Finding nuts in the forest, the story they dare not print, and why workers are safe under capitalism. THE EARTH AND ITS FRIENDS

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Morgan Fairchild, blonde bombshell, is an environmentalist. So is David Duke, Louisiana legislator and former Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. So is tennis lady Martina Navratilova. So is Robert Redford -- but you knew that. So is Prexy George Bush. So are more other politicians than you can shake a stick at, and, according to the Gallup Poll, so are 75% of the American people. Folks, it is beginning to look like a landslide. The big cliche about environmentalism these days is that it is no longer off in left field. It is now said to be a moderate, mainstream cause: Nexis currently contains 335 articles in which ''mainstream'' appears within 30 words of ''environmental.'' But we are not so sure. There is abundant evidence suggesting that the movement's nuttiness is far from eradicated. Begin with certain spooky ideas that have taken hold. One is the increasingly popular notion that the earth, our favorite planet, is somehow ''alive.'' This proposition, promoted by inventor-scientist James Lovelock and buttressed by assorted meta- and geophysical details, has been spelled out in the ''Gaia hypothesis,'' named for a Greek earth goddess. We confess to preferring the analysis of a scholar named Richard Dawkins, who was quoted in Time as opining that the earth can't be alive because it doesn't reproduce. The view of the earth as alive if not well is possibly related to the recent emergence of the ominous phrase ''crimes against the earth.'' The phrase, obviously intended to echo the crimes against humanity that Nazi war criminals were convicted of at Nuremberg, is now routinely applied to loggers and polluters and has actually appeared in recent headlines in Business Week and the Washington Post. We are a bit unclear about where the phrase came from. The earliest citation in Nexis is in a September 1988 story about the Grateful Dead rock group launching a campaign to save the earth's rain forests, with one activist proclaiming that if humanity fails to do so, we will all be guilty of C.A.T.E. Then there is ''ecotage,'' an increasingly serious problem for folks unloved by environmentalists. The ecological saboteurs have been especially hard on loggers in the Northwest, where ''tree spiking'' is now a favorite pastime of the crazies. The game involves driving a heavy metal spike into the trunk of a tree expected to be harvested by lumber men; the object is to wreck sawmill equipment and make the mill operations quite dangerous. (Sawmill workers have been seriously injured in several recent episodes.) An organization called Earth First! -- which insists on the exclamation point -- has been a major, gleeful fomenter of ecotage, and its literature tells you in some detail how to spike a tree. An Earth First! book called Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching also explains the correct procedure for toppling power lines and tearing down billboards. The author of the book is the movement's founder and chief philosopher, an idealist named Dave Foreman. Dave calls people ''a pox upon the planet,'' a view that you could argue is not exactly mainstream. To be sure, Earth First! is not typical of the environmental movement. But even the groups that seem more representative -- the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, the Audubon Society, Friends of the Earth -- continue to sound unreasonable about basic economic issues. Hopelessly committed to snail darterism, they continue to depict decisions about the environment as questions of good and evil, not as trade-offs involving competing values, one of which is economic growth. Right now they are all lined up to support spotted owls whose protection is deemed to require bans on timber cutting through vast areas of the Pacific Northwest (even though the bird has other habitats besides the affected timberland). We somehow doubt that 75% of Americans are rooting for the owls in this situation. No matter what Morgan Fairchild says.