Category Archives: Connecting to Community

The Theology of Climate Change Denial by George Handley, An Introduction

Photo courtesy of law.utah.edu

Photo courtesy of The University of Utah Stegner Center: http://www.today.law.utah.edu

Religion is the greatest hope we have in solving environmental problems. This might sound extreme or wrong and you might want to argue the point with me, but let me explain. If you look at the heart of environmentalism, it is a moral issue; a moral imperative that calls into question the way we live and how our economy drives it and bucks the new American Dream. Not the American Dream where we can all rise as high as we are willing to work, but the American Dream of consumerism and consumption.

What environmentalism calls into question is the new global economy and no one wants to hear that because the economy is king. But if we were to be honest, we would acknowledge that environmentalism is the most urgent and persistent ethical dilemma of this century precisely become of our economic values. To paraphrase the purpose behind the National Environmental Policy Act explained in the 96th Congressional notes of record, we can no longer ignore the science, the effects of our actions, and the subsequent consequences for humanity (1). The National Environmental Policy Act was meant to protect humanity from itself. Religion does the same thing. It has guidelines for how to protect you from yourself, from others, and others from you. It is a moral code. Environmentalism just requires one to expand that moral code to encompass more, to connect dots that we previously hadn’t.

While there are many who want to leave religion out of environmentalism and just look at the facts, which is noble if you are swayed that way, the fact of the matter is, science does not answer the moral question. While it provides information and knowledge about cause and effect, it does not answer why we should do something or behave a certain way. Religion does. Religion has the most potential to change attitudes and minds about environmentalism and climate change because it is the source for moral and ethical behavior for millions of people. It already addresses caring for the poor, living selfless lives, and not worshiping money – all of which are also at the heart of environmentalism. Because of this, religion is also the antithesis to the New American Dream. It is so closely aligned with environmentalism that if the two combined it could be the ultimate game changer, the unstoppable movement that turns the tides on how we live in the world and how we define living a moral or good life.

George Handley is a very good friend of mine. He is a humanities professor at Brigham Young University, an environmentalist, and yes, a devout Mormon. He is also a Democrat. In other words, he is a bit of an anomaly in these parts. While George is a religious person, and I am not so much, we have more in common than one might believe, and I believe this is true of most of us – despite our differences. George and I do not share the same beliefs on all things, but we share a lot of common ground. George is an outstanding, conscientious, and genuinely good man. I have been blessed to know and call him a friend. We have had great conversations, all of which have been enlightening for me. I hope this blog post that I am about to share will be as enlightening to you as it was to me and if you feel so inclined, compels you to write, share, or engage in. He articulates and explains so well the moral blind spot so evident from the religious community when it comes to climate change – and the schism between religion and ideology and why it should be different. Enjoy.

“There has never been a generation in the history of the world that has had a better opportunity to understand the causes and depth of our impact on the world. What a crying shame it is to see such knowledge mocked and disparaged, even though our science is also what we rely on everyday to enjoy our American standard of living. To enjoy the fruits of our economy while we disparage the science that built it is unconscionable… Surely we can’t ignore science and then claim,   when we do our damage, that we didn’t know any better. Maybe we didn’t want to know, but we certainly had a chance.” ~ George Handley

“Today we have the option of channeling some of our wealth into the protection of our future. If we fail to do this in an adequate and timely manner, we may find ourselves confronted, even in this generation, with an environmental catastrophe that could render our wealth meaningless and which no amount of money could ever cure.” ~91st Congress, NEPA

 

 (1) 91st Senate Report No. 91-296 The National Environmental Policy Act: http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&ved=0CCsQFjAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.fta.dot.gov%2Fdocuments%2FUnit1_04SenateReport91-2961.doc&ei=YRoGVJfkGYGkyATy8oHIDw&usg=AFQjCNH0USSo6ghEJI7yThoAB7Xl3735jg&sig2=LKCc70_ibQaZPpyrQP4qYA

 

 

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The Story of a Flower: From community member, to endangered species, to public enemy – Is it time for a new narrative?

