I Have Seen the Future and It Works!

The occasion was the event billed as a Rally Against the Proposed Keystone (‘Tar Sands’) Pipeline, slated to run 1700 miles from far northern Canada to Houston Texas – its oil there to be refined, and sold abroad.

November 6 was the date of this, my Opening to the Future. The Rally was to be held at Lafayette Square, right across from the White House. Its purpose was to protest the environmental dangers of this pipeline, and the even worse earth-and-atmospheric abuses involved in its brutal extraction process, sited in the wildlife-rich Canadian Boreal Forest zone. The message was to President Obama, and it would say “Do Not allow Big Oil to build this monstrosity – and all it represents — across our own country.”

This was to be no ordinary protest, of which we see many each year here in the capital. This time we were going to encircle the White House, the whole thing, grounds and all – with a fence of human arms and hands. That’s something that hadn’t even been attempted for decades.

“Human arms and human hands… cannot be done except by many thousands,” I thought rather gloomily to myself as I journeyed downtown that bright sun-filled Sunday afternoon. “Thousands and thousands of people; no likely way!”

I did not expect much; just knew I had to be there… take a stand, bear witness against what I have always considered to be one of the greatest of all the assaults on our lovely little planet. Not the least of these was this monstrous project’s utter destruction of, and potential future damage to, endangered species. For example, the endangered whooping crane makes its summer nesting grounds in those same boreal forests and wetlands which are being so harshly logged off, ripped out, its marshes and meadows filled with toxic pollutants. The proposed pipeline — almost eerily – closely follows the crane’s migration route, as they return to Texas each year. And that’s only a part of what’s so wrong, so unacceptable about this one, I thought.

I confess I did not expect any dramatic outcome, or even a particularly major event itself, this time. I just knew I had to be there, no matter what.

I was stunned and delighted by what it actually was, even more by what it became. When I arrived the Square was already over half-filled; and the people kept coming, in their thousands – especially the younger people. My heart opened up – stirred as much by the feeling of the crowd, as by the eloquence of numerous passionate speakers, from all parts of US and Canadian society – each detailing why this was a wrong idea, a Bad Thing.

The huge crowd roared and cheered at just about every phrase, waving hundreds of mostly hand-lettered signs. As the Square continued to fill, its overflow started to file, in a solid column 10-15 deep, across Pennsylvania Avenue, around the Treasury Building, down 15th Street. Borne along by the crowd, I looked across its massed ranks and saw one of those signs – held high – an endangered species sign, about the whooping crane, and in the name of the Endangered Species Coalition! My own issue, my own people! I thought. Who can that be? Honing in on that placard as my beacon, twisting and turning, until I could get close enough – there was Mitch Merry, our young Online Organizer, and his girlfriend.

Hugs all around, and we marched happily together, down 15th street. But the crowd was so great we had to separate, looking for an open spot to link hands. Mitch had two signs, so I gladly took one.

I kept on walking, down past row upon row of linked hands, looking for an empty place. But there were none; the other half of the crowd had crossed Pennsylvania Avenue the other way – west, down 17th street and past the Old Executive Office Building, there to link up at the far southern end of the White House grounds, on the Ellipse. And they had already arrived, at least 6-8 rows deep even at that distance from the beginning at Lafayette Square..

There was so much more, that giddy, perfect, crystal-blue, happy day. There are photographs of it, which capture its outward essence – which was the crowd itself. I only wish there had been some way to also capture its inner essence too.

This essence, and the secret of the whole thing, was in two parts. First, the sounds: the calls and response, the variety of the chants, the drummings, the happy rumblings from 10-12,000 committed people, all there for one common cause.

And second, the smiles. The smiles on everyone’s face.

For that was the best of it and that is most of why I now feel so much faith in the Future, however scary it seems sometimes. It was the smiles, the plain unadulterated happiness out there, filling the whole air. Happiness, yes, Happiness, that at last our side was fighting back; taking on Big Oil; pushing back publicly and hard. Happiness, that there were so many of us, and the happiness of actually seeing each other there, all together… the happiness of knowing that we who care about this earth are nowhere near as alone as sometimes it seems portrayed in the media.

And that greatest of all happinesses, I think – the happiness of knowing that we CAN do it – we can win. (“Yes We Can”, one of the President’s campaign phrases, was one of the most commonly heard chants).

And my own personal happiness – for me, the greatest of all: the younger ones, the young people, there in their thousands and their thousands. Their energy, passion, commitment, could just be felt, everywhere, out there in the air — everywhere. And that, for me, is the happiness of knowing, now for sure, that there is hope – much hope – for the future.

