in 203 Newins-Ziegler Hall with Arnett C. Mace (director, School of Forest
Resources and Conservation, appointed 1978) who was now the director, Katherine (C.) Ewel
(assistant professor of ecology, appointed 1972), Henry (L.) Gholz (assistant professor, appointed
1979), and Loukas (G.) Arvanitis (professor of forest mensuration, appointed 1976), pleading with
them to let this be a conservation professorship. They said, "No, no, no, it has got to be a forestry
research professorship." We compromised and agreed it could be the Ordway Professorship of
Ecosystem Conservation. But I was out-voted four to one because of the insidious and
perseverant forestry bias at all angles.
The museum was such an active player. They recruited another program called PSTC--Program
for Studies in Tropical Conservation. That allowed them to bring yet more people of the genre of
Professor John (F.) Eisenberg (Eminent Scholar of Ecosystem Conservation, appointed 1982) into
the museum. Professor John Eisenberg had been hired as the Ordway Professor, and he and F.
Wayne King were able to bring a coterie of tropical conservationists. Professor Eisenberg is an
extremely charitable and giving person. He gave of himself beyond any reasonable human
expectation to the wildlife program and the School of Forest Resources and Conservation. [He]
lead countless doctoral students and master [of science] students and taught and bled his heart
and soul out for the integration of the Florida State Museum and the School of Forest Resources
As a consequence, we were able to create a second professorship called the Swisher
Professorship in Forest Resources and Conservation which would be the exact complement of the
Ordway Professorship. This happened because [of] the Swisher family of tobacco and cigar
fame--the Swisher Sweet era, you may recall. The Goodhill Foundation and Katherine Ordway
had given millions of dollars to create the Ordway Preserve as the first endowment and that land
was bought from the Swisher family. They had no use for the money because they were a very
rich family of their own making.
Professor Eisenberg was able to argue persuasively that his terrestrial bias should be
complemented with an aquatic person. So the endowed Swisher chair in ecosystem conservation
was consummated. But again, because of the bias of the director of the School of Forestry, and I
say forestry because that is really what it was, he worked that proposal into one of hydrology. To
this day, it is widely lauded by the University of Florida as an endowed professorship in the School
of Forest Resources and Conservation. But in fact, it is not in Forest Resources and Conservation
at all, and it is not in ecosystem conservation at all, and it is not in the spirit of Katherine Ordway.
As far as I know, it was a fish squeezer. We hired someone who was immediately positioned off-
campus, hidden under a bushel in a fisheries unit. For the second time, it seems to me, we had
generated two endowed professorships for integrated ecosystem conservation and once again, it
had been sabotaged and warped and lost.
This did not escape the attention of the president and the provost. Professor Robert A. Bryan
(Interim President, 1989-1990) was provost at the time. He said that with this degree of bungling,
the School of Forestry did not deserve the third endowed professorship which we created. But
because he had given the first professorship as a shared professorship between the museum and
the wildlife program, and because he had given the second professorship to forest hydrology
which they bungled and lost and ended up hiring someone in fisheries, the third endowed
professorship must, of necessity, go to zoology in order to quiet the rebellion. What is now
referred to as the Marshall MACARTHUR (PLEASE VERIFY SPELLING) Endowed Professorship
in ecosystem conservation went to the department of zoology. Then the provost tried to get IFAS
to pay their fair share on the Ordway Professorship and IFAS continued to ridicule and heckle
Professor Eisenberg. The foresters had absolutely no use for Professor Eisenberg because he
did not have any interest in growing slash pine trees. The provost told IFAS to either put up or
shut up and IFAS said, "We obviously are not going to touch this dangerous subject called
conservation so we will shut up." The Ordway Professorship was lost and assigned to what is
now referred to as the Florida Museum of Natural History because they knew they wanted to be
more integrative and more expansionist. Natural history was the way [to go] and [they took the
name of] Florida Museum rather than the name Florida State Museum which had a bit of a tinge of
Florida State University. They wanted to run away from it.
In the final analysis, the museum got the Ordway Professorship, the zoology department got the
Marshall Macarthur Professorship, and the fisheries department got the Swisher Professorship.
The wildlife program was being, for all intents and purposes, run out of the United States Fish and
Wildlife Service co-op unit and the Florida Museum of Natural History because we could not get a
hearing in the forestry school. The foresters pigged out on all the space, we felt, and they pigged
out on all the decision making. A lot of the faculty were industry hacks who were hired and
supported by industry. So it became troublesome. This lead to a fission in the school.