Desert Globe Mallow, photo courtesy of chicbee04 flickr

Desert Globe Mallow, photo courtesy of chicbee04 @ http://www.flickr.com

Every spring, as the days begin to grow longer and the weather consistently warms, my eyes start scanning the horizon for very specific plants, vegetative cues that mark the passage of time from one season to another. One of those plants is the Globe Mallow. Their presence marks the transition from spring to summer. Bright orange bushes burst into flame along highways, freeways, and across the desert floor. They are flowers that you must see up close to truly appreciate. The small petals form little bowls, globes, or women’s skirts, that when filled with light, glow softly. Delicate like tissue paper, they are enchantingly beautiful. When they bloom I make a yearly pilgrimage with my boys to explore the changed landscape for the short period that they are blossoming. Though I don’t know much about the niche the Globe Mallow fills, or about the other species connected to or relying on them, they provide aesthetic pleasure, joy, and wellbeing to my life. I enjoy them. They are a part of the community in which I belong. They are a part of my story. If they suddenly disappeared, I would miss them, wonder about them, and seek to discover what had happened to them. They do not provide food or shelter and I’m not sure of their economic value, but they hold value to me. They ground me in time and place.

If the Globe Mallow was facing extinction I would feel an urgency to protect it. I would feel its loss before it was gone and would work to avoid that reality. If, however, a barrier was put around the flower that kept me away in order for the government to protect it, I would feel helpless. It would no longer be a part of the same world as the one I am in; it would be separate, sanctioned off. I would hope that the government would be able to ensure its existence, but I would no longer feel a part of its presence or protection. I could only hope. My interaction with it would be similar to looking at it through protective glass.

Though not all species provide this sort of personal connection to me, all it would take to change that would be intimate knowledge. Kind of the same way a person changes from a stranger to a friend. For example, I know that if I rub creosote leaves between my fingers, it smells like rain. I know that sage provides a pungent fragrance that seems to permeate and rise up out of the earth. I know that right before autumn and a chill can be felt in the air, tarantulas come out. Knowing ones community happens subconsciously and almost intuitively, but turning that knowledge into love usually takes an act of conscious and willful acknowledgment and recognition. Often this is brought about through someone else’s actions, like the demolition of a hill. Sometimes is comes through absence, like when we move away. But without knowing a place, we cannot love it, and if we don’t love it, we won’t protect it, and if we don’t protect it, it will disappear.

“Life is a miracle,” said Wendell Berry, “One kind of evil certainly is the willingness to destroy what we cannot make – life, for instance.” Life, including ours, plants, and animals, but also, the elements that sustain life such as water, soil, nutrients, and sunlight; in other words, the cycle of life and all of its interconnected parts and dependencies, is a miracle. Utter extinction, pollution to the point of poisoning life, annihilation of life giving properties, is unacceptable to us and virtually unfathomable, but it is happening. These changes are on a large and slow enough scale that if we choose not to see it, we won’t. But when we narrow the scope, bring it down to our own backyard, we can’t help but see it and be impacted by it. We need to take our backyard and apply it on a global scale to take what matters to us and expand it to the world; amplify it across borders and landscape to people and communities not so different from ours, and interestingly, not so far removed from ours either.

Robert McKee said, “On one side is the world as we believe it to be, on the other is reality as it actually is. In between is the nexus of story.” This is the story of a flower, a close relative to the Globe Mallow, and some of the people living and working in proximity to it. Living in remote and small sections of the Mojave Desert in Utah and Arizona is the Gierisch Mallow, a rare and largely unknown flower found nowhere else on earth. It grows in a crusted, gypsum soil suitable only for unique species that holds nitrogen, moisture, and stays erosion. The flower is believed to be pollinated by the same bees that pollinate the Desert Globe Mallow, a flower found in much larger numbers throughout the southwest. The bees nest in the ground, within range of the flowers. A combination of evolutionary adaptations have produced a habitat suitable for the flowers to grow and survive in. Without the ability to travel the way we do, we might never have known of their existence.