I know this now, I have seen it. Because the young ones were there, and they are claiming that future. What a blessing I thought then to myself… to have lived long enough to witness, and to be a part of this moment, and at this time and in this place.

-Brock Evanswww.endlesspressure.org

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America’s Best Idea

Our Western Mountains (courtesy of rrbsm.webs.com)

Our Western Mountains (courtesy of rrbsm.webs.com)

Back in 1912, the British Ambassador to the United States once said “Your National Parks are the best idea America ever had.” That stirring phrase stands as a reminder — not only of how much we love this land of ours, but also of a national characteristic just as important: when necessary, we will take strong steps to pass on this heritage to those who follow.

For, wonderful as are our National Parks, Wilderness Areas, and Wildlife Refuges, these were not the only ideas which began here and now are firmly a part of our national culture.

After many years of working to secure protection of the best parts of this beautiful American Earth, I have come to believe that the greatest legacy and heritage protector of them all is the Endangered Species Act– enacted by Congress in 1973 by huge bipartisan majorities: 355-4 in the House, 92-0 in the Senate.

Why do I say the ESA is also so special, so – American, in its conception and in its implementation? Because its purpose, its terms, and its message take it a long leap beyond most other environmental laws. The Endangered Species Act is a moral law, in the very best sense of the word. “Moral” because it expresses the near-unanimous will of the whole American people that we must do our best to ensure that this rich diversity of plants and animals which live among us shall also stay here forever, just as we intend to do.

The Once Endangered Eagle (courtesy of americanancestors.info)

The Once Endangered Eagle (courtesy of americanancestors.info)

Think about this powerful moral expression — the essence of the Endangered Species Act — for a moment: in 1973, the legislators of a great Nation came together, and they said, in effect: “from henceforth, we, the American People, shall not permit any other species of plant or animal which shares the national territory with us, to become extinct. Not if we can help it…”

If that isn’t one of the most profound and powerful statements ever, of a Nation’s feelings about all its inhabitants, it’s hard to imagine what is. That’s what this is really all about.

President Nixon perhaps said it best, when he signed the ESA into law in 1973: “Nothing is more priceless and more worthy of preservation than the rich array of animal life with which our country has been blessed…. [the lives of] countless future generations will be richer…. and America will be more beautiful in the years ahead, thanks to the measure that I have the pleasure of signing into law today.”

This new law, the Endangered Species Act, had so much power and moral force because of two basic concepts which were written into it at the very beginning:

1. The Act declares that any species which science can prove is nearing extinction, shall be protected under the terms of the Act. Not ‘pretty please,’ not if it is politically safe, but “shall.”
2. The Act declares that not only must individual members of a species be protected, but also orders the government to protect that species’ “critical habitat,” the specific places each plant or animal needs for food and shelter, to reproduce – in other words, to help it become healthier and return from the brink of extinction.

To recover, because that is the true goal of this law: to lend a helping hand to our natural neighbors, to protect and nurture them back to full health. The Endangered Species Act, which my organization, the Endangered Species Coalition, is proud to defend — is our Nation’s ultimate safety net — its Emergency Room, for nearly all living things which share our boundaries.

It is not a perfect law, but it has been hugely successful: so many species on the brink 37 years ago are now flourishing among us: the pelican, condor, falcon, alligator, hundreds of flowers and reptiles too – given a fighting chance to survive. So too are their critical habitats: millions of acres of ancient forests, wild beaches, still-open meadows, sparkling rivers, rare places which would have otherwise be long since logged off, paved over. This is the true legacy of our unique Endangered Species Act.

There are some who have called it a job-killer, the exploiters’ favorite buzzword of these difficult times. Yes, there are instances where the requirements to protect rare habitats and the nearly extinct animals or fish which inhabit them, have prevented clearcut logging or massive dams or subdivisions. But our whole national experience over the past 37 years has been that these conflicts have nearly always been resolved; the proposed development is modified, or takes place in a different and more sustainable spot.

The fact that the ESA still stands tall and unweakened, after nearly forty years, is in itself a testament to the wisdom of a special American, “can-do” spirit, when it comes to our natural treasures: that we can have both: jobs, economic development, and natural beauty, wild places, endangered species too. It need not be one or the other.

We can ask: what would our country have looked like now, after four decades of heavy development, if this special law — the Endangered Species Act — was never enacted? How much poorer we would have been as a people, to have lost such a stunning heritage!

Given this already-priceless legacy, it is shocking to have to report that this week, House Republicans have opened up a major attack on the Act. Bills have been introduced, and pushed strongly, to remove the endangered Rocky Mountain Wolf — just recently brought back from the edge of extinction — from the Safety Net.