H: I really cannot give specific dates now, without notes and my files, but I do consider myself a
putative historian of the School of Forest Resources and Conservation. I have drawers of written
material which I would turn over to the University archives if those are ever of interest. It is
archival material, and just cataloguing it would be a problem. For example, the Cornwell tenure
debacle, the Ordway Professorship debacle, the Swisher Professorship debacle, etcetera.
Okay, now, let me provide some background context to the fisheries program and the ultimate
fissure or separation and split of the School of Forest Resources and Conservation. In the very,
very early seventies, the IFAS administration [under] E.T. York as executive vice-president, knew
that Florida must move into the area of fisheries and aqua culture. There had been such an
incredibly productive disciplinary development in Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, and South
Carolina. These states really were making global headline news for catfish farming, for crawfish
farming, [and] for Gulf of Mexico fisheries harvesting.
Vice-president York said it was incredible and ordained that it was incredible that the University of
Florida had no significant program in fisheries. So he created a position in fisheries and offered it
to the School of Forest Resources and Conservation. Professor John Gray, as director at that
time, this is approximately 1972, was very enthused because he envisioned we would build a
School of Natural Resources, renewable natural resources. He was very enthused and thought a
fisheries program was a logical component of renewable natural resources.
I remember a faculty discussion where one of the professors, Robert (Allen) Schmidt (professor of
forest resources and conservation, appointed 1981), just vehemently yelled and protested and
fought against the proposition that there would be a fisheries program in a forestry school.
Professor Schmidt had his mind made up that, dammit, this was a forestry school and they
already had made massive concessions to this budding little wildlife program that was inching
along on postage-stamp space and postage-stamp budgets. Professor Schmidt said the position
in fisheries should be put where it belongs, in animal science. For some reason or another, the
faculty voted him down and Director Gray appointed me as chair of a recruitment committee to
recruit the first professor in fisheries.
We recruited Professor Jerald (Jerome Vern) Shireman (professor, forest resources and
conservation, appointed 1973) from Southwestern Louisiana State University to come. He
brought with him his wife, who is now Professor Rachael Shireman (assistant professor, appointed
1979) in the IFAS administration in food science or physiology. Professor Shireman came and
assayed the situation in 1973 and was able to determine relatively quickly that his charge by the
upward administration to build a world-class fisheries program was not consistent with his job
duties as assigned to him by foresters. We had not moved into Newins-Ziegler Hall yet. We were
still in five different buildings on campus.
Nonetheless, we designed the fisheries program into Newins-Ziegler Hall. We built two large
fisheries slabs which are presently labeled rooms 305 and 307. That entire corner of the building
was dedicated to fisheries on the third floor. Wildlife had a different amount of space dedicated.
Range science was a very active program then. It had a different amount of space dedicated. We
had four very active and viable research programs on the third floor of Newins-Ziegler Hall:
forestry, range science, fishery science, and wildlife.
Professor Shireman was able to see that being saddled with scutwork for the forestry school was
not consistent with building a world-class fisheries program. He refused to have anything to do
with Newins-Ziegler Hall or advisement of undergraduate students or teaching. I remember one
time he was assigned to teach the undergraduate seminar in the School of Forest Resources and
Conservation. It was a mandatory seminar for all graduating seniors. Professor Shireman walked
into classroom and said, "This is a mandatory course and you must be here and I have been
assigned to be here. I infer that many of you do not want to be here. Is that correct?" And he
took a showing of hands and it was true. Most of the students said, "Yes, we do not want to be
here." And Shireman said, 'Well, I goddamn assure you--I do not want to be here. So let us get
rid of this semester as fucking fast as we can. I suggest that we sabotage the seminar and not
even do it, but anyway what I am trying to communicate to you is I do not have any interest in
undergraduate teaching. You do not have any interest in undergraduate learning and so let us
just get the hell out of here as fast as we can and do as [little] as we can."
So Professor Shireman led his fisheries troops into the world of politics off campus. The reason
this was so easy for him was because the president of the University at that time was Robert Q.
