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Friday, April 22, 2011

A Book Recommendation and Video for Earth Day 2011

Theodore Roosevelt would have loved Earth Day, to a point. Unlike most of us who just "talk the talk," he would have spent this day actively doing something about saving wilderness or wildlife or fighting against powerful extraction industries that ravage the land out of greed.

I am reading Douglas Brinkley's latest book, "The Quiet World - Saving Alaska's Wilderness Kingdom 1879-1960" and now I realize, with a sad heart, how little has changed since the end of the 19th century when politicians and businessmen who had never even seen Alaska pictured it as a frigid wasteland with nothing to offer but natural resources for the taking, to make men rich. And men did get rich, first through fish and timber, then gold and oil. I'm sorry to say that mining interests based in Tacoma at that time played a big part in the devastation.

Roosevelt worked tirelessly for conservation and in spite of the obstacles of battle, accomplished amazing things in terms of setting aside land for wildlife preserves, parks, and wilderness areas. But almost immediately after his death on January 6, 1919, the enemies of his goals stepped in and tried to overturn all he had done.

No longer did the cause of conservation celebrate White House leadership. In "The Quiet World," Brinkley quotes President Wilson as saying, "Alaska as a storehouse, should be unlocked." And in the summer of  1923, President Harding sailed from Tacoma aboard the SS Henderson, to visit Alaska in the wake of new excitement over oil drilling, after his executive order changed 23 million acres of wilderness from having protected status to being an oil reserve.

I thought about all these events, starting over a century ago, and asked myself what Roosevelt would think about where things stand now. At the same time, I received a press release from Cornell University's Lab of Ornithology concerning the anniversary of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil well leak in the Gulf of Mexico. I think I'll let the video speak for itself.

In the spirit of Theodore Roosevelt, let's carry on with the dream of nature as it was meant to be. For as TR believed, only through experiencing wilderness can mankind truly experience freedom.

Note: Please visit the website of the Theodore Roosevelt Association.

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