Now, when I wake up in the mornings, I feel as if I’m just about to step foot into a truly either-or, binary-only, black-or-white, contrary world; a world where every advance forward in science or in caring for the natural world and each other must be accompanied by a major step to the rear.
Because this seems to have become an immutable fact of our lives, I even wonder if there’s a physics formula for it: if beneficial x happens, there has to be an equal and opposite, detrimental reaction y.
Just take a look at what’s happening with climate change education, wildlife protections and oil pipelines.
Climate change science: advances, then avoidance
Just when schools were attempting to weave climate change education into their curriculums to educate the next generations about the world they will inhabit—that beneficial x in our formula—we get news that some are deleting the science completely from their lesson plans (ruinous reaction y).
Last month, on February 9, 2017, Idaho lawmakers approved a new K-12 science standard that does not reference climate change and the impact of human activity on the environment. Of the original standards, known as the Next Generation Science Standards—which were developed by 26 states and a number of national science and educational groups, and which identify the science all K-12 students should know—all five paragraphs that referenced the well-established science of climate change and our role in the global warming phenomenon are now missing.
The omitted language includes sentences such as “human activity is also having adverse impacts on biodiversity through overpopulation, overexploitation, habitat destruction, pollution, introduction of invasive species and climate change” and “ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century.”
Wolf recovery: strides, then extermination to extinction’s brink (again)
A week after Idaho lawmakers decided to hide the science of climate change from our children, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.J. Resolution 69, on February 16, 2017. The resolution nullifies a Department of Interior regulation—years in the works and crafted by professional wildlife managers at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service—that prohibited the use of tactics such as aerial spotting, baiting and spotlighting to hunt predatory animals on national preserves in Alaska.
After years of disputing the legality of some of these practices, the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service implemented new rules in 2015 and 2016 permanently banning them in national preserves. The rules, which do not apply to subsistence hunting or to lands not under the protection of the federal government, forbid the following:
- Taking black or brown bear cubs or sows with cubs (exception allowed for resident hunters to take black bear cubs or sows with cubs under customary and traditional use activities at a den site October 15–April 30 in specific game management units in accordance with state law);
- Taking brown bears over bait;
- Taking of bears using traps or snares;
- Taking wolves and coyotes during the denning season (May 1–August 9); and
- Taking bears from an aircraft or on the same day as air travel has occurred. The take of wolves or wolverines from an aircraft or on the same day as air travel has occurred is already prohibited under current refuge regulations.
If passed by the Senate and signed by the president, H.J. Resolution 69 will hand jurisdiction over the hunting of bears, coyotes and wolves on Alaska’s 20 million acres of federally-protected lands back to the state, which, since 1994, has had “predator control” laws aimed at maximizing wild game populations for recreational hunting.
It seems we will need to relearn the lessons of how a land without wolves degrades and leave it to future generations to have to reintroduce them all over again.
Pipelines: clean energy progress, then approval on what should be past
According to the Department of Energy’s 2017 “U.S. Energy and Employment Report,” nearly one million Americans are working near full-time or full-time in the energy efficiency, solar, wind and alternative vehicles sectors. This is five times the current almost 200,000 employed in the fossil fuel electric industry, which includes coal, gas and oil workers.
And if you add in those who only work part-time, such as a construction worker who doesn’t spend all of his or her work hours installing energy-efficient components (such as high-efficiency windows), the number jumps to nearly three million Americans working in part or in whole for the clean energy sectors. That’s 14 times the current employment in the fossil fuel electric industry. Looking forward, energy efficiency employers project the highest growth rate over the next 12 months (about 9 percent) while the fossil fuels sector reports it expects a decline in employment.
As proposed by TransCanada, an Alberta firm, the Keystone XL pipeline would carry 800,000 barrels a day from the Canadian oil sands to the Gulf Coast. Proponents of the pipeline say it would create jobs and expand energy resources. However, the State Department estimated that Keystone would support 42,000 temporary jobs for two years—about 3,900 of them in construction and the rest through indirect support, such as food service—but only 35 permanent jobs. Opponents say building a sustainable economy, not the Keystone pipeline, will create far more jobs.
It most certainly is a conflicted world out there. Every time we step forward into a better future, we get pulled back into antiquated ideas of the past.
American sociologist Kelly Miller once said: “I see that the path of progress has never taken a straight line, but has always been a zigzag course amid the conflicting forces of right and wrong, truth and error, justice and injustice, cruelty and mercy.”
I agree. But I’d say that more than following a zigzag route, we’re climbing a huge mountain. We sometimes get to that sweet moment just before reaching the top, our hands on the highest ledge, ready to haul ourselves all the way there—only to lose our grip and fall down its face again.
And, some mornings, when you first wake up, you’d just like to know that, for once, you are going to make it to the top of that pinnacle and stay there.
Here’s to finding your true places and natural habitats,