Marston (president of the University, 1974-1984). Robert Q. Marston was an avid fisherman and
the provost, Robert Bryan, was an avid fisherman. The son of President Marston wanted to major
in forest resources and conservation but I inferred there was something lacking in his academic
background. He was told by the predominantly forestry administration that he did not meet the
requirements for getting into the forestry school. This, no doubt, shocked President Marston when
his son was rejected. President Marston ultimately became the greatest champion of building a
fisheries program off campus, away from the forestry school.
He immediately got in touch with Senator (George) Kirkpatrick who just had been elected and ex-
President Marston worked very, very diligently with Senator Kirkpatrick to generate funding in the
legislature in the area of aqua culture. I attended many of those senate debates and senate
hearings. I can remember those days; it was approximately 1980 when nobody in the Florida
Senate knew the distinction between aqua culture and mara culture. Mara culture is the culture of
marine fish species which include shellfish, oysters, clams, lobsters, and things, as opposed to
aqua culture which is generally considered to be fresh water fin fish.
I remember Senator Kirkpatrick giving this very, very strong and strident testimony that was
perfectly consistent with the belief of Chancellor E. T. York that adopting the Alabama, the
Georgia, the Louisiana success stories for building programs to feed the people of the earth. Of
course, the foresters had no interest in feeding anything but themselves, let alone the people of
the earth. So Senator Kirkpatrick and ex-President Robert Marston were able to empower
Professor Shireman and his budding fisheries program so Shireman could ridicule and humiliate
the School of Forest Resources and Conservation administration with aplomb and total security
that he would be looked after by Senator Kirkpatrick, ex-President Marston, and Provost Bob
He was so effective in this that he could, at will, tell the director of the School of Forest Resources
and Conservation to take a hike if and when he wanted. The director of School of Forest
Resources and Conservation became increasingly humiliated because the people within his
faculty were encouraged in reductionism and discouraged from any kind of integrative spirit at all.
At about this time, a very young, aggressive, and strident wildlife faculty member was anointed as
the new chair of the wildlife program. This person was coddled, wooed, cajoled, wined and dined
by the IFAS administration such that even the chair of the wildlife program knew he had no use for
the director of the School of Forest Resources and Conservation.
He knew his budget came from the College of Agriculture and the agriculture experiment station
and the agriculture extension service and that it did not come from forestry. Little did the director
of the School of Forest Resources and Conservation know that the script was written on the wall
by the upper administration and the state legislature years and years and years before he ever got
the message. He continued to fantasize that he was the director of a large integrative unit. At the
same time everyone beneath him was being courted by the upper administration and told in so
many terms that they could reject his counsel and his mandates at will.
It is my recollection that Director Arnett C. Mace ultimately became so humiliated by the upper
administration going around him to build a fisheries program. The [foresters] just despised the
SFRC. The wildlife program chair was a very young, ambitious, vain person who was led to
believe he totally could disregard the director and infer that the director was so humiliated by the
persistent undercutting of his authority that he resigned. He made it very clear he was looking for
other positions and he interviewed widely. Ultimately, he took the job as dean of forestry at the
University of Georgia.
The school continued, then, to pursue a course of self-destruction with the blessing of the upper
administration, the Florida Legislature, the chancellor, and everyone of whom I am aware because
it was felt that there was no way of getting a non-forester to be at the helm of the School of Forest
Resources and Conservation. There was no way a forester could ever be instructed in the value
of fisheries, aqua culture, wildlife, tropical conservation, and things like this. In approximately
1992, I believe, the fisheries program became openly defiant and just totally humiliated the
director of the school and seceded. But they could have only done this with the blessing of the
In approximately 1993, the wildlife program was in a position to recruit a new chair. The wildlife
faculty decided on their first choice, a woman who was stepping down from two or three tours of
service with the National Science Foundation. She was presently in Australia where she was an
agency head in the Northwest Territories. Professor Patricia (A.) Werner (professor and chair,
wildlife and range sciences, appointed 1992) was the first choice of the faculty to be hired as chair
of the now department of wildlife and range science.
I need to add a footnote at this point. Since the fisheries program had seceded from the school
and since the range program had never gotten any support, the range program was dissolved.
The one remaining professor was integrated into the wildlife program under the guise of wildlife
and range sciences. Ultimately, the range program totally was destroyed as well. That was a
great tragedy for the state of Florida, but I am sure forest industry could care less.