Last year the Gierisch Mallow was listed as an Endangered Species. Prior to the listing I attended a meeting held by the BLM for stakeholders who would be impacted by the designation. I attended to hear what the local ranchers and miners had to say. Knowing the general disdain for anything environmental in Utah and that the local ranchers and miners held strong beliefs about mankind’s role in it, I wanted to hear how they would articulate it and work within the confines of a government setting. As I watched the two groups, two distinct narratives formed in my mind: one was scientific, the other religious. The ranchers did not want the plant listed, and though the BLM employees were following a process, I presumed they supported the designation. Though the process is meant to be objective, deeply held narratives were driving it. One narrative is the desire to protect life through public policy based on scientific analysis and evidence, the other is the desire to maintain a way of life based on a belief that God gave us dominion over the earth. Though none of this was spoken, it was there under the surface.

While the life of the flower was never directly discussed, and was actually never in question, how to go about protecting it was. The local miners and ranchers did most of the talking. They not only felt betrayed, they were worried about what the listing would mean for their way of life and bottom line. Realizing that the ranchers had been collecting seeds from the Gierisch Mallow and had been providing them to the BLM in an effort to work proactively, their anger and disappointment at an outside group requesting the designation and undermining their efforts was understandable. Though they never spoke of the fragility, beauty, or right of the flower to exist, it was clear that everyone recognized this by their preemptive actions in trying to protect the flower before the listing. At the heart of this meeting was a deep suspicion, based on collective experience, that one, the locals would carelessly trample the flower into extinction, and two, the government would come in and determine that the flower held more weight than the people living there. The locals were certain they could protect the flower that lived among them and pleaded their case. What they got was a bureaucratic answer that they could make comments during the scoping process and possibly sway the decision and course of action. Once the plant was submitted as a candidate, the land management agency was required by law to follow regulations to determine its status.

The Endangered Species Act maintains that our natural heritage, plants and animals, have aesthetic, ecological, educational, recreational, and scientific value for this country and the people. Those are the values that get analyzed and discussed through the process of a listing. While the language appears to be inclusive, the Act ignores the relationship between people and the species and subsequently, the land. This exclusion of the relationship and personal narratives behind it makes the process sterile and impersonal. It isolates the species from the people, the place, and the ecological community they all belong to and makes it “other.” To compartmentalize the humans, from the species, from the land, is to keep all of the parts of a specific environment separate, and thus work against the end goal of maintaining the ecological health and integrity of the whole. Rather than using the local population to maintain and protect the plant, they are excluded. This segregation reinforces deeply held narratives that people hold to non-human life and to the earth.

The narratives that shape people’s perceptions and attitudes are as varied as the people, but there are extreme ends in the environmental debate. Though there are many shades of grey in beliefs toward the earth, it is the stereotypical types on both ends that get all the attention. The extreme narrative of the bible-based religious demographic is that God gave humans dominance over the earth, that we were made in God’s image and that ultimately, humans take priority over all living and non-living life on earth. The extreme environmental narrative is that all living and non-living, non-human life has intrinsic worth and is equal in value to humans and therefore, should be given equal standing when it comes to decisions affecting it. When a species gets protected and it inhibits human behavior, industry, and livelihood, the two clash and depending on how the decision unfolds, ill feelings and antagonism result. This end result is bad for both sides because instead of finding sensible solutions in the future, the people will simply oppose each other over any policy decision. If these policies keep ignoring the narratives of the local populations affected by them, the deeply held beliefs will be reinforced and progress will face stiffer and stiffer polarization and legal battles.

But when our decisions affect life, even if that life doesn’t seem significant, we need compassionate narratives that work creatively and ethically to protect the web of life, both human and non-human. It is easier to take an issue that obviously needs addressing, such as clean water, and have consensus, but protecting an unknown species can leave much open for debate. This is where policy fails us and story can help. As Robert McKee stated, “Values, the positive and negative charges of life, are at the soul of the art of storytelling. They can shape a perception of what’s worth living for, what’s worth dying for, what’s foolish to pursue, and the meaning of justice and truth.” It is not the worth of the flower or its existence that is at stake; it is the worth of the ones valuing that is at stake. At the core of environmental conflict is the messy relationship between people. Relating and finding common ground is easier done through narrative than policy because narrative allows empathy to surface. The gift of learning someone’s story is that it provides the opportunity to live lives beyond our own, to desire and struggle in a myriad of worlds and times, at all the various depths of our being (McKee, pg. 142). When we do that, we empathize and through empathy, link ourselves to another human being, testing and stretching our own humanity (McKee, 142).