Wolf and Cub (courtesy of wtv-zone.com)

Wolf and Cub (courtesy of wtv-zone.com)

If this attack succeeds, we can be certain that other legislation, to “delist” many other species will follow. The guts of the Act — the parts that require scientific findings to determine which species will be protected — will be ripped out, replaced by “political science” that is, whoever has the biggest wallets and most lobbyists in Congress.

While we can all understand that some folks like Big Oil, or Big Sprawl Developers might like this result, we don’t believe the American people would stand for it.

So the environmental community has this suggestion to our Representatives and Senators in the Congress : don’t even try. Every American knows that Extinction is Forever.

Perhaps, upon reflection, this is the greatest idea – our Nation’s greatest gift – to the whole world — as well as to ourselves.

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Disaster in the Gulf: Can Anything Good Come of This?

Is this Nature's way of sending a message?

Is this Nature's way of sending a message?

I had started out six weeks ago to write about Earth Day: how well I remembered that first one in 1970, and how far along we have come since those days. But then came the news of the oil spill in the Gulf — no, let us never again use BP‘s jargon and call it a mere ‘spill;’ this one is a catastrophe. I can hardly bear to read the daily news, much less view that 24-hour footage from the sea bottom; it hurts too much. Instead, I reflect on the irony of it all: was this Nature’s way of sending a message?

The accident which led to the catastrophe DID happen on Earth Day… but no one then had yet sensed the enormity of the tragedy as it was to unfold. So I cast away the Earth Day motif and started a rant about catastrophe and its likely consequences. Unsatisfied that I didn’t understand it well enough yet, and also because of a lot of traveling, I waited. I’m glad I did.

Now five more weeks have passed. Can anything good at all come out of all this? In the end, yes.

It sure doesn’t seem so at this moment. BP’s latest effort — that ‘junk shot’ (what a choice of words!) has failed, so in a few more days they’re gonna try another cap…. and in a few more days after that… well, who can say?

“We’re preparing for the worst,” says Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security. But what does that mean? To her it means they will finally have those ‘relief wells’ drilled by late August.

Late August? In the meantime, 10-40,000 barrels a day gushes from the seabed of one of the most wildlife-rich bodies of ocean anywhere on earth. In my darker moments I think other thoughts: hurricane season is almost upon us, and this year they are predicting over a dozen — even only one of which is certain to drive that oily mess far far up into marshes and bays all along the Gulf.

 St. Joseph Bay from Old Shoe Woman's Photostream

St. Joseph Bay from Old Shoe Woman's Photostream

And beyond those places too, dreadful as that is to contemplate.

Oil rainstorms? Why hasn’t anyone mentioned that? Does anyone really believe that a strong hurricane won’t pick up at least some of that oil and rain it down on inland cities and towns, farms and forests? Since the tail ends of these hurricanes often sweep up well over a thousand miles into Ohio, New Jersey, Washington, DC, what about all the other places in its path? I myself have lived through the floodings and intensely stomy aftermaths of at least two dozen such Gulf Hurricanes in my own lifetime.

Hurricane Ivan (www.noaanews.noaa.gov/.../ivan091304-2015z.jpg)

Hurricane Ivan (www.noaanews.noaa.gov/.../ivan091304-2015z.jpg)

The worst? I give credit to BP for doing all it can now (after failing miserably to even consider a backup plan before they drilled); but the horrible fact is that no one really knows, not down this deep. One of the many anonymous phone calls I have received recently is from a person who says he worked out there on those deep-ocean rigs: “they’ve pierced the mantle,” he says. “They deliberately went farther that they were allowed, to get at a larger pool of oil…”

Well, I hope he’s wrong; but even if it’s not like that, it is an awful event already, and it is out of control.

In another darker thought, I envision a world about six-10 months from now where it is still not controlled, and at least half of the Gulf is now an oil lake, spreading across to the Carribean and already flooding up the Gulf Stream.

I read my history and science books, and in their pages there is much talk of seminal, earth-changing events and/or human-history changing events – phase transitions they are called… where the cumulative impact of human events (or accumulations of materials, like snow in an avalanche — or oil gushing into the ocean) is so huge, that a cascade of unforeseen consequences suddenly flows therefrom. And nothing is ever the same again.

Can this be us?

So, people ask me what — if any — good, can come out of all this, whether they finally stop it  next week, or maybe not until next year?

