"We have fallen heirs to the most glorious heritage a people ever received, and each one must do his part if we wish to show that the nation is worthy of its good fortune," President Teddy Roosevelt said of our public lands in the early 1900s.
The patriot and statesman who shrewdly set aside Crown Jewels such as the Grand Canyon National Park for the use and enjoyment of the American people must be turning over in his grave today. For this generation is demonstrating clearly that each one will not do his part and doesn't much seem to care.
The widespread exploitation of our natural resources coincides and is closely tied to the distress of our planet writhing under massive droughts, wildfires, glacial melting, animal die-offs and human displacement.
Our general response seems to be one big shrug.
What is the drug that is keeping us inert? We're literally sleepwalking towards doom, while a few people make obscene amounts of money and the majority consume images of the living dead on TV. We are seduced by mindlessness when we need to be most alert and active on behalf of our democracy.
I will be forever grateful to the fate that introduced me to the National Park System in 1995, because it sparked my passion to do my part for the evolution of our country. There's no way to experience the real life places where our history happened, learn the heroism that my black and brown ancestors displayed alongside their white countrymen, and not feel a sense of pride and commitment. I must do everything I can to leave my country in better shape than I found it, for those coming after me.
When President Obama traveled to Alaska and renamed Mount Denali last week, I had visions of the mountain as I watched it through my window in Permafrost Cabin at Camp Denali for four solid days in 2012. A more glorious sight cannot be contemplated than the sun glistening off that massive ice-clad mountain towering more than 2,000 stories into the air. I hoped the President got that view and it had the powerfully humbling yet affirming effect on him as it had on me.
Conversely, I was filled with anger and confusion that a few weeks earlier the President gave the go ahead for Shell to drill in the Arctic Ocean. When I shook his hand in Everglades National Park last Earth Day, he emphasized the clean energy world he was helping to create and the prospects for his future grandchildren. His decisions have been overwhelmingly pro-environment. Why then would he expose our Arctic to drilling and its inherent huge negative consequences? Even if we avoid potentially catastrophic accidents, the very act of oil extraction heats up the atmosphere at the point where glaciers are in meltdown.
Looking for answers, I found some chilling information:
There's more to Obama's Arctic trip than just hypocrisy: Critics of the president's Alaska visit should examine the National Petroleum Council's role in pushing drilling:
"... Although such criticism has a point, it misses the force behind the decision to approve Arctic drilling to begin with: the National Petroleum Council (NPC) Obama's administration oversees...the NPC is an advisory committee to the Secretary of Energy consisting mostly of executives and CEOs of some of the biggest oil and gas companies on the planet. A case in point: its president is Charles D. Davidson, CEO of Noble Energy, and its vice president is the aforementioned Tillerson. As the 'advisory' badge makes clear, NPC advises and influences U.S. and more broadly, global energy policy."
I consider myself an informed citizen yet I didn't know about the NPC. I didn't know that the people crafting our US and global energy policy are those vested in exploitation of our resources that could simultaneously destabilize our planet.
Do 300 million of us just shake our head at such obscenity and say, "That's how it is?" Talk about giving away our power.
Simultaneously I learned that a massive geopolitical power play is heating up the Arctic Circle, particularly between Russia and the US. As more land is exposed under melting glaciers, nations are competing for territory rather than heeding the warning it represents.
My consternation at how little I know about issues that are vitally important to my country and our future was only increased when I received a frantic note from a friend in Washington State titled: "Urgent alert! Olympic National Park - a military training range?"
It read: "I recently returned from an incredible backpacking trip into one of the most gorgeous places on the planet, 7-Lakes Basin high in the Olympic Mountains, in Olympic National Park. The silence, the stillness and the spectacular beauty was exalting. My heart was overflowing with gratitude that these gorgeous wilderness areas have been protected forever, for us, the American people.
"Olympic National Park is 95% designated wilderness and is so breathtaking in its beauty, and so rich in its wildlife, it has been declared a 'World Heritage Site' by the United Nations. Its deep emerald valleys, thick with ancient rainforests, are recognized as being the 'quietest place in the contiguous United States."
This is all about to change. Drastically. "
Get the context here.
Her alarm at the looming impacts was only exceeded by the fact that this is taking place without benefit of a national conversation about the huge disruption it represents to our protected lands.
What would President Roosevelt think of our society that has access to more sources of information and more influence than ever in history, yet is so uncaring and detached?
A democracy cannot thrive with ignorant indifferent citizens. To be worthy of our rich public lands and environmental legacy, each one of us urgently needs to become informed and actively involved. As we approach the 2016 elections, every candidate's stance on climate, environment and public lands must be a critical component of our decision to elect them or not.
Meanwhile, Here's one way we must affect the outcome in Olympic.
(I hope you understand the urgency that impelled me to take this detour from our virtual tour of national parks with Congress.)