Posts Tagged ‘United States Congress’

Art, Earth And Ethics 2 – Climate Change, Religion, John Muir and Leave No Trace

July 24th, 2014

Art, Earth And Ethics, Part Two

Climate Change, Big Oil, Politics, Walmart, God, Religion, St. Francis, John Muir And Leave No Trace

(Continued From the blog post, “Art, Earth And Ethics 1.”)

Recreational development is a job not of building roads into lovely country, but of building receptivity into the still unlovely human mind. – Aldo Leopold
Whiz Burgers, San Francisco, California, Custom, copyright 2010 David Leland Hyde.

Whiz Burgers, San Francisco, California, Custom, copyright 2010 David Leland Hyde.

(See the photograph large here in David Leland Hyde Portfolio One.)

Many people today would rather not discuss environmental issues. The environment is a subject that reminds people of thoughts and emotions they are often trying to forget. Bringing up such topics, some consider as taboo and as deadly to conversation as discussing politics or religion.

Along the same lines, when people are faced with, and allow to sink in a bit, some of the scientifically established facts of climate change, they respond with a wide range emotions: denial, rage, fear, grieving, indifference, resignation and others. If we do discuss climate change, it is with a dispassionate distance, as though it is not a matter of survival, of the life and death of our species, but something mildly in need of our intellectual attention and problem solving abilities, like an algebra equation. Some believe that an excessively hot planet with temperatures continuing to rise is something we can learn to live with. Meanwhile, many of the most credible sources say that just slight changes will bring about ongoing natural catastrophe, which in turn will readily destroy our economic system and our way of life.

Much of this can be debated indefinitely and is, but my intent in mentioning it here to begin with is to emphasize that these are serious, grown up problems that must be reckoned with, not forgotten about or avoided indefinitely. Each of us must start now to act in ways that have less environmental impact. We have to take responsibility and make changes ourselves, individually, regardless of what the US Congress, our president, or other world governments and corporations do. Regularly I see political slogans that say we need to keep Big Oil from causing climate change. True, we do need to stop subsidizing Big Oil, but we also need to remember they are in the business and we are all their customers. If we do not believe in their product, we need to gradually decrease our use of it, in all of its forms.

Climate Change through the refinement and distribution of fossil fuels is what Big Oil does for a living. It is what they have done for a living for a long time. Yet we must remember that it is the actual burning of the fossil fuels that is changing the climate. We are doing the burning. Meanwhile, we are asking them to change businesses, when we ourselves will not even change jobs to use less gasoline, or to do work that itself is more earth friendly. We will not change homes, change cars, or change other products we buy and use, yet we ask Big Oil to change the core of its livelihood. The picture will not change until we change. Major seed changes have almost always come from the people, from the bottom up, not from the top down. Top down management has brought us the world we have now, which is a calamitous train wreck about to happen. It would be easier to get off the train if it were moving more slowly, but as the train continues to gain momentum, we will begin to realize that jumping from the train is a better option than staying aboard. As a whole, the civilized world has doubled its energy use since 1980. This is a monumental trend in the wrong direction.

Most of it stems from short-term thinking, our own, as a people, and that of our leaders. The primary business of politicians on both the left and right is to kick the can down the road. As I listen to NPR or Democracy Now, I hear on a regular basis, politicians from California, or from the US, or from other countries, in the process of passing laws that set standards to be reached by a certain future year, usually 10 or 20 years from now. What is to stop the next batch of politicians in office from kicking the can farther down the road? Nothing. Which is why this kind of do-nothing, but appear-to-be-doing-something politics continues. We as a people rarely stop and say, “Hey, wait a minute, that law is not real. It is just a dog and pony show for the Television evening news.”

Examples of short-term thinking are abundant. When it comes to art, people would rather fill their homes with lots of cheap junk that will wind up in a landfill, than save and gather their resources to acquire a few quality pieces of artwork with provenance that will last and go up in value as a real asset to be sold at a profit or passed on to heirs. We have this same Walmart mentality about many items. We would rather buy a cheaper bike for $250 and have to buy a whole new one every four or five years, than save up and spend $800-$1000 on a bike that will last the rest of our lives. Even the $800 bike will no longer last a lifetime because planned obsolescence and lack of durability are built into the manufacturing system. Cheap is what people want, or is it?