As I sat as an observer at the BLM office listening to the local field office employees and the local people, I wondered about the missing group, the one that had proposed the listing. While I was certain they had good intentions and their mission probably states a desire to protect all species, I couldn’t help wondering: Have they been out here? Have they even seen the flower? How different would it be if they had talked to the people impacted by the designation and had learned their story? I wanted to know if the flower was in danger of extinction due to human impact, or if it was just a rare species with a small population. As I let my imagination go, I imagined the people who live and work out in the Mojave Desert and what their life was like. I am certain they not only have stories, but history there, that is personal and intimate in a way that we can only relate to by comparing it to our own place. I was certain, that like me and the Desert Globe Mallow, the men in the room also know the seasonal cues, love the landscape, and are aware of the nuances of life found there. The plants and species are not just names in a database; In other words, the people living in these remote places are familiar with the species and landscape in a way that only a local could be. While they might shape their narrative along familial and traditional stories, and may even accept and include the growing scientific evidence as guidelines for their behavior, it is their personal story being threatened.

The Story of a Flower

The Story of a Flower

The story of the Gierisch Mallow is not just of the flower and its beauty; it is about the beauty of the flower in context. The story includes the land, the inter-relationships of other species, and of the people who live and work in proximity to it. Depending on the narrative you subscribe to, the listing of the Gierisch Mallow is either beautiful or tragic, or perhaps it is both. In the reality of environmentalism, we are burdened by our heritage, but the story can be changed and rewritten to produce renewal and cleansing through humble, respectful, and well-told stories.

The Gierisch Mallow is just one species of many that have been entered into the narrative of species protection and extinction and the people involved. How will it unfold? Will the locals harbor good or ill will toward it? Will they resent those designating it, despite their good intentions? Will their story be a happy ending or a tragedy? It will be determined through their narrative filter. The story is ultimately one of life and how we value it, both human and non-human.

A flower offers a simple yet powerful metaphor for life. From time immemorial, flowers have been recognized for their beauty in scent, color, and form. In the short timeframe of their life cycle we see the duality of beauty and tragedy, life and death. They remind us of the passage of time. The word beauty originates from the Greek word hora, meaning ‘hour.’ It is associated with “being in one’s hour.” When a flower is in bloom, it is in its hour. The flower’s beauty, delicacy, and moment in bloom elicit an emotional stirring in us because the pinnacle of its beauty is fleeting. Because of the fleeting nature of life and the passing beauty in it, we often try to capture and prolong the essence of it through artistic reproduction, but art only makes static what is transitory.

Like a stunning sunset whose beauty lies in its temporal nature, we relish it because it won’t last, but even if we could stop time, we would not want to live in perpetual dusk. It is the moment between birth and death, the passage of time that captures our imagination. Nothing we can do will prolong the scent of a lilac or the form of a rose indefinitely, but we know the cycle of the plants, we know that after death comes rebirth, and new blooms in time. Life on earth is, if nothing else, time. It is what we do with our time that will impact those after us. Like the flower, we have our hour, our time of beauty and then we too will pass. The question is: what high beauty, laughter and joy, or tragedy will come with our passing through? Will the audience in the future experience catharsis and pleasure when our act is done?

In the drama of life we, humanity, are both the protagonist and the antagonist. We are perpetually in conflict, but history gives us perspective and clarity and helps us see and learn from the past. Through hind-sight we are able to see the comedic and tragic stories of people making decisions in time. We see their hour in history, and through theirs, we try to make sense of our own. Like a perennial flower, humanity continues generation after generation. We will bloom again as time marches on. Therefore, we should weigh our decisions with good humor, knowing that with each solved problem comes a new one, but with it, a new generation for that hour. We must recognize that while we have great technology and minds to innovate, we are not Gods, we are temporary and can only use the tools and information available to us. Perpetually fixing problems that we create is not wise, but operating with humility and wisdom on the front end and using foresight will help us in our struggles to live ethical and responsible lives. Protecting life might be a good place to start; connecting to people and places through story might be another. Whether trying to save the planet or save souls, it is the intricacy of life, the good and the bad, that we are working out.