Now the faculty of wildlife and range sciences, having made a decision on their first choice, who
was Dr. Patricia Werner, forwarded this to the University administration. She had been here [to]
interview; she had interviewed with the director of the school, all the deans, and the vice-
president. Yet the offer was not being extended to her. I remember I had spent the summer of
1992 in Africa. I remember coming back from Africa that summer and finding the faculty of the
wildlife and range sciences absolutely confused, entangled, mad, embittered, and cynical,
because their first choice for hiring a chair somehow had been stymied. What sticks in my mind is
that everyone had a hypothesis but no one had any data. No one had the remotest idea of fact. I
was incredulous that everyone was sitting around making up stories, theses, and hypotheses and
no one bothered to ask the administration what the problem was.
So I, in that summer, went and asked for a meeting with Professor (James Melvin) Davidson, vice-
president for agriculture at IFAS (appointed 1992), [to find out] what the heck the story was. He
said, "Well, it is very clear. We, in the administration of IFAS, are not clear in our minds as to
whether Dr. Werner would be content to be a chair of a small department embedded beneath the
School of Forest Resources and Conservation and [be] a director there. [We do not know if] she
has the potential and interest to grow, expand, and work toward the building of a new college that
would address all renewable natural resources." In other words, if she was content to be a chair
of a very small and narrow department embedded beneath a forestry administration, she would
not meet the expectations of the administration.
If, on the other hand, she agreed with the administration that there would be a new college, [and]
there could be a much greater University effort to exert leadership in the state of Florida and
nationally and internationally, then they would, of course, sanction her recruitment. Professor
Davidson said, 'We were going to bring her in for a second interview all the way from western
Australia specifically to get an answer to this question. We are very impressed by her and her
credentials. She is of the right gender [and] of the right experience base having come from the
National Science Foundation." Her degree was in botany [and] all of her research had been in
plant ecology. They imagined that maybe she could be director of the School of Forest Resources
and Conservation. Then that unit could grow and become a prominent entity in the new College
of Natural Resources and Environment. So Professor Davidson did, in fact, allocate the funds to
bring her all the way back from Australia and we interviewed her again the second time.
Professor Davidson and the IFAS administration apparently learned that, indeed, she was
sufficiently ambitious. She would not be content to be just a lowly chair of a lowly department in a
very obscure corner of a very obscure building. She was hired with the instructions to report
directly to the vice-president and to flout anything that the director [said or did].
I am speculating here. I do not really know what relation she was hired to, but I do know I was
shocked to know in approximately 1994 that she specifically was instructed to report directly to the
vice-president for agriculture and natural resources. This so upset and infuriated the forestry
faculty. It was incomprehensible to them, they caricatured her as the ultimate evil and the ultimate
villain in a most incredible history of self-destruction. I had a talk in 1994 with the vice-president
about this incredible tension and acrimony that I thought was worse [what] I had been hired into in
1971 in the heat of a tenure fight. The vice-president volunteered at that point that maybe, just
maybe this person who was trained in botany and plant ecology, who had had professorships at
two major universities and had served at the National Science Foundation could possibly be slid in
as acting director of the School of Forest Resources and Conservation. [She could] rescue the
unit so that it could stand tall with honor in the University community and provide leadership in the
new College of Natural Resources and Environment.
I thought it was a brilliant idea. I had long seen the despotism of the traditional foresters and had
lost faith that the forestry faculty could hire anybody who even could spell conservation, let alone
believe in it. I chuckled. I was happy that maybe, just maybe this botanist and plant ecologist
could be made the director of the school on an interim basis and work toward the development of
a new college. But that plan on the part of the upper administration was met with such vehement
and strident opposition by the forest industry sector. The forest industry immediately got in touch
with the chancellor and got in touch with the president of the University and proclaimed that the
forestry school was created by an act of the Florida Legislature and it could not be tampered with.
There was no way they were going to tolerate a non-forester as director.
The vice-president was, in essence, told it would be suicidal. This is inference on my part. I am
inferring that the vice-president was told his plan was absolutely crazy and it would have
absolutely zero support in the forestry department. Therefore, Dr. Werner, having been hired
already as chair of wildlife and range sciences under the condition that she would report directly to
the vice-president, was encouraged to further exacerbate the division in the School of Forest
Resources and Conservation. Being a very high-energy person, she used her energy and her
linkage to the vice-president to great advantage, a very great advantage. And the wildlife program
in 1993 really began to see some light at the end of the tunnel for the first time in decades. [The
wildlife faculty was] told that, in essence, they could design their own curriculum without the
foresters having to approve it. They could graduate students in wildlife without them having to be
foresters. They could have, in essence, some professional identity other than that of a forester.