Much of this comes down to education and how people are raised. Some parents teach their children to be racists, to hate people of other religions, or conversely, to be tolerant of all religions, to have empathy and appreciation for the diversity of cultures and myriad ways of living and worshipping on this planet. Some children rebel against whatever they are taught anyway, but Culture, environmental awareness, tolerance, open-mindedness or lack thereof are all teachings or programming, as are values, art, ethics and religion, which is man made. It’s all the same God, but some people try to claim that they have a different God, or that if you approach God any other way than by their approach, you are doomed and damned. I can see why some people don’t believe in God at all. Many others object to using the term, “God.” I certainly don’t believe in an angry, vengeful, insecure, spiteful God, the God forced down throats by Puritans and other fundamentalist extremists.

The early environmentalists and naturalists, sometimes called transcendentalists, such as Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson and others from the 1800s, believed God was in nature. This is also what Saint Francis of Assisi taught much earlier in the 13th Century. There is much debate as to when environmentalism started, though it could be argued that St. Francis was the first environmentalist. Moving forward into the 19th and 20th Century, one of John Muir’s main purposes for getting out into nature as often as possible, much like St. Francis, was to get closer to God and through immersion in the “works” of God, to have a spiritual, transcendent experience. A belief in God is not required to live a good life, but we must be careful of Godlessness and a lack of responsibility based on lack of faith in anything. Lack of faith in anything often blocks transcendent experience, which is part of what maintains our belief in existence and meaning in it. A belief in karma, what comes around goes around, or religious morality, even the threat of punishment has helped guide people toward fulfilling, thoughtful, sensitive and generous lives. It has kept people from living without regard for fellows or surroundings. When Friedrich Nietzsche said God is dead in the 1800s and people began to give up religion en masse, they no longer had an ethical basis for decisions or actions. People did not espouse any concept of consequences like the karmic law of cause and effect, which western civilization found in the East during that same time, but did not widely accept until much later. With religions often operating at the extremes and religious leaders acting in materialistic or perverted hypocritical ways, outdoor organizations, in many cases, actually now serve the purpose of educating people about God, Goddess, Great Spirit, Allah, Yahweh, All That Is, whatever you want to call It.

John Muir founded the Sierra Club in 1892. The Sierra Club’s primary purpose was to educate people about how to live and take recreation in harmony with nature. The Sierra Club initiated the idea of national forest preserves that became our national forests. The early Sierra Club defended and helped maintain the sanctity of our national parks. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Sierra Club, Wilderness Society, Boy Scouts of America and other groups began to talk about the concept of minimal impact that later became Leave No Trace, which is a sort of environmental Golden Rule, or outdoor law of karma. The US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service cooperatively produced a pamphlet in 1987 titled, “Leave No Trace Land Ethics.” In 1990, the Forest Service in conjunction with the National Outdoor Leadership School established a national education program of Leave No Trace, to work with the Forest Service instructions for motorized recreation called Tread Lightly. Low impact education is now offered through the Leave No Trace non-profit group and many other organizations all over the world.

The basic summary of Leave No Trace is formalized into seven principles:

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Visit LNT.org for an expanded explanation of each principle.

The Leave No Trace principles could even be extrapolated into a business philosophy, a way to create true sustainability on earth. If we could operate industries such as mining and logging using long-term Leave No Trace principles, this would accomplish sustainability, in fact, not just in name. Most sustainability advocates are working too gradually, offering proposals that make industry just slightly greener in baby steps, rather than rethinking from the ground up. Again, just like the issues with Big Oil, and in our own private lives, these changes are often easier said than made, but we need to step up the pace, if the changes are to do any good, or stave off the destruction that is already under way.

More on Leave No Trace, how children and grownups learn ethics, or not, and how to live responsibly, in future blog posts in this series…

(Continued in the blog post, “Art, Earth And Ethics 3.”)

References:

Walking Softly in the Wilderness: The Sierra Club Guide to Backpackingby John Hart

The Sierra Club Wilderness Handbook edited by David Brower

The National Outdoor Leadership School’s Wilderness Guide by Mark Harvey

Leave No Trace: A Guide to the New Wilderness Etiquette by Annette McGivney

Wikipedia Leave No Trace Entry

The Life of St. Francis of Assisi by St. Bonaventure

The Oregon Cascades’ Impact On Conservation

June 14th, 2010

The National Implications of Land Wars Over the Oregon Cascade Mountain Forests

Ardis Hyde On Horseback With Packer Tom McAllister From Portland At Waldo Lake, Oregon Cascades, Oregon, 1969 by Philip Hyde.