I say yes — and in at least five different yet related ways, each of which can result in much good for our common future. They are:

1. The destruction of Big Oil’s credibility. They can still afford to hire all the lobbyists they want, and thanks to the Supreme Court’s holding allowing them to spend all they want influencing elections (see my last blog)… but few will believe them, no one will ever again easily accept their promises that they are so technologically advanced that oil drilling — on land or in the sea — is ‘safe.’

Which means that we have a breather, a pause, in industry’s headlong drive to grab all the public lands and waters they could and make them their private property, for all intents and purposes. Not only are fragile offshore areas now politically safe from exploitation for an indefinite period, but so also are beautiful and precious places on land — such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and the Canyonlands park region in Utah, for example.

Sure, Big Oil and its bought politicians will continue to argue that: ‘well, if we can’t go offshore, then let us do it next to or in (as in the case of the Arctic Refuge) protected Parks, because we promise it will be safe, this time.’

Yeah, sure. I don’t think the American people will buy that. The very least that will happen is some kind of indefinite moratorium on new oil leasing anywhere, and after that, a much stronger, safer (and more enforceable) regulatory structure and future leasing regimen.

Republican National Convention 2008 (www.treehugger.com/galleries/drill-baby-drill)

Republican National Convention 2008 (www.treehugger.com/galleries/drill-baby-drill)

2. It shuts up the “drill baby drill” crowd and all the politicians who supported them That phrase was mostly intended, anyway, as a contemptuous in-your-face slap at our environmental laws and the people who support them. Now it is a happy thing to savor their deafening silence — and total loss of credibility, loss of whatever political clout they may have thought they had, to give away & destroy the public’s natural treasures.

3. Best of all, these two political factors, stemming directly from this tragedy, gives our nation the time it needs to reassess: just where MUST (not can) we go from here? Already even some conservative politicians and pundits are slowly agreeing that we had to get away from our petroleum addiction, but they argue that would take many decades… so let’s keep drilling in the meantime.

Now we have all seen what a dirty and messy, life-destructive, toxic business, is this oil drilling, especially in places where we are trying to expand it in North America.

4. Thank God that this disaster did not occur in already leased areas in the stormy icy seas off of Alaska and in the Arctic Ocean itself. Can anyone imagine what that would be like?

If they cannot control a gusher in the relatively friendly waters and population centers of the Gulf of Mexico, what would be the consequences of a similar catastrophe near the North Pole, where most of our weather is made, and the climate already warming with an accelerated vengeance?

5. If this isn’t a teachable moment, I don’t know what is. For better or for worse, we humans seem to learn the most — and to react the best — to disasters like this. After all, it was only when the terrible dust storms of the Dust Bowl era blew the stuff right over New York and Washington in 1934-35, that the Congress took action to stop it — not before, despite all the warnings.

Dust Bowl 1930s (static.howstuffworks.com/gif/dust-bowl-cause-)

Dust Bowl 1930s (static.howstuffworks.com/gif/dust-bowl-cause-)

Now it is so obvious that we must have a real energy policy and program to implement it — a whole new way of dealing with the problem, one which at last really drastically reduces our dependence on petroleum… and just as drastically reduces our overall electricity consumption. That means a carbon tax, higher taxes per gallon of gasoline, a crash national program to invest in renewable energy sources, especially solar and wind — and NOT, for Pete’s sake, so-called “biomass” which will simply burn up more of the wood products which fertilize forests, and put even more CO2 into the atmosphere — the stupidest idea around in a long time.

These, and other non-coal and oil energy sources — will have have their controversies and tradeoffs too, but I have faith (born of long experience) that the good sense of the American people and our innate love for our land, will see to it that we will, now and forever after, have much stronger controls and a much more transparent decisionmaking process…so that whatever happens, it can never be as bad as this time, never again.

Obama on Science Education (www.edweek.org/.../01/20/18stem_ep-2.h29.html)

Obama on Science Education (www.edweek.org/.../01/20/18stem_ep-2.h29.html)

For President Obama, certain now to get the ‘blame’ for not doing enough (usually coming from those same Republicans and Libertarians who have told us for 30 years that the government is the problem, not the solution), this disaster has brought about a unique opportunity — and an eminently actionable one. In the scary depths of this disaster — which has exposed our national weakness and addictions like no other, yet has also muted the political opposition to strong and meaningful measures to kick our habit — we can see the seeds of rebirth, of something much much better, certainly much more sustainable for us and our national life together.

So on into the future — we CAN do it!

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The Beat Goes On — We Cannot be Stopped

 

Marching Brass Band from Jiformales-Im Back

Marching Brass Band from Jiformales-Im Back

Dear Friends: sorry about my long absence, which will not happen again. So much to share, in these challenging times. And also, so many positive ways to deal with them and to keep moving forward. That’s what I”ll be writing about.

