More than a decade ago, I penned the following in my attempt to summarize the fears of environmentalists everywhere concerning the future fate — courtesy of right wing politicians — of public lands in this country:
It’s a non-arguable fact of life, so to speak, that the earth’s environment, especially the biosphere, the earth-atmosphere interface in which life exists, is critical to . . . well, it’s critical to the existence of life itself. That is, of course, unless one happens to be a Bush Republican, at which point the biosphere becomes little more than just another big word, one that sounds like something a tree-hugger might speak in the same breath as ‘ecology’ or ‘endangered species’; tree-huggers: you know, those weirdos that think trees and owls and undeveloped land are worth more than the money they can bring in.
I would only wish that last statement be hyperbole and not an understated fact.
[. . .]
In any case, the environment is under attack by this administration. Whether one speaks of global warming, or destroying wilderness, polluting the air and water, strip mining, logging, the further endangerment of endangered species, “junk” science (altered) in order to justify/sanctify misdeeds, drastic reductions in Super-Fund appropriations and hence in cleanups, or just plain selling out to business, to corporate campaign contributors – the verdict is guilty, guilty as charged, guilty before all the gods that be or don’t be.
Sadly, the current destruction is only the half of it; it’s very likely that the other hammer will drop one day in the not too distant future. The ultimate atrocity remains: the conversion of public lands into saleable assets, into that single most valuable of all earthly commodities, money. All arrows are slowly beginning to point in that general direction. Could it really happen? Could the Grand Canyon be sold and opened for development? Sadly, the answer is very likely ‘yes.’ Consider:
There are upwards of 100,000,000 acres of wilderness set aside in the United States, along with hundreds of National Parks and monuments which protect and preserve tens of thousands of square miles of the nation’s most awe-inspiring lands. From the Grand Canyon to Yellowstone and Glacier, from Yosemite to Zion and Rocky Mountain National Park, places unlike anywhere else in the world are protected for perpetuity – or so we’re told. Denali, Big Bend, Petrified Forest, Haleakala – each and all are jewels in the American crown. And we must not forget, too, the National Forests, National Grasslands, wetlands, wild rivers – the list goes on and on and on – multiple-use lands which themselves enjoy at least a modicum of protection from private business interests. Altogether, the dollar value of America’s public lands must be nearly inestimable, and to think said lands are not coveted by speculators and developers, both foreign and domestic, perhaps even by other nations as the most solid possible investment, would be naive to say the least. As Will Rogers said, “Invest in land, they’re not making it anymore.”
[. . .]
At one time, the American currency was the world’s standard, backed by the word, the resources, and the robust economy of the United States. For foreign investors, the dollar was as safe a haven as a mother’s arms. But no longer; today it is not. Today the dollar is a risky investment at best, and apparently is destined to become riskier and riskier with every passing month. What if America has one last asset, and it’s a big one. Imagine the boom if:
✓ Wilderness areas were offered for purchase by private developers?
✓ National Parks were sold to the highest bidder?
✓ Forests were to become the property of timber companies and/or land developers?
Those are just three aspects of what may well become a reality, a way to bail out an otherwise heavily indebted America, plus a way to spur development (read: create jobs) on prime and pristine lands especially across the west and in each Alaska and Hawaii. The travesty is unimaginable – perhaps that’s why it just may happen, why it may even be part and parcel to an already-existing plan. “Starve the beast” – turn America over to the private sector. Could this be what George Bush means when he speaks glowingly of his “ownership society”? A nation where even that which we today call Public Land is destined for private ownership? Remember, today’s current head of public lands is a mining industry lobbyist who believes that public lands are unconstitutional.
We can hope for sanity to reappear, but dare we hold our breath in anticipation?
That was written WAY back in April 2005, just months after G.W.Bush began his second term as the POTUS whose aberrant first term fiscal policies had already completely reversed the financial debt-reduction progress his predecessor had initiated. Bush had also made it clear that land preservation and environmental issues including designation of wildlife refuges, of Wilderness, of National Monuments would not be on his docket because, after all, there’s no money, no profit, in ANY of that, so why the hell bother? And as Reagan’s Interior Secretary (and fundamentalist Christian) James Watt reportedly once noted, “God gave us these things to use. After the last tree is felled, Christ will come back.”
So that was then. THIS is NOW:
A group of 20 senators and representatives has formed a de facto “anti-parks caucus” in Congress and is waging the most significant legislative and ideological challenge to America’s national parks in decades, says a new report released Monday by the Center for American Progress. The analysis finds that this anti-parks caucus is composed of less than five percent of Congress but is responsible for introducing dozens of bills to block the creation of new national parks, end America’s most effective parks program, and sell off public lands.
Eight anti-parks caucus members also participate in the Federal Land Action Group, a group formed last year with the sole purpose of developing land grab legislation that would transfer federal land to state and local control.
[. . .]
Surprise surprise. Right? Yeah, right.
I personally find that to be the most vividly disgusting anti-intelluctual and anti-American Congressional premise I’ve run across in the roughly 64 years I’ve been paying attention to their collective nonsensicals, and I find it to be insurmountably incomprehensible that ANYONE would ever vote FOR such a treacherous and treasonous voice for ANY elective office, POTUS and DOGCATCHER included.
I’m reminded of the words of Author John C. Van Dyke who, more than a century ago, wrote this excellent summation:
“…with the coming of civilization the grasses and the wild flowers perish, the forest falls, and its place is taken by brambles, the mountains are blasted in the search for minerals, the plains are broken by the plow and the soil is gradually washed into the rivers. Last of all, when the forests have gone the rains cease falling, the streams dry up, the ground parches and yields no life, and the artificial desert – the desert made by the tramp of human feet – begins to show itself, Yes; everyone must have cast a backward glance and seen Nature’s beauties beaten to ashes under the successive marches of civilization…”
When, I wonder, will enough people figure all that out and take steps to curtail the greed and idiocy that’s come to define this country?
Not until it’s too late, I’d guess.