Heated land use debates in the 1950s and 1960s concerning the forests of the Cascade Mountains in the Northwestern United States, helped define the future of wilderness protection nationwide. While the battle over the dams in Dinosaur National Monument took the national stage sooner, launched the modern environmental movement and set a precedent that would keep industrialists out of the National Park System; the land battles over the lush forests in the Northwestern U.S. began around the same time and cannot be underestimated in their national impact.

Decisions in Oregon and Washington State affected forest management policy in the National Forest System more than the National Park System. Nonetheless, the resulting conflicts and their outcomes played a significant role in the eventual forging of the Wilderness Act in Congress and provided a blueprint for grassroots environmental campaigns all over the country, particularly in the West where wilderness came under the greatest threat of desecration by resource exploitation.

The main purpose of the post-World War II Forest Service was to supply timber. The policy of multiple use often translated into allowing various uses of public lands, as long as they could co-exist with logging. Lumber companies kept pressure on the Forest Service to provide a guaranteed supply of logs. “An era of stewardship of the nation’s public forests gave way to an emphasis on rapid extraction of timber resources,” wrote Kevin R. Marsh in Drawing Lines in the Forest: Creating Wilderness Areas in the Pacific Northwest. “This spawned a grassroots movement that ultimately challenged the managerial power of the Forest Service.” It was 10 years in the making, but the Wilderness Act of 1964 finally opened the process to citizen participation, giving the public a say in the drawing of wilderness boundaries. Before 1964, small citizen groups had less power, but after 1964, the two opposing forces of industry and conservation shaped the Wilderness System.

Cascades Wilderness Battles Helped Conservationists Tune Their Message To Become The Wilderness Act

In the Cascade Mountain Range, a string of volcanic peaks and up thrust rocky crags extending from Northern California through Oregon and Washington and into Canada, many groups played a role—the U. S. Forest Service, the timber industry, recreationists and environmentalists. The opposing forces consisted of timber interests and the Forest Service on one side and local groups such as the Obsidians and Chemeketans on the other side, often supported by national environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club, National Audubon Society and the Wilderness Society. When enough national outcry supported the protection of an area, Congressional Law made it official but not without a tremendous fight and wrangling in and out of Congress right up to the final signing as in the case of North Cascades National Park or Olympic National Park. Needless to say, merely obtaining wilderness status for many areas engendered a terrific political and often legal war.

Originally in 1893, President Grover Cleveland established the Cascade Forest Reserve encompassing nearly 5 million acres, from Mt. Hood in Northern Oregon to Crater Lake in Southern Oregon, to limit the cutting of mountain forests and to protect watersheds. Aldo Leopold, author of A Sand County Almanac, a pro-wilderness polemic, set a national example as his worked within the Southwest agency of the Forest Service to found the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico in 1924. Forest Service leaders such as Arthur Carhart in Colorado and Elers Koch in Idaho thwarted the inroads of “progress” into wilderness and fostered the agency atmosphere in line with Gifford Pinchot’s vision from years earlier. These new leaders in the 1920s reformed management practices and created Primitive Areas in the National Forests, which limited but did not end industrial use. “The Forest Service would later argue that these boundaries were not meant to be permanent,” wrote Kevin R. Marsh.

Lumbering slowed significantly during the Great Depression, but took off again during and after the War. In the Willamette National Forest, the volume of logs cut more than quadrupled between 1945 and 1955 and continued to increase for decades. The Forest Service began to reclassify many primitive areas without any input from the locals. Frequented by hikers, fishers and small boaters, Mt. Jefferson Primitive Area had some of the highest recreation levels of any wilderness in the Northwest, second in Oregon only to the Three Sisters Wilderness to the south. The Three Sisters Wilderness lies directly east of Eugene Oregon, a progressive college town that participated fully in the 1960s anti-establishment, anti-war “revolution.”