 

 First Up – a scarcely believeable recent Supreme Court decision, holding that the richest, non-human, (corporate) sector of our society has the same “political free speech”  as we ordinary humans enjoy.

That ruling was a real heart-stopper. Almost as if in answer to every land-plunderer’s prayer, the Supremes announcng that not only did corporations have the same rights to free speech as individual American human beings… but also, and therefore, they had the ‘right’ to pour any amount of money they pleased, anywhere and anytime, into the election campaigns of “their” candidates.

 Not to mention afterwards, when they can —  openly and legally now – spend more millions on lobbyists – to ‘inform’ those they helped elect exactly how they will be ”expected” to vote on legislation affecting that company. No more restrictions; gone are the former checks and balances.

This is “paid speech,” not free speech. No matter how much the Court’s bare majority pretends that corporations are now legally ‘people’  at election-time, they  still aren’t.  Just aren’t.

I will support any and all efforts to undo this tragic and harmful decision.

 

75 Wall Street from SheepGuardingLama

75 Wall Street from SheepGuardingLama

But for now, there it stands – and it is not happy news. Certainly not for those of us who love our natural world and daily strive to protect it, pass it on into our common future. Why? Because the corporate sector controls most of the money in our society: from Wall Street to land developers to Big Oil and Big Coal and Big Timber (and all the rest)… these are the most well-fed Golden Geese of our times.

They have the money, and they have the motivation –  to elect “their” people, who will vote any way they want. Just like the robber barons of the 19th century, who bragged openly about their “bought Senators”.

Piles of Money (IronRodArt-Royce Bair)

Piles of Money (IronRodArt-Royce Bair)

Now it seems as if  those Bad Old Days  may have returned. Can you imagine what any developer who wants to exploit just about anything — prized open spaces, endangered species habitats, unlogged ancient forests, prisitine shorelines – will now do if a strong conservationist attempts to run for City Council, much less Senator? No more limits; the floodgates have been opened, wide.

They have the money to do all these things, and they have more of it than any other part of our society. Many, led by their trade association, the National Chamberof Commerce, have long lobbied to get rid of pesky laws like the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. No matter that all those (and many similar) laws — enacted by huge bipartisan majorities and supported overwhelmingly in every poll of public opinion –  have, for four decades, assured the American people that we will  always have a beautiful heritage to treasure, and a clean environment in which to enjoy it in. The National Chamber of Commerce crowd has always had the wherewithal to go after our conservation laws, and the precious places they defend; now they also have the  legal go-ahead to, well, — go ahead. Full steam ahead.

And as now seems obvious, they “have” the Supreme Court too; the other day I read a far-right website which bragged about  how they can’t wait to get their own anti-endangered species case up before those right-leaning  jurists, who now are the majority.

 This is how it all seemed, as the first wave of shock and anger washed though and over me. “Now what? Can it actually come to pass that most of what we have fought for and protected over the past two generations could be ripped away? Whenever there is a political struggle over these issues, ‘our side’ can never hope to match the  money-power of ‘their side.’ Never has, never will.”

Old Growth Forest cut. (from Umpquawild)

Old Growth Forest cut. (from Umpquawild)

 
So have I pondered… yet, as the shock (if not the anger) of the travesty wears away, I have begun to have some positive thoughts.  This is a bad thing, yes; it is especially harmful to the rule of law and the predominance of citizen democracy in our country; more corporate dominance in our politics seems inevitable. But will it necessarily be as bad for some of our other values, or all that destructive of the precious and loved places of this American Earth… or of that  strong web of laws, so carefully constructed over the years, to protect them??

I no longer think so, despite the extra empowerment to many anti-environmental interests now granted by the Court. We have our great strengths too;  they are still with us, and within us. All we need to do is take another look at ourselves, and to recall  the odds we have faced in other times; to remember other challenges which many then thought could not be overcome — but which were surmounted anyway. Our movement has had a long and courageous history of succeeding, anyway.

Remembering that strong past can now inform and guide the stressful present. So let’s have another look at these strengths.

 1. We’ve already been here. Money, lots of money, spent to fight against environmental protection, has always been the norm. Whenever there’s been any kind of legislative/political campaign to save any park, wilderness area, open space, or pass any environmental law, the “big money” has always been on the other side. Always.

So what’s new? There’s just more of it now. But  we’re used to it — that has always been part of our experience.