When it comes to the environmental narrative, the conflict is largely man against man. Our needs and wants conflict with our morals and duty to the greater community in which we belong. An inner story is played out in the heart and mind which shapes worldviews and determines actions. If we do not check our inner story against the larger story of life and look for the humorous, recognizing that true humor is laughter at oneself and true humanity is knowledge of oneself, we will lean toward the tragic and the vicious cycle will begin again. The virtue of humor is that it strikes at self-righteousness and produces humility that opens us up to more faith, and deeper belief and understanding. Humor is a sort of redemption in that we recognize that finality is the only real tragedy, but often what appears to be gone is just transformed into something new. The death of a flower is only a tragedy if it is never reborn, if it is gone forever. But there is a sort of joy that comes with the seasonal death of the flower because it invokes a longing in us as we recall it and know it will return. This awareness of nature results in renewal, restoration, and a sense of being grounded to something real and solid. The same is true of lost technology for new technology, lost employment for new opportunities and the discovery of new ways of life. The transition is often painful, but worth it in the long run. There is a certain hope that comes with the transitory because it alone holds the promise of change, growth, or improvement. The hope comes from knowing that we do not live in a static and unchangeable world. Though we may not think this deeply of the life and death of the flower, we sense it, feel it, and if we do think about it, we see the passing of time and our own life in it. As William Blake might surmise, we experience heaven, or a lifetime, in a flower.

If we can find joy in the death and rebirth of a flower, then we can certainly see the tragedy in the flowers total extinction. While we cling to our own mortality and work it out through our own inner narratives, we must be aware that life continues after us and like ripples in water, our short existence plays out long after we are gone. Like the flower, we too need sunlight, water, nutrients, and the right environment to thrive, but unlike the flower, we are not benign, we have choice and the ability to change and impact our environment. We have changed and manipulated the most intricate details of living things, including flowers, all the way to landscapes and oceans. Our fingerprints are on everything, whether intentional or unintentional. We have been able to breed, cross breed, and graft plants in order to make them common and available, to patent for profit, and to manipulate and change for enhanced genetic traits, but the original is worth much more than any reproduction. We have learned that our tampering has far reaching consequences. Land change brings with it invasive plants that choke out native plants; removing forests changes the microclimate, impacts the animals, the soil, and the air. Through landscape or ecological restoration people are now trying to get back to the original, to the landscape before humans altered it. Brownfields, urban or industrial centers, are being restored to greenfields in an attempt to restore the land. While there is some question as to which point in time to restore a landscape due to the difficulty and uncertainty in identifying the original state, it is an attempt to get back to the original. But for the most part, once an original is gone, it’s gone. Though we are trying to fix what we ruined or changed, there is no creating a species out of thin air. We cannot make a flower ex nihilo, we can only take what already exists and create with it. As manipulators, tinkerers, movers, shapers, destroyers, and storytellers, we have a moral obligation to consider our actions with what we are unable to make: the original.

If science is knowing, and art is doing, as Wendell Berry states, then certainly the process of environmental stewardship done well is the art of science in practice. Weaving many stories into the environmental narrative holds the most promise in ensuring that science is not void of compassion and values, and that people are not void of the knowledge that science provides. Otherwise, the single, narrow story will continue to be held, ensuring that an incomplete view and narrative is maintained. The narratives are what must be examined because they act as a the filter through which we view the world, make decisions, pass judgment, and ultimately, interact with each other. But they also hold possibilities to see new stories and expand our narrative paradigm. We are all human after all. We can relate to others through story, experiences, and values, but not facts. The narratives can act as the bridge between the process of decision making and the reality of those living with the decision.

