Part III of a three-part series
Asked Miami Herald reporter Howard Cohen after Joe Browder’s death, “Has there been a more dogged supporter of the Florida Everglades? Many might point to the late Marjory Stoneman Douglas and, indeed, her 1947 masterwork, The Everglades: River of Grass defined the Everglades as a vital artery in South Florida’s survival.
Browder pushed Douglas out front
“But according to University of Florida history professor Jack E. Davis’ 2009 biography, An Everglades Providence: Marjory Stoneman Douglas and the American Environmental Century, it was Browder who pushed Douglas into a public and political role.
“She was not the one who turned the Everglades into a cause, and she did not seek to join that cause,” Davis wrote. “It had come to her, as she openly acknowledged. Before Browder arrived at her doorstep,” initially as an NBC television reporter, “the Everglades had been little more than a topic in her writing.”
“Born in Amarillo, Texas,” Cohen wrote, “Browder moved to Miami with his first wife, Joan Browder, and their two sons, Ron and Monte. The two were married for 13 years.
“Joe was an avid birder, Audubon Field Guide at his side, as long as I knew him,” Joan Browder e-mailed to Cohen. “He could find his way around anywhere in the wilderness but always headed off in the wrong direction on a city street. The boys and I used to trek through the cypress strands and ponds of the Big Cypress Swamp, dodging snakes and hoping against aggressive alligators, following in Joe’s soggy footsteps.”
Browder went on to found Friends of the Everglades group with Douglas in 1969, “and also was affiliated with the National Audubon Society and Friends of the Big Cypress National Preserve,” Cohen recalled.
Even before forming Friends of the Everglades, Browder “was alongside President Lyndon Johnson when the president designated Biscayne Bay a national monument in October 1968,” said Cohen.
Browder “also successfully led the fight against an already commenced Miami International Airport jetport right in the middle of the Everglades,” Cohen recounted.
Browder later served four years, 1977-1981, with the U.S. Department of the Interior, advising then-President Jimmy Carter about environmental affairs. Late in life, with his second wife Louise Dunlap, Browder headed the consulting firm Dunlap & Browder, Inc.
The Biophilia Hypothesis
Stephen Robert Kellert, 1943-2016, spent 24 years teaching at the Yale University School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, followed by 15 years as the Tweedy Ordway Professor Emeritus of Social Ecology and Senior Research Scholar at the same institution.
Kellert regarded his own most important of more than 150 publications as The Biophilia Hypothesis, a 1993 anthology co-edited by Harvard entomologist Edward O. Wilson, exploring the idea that humans are instinctively driven to seek connections with nature. Later Kellert works include The Value of Life: Biological Diversity and Human Society (1996), and Kinship to Mastery: Biophilia in Human Evolution and Development (1997).
But Kellert had already done his most influential research for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in 1978 before joining Yale, published in 1980 under the title American Attitudes Toward and Knowledge of Animals.
Comprehensively surveying more than 3,000 Americans, Kellert produced a body of data unequalled by any similar survey since, of significance to animal advocacy in all dimensions rivaled only by the findings of National Public Opinion Survey founders Howard and Clara Trumbull in a series of studies sponsored by the American Can Company in 1927, 1937, and 1947-1950.
Like the Trumbulls, Kellert published further insights extracted from his survey data in bits and pieces over many years, eventually appearing to lose interest in what more could be done with it, even as other researchers picked up the many loose ends that it left.
Gains for wolves & coyotes
One of the most ambitious follow-ups to American Attitudes Toward and Knowledge of Animals, Changes in attitudes toward animals in the United States from 1978 to 2014, was published in early 2016 by five Ohio State University graduate students, Kelly A. George, Kristina M. Slagle, Robyn S. Wilson, Steven J. Moeller, and Jeremy T. Bruskotter.
“We used a web-based questionnaire to survey a nationally representative sample of 1,287 U.S. residents,” the Ohio State University team wrote, “replicating 26 single-item measures of attitudes toward animals from Kellert’s study. Attitudes toward all animals were remarkably similar in 1978 and 2014.