So the wildlife and range science faculty began to see light. And Dr. Werner, as chair, began to
speak with a very loud voice at a unified faculty. [She said,] "We can growl We can earn our way!
We generate two and a half million dollars of outside funding a year! We could generate ten
million dollars per year! We could take the spotted owl paradigm and move forward toward a new
forestry! We could take the red cockaded woodpecker as an analogue of the spotted owl and
move forward to a new paradigm. We could use our wetlands and wildlife agency linkages to
save the Everglades and the massive mangrove forest on the southern fringe of Florida! We
could do something to abate this criminal deforestation of the state of Florida!" We became very
energized and empowered in 1993 and 1994. We did not have to cow-tow to a Byzantine branch
of Cartesian reductionism. This, then, led to an incredible amount of acrimony, venomous hatred,
[and] accusations. I personally have been indicted by friends in the forestry faculty. I am very hurt
by that, but luckily, as with this interview, that is all history. I can tell you I have never had an
ambitious bone in my body in terms of being a University administrator, a big shot, or anything. I
have been immensely loyal to building a wildlife program of national and global renown that would
not only worry about the biological diversity of earth, but try to do something to save it.
This is the long and arduous story that brings us to 1994. As I understand it, there is a School of
Forest Resources and Conservation that is roughly synonymous with the department of forestry.
There is a department of wildlife and range sciences. There is a department of fisheries and
aquatic sciences. There is a new college of Natural Resources and Environment that had to be
built in spite of the forestry school rather than with and in the spirit of the School of Forest
Resources and Conservation. That [school] has an interim dean who is a mammologist by
training. It seems to me [the dean] is biased heavily toward environmental engineering and this
sort of environmental engineering approach to environment and natural resources as opposed to
the more renewable natural resource philosophy that has undergirded renewable natural
resources management in the United States for 150 years, namely fisheries, forestry, wildlife and
range sciences, all of which have been predicated on joint alliances between government
agencies, academic institutions and professional societies. This new College of Environment and
Natural Resources does not seem to be in any way directly articulated with or to that historical
And now let me talk ever so briefly about the role of Larry Harris or the trajectory of Larry Harris in
all that. When Harris came January 1, 1972 after having been aggressively recruited. He was
outspoken and perhaps imprudent in his relatively liberal views, having come from the Peace
Corps and then having been drafted into the Vietnam War. He was somewhat cynical about
conservatives and tub-thumpers and Bible-thumpers and he made that political philosophy well-
known. But [he had] been trained in mathematical ecology and systems ecology, and was thrust
into a new curriculum that hinged on optimization modeling, decision-making theory, and
quantification. The forestry faculty had no one at all who could even understand optimization, let
alone teach it. Harris gave the first roughly decade of his life to the integrated core curriculum of
the School of Forest Resources and Conservation and not having been trained in optimization and
decision making, it was extremely tough to teach two courses for the entire school in quantitative
methods, decision making, and integrated natural resources management in the spirit of
optimization modeling, computer simulation, computer modeling, and things like this.
Simultaneously, [he was] trying to be a wildlife professor and get tenure and promotion. It was
extremely difficult. I had been denied tenure and promotion on two occasions by what I
considered to be an extremely biased forestry faculty who had no comprehension of what I stood
for, let alone what I did. I became cynical, overly so, overly cynical about tenure and promotion.
Well, ultimately, I was given tenure on the third try but denied promotion because the forestry
faculty felt I was too immature, too liberal, too Marxist, too Communist, too outspoken, and
apparently too ambitious. I am deeply hurt that having worked the entire first decade of my life for
an integrated school then to be chucked out, literally denied appointment. The school was
fractured and I was assigned to a wildlife program that I did not help build, that I did not believe in
philosophically or personally. I had no use for reductionism nor the Cartesian philosophy nor the
wildlife department, nor, for that matter, the wildlife profession. I thought it was following too
closely on the heels of the forestry profession which was spelling self-destruction. I had no say in
the matter. I was assigned into a wildlife department and ultimately, the wildlife department was
excluded from the School of Forest Resources and Conservation. Again, I had no say
I fought that and again, I am very deeply hurt because with the integrative-minded foresters I
stood side by side and rallied very much outside political support to try to maintain the school.
