God, Politics and Parks

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.

Comments

I agree with Ranger X. The ranger talks should be scientifically based. But to ban a book from the bookstore because it's creationist is censorship, which I don't support. As for politics and this blog, I wish there were less politics in it and it focused on problems of the parks without political bashing. There are people of all political persuasions who love the parks and want to feel welcome to read and post on this site.
Here is a quirky video about global warming I thought you might find interesting: http://peoplegeek.wordpress.com/2007/01/06/global-warming-a-clear-and-present-danger/
It is painfully obvious that the NPS website is avoiding the issue of the age of the Grand Canyon. Contrary to what Kurt has been posting here, the NPS website does not do justice to science. Further, it seems like they are worried about turning away visitors, which could be a noble cause in itself, but the religious reasoning behind it makes it DEPLORABLE. AS A SCIENTIST, I AM EXTREMELY UPSET THAT THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE IS WILLING TO LET SCIENCE PLAY SECOND FIDDLE TO CHRISTIANITY!!
Well, I tried the website too, and it has plenty of great information about the park. Nature Lady is correct though, it seems like they are hiding something. The well accepted scientific data suggests that the age of the rock in the Canyon have dated to over 2 Billion years. NOWHERE IS THE WORD BILLION FOUND ON THE WEBSITE. SAD BUT TRUE. I GUESS CHRISTIANS DON'T LIKE THE WORD "BILLION" FOR SOME REASON OR OTHER.
At this point, I think we should BOYCOTT the NPS.
Kurt, did you ever think that you guys might solve the budget crisis in a better way? Rather than selling religious texts as a primary source of income, why not focus on the science, that way the "interpretive park rangers" would be more likely to get funding. NOW THATS AN IRONY WORTH BURNING
Let's see, in the past two months I've managed to draw the ire of the gun lobby, the right wingers, and now the left wingers. I'd say that's a pretty good record for trying to stay in the middle of the road. School Teacher, you're right, the park's website can't seem to handle the "b" word. But 2000 million still translates to 2 billion fairly well. Just the same, I'll make an inquiry to see why that is. Nature Lady, I'm not so sure it's "painfully obvious" the NPS is avoiding the age of the canyon. The park's web site certainly discusses geology a lot more than creationism (which it doesn't address at all) and tosses in some geologic ages, even if they are in millions of years instead of billions of year. Still, if you want to draft some narrative that you think does geology and the Grand Canyon justice and email it to me, I'll be happy to post it. Just remember, the narrative has to be aimed at a general audience, not a classroom of phDs. Benji, what good would boycotting the NPS serve? If you're truly concerned that it's gone over to the religious right, wouldn't boycotting the NPS simply turn over the parks to the religious right without a fight? And Duh, please spend some time reading the past 18 months of my posts so you truly get an understanding of my position on funding the park system before you make the absurd suggestion that I or anyone thinks selling religious texts in the parks could possibly serve as a primary source of income for the Park Service.
"...the absurd suggestion that I or anyone thinks selling religious texts in the parks could possibly serve as a primary source of income for the Park Service." Thanks Kurt. Was thinking the same and couldn't have said it better. "...the events of this past week show parks by themselves simply aren't sexy enough to draw attention." Sad but true. Let's hope that this increased political/religious attention will stimulate increased interest in preservation.