Though the process of science is supposed to be objective, often the people impacted by it are not and the subjective interpretation is what determines the discourse, compromise, and/or gridlock over such cases. The narratives and philosophies behind the people meeting to shape such environmental decisions lie beneath the surface. The objective analysis the stakeholders are meant to examine and engage in is limiting and will either reinforce or reshape already held narratives through the process. When the process cuts values out of the equation, it removes compassion for the particular creatures, people, and place in question. Without this compassion, the species at hand gets pitted against the people impacted. Because the beliefs, values, and morals are determined by many factors not easily defined or standardized by the government, the decision must be based on evidence and sound arguments that can be applied equitably and broadly. This makes sense from a policy perspective, but not an empathetic or understanding one. Life is complicated and messy, decisions are not easily made, but that is where there needs to be room for the non-scientific, non-economic, or non-concrete. The inherent value of the plant and the inherent value of tradition and way of life, while not openly discussed, are there. Those values should be included in the narrative of environmental stewardship because they are the threads that hold the community together in the first place.

Perhaps we need to get to know our own place and community and weave our own story into it so that we can empathize with other places and people. I know that not everyone loves the desert the way that I do, but I am certain they love some geographical location somewhere in the world to the same degree. Stories of people and place fill volumes of literature that inspire and leave lasting imprints in the minds of people in all walks of life and from all corners of the world. It is time for story, normally relegated to classrooms, bookshelves, and coffee shops, used for study or leisure, to fill in the gaps between science and humanity, policy and citizens, and from person to person.

Red Rocks, NV, photo courtesy of puzzler4879 @ www.flickr.com

Red Rocks, NV, photo courtesy of puzzler4879 @ http://www.flickr.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slice of Heaven

Kanab is a weird little pass through town. People stop on their way to and from Zion, Bryce, the Grand Canyon, Grand Staircase Escalante, Lake Powell, Vermillion Cliffs, etc., etc., etc., and the list goes on. For being such a centrally located town, it sure is behind the times a bit for travelers who might stay a while if there was a reason. Luckily there are a few business owners in town who get this: Willow Canyon Outdoor and the Rocking V Cafe.

At Willow Canyon they offer books, espresso, and outdoor gear. What else do you need? Oh yeah, baklava, and they have that too. The Rocking V has got great dining, a great atmosphere, and yes, adult beverages. So when heading out on any number of adventures found around Kanab, Utah, stop by Willow Canyon or the Rocking V Cafe. They are both rare finds worth stopping at on your way out or your way in.

BEO 1

Books, Espresso, Outdoor Gear (Baklava)

 

Willow Canyon lit up briefly by the sun during a lull in the storm

Willow Canyon lit up briefly by the sun during a lull in the storm

 

Espresso & Baklava

Espresso & Baklava

 

Looking out Willow Canyon

Looking out Willow Canyon

 

Open! Open! Open!

Open! Open! Open!

 

Rocking V Cafe

Rocking V Cafe

Who Should Manage Public Lands within Utah

The Salt Lake Tribune’s sponsored debate on public lands management in Salt Lake City May 14th, 2014. This debate is is being had in many other western states as well who are teaming up with Utah in it’s battle against the Federal Government for public lands. It seems to me that Nevada already tried this argument and lost, albeit without the ‘duty to dispose’ theory.

Utah Enabling Act – Section in Question:

“That the people inhabiting said proposed State to agree and declare that they forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within the boundaries thereof; and to all lands lying within said limits owned or held by any Indian or Indian tribes; and that until the title thereto shall have been extinguished by the United States, the same shall be and remain subject to the disposition of the United States, and said Indian lands shall remain under the absolute jurisdiction and control of the Congress of the United States; that the lands belonging to citizens of the United States residing without the said State shall never be taxed at a higher rate than the lands belonging to residents thereof; that no taxes shall be imposed by the State on lands or property therein belonging to or which may hereafter be purchased by the United States or reserved for its use; but nothing herein, or in the ordinance herein provided for, shall preclude the said State from taxing, as other lands are taxed, any lands owned or held by any Indian who has severed his tribal relations and has obtained from the United States or from any person a title thereto by patent or any other grant, save and except such lands as have been or may be granted to any Indian or Indians under any Act of Congress containing a provision exempting the lands thus granted from taxation; but said ordinance shall provide that all such land be exempt from taxation by said State so long and to such extent as such Act of Congress may prescribe.”