Conservation Strategy From The Cascade Mountains Became A Blueprint For Local Efforts Nationwide

In 1954, when the Forest Service proposed reclassifying the Three Sisters Primitive Area, a widely divergent range of local hiking clubs, conservationists, scientists and social liberals, began to evolve over the next few decades into a powerful grassroots movement in Oregon and across the nation. Since 1951, when the Forest Service had tried to pass off shrinking the primitive area as beneficial to the local economy, Carl Onthank and his wife Ruth Onthank, Ruth Hopson and other local activists rallied supporters to form the Friends of the Three Sisters Wilderness. Karl Onthank, dean of students at the University of Oregon, described the leaders of the new group as “scientists who know something of our Cascade Mountains and are interested in seeing a little of them preserved for future enjoyment in their natural state and for scientific study.”

Friends of Three Sisters became an example for later site-specific grassroots campaigns. At a 1955 Forest Service hearing, local groups from all over Oregon such as The Mazamas, the Obsidians, chapters of the Sierra Club, National Audubon Society groups, Wilderness Society leaders, the Oregon Federation of Garden Clubs, the Mountaineers, Olympic Park Associates, the Izaak Walton League Eugene Chapter, the AFL and CIO unions and many others rallied against reducing the Three Sisters Wilderness. The Forest Service expected a one day hearing but had to carry it into a second days when a total of 79 speakers wanted their turn. Some voiced concern for retaining recreational space, some for not allowing wilderness to be reduced over and over as in other states, some wanted to protect areas for scientific study, and others thought logging interests could make more efficient use of the existing public and private timber lands.

On the second day of hearings, Howard Zahniser, executive director of the Wilderness Society arrived and testified with hints of the language from the Wilderness Act that would not pass Congress until 1964, but that he had already begun to draft in 1955. The Three Sisters campaign was pivotal to the national cause of wilderness preservation as it would set a precedent for whether people had a say when Federal lands were reduced to benefit private industry. David Brower, Executive Director of the Sierra Club corresponded with Karl Onthank to stay informed of developments. David Brower and other Sierra Club leaders contributed to the campaign by writing letters to the media and leaders in Washington DC, just as Ruth and Karl Onthank and their associates were doing.

Disperate Conservation Campaigns Organized Into The Modern Environmental Movement

Nationally the tide was high for conservation as the wilderness ideals of John Muir and Henry David Thoreau were hitched to a new environmental movement that employed the media, Congressional lobbying, letter writing campaigns, the courts, full-page newspaper ads and grass root organizing. At first it the purpose was wilderness protection, but later environmental campaigns strived to limit water and air pollution and other environmental destruction brought on by land development, growth and a booming industrial age.

In 1955, The Sierra Club published This is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country and Its Magic Rivers, edited by Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Wallace Stegner with photographs by Philip Hyde, Martin Litton and others. A copy of This is Dinosaur landed on the desk of every Congressman just as they were deciding how to vote on the Colorado River Storage Project Bill. David Brower testified in Congressional hearings against the dams and the Sierra Club ran full page newspaper ads warning Congress not to endorse a hotly opposed expensive project in an election year. The new brand of environmentalism worked. The bill passed Congress without the Dinosaur Dams and with a phrase added barring dams in national parks or monuments.

Following this national land conservation victory, Three Sisters activists communicated their position with a growing effectiveness that surprised the Forest Service, but as the struggle went on, the Forest Service defined the debate and wilderness advocates had to stay on the defensive. By 1957, the Friends of Three Sisters had lost the battle and the Forest Service went through with their original planned boundaries. The loss confirmed the fears of wilderness proponents across the country but solidified determination to push for a Wilderness Act to prevent “having this kind of battle on every one of the primitive and the limited areas,” said Karl Onthank. Oregon senators responded by sponsoring the Wilderness Act and helping Howard Zahniser and others draft it. The Forest Service decision on the Three Sisters Wilderness, swung support toward the Wilderness Act but years of conflict over it were yet to come.

Future Blog Posts share the story of the making of North Cascades National Park. For parts of the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness Area skirmish, see the blog post “Oregon Cascades Conservation: Mount Jefferson Wilderness Area,” which touches on the interrelated role of Philip Hyde’s landscape photography. For a closer view of Ardis and Philip Hyde in action see the blog post, “North Cascades And Mt. Jefferson Travel Log.”