There are, I'm more fully convinced today than yesterday, few things more potent and volatile than a good concoction of religion and politics.
National parks? Pfffffttt! They just can't measure up on their own. As this past week has demonstrated so well, if you truly want to get folks all lathered up about something, venture into either religion or politics. For a truly amazing combustion, mix the two, and preferably in uneven doses.
PEER's ill-conceived pronouncement that religion had trumped geology in Grand Canyon National Park was sucked up by the blogosphere like a dust bunny being consumed by an Oreck XL Pro Upright. Those who detest either the religious right or the Bush administration jumped all over the story, with some equating it to an event nearly as horrible as Doom's Day.
When my post debunking PEER's claim arrived on Wednesday, it too began a whirlwind tour of the 'Net, making an appearance not only on the Daily Koz but on many other blogs as folks began a hasty retreat. Visitation to my site surged, eclipsing 550 yesterday alone.
Sadly, it wasn't national parks that were drawing folks. It was religion and politics.
Since the summer of '05 I've been working to bring attention to management issues in our national park system. While traffic to my site has nicely ramped up, now averaging nearly 8,000 visits a month, the events of this past week show parks by themselves simply aren't sexy enough to draw attention.
Lord knows I've tried. I've pointed out President Bush's decision to cut $100 million from the Park Service's budget, the never-ending turmoil over snowmobiles in Yellowstone, the travesty of efforts to rewrite the Park Service's Management Policies, the movement to commercialize national parks by turning portions over to private interests, and the gallons of red ink covering the Park Service's financial ledger.
While these posts have received lots of viewers, they all pale to that received by God, Geology, and the Grand Canyon.
Should that surprise me? No. Disappoint me. Yes.
Why does it take one's religious or political views to raise the value of, or interest in, our national parks? At his insightful blog, Ranger X does a pretty good job of separating the chaff from the wheat on the debate that's arisen over PEER's release and the group's concerns that The Grand Canyon: A Different View can be purchased in bookstores within the park. Here's an excerpt:
Let the creationists sell their little book. Big deal. There are far more pressing issues to contend with like global warming, logging of old growth forests, invasive species, resource degradation, and the NPS budget crisis. ... when people buy Grand Canyon: A Different View, they are supporting the Grand Canyon Association. The GCA in turn gives its proceeds to the NPS to be used to further its scientific educational mission. So by purchasing the book, creationists financially support the use of real science by interpretive park rangers. This is an irony worth preserving.
Now, in light of the past week's uproar, don't be surprised if I try to inject even more religion into my posts, if only to get folks to notice what's happening to our national parks. For what's happening truly needs notice.