Then to be indicted by the foresters as being a Cartesian reductionist splinter is unconscionable.
The second decade of my professional life really was to try to cause the forestry profession and
the forestry faculty to reach out and stop being parochial. But the Society of American Foresters
had the parochial mentality that they were creating professionals. Therefore, a professional
forestry school should not care what the world thought. Like a medical or law college, they only
should teach to the converted. They only should preach to the converted.
In spite of this, I was able to start teaching a course for non-majors at great personal sacrifice.
This was on top of my assigned teaching load. I began teaching the course for non-majors
against the will of the forestry faculty with no support from the wildlife faculty. This course was a
2000-level course and lucky for me, my tenure as a lay preacher and my belief in integrated spirits
and holistic thinking seemed to click on the campus-wide scene.
That course, in the course of a decade, went from about thirty students per term, whenever I
offered it, to about 800 students per semester. We actually had to limit enrollment because the
largest auditorium on campus holds 670 students. I was forced to bleed and bleed and suffer to
teach more than one section in order to sate my ego perhaps. But what everyone could see was
a global outcry for teaching and instruction and leadership in the area of the biological diversity
crisis running rampant globally in the 1980s and early 1990s. [There were] extinction levels
beyond anything the earth had ever experienced. Right here on campus, and right here in
Gainesville, Florida, and right here in the state of Florida, we are leading the world on this
genocidal destruction of biological diversity. I was getting much moral support in the form of
anecdotes and comments, but it was killing me physically and mentally. It took its toll such that I
had to stop teaching the course. I could not get any support. I wanted support and I had a post-
doctoral person who could support me and did.
H: I was describing the early 1990s experience of Larry Harris in teaching a course for non-majors.
This course was called Current Issues in Wildlife or something like that. I have forgotten the exact
title. I cannot recall it right now. Bless their souls, the forestry faculty also had decided a young
man should be allowed to develop a companion course in forestry issues for non-majors. That
course also was a great success. My recollection is that his name was Dr. Allan (J.) Long
(associate professor, forestry, appointed 1986). He developed a course along the lines of issues
in forestry for non-majors. That course built up to a couple hundred students per semester, as I
recall, in the early 1990s.
As fate would have it, he was denied tenure and promotion which was just absolutely incredible.
No one in the whole universe can comprehend that such a school could be so Byzantine as to
deny tenure and promotion to the one good person they had on their faculty who was trying to
reach out. [Long] was projecting the forestry profession out onto the campus and gave a glimmer
of hope that the forestry profession could, in fact, contribute to the new College of Natural
Resources and Environment. Dr. Long was denied tenure and promotion at approximately the
same time that the health problems besieged Larry Harris. Both of those courses immediately
plummeted in enrollment. Their future remains to be known.
The Department of Wildlife and Range Sciences has experimented with other professors to keep
Wildlife Issues in a Changing World alive, but I conclude that teaching is a gift and an art. You
just cannot put any dumb cluck into the classroom and expect them to succeed. I think students
are much smarter than most faculty give them credit for. They vote with their feet. For faculty to
be so arrogant [and] think [they] can hire a research professor who cannot even find his way out of
the laboratory and put that person into a classroom, well, what we are talking about is the crisis in
American education. I am deeply saddened. As far as I understand it, the person in the forestry
department who could have done so much for that department in expanding out into a campus
endeavor is not with us anymore, as far as I am aware, and Larry Harris is not teaching Wildlife
Issues in a Changing World.
There was a very long saga of transforming from a school of forestry in the 1960s, to an integrated
and aggressive School of Forest Resources and Conservation in the 1970s, to the total
destruction and dismemberment of that by Cartesian reductionists in the 1980s. Now the
University of FLorida is forced to start from scratch and build an entire new College of Natural
Resources and Environment in the 1990s. I am sad. Again, they are repeating, I believe, many of
the lessons and mistakes learned in the 1970s by Professor John Gray and a very aggressive
faculty. Of course, most of those people have either been drummed out, ridiculed out, humiliated,
or have left on their own volition as the University appears to reward and encourage Cartesian
reductionism and individual entrepreneurialsm at the expense of institutional cohesion and
This is not surprising though, because I remember very distinctly in the 1970s, the University
administration lamented that they had no person on the National Academy of Sciences and there
was no hope of getting any person. That is an extremely exclusive cabal, of course, as is
American science. In the 1970s, the University of Florida administration made the decision that
they would buy excellence. The hell with building it, the hell with earning it--they simply would buy
it. And they did. They embarked on a program of buying graduate research professors and
rewarding them with most incredible amounts of pay, causing a class structure on campus.