 2. We win anyhow. More doesn’t mean better. If it did, there would be very very few National Parks, Wilderness areas, protected coasts and wetlands… because those who fought to save them in previous times faced the same money-power.  And won.  So can we. We must continue to be creative and nimble, and always seek the best ways to go straight to the people. They are with us still, as they have always been.

 3. Corporations are not monoliths. Sure, the Chamber of Commerce types are almost always going to be financing politicians who oppose environmental values and concerns. But there are many other companies out there which need and want a beautiful and clean environment. Their employees want these things too, as often do the businesspeople who lead them. We always neeed to keep searching, but this large segment of corporatedom can be allies; they can — and already have –donated money to the hundreds of land trusts which are buying conservation areas around the country.

4. Our strongest — and most permanent – strengths are still there, as potent as ever: 

— The people themselves. Most Americans, deep inside, love this land – their land. If that was not so, we would have scarcely any protected lands at all, much less tough, stringent laws. Despite fierce opposition when they were established, and dozens of attempts  to repeal them since,  they have only been strengthened. This because it is the people themselves who demand no less from their politicians.

— Love of place. There is a growing literature on this subject now, but we in the

Wagon Wheel Park dedication, Colo...(Orange County Archives)

Wagon Wheel Park dedication, Colo...(Orange County Archives)

movement have known it for a long time: people will  fight especially hard to protect “their” places. Whether it is the vacant lot next door, or a favorite hiking area, the whole history of America’s great and growing legacy of protected places is one of individuals or bands of people who so loved a place, that they were willing to fight for years to save it. And to never quit, whatever the odds. We must remember  this unique history. We are not alone, never have been.

— Us. We who are committed to be active in the cause of rescuing all we can of the natural treasures of our Nation,  seem to have a very special  resource upon which we can always draw: ourselves. 

To me, this quality is expressed in three special ways: 1st,  that we have love — for what we seek to protect; 2nd, that we have the inner courage it takes to stand up and fight for that place or that law, whatver it takes; and 3rd, that we have the staying power to continue, for as long as it takes.

I know these special attributes to to be so, because not only have I witnessed them continually over the past forty years, but I see them today, now too. Every day (for example),we read about some New Jersey town  taxing itself to purchase open space; a local group rallying in Florida to protect an endangered species; someone  appealing a damaging logging operation in the Northwest;  others in someone’s living room in Maine (or Arkansas),  strategizing how to protect a special precious place. These, and the thousands of other actions like them, are spontaneous,  never ending, and occur everywhere. And as we know from the recent Ken Burns series on “America’s National Parks — Our Best Idea, ” so it has been in our country for over a hundred years. 

I have a word, and a phrase for all this. The word is “The Beat” – meaning the daily, and unending actions of Americans who love their land and want to protect it. And the phrase is ”The Beat Goes On.”

That’s what we have right now; that’s who we are. No ruling of any court, no money, or extra money, can ever buy this. That’s why all that new money won’t make much, if any, difference.

The Beat goes on… and on; and cannot be stopped.

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Well yeah!

Consumerism is ‘eating the future’
by Andy Coghlan
———— ——— ——— ——— ——— ——— -
” … all we’re doing is what all other creatures have ever done to
survive, expanding into whatever territory is available and using up
whatever resources are available, just like a bacterial culture
growing in a Petri dish till all the nutrients are used up. What
happens then, of course, is that the bugs then die in a sea of their
own waste.
———— ——— ——— ——— ——— ——— -
New Scientist
August 7, 2009

Reactions and Comments on the Above, By Brock Evans

Petri Dish (courtesy Pacific Northwest National)

Petri Dish (courtesy Pacific Northwest National)

Well yeah, this is interesting to read — of course sobering too — but is it really anything new, anything different, from what we — in our movement and many others — have been saying/warning about for the past half century at least?

Having worked my way through law school mainly by emptying thousands of those culture-dishes at a dental lab, I do believe I can say with a bit of authority that those critters (a) had no other mission, let alone other ‘thoughts’ about their existence; and (b) no apparent means to even try to change things, even if they wanted to.

My zoology is poor and my sense of the working of ecological principles not much better, but aren’t there also examples of mammals (or other life-forms) who deliberately (and inherently, via their own inner biological mechanisms) have fewer offspring when they sense overcrowding of a survival habitat?

That said, and whether or not, I still believe that we humans are in a somewhat different position and on perhaps a somewhat different plane than was alluded to in Albuquerque:

First, because we know, from what we see all around us, what is happening;

Second, because of that fact alone, we conservationists have, already and often, taken on that consumer-god… and fought it to a standstill in over a century of struggles to reserve lands, habitats, and specific life-forms, from forests to oceans, rare desert plants to mollusk-conserving rivers, salmon to spotted owls, and thousands of others.