The greatest differences were for historically stigmatized species (e.g. bats, sharks, vultures, wolves and coyotes. The majority of respondents reported positive attitudes toward wolves and coyotes, and the proportion of people reporting positive attitudes toward these species increased by 42% and 47%, respectively. The differences in attitudes,” the Ohio State University team concluded, “may be indicative of growing concern for the welfare of animals––both wild and domestic.”
HSUS president Pacelle was Kellert student
“Stephen Kellert was one of the most important voices in documenting broad public support for animal protection in a science-based manner,” Humane Society of the U.S. president Wayne Pacelle told ANIMALS 24-7. “Many animal advocates are in his debt,” including Pacelle himself, he acknowledged, as one Kellert’s students at Yale in the late 1980s.
“His work was predictive,” Pacelle said, “of the broad success our movement would see in the realms of corporate reforms and public policy in the 21st century.”
In particular, Kellert found that as the U.S. transitioned from having a population mostly only one or two generations removed from family participation in agriculture, attitudes toward animals were evolving away from a utilitarian perspective, in which animals are seen primarily as tools or commodities.
Future of hunting, trapping, fishing
Conducting his survey in years when participation in sport hunting and trapping were at all-time highs, Kellert discovered an age stratification in interest and attitudes which suggested that first trapping and then sport hunting would practically die out surprisingly soon: trapping with the passage of the World War II generation, sport hunting with the passage of the Baby Boom generation.
Fishing appeared likely to fade out after that.
Dismissing Kellert’s findings at first, hunting advocacy organizations and state wildlife agencies funded mainly by the sale of hunting, trapping, and fishing licenses by circa 1990 embarked on aggressive campaigns to recruit more young hunters, trappers, and fishers––but the only evident increases in hunting, trapping, and fishing participation over the past quarter century have come among Baby Boomers in their first years after retirement.
Kellert and Alan R. Felthous in 1985 produced another influential survey-based study, Childhood Cruelty toward Animals among Criminals and Non-Criminals. This reinforced previous research and observations, some dating back as far as the dawn of the humane movement in the 18th century, associating cruelty to animals early in life with violent and exploitative crimes against humans later.
But Kellert shied away from the implications of one of his potentially most important findings. In the first edition of American Attitudes Toward and Knowledge of Animals, Kellert defined an attitude he termed “dominionism” as an outlook in which “primary satisfactions [are] derived from mastery or control over animals,” a definition which other investigators later extended to include the exercise of “mastery or control” over women and children.
Kellert reported that the degree of dominionism in the American public as a whole rated just 2.0 on a scale of 18. Humane society members rated only 0.9. Recreational hunters, however, rated from 3.8 to 4.1, depending on the types of hunting they favored, while trappers scored 8.5.
Kellert removed the trapping score from later editions of American Attitudes Toward and Knowledge of Animals, and downplayed the significance of his findings about hunters.
Crimes against children
Starting from Kellert’s findings about “dominionism,” and observing unusually high rates of both hunting participation and prosecuted sexual abuse of children in the upstate New York/Vermont border region, ANIMALS 24-7 editor Merritt Clifton found positive associations in comparing the rates of hunting participation and crimes against children for the year 1994 in all 232 counties of New York, Ohio, and Michigan.
In 21 of 22 New York counties of almost identical population density, the county with the most hunters also had the most prosecuted sexual abuse of children.
Ohio counties with more than the median rate of hunting license sales had 51% more reported child abuse, including 33% more sexual abuse and 82% more neglect.
Michigan children were nearly three times as likely to be neglected and twice as likely to be physically abused or sexually assaulted if they lived in a county with above average hunting participation.
Data supported dominionism hypothesis
Michigan as of 1994 sold twice as many hunting licenses per capita as upstate New York, but had seven times the rate of convicted child abuse, and twice as high a rate of sexual assault on children.
Further, hunting participation in all three states tracked more closely parallel to crimes against children than other factors including income levels and educational attainment.
The data, in short, supported a hypothesis that both hunting and child abuse may be symptomatic of local cultural tendencies toward dominionism.