Anyone who was interested in teaching lower-division freshmen and sophomores was guaranteed
to get no salary, no respect, no help, no support, and make on the order of twenty percent of the
salary of what these great and lauded reductionist professors were being paid to stick their noses
in petri dishes. I think that complements and is consistent with my perception of what [was] wrong
in education in the United States in the 1980s.
So, what do we think about the role of biotechnology, bioengineering, and the engineering
approach to saving the environment, etcetera? Well, I already have mentioned earlier that I am
bothered. I am uncomfortable that the new College of Natural Resources and Environment
appears to be adopting the engineering paradigm. That is to say, of humans, by humans, for
humans, and we can build a better nature. The hell with God or creation or anything else. The
hell with ecosystems. The hell with evolution. The hell with natural selection. If we need more
clean water in Florida, we will manufacture it. If we need more wood in Florida, we will
manufacture it out of sawdust. If we need more wildlife in Florida, we will import it in the form of
exotic species such as feral hogs and other feral game species or exotic game species. If we
need more soil in the Everglades, we will use vermiculite. If we need more fertilizer, we will
manufacture it by nitrogen cracking. The hell with natural nitrogen (PLEASE
IDENTIFY) in the form of (PLEASE IDENTIFY) or lightning strikes.
This hubris and arrogance scares me very, very much. It is an arrogance developed by the
Greeks for the first time in human history, in the very long two million years of human history. The
Greeks were the first to invent gods in their own image. And all other civilizations on earth had
always respected gods outside of the image of humans. But our Greek heritage, coupled with the
power of the Roman Empire and the successes of the Roman Empire have allowed that we
develop gods in our image. Thus it is not surprising to me that we think we are gods in our image.
And when our own image tarnishes a bit, we simply change the image. Now we have created an
engineering god. The god we worship is the technological god that simply will create new
species. There is no need to preserve natural genomes. It is silly and romantic because with
genetic engineering, we can engineer the plants we need, the disease resistance we need, and
the hybrid vigor we need.
So what I see is the end of nature, not in a pessimistic and cynical sense that all nature will be
destroyed, but in the sense of nature as a concept. There is no longer embedded, in humans I
know, a fear of nature. There is no longer-- and this is western civilization I am talking about
now--a sense that nature is something beyond the control of humans. What we have done [is
that] we have changed--and this is in the very late decades of the twentieth century--the very
concept of nature from one where humans were party to it, invited by God and others and
welcomed in the bosom of natural biospheric systems. We have changed that now to a culture
that neither fears God nor nature. We laugh at hurricane threats. We presume and I presume, I
fully presume, we will learn to control the massive amounts of energy in hurricanes. [It is] very
much like a floor polisher in University buildings. We will guide those hurricanes to provide fresh
water where we need it. God only knows Bengal Bay is the most tortured area of earth by what
they call typhoons but are really hurricanes. Those can be guided and stalled over the desert and
I presume the Middle East will have more fresh water than any desert on earth.
A hurricane is the most incredibly powerful desalinization and provider [of a] desalination
mechanism and provider of fresh water in the world. There is no reason, no logical reason, why
we cannot engineer a solution [and] use the lessons of the Netherlands to prevent [the people of]
Bangladesh from being killed and simultaneously direct those hurricanes and stall them over the
desert and create the most productive agronomic landscapes the world has ever known. I believe
that engineers can do that. I believe engineers will do that. I believe we will influence el nino so
as to mitigate the drought effects in the (PLEASE IDENTIFY) while simultaneously
mitigating the allied climatic effects in the north temperate areas of North America. I have
confidence we are gaining in local biological diversity while we are homogenizing the globe. It is a
genocidal propensity of humans to homogenize everything.
