Who Will Lead Us?
A lot of what is written on this site has to do with what I consider threats to our national parks. I have tried to dissect these problems and speculate at a root cause. Is it the influence of the big money industrial tourism? Is it a culmination of 20 years of 'Wise Use' policies? Are NPS problems connected to the Bush plan to privatize government? Is it a combo of many different influences? Whatever the causes, the result is that we, as a nation, are losing that personal connection we used to share with the wild outdoors. Last week I defined this result as "massive disinterest".
This week I've let my mind wander back a few decades. I've been thinking about the 1960's. I've been wondering how our modern day problems would have been solved by the leaders of the past. What would David Brower do? Brower's work is credited with helping to establish nine national parks and seashores, including the North Cascades National Park. As the first executive director of the Sierra Club, he took the organization from a group centered predominantly on mountain outings, to one focused on conservation and stewardship. As director of the Sierra Club, he stopped construction of dams which would have flooded Dinosaur National Monument, and the Grand Canyon. Brower was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times. He was influential in the passage of the 1964 Wilderness Act.
And what of Stewart Udall, the Secretary of the Interior for presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson between 1961 and 1969? Can you imagine Gale Norton or Dirk Kempthorne introducing the Endangered Species Preservation Act? Probably not. But Udall was at the helm for many great environmental acts; Wilderness Act, Clear Air, Water Quality and Clean Water Restoration Acts and Amendments, National Trail System Act, Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, National Historic Preservation Act, National Environmental Policy Act among others. The legislation was part of a larger movement called the "Great Society" of which president Johnson said:
The air we breathe, our water, our soil and wildlife, are being blighted by poisons and chemicals which are the by-products of technology and industry. The society that receives the rewards of technology, must, as a cooperating whole, take responsibility for [their] control. To deal with these new problems will require a new conservation
It was in 1968 that the famous NASA photograph "earthrise" was taken. This photo has been described as among the "100 Photographs that Changed the World". For many, it represents what we've got; a finite resource, a solitary ship floating in space. It was images like this that captured the national psyche. It was easy to fight for the wilderness, because for the first time, we could see what a very precious resource it was. Once gone, gone for good.
So, how do we capture the imagination of a nation today like it had been captured back in the 60's? Does it require a new leader to capture our hearts, or will it take a new voice in government, or could it come from something as simple as a photograph?