Ranching rears its head again:

“Until the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934, a substantial amount of federal land was still being unloaded each year, but that law ended the homesteading era where the goal had been to transfer federal land to state and private ownership. The Taylor Grazing Act authorized the Interior to put 80 million acres of land into grazing districts, which required users to get permits, pay fees, and follow federal regulations. Federal land sales slowed to a trickle, and the last major disposal of federal lands was in 1980 when Congress turned over several million acres of land to the state of Alaska and Native Americans in that state.

Robert Nelson has noted that “federal ownership of vast areas of western land is an anomaly in the American system of private enterprise and decentralized government authority. As such, there have been occasional revolts against federal land ownership in the West, such as the Sagebrush Rebellion of the 1970s. Two developments that helped spur that rebellion were a 1974 environmental lawsuit that threatened to restrict grazing rights and the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act, which declared that existing federal lands would remain in federal ownership. Western states led by Nevada fought back with legislation aimed at transferring federal lands to state ownership. However, the revolt fizzled out when ranchers and other users of federal land realized that they might not receive the same level of subsidies they currently received if land ownership was changed. The anti-Washington rally cry of the Sagebrush Rebellion had popular appeal, but the special interests that rely on the inexpensive use of federal lands helped to block reforms.”

– See more at: http://www.downsizinggovernment.org/interior/reforming-federal-land-management#sthash.dPTRCF2K.dpuf

Until the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934, a substantial amount of federal land was still being unloaded each year, but that law ended the homesteading era where the goal had been to transfer federal land to state and private ownership.9 The Taylor Grazing Act authorized Interior to put 80 million acres of land into grazing districts, which required users to get permits, pay fees, and follow federal regulations. Federal land sales slowed to a trickle, and the last major disposal of federal lands was in 1980 when Congress turned over several million acres of land to the state of Alaska and Native Americans in that state.

Robert Nelson has noted that “federal ownership of vast areas of western land is an anomaly in the American system of private enterprise and decentralized government authority.”10 As such, there have been occasional revolts against federal land ownership in the West, such as the Sagebrush Rebellion of the 1970s. Two developments that helped spur that rebellion were a 1974 environmental lawsuit that threatened to restrict grazing rights and the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act, which declared that existing federal lands would remain in federal ownership.11 Western states led by Nevada fought back with legislation aimed at transferring federal lands to state ownership. However, the revolt fizzled out when ranchers and other users of federal land realized that they might not receive the same level of subsidies they currently received if land ownership was changed. The anti-Washington rally cry of the Sagebrush Rebellion had popular appeal, but the special interests that rely on the inexpensive use of federal lands helped to block reforms.

– See more at: http://www.downsizinggovernment.org/interior/reforming-federal-land-management#sthash.dPTRCF2K.dpuf

Until the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934, a substantial amount of federal land was still being unloaded each year, but that law ended the homesteading era where the goal had been to transfer federal land to state and private ownership.9 The Taylor Grazing Act authorized Interior to put 80 million acres of land into grazing districts, which required users to get permits, pay fees, and follow federal regulations. Federal land sales slowed to a trickle, and the last major disposal of federal lands was in 1980 when Congress turned over several million acres of land to the state of Alaska and Native Americans in that state.

Robert Nelson has noted that “federal ownership of vast areas of western land is an anomaly in the American system of private enterprise and decentralized government authority.”10 As such, there have been occasional revolts against federal land ownership in the West, such as the Sagebrush Rebellion of the 1970s. Two developments that helped spur that rebellion were a 1974 environmental lawsuit that threatened to restrict grazing rights and the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act, which declared that existing federal lands would remain in federal ownership.11 Western states led by Nevada fought back with legislation aimed at transferring federal lands to state ownership. However, the revolt fizzled out when ranchers and other users of federal land realized that they might not receive the same level of subsidies they currently received if land ownership was changed. The anti-Washington rally cry of the Sagebrush Rebellion had popular appeal, but the special interests that rely on the inexpensive use of federal lands helped to block reforms.

– See more at: http://www.downsizinggovernment.org/interior/reforming-federal-land-management#sthash.dPTRCF2K.dpuf

Until the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934, a substantial amount of federal land was still being unloaded each year, but that law ended the homesteading era where the goal had been to transfer federal land to state and private ownership.9 The Taylor Grazing Act authorized Interior to put 80 million acres of land into grazing districts, which required users to get permits, pay fees, and follow federal regulations. Federal land sales slowed to a trickle, and the last major disposal of federal lands was in 1980 when Congress turned over several million acres of land to the state of Alaska and Native Americans in that state.