Something that hurts me very deeply [is that] we are homogenizing cultures under the guise of
being eclectic. So we encourage the inter-marriage of Bantus and (PLEASE
IDENTIFY) under the guise of personal freedom. We encourage the destruction of the
Kalaharisan under the guise of nationalism. There is no place in Botswana for a unique cultural
expression, god-given cultural expression of biological diversity. We homogenized the American
Indian out of existence and will not allow [him] to even speak [his] peace, let alone assert an
ethnic identity. There is this great mythology that America was built on the melting-pot theory
which is total bullshit. Any reasonable, intellectual anthropologist will tell you it is total bullshit.
Irish are Irish and they should be allowed to be Irish. Hispanics are Hispanics and they should be
encouraged to be Hispanics. They should not be encouraged to give up their heritage and their
culture so they can be a right-wing, radical, Bible-thumping Baptists.
So I see the biotechnology revolution as being incredibly powerful, incredibly arrogant, incredibly
destructive of the natural systems of earth, indeed, by definition destructive of the concept of
nature as something beyond human reach and beyond human control. With respect to the role of
the new IFAS in a biotechnology revolution and a biotechnology future, I very, very deeply hope
that IFAS could stop being IFAS. To me it is an oxymoron. There are University of Florida
officials who somehow fantasize that renewable natural resources are a subset of agriculture. Of
course, it is the ultimate absurdity. Agriculture must be seen as a subset of natural resource
management. Natural resources must be seen as the undergirding base for human hopes of
engineering better worlds and designing better genetic tomatoes or trees or cucumbers or what
have you. To say we can destroy the peak soils of the Everglades with honor, casualness,
integrity, and still have a productive Florida agriculture based on hydroponics and vermiculite is
the ultimate arrogance. To say we can destroy forests and replace them with pine plantations,
which are not forests, and not pay any costs is the ultimate of arrogance.
I believe totally in biotechnology, but I cannot comprehend who is going to pay for it. Who is going
to pay for all the services of nature that all of human civilization has gotten for free as we replace
those free natural services with man-made ones? For example, natural systems have been
producing a surfeit of fresh water for free forever. And we choose, for reasons I cannot
comprehend, to want to supplant that with desalinization systems and engineer artificial fresh
water sources. Nature has provided us all the renewable natural energy that all civilizations on
earth could ever want, a million times renewable energy in a hurricane, a single hurricane, than
this country needs. And we choose to deny that totally and spoil our own nest because of our
obsession with capitalistic depletion allowances for carbon-based fuels, be it coal or gas or oil or
biomass in the form of 10,000-year-old trees.
The ultimate arrogance of replacing services of nature given to us free for our children, and the
children of our children, are being replaced by a bankrupt economy who chooses to engineer our
way, very expensively, away from renewable natural systems. I have given two examples, energy
and water. I could go on and give you dozens of other examples of renewable, cyclical systems
that we could get in touch with such as ozone. At ground level, ozone is an immensely poisonous
and toxic gas. In the stratosphere it is equally as important and equally as threatening, not
because of its abundance, but because of its depletion. By some human arrogance, we believe
that we can produce unlimited amounts of ozone at ground level and engineer our way around its
toxic and poisoning impacts, at the same time we deplete stratospheric ozone and while we, as
former President Reagan said, "We simply can wear more sun visors and sunscreen at the
beach." That is correct. Humans can do that. But for all other species on earth, they cannot do it.
My fear with the biotechnology approach is that it is steeped overly in arrogance and engineering
arrogance. At great expense we can do it. We do not need the fresh water of Florida. I am
convinced we can build a desalinization plant. But who is going to pay for it?
We do not need forests in Florida. I am convinced forestry technology can make sawdust boards
and will make sawdust boards better than nature. But who is going to pay for them? I am
convinced we do not need renewable natural energy. We can use nuclear energy. We can
engineer our way into that. But who in the hell is going to pay for it? Future generations are going
to pay for it, and we are going to pay for it at the expense of neonatal survival, social equity, health
care, and we are going to burn out vibrant, young professors in the classroom because [there is]
no respect for teaching anything about renewable natural resources or its management. We just
want these people to get on with engineering their way into a bigger and brighter profession and
then hopefully they will generate a job offer from Berkeley or Yale which will rationalize giving
them some pittance of a salary increase at the University of Florida as we simultaneously try to
humiliate them and keep them on their knees.
I close simply by saying I feel challenged by God and civilization to stay on my toes. I feel
mandated by the University of Florida administration to stay on my knees. Thank you.