Spotted Owl (Athena brama) courtesy of Saran Vaid

Spotted Owl (Athena brama) courtesy of Saran Vaid

And we had to fight to do it, didn’t we? There are some exceptions, but please no one tell me or any of you other veterans out there that it was easy, or that the 200+ million acres we now have, off limits to “consumers” (in this country alone), was just a ‘token,’ not worth anything anyhow… if that was so, why did the whole ‘other side’ — mainly producers, or wannabes, of consumer goods –fight us so hard, just about every time?

That’s 200 million + acres to not be consumed so easily. As I said in my first blog, “If Money was Everything We’d Have Nothing.”

Third, “we” — meaning ourselves, and people like ourselves, and nearly all scientists and thinking people in the medical profession, plus many powerful political figures — are also aware, and are trying to shift, change, turn things around, or at least slow them down. 

This isn’t the 1960s, when no one could even pronounce ‘ecology’ correctly; not even the 80s, when (just after the coldest East Coast winter in a century I recall), a few were already sounding the warnings about global warming. It may not seem so, but we have come a long way towards understanding the problem and its causes — and its solutions. We’re not starting from zero, thank goodness.

Can we succeed? Will it be ‘enough,’ even if we do the things, take the necessary measures, to change? I don’t know. But such doubts and wonderings are no reason to ‘go home’ and just quit. We’ve got to try — and that’s a part of being human too: staying our moral/mental ground, fighting on, no matter what someone else says the odds are. Raise your right hands, anyone who has ever embarked upon a great cause — a campaign — who was not assured that to proceed was ‘hopeless’ at the time we started forth.

Fourth, it is still a beautiful planet; waves still crash on wild beaches, somewhere (actually many ‘somewheres’); the late afternoon breezes still sigh through the forest trees down by a river somewhere… and while many species are in trouble to be sure, we do also have truly moral, and noble, laws — the strongest our ‘consumerist’ political system can invent — e.g., an Endangered Species Act, a Wilderness Act, and others — to rescue them as long as the will is there. And we have never shrunk from a single battle yet, have we, dear friends?

So whatever the outcome finally is, I don’t think the whole of human society — the thinking part of human society at least – is, any longer, on such a bad track of ignorance and denial as these speakers seem to be telling each other.

No, it’s not enough. Yes, we’re just beginning when we should have been going full tilt to turn things around, starting at least 30 years ago. And yes, as long as we’re alive and as long as we love the natural world which sustains us, mentally and physically, we’re gonna do the very best we can — aren’t we?

And, speaking for myself, gonna take pleasure and pride in every acre, every species that we still can shove on into the future, to live and survive into another, hopefully more benign, time.

 Entrance to Hoh Rainforest Olympic National Park

Entrance to Hoh Rainforest Olympic National Park

Brock

PS: those ecologists, who obviously know and see so much more of the world in which they work than I do, still do seem to be a bit deficient in their knowledge of history, perhaps among other things. For example, the political notion that “the government and economists” made a deliberate decision right after World War II to shift all those weapons factories to producing consumer goods…

They must mean us, because just about every other country in the world was shattered, and in ruins, not to mention 50-100 million dead — at the end of WWII. But the implication that The Powers That Be Somehow Deliberately Planned This, and somehow made it happen, like Stalin might try to do, demonstrates much more than a considerable ignorance of the whole structure and dynamic of our society at the time. By implying that we didn’t start being a consumer-driven society until then, it totally ignores the constant striving of so many Americans, in or out of government, throughout the whole 19th/early 20th century, from the Railroad and Robber Barons to the Gilded Age to Henry Ford and his car for the masses, to boost ‘consumerism’ without a thought for much else. What we see today is not new to us, I’m afraid… or to few other cultures worldwide.

So as I see it, the difficulties now before us, serious as they are, are nothing new. They are certainly vaster in scope and therefore much more potentially dangerous to our planet, to all we cherish, and to our own existence as well. But we still have the ability to think about it — and we are; we still have the capacity to act to stop or slow it — and we are; and we still have, I say, a duty, we who care, to do all in our power every day, to rescue every species and every acre that we can. Which we are also doing, every day.

And if we continue to do so, then perhaps — just perhaps — the sum total of all these thinkings and all these actions, now continually happening under the radar, all around us, just might produce a better surprise for the generations which will follow us than we now believe.