Robert Nelson has noted that “federal ownership of vast areas of western land is an anomaly in the American system of private enterprise and decentralized government authority.”10 As such, there have been occasional revolts against federal land ownership in the West, such as the Sagebrush Rebellion of the 1970s. Two developments that helped spur that rebellion were a 1974 environmental lawsuit that threatened to restrict grazing rights and the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act, which declared that existing federal lands would remain in federal ownership.11 Western states led by Nevada fought back with legislation aimed at transferring federal lands to state ownership. However, the revolt fizzled out when ranchers and other users of federal land realized that they might not receive the same level of subsidies they currently received if land ownership was changed. The anti-Washington rally cry of the Sagebrush Rebellion had popular appeal, but the special interests that rely on the inexpensive use of federal lands helped to block reforms.

– See more at: http://www.downsizinggovernment.org/interior/reforming-federal-land-management#sthash.dPTRCF2K.dpuf

A legal defense of Utah’s H.B. 148: http://dnr.alaska.gov/commis/cacfa/documents/FOSDocuments/UtahLegalOverviewofUT_HB148.pdf

 

 

Pioneer Democracy: Inherited suspicion and scant respect for the expert

OHV Protest, Blanding UT

OHV Protest, Blanding UT

Bill Nye the Science Guy said that every person we meet will know something we don’t. I interpret that to mean that we can’t know everything and that we shouldn’t be intimidated by not knowing something. That being said, we should not be so afraid of appearing ignorant or not knowing something that we shut the door on gleaning new information, or getting informed. We should never be too proud to learn, to hear new information, or to change our position in light of it. To do so is the mark of an intellectually honest person. Not being able to see beyond your own nose, or the adamant refusal to try, betrays a stubborn fear of being wrong.

As it turns out, most current events are the result of a long history of events. They have a sort of tap root that goes deep into the ground and if you do not get to the root, you will never really understand the situation. Why? Because you are viewing it in isolation and thus cutting off the links that created it. However, more often than not, when you do the digging and explore all the differing sides, you will ultimately be swayed by one – hopefully the most logical or reasonable.

In order to address issues of the day, there is a great need for self-criticism and self-analysis because our history resides in us like DNA. It lives and is manifest through us. What appears original, in light of history, is often just a continuously revolving idea. If we do not weigh our worldview against history with an open and critical mind, we will never know if our beliefs and subsequent biases are our own, or if we inherited them like genes from the culture in which we were born, and thus, have not even begun to think. It is those who are willing to do this who come up with new ideas and solutions.

The outright rejection of new ideas or challenges to deeply held views is anathema to progress. New ideas that challenge the old should be examined with an open mind and either accepted or rejected based on its soundness. It is through such challenges that the level of progress civilization attains is either achieved or lost. Progress marches forward, stagnation stays the same, and regression slips backward. We do have the choice to move, and in what direction. Will our collective voices move us forward, plant us in the status quo, or drag us backward?

To question is to know. Doubt is not something to fear, but an indicator that something should be examined. When doubt is allowed, and challenges explored, it serves to either reinforce beliefs or requires that they be abandoned. It is the only intellectually honest process of critical thought.

It seems that the contest between the intelligent, sober-minded, reflective men of the progressive era of Teddy Roosevelt and the unthinking, reckless, boisterous, don’t-give-a-damned portion of the community of the Jackson era is still alive today (1).

In light of that, I am going to explore the deeply held angst in Blanding. I do not know all of the history; in fact, I have a cursory and surface level knowledge of what is taking place there. I of course have my own suspicions, but intend to do some research in light of what I heard yesterday at the protest in Blanding, as there is clearly a long history that led to the protest. I will be writing a long piece on this with the comments of the protest as the backbone of the expose. My intent is to educate myself as well as provide a possibly entertaining story that informs. Stay tuned.

(1)    Quote from the New York Times, October 24, 1868, in Anti-Intellectualism in American Life by Richard Hofstader

 

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