Hands Off Our Monuments In The National Park System, President Trump!

The monuments targeted for review would include eight out of 10 monuments important to diverse Americans.

On Earth Day, I watched our 22-year-old grandson lean into the coffin of his 82-year-old great-grandmother to help get it into her crypt. I felt a pang thinking “What will the Earth be like for his great-grandchildren at the rate we are ripping it up?”

Watching the CBS Sunday Morning Show 24 hours later, I heard a “Sound Tracker” report that more than 50 percent of the natural sounds he recorded 25 years ago no longer exist.

“There’s no ‘middle of nowhere,’ if you take into account the sky. It’s difficult to find a place where you can go for an hour and not hear noise.”

Then Monday I read that President Trump has ordered a review of all the National Monuments added in the National Park System, the USDA Forest System and the Bureau of Land Management over the past 21 years, with the intent to “adjust” them. Click here to see how this is a 180-degree departure from the actions of other Presidents who have used the Antiquities Act to protect these historic places.

As an American, I feel very personally affected by these developments. As a member of the Next100 Coalition that persuaded President Obama to issue the Presidential Memorandum on Diversity, I am grateful that we have the rationale and guidance clearly articulated: Our publicly-owned lands system must highlight the contributions of Americans of all ethnicities if we are to be historically accurate and increase the percentage of people who know and care about them.

The monuments targeted for “review” would include eight out of 10 monuments important to African American stories in addition to Cesar Chavez, Honouliuli, Stonewall, Bears Ears, and Belmont Paul - basically, anything that tells the diverse and inclusive story of our country. No doubt this is a coincidence?

We lost 50 percent of natural sounds in the last 25 years. How much will we lose in the next 25 years?

The Brundtland Commission in 1984 laid out the pillars for a sustainable future for the globe, one of which was that “the rich must refrain from consuming the Earth.” But the exploitative, exclusionary focus of President Trump’s billionaire-heavy cabinet and tone-deaf Members of Congress (GOP Rep Tells Mom Her Son on Medicaid Should Just Get a Better Job If He Wants Health Insurance) shows that they could care less about our sustainability – defined as the ability to live long and be healthy.

I’ve had the privilege of interacting as equals with billionaires and with people who can barely keep body and soul together. I know for a fact that the wealthy include some of the most caring and generous people on Earth, and the poor include some of the hardest working people on Earth.

Watching our grandson put his shoulder to Mom’s coffin, I thought, “Doesn’t every generation want to see its descendants thrive and do well? How can I frame this so that more Americans are inspired to get involved, realizing how OUR descendants’ future is at stake?”

My mom’s funeral taught me a lot about family that I either didn’t know or took for granted: Mom took care of all her funeral arrangements, even paying for the flowers. Mom’s friends and many of those who cared for her in her illness commented at the funeral how demanding she was, saying she knew what she wanted and how to get it. They said she was a good friend, a great listener, and always provided encouragement and helpful advice. I told her church in the eulogy that they really epitomized family, as I saw so many of them visiting her frequently. Afterwards all the celebrants went out to a country club overlooking a golf course and ate all Mom’s favorite Jamaican foods, while Sandhill Cranes foraged outside.

Mom’s passing could have been an experience of desperately trying to raise resources, make arrangements, find a suitable venue, all of which would have added to our distress. But because she thought ahead, put something aside and lived a rich life that drew many people to her, it was instead filled with joy, appreciation and respect for what we share.

There’s a direct relationship between this experience and the future that will be experienced by our descendants, depending on what we do today with our national parks. Unlike the smoke and mirrors “alternative truths” of the president who sees government as reality TV, the land does not lie. (Today we’re picking a fight with Canada, affirming the adage that if you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail.) The land in our national parks and forests will either be here intact to provide our defendants with oxygen, protect us against the effects of climate change and convey the American story, or it will not. Do we really want to bring forth the nightmarish “post-apocalyptic” scenario of movies where people have to wear masks in order to breathe and the most brutish survive by subjugating all others for scarce resources?

We lost 50 percent of natural sounds in the last 25 years. How much will we lose in the next 25 years? What will be left?

I encourage you to watch the websites of advocacy organizations such as the NPCA, the Wilderness Society, NRDC, the Sierra Club and the Next100 Coalition for action alerts. It’s your opportunity to be part of a resistance so deep and wide, to show the Trump administration we care about our future, and we will not succumb to his nightmarish vision for our country that already has refugees choosing Somalia over the US.

In the name of our ancestors. For the benefit of our descendants. I’m doing my part by letting you know.