Brock Evans

President, Endangered Species Coalition

blogsite: endlesspressure.org

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How I got To Here

Dear Reader:

This past May I experienced the great happiness of attending my Princeton, Class of 1959, 50th Reunion. This feeling  comes not just from the pleasure of being still around to take part in the festivities – and in good health too… but also because of the opportunity it offered to reflect on my life up to this time.  In other words, to anwser that age-old question: How Did I Get To Here?


The Essay below , written for the Yearbook,  answers that question. It’s all about taking risks, plus the great opportunities — and huge rewards – that can come to us if we do so.

 

                                                Life, the Journey

 Sure, it’s a cliche; but that’s only because it’s so true. It has certainly been so in my own life. The important thing I have learned is to just set out – begin it.

 Just go – take a direction not fully planned out… walk down a path that seems interesting to you. I have, and I have been constantly amazed at what always happens next: new people, new ideas, and new opportunities never imagined before.

 I think I first learned the power of these truths during my years at Princeton. It was a very big risk,  for me – the first of my family to ever leave Columbus — to even go there at all, on this my first ‘journey.’ Especially since “there” meant not just the University, but The Whole Thing: the East Coast, that “Teeming East,” as I called it. All those people and all those cities, all those cars whizzing about on newfangled roads called “freeways.”

 And all these new experiences and people and ideas played out against that stunning backdrop of Princeton’s storybook campus… for me, a place that just exuded learning and new possibilities at every turn.

Princeton Campus, Blair Hall (courtesy Gene-'s photostream)

Princeton Campus, Blair Hall (courtesy Gene-'s photostream)

 The pattern once understood, other new journeys, mostly unplanned, came in rapid succession. Right after graduation, always having wanted to ‘see the world’ but not having the wherewithal, I found a job as an engineboy on a Norwegian tramp steamer, bound for India. Four months among the hissing boilers, but also four months to daydream about my future… in places like the Euphrates, Bombay, Ethiopia, Egypt, and Mozambique… all dreamt about, pondered, while wandering in awe across the wild and beautiful open oceans of this planet.

To the Next Port of Call (courtesy of jaraos' photostream)

To the Next Port of Call (courtesy of jaraos' photostream)

 Returning home too late to rejoin the law school which had accepted me, my pink draft notice was waiting. It was the depth of the Cold War; my time had come to be a soldier.  I enlisted in the Marine Corps, an experience which produced unexpected new rewards, by teaching me new lessons about my capacity to endure hardships and stresses, at places like Parris Island and Camp Lejeune.

 Later, I was able to get back into law school… certainly rather wiser than in my Princeton years. Now my future was set, I thought: no more wandering, I am going to settle down.

 But it didn’t happen that way, either. Because I really didn’t much like law school, my choice for a job the following summer was at a hotel in a far-away place, Glacier National Park. This Midwestern boy thought it was in Alaska!

 This turned out to be the journey that really did change my life… one which set me on an entirely different course. It opened up even vaster possibilities for both future challenges and greater happiness. How?  Because from the moment I stepped off the train, stunned by the vision of the great peaks rising straight out of the prairies, I became aware of a passion for magnificence in wild nature. It was as if some old lost chord had been plucked inside of me, saying that this was my land and I must live out here, somewhere.

St. Mary Lake-Glacier Nation Park (Courtesy Creativity+Timothy K. Hamilton's photostream

St. Mary Lake-Glacier Nation Park (Courtesy Creativity+Timothy K. Hamilton's photostream

 From that moment came everything that was to follow: a move to Seattle after law school, a law practice. But I was really there for the country; and so began years of wandering, exploring, in the splendid wildernesses all around.

 Sadly, it was not very long before there came a growing awareness that these wild and beautiful places that I loved were being damaged, destroyed – by the unsustainable logging of the times.

 And from that realization came my life’s best decision: that I would give all the rest of it to try to right these wrongs, to protect these beautiful parts of our heritage. This required leaving my law practice, and to begin working for conservation groups (like the Sierra Cub) for a pittance – although the ‘psychic income’ was huge.

 And it came to mean constant travels everywhere, organizing, speaking out, standing up for what I believed…  finally living in Washington – to lobby and testify in the place (Congress) where the fates of what I loved were being decided. Since that decision, there have been campaigns and battles, victories and setbacks, now almost beyond count.

One Happy Family (by Stephen Garcia)

One Happy Family (by Stephen Garcia)

 But I have never looked back since that choice made so long ago. It has been a most joyful experience; and I have never been happier about anything (except a great marriage and great kids/grandkids) than this, my life’s work. It has been a great journey.

 

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Posted in A Man's Life Journey, That's Life, The Rewards of Risk Taking, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments