Renew the American Spirit

July 04, 2017
I have fond memories as an aspiring Eagle Scout gathering kindling, building evening campfires, and singing inspiring patriotic songs as the final embers burned and still hold self-evident that we collectively aspire to an America better than our individual selves. With the Fourth of July upon us, the American Grizzly off the Endangered Species list, and Rochester's home grown terrorist Jerry DeLemus behind bars, this is an ode to our public lands that remain a symbol of the American spirit from the mountains to the valleys to the oceans white with foam. God bless America appears nowhere in the Bible, for it is our democratic institutions, two ocean buffers, and our abundant natural resources, fertile soils, and favorable climates that allowed for the American Century.

American expansion westward through the First Nations in pursuit of pelts, farmland, and gold led to policies prioritizing the extraction of commodities from our nation's federally controlled public lands. These remaining once pristine treasures are mostly in the American West, make up a quarter of our landmass, and contain much of America's commercial forest land, mineral deposits, and oil reserves. Our culture of waste and consumption that relies heavily on overgrazing, deforestation, and water depletion is decreasing the quality and quantity of our top soils and waterways due to hilltop erosion, soil erosion, and toxic water runoff from our sprawling developments, industrial farms, and ore mines. Simultaneously, our established way of life that we take for granted is increasing the occurrence and severity of our droughts, floods, and forest fires with the changing climate only further increasing their frequency, duration, and brutality. Globalization has further invited invasive species to flourish that in concert with our changing climates are shrinking biodiversity, worsening ecological degradation, and causing diseases to spread in stressed environments resulting in the American West's once abundant trout, deer, and elk to suffer the same fate as our beloved moose.

Given our impact on the environment, our responses in the form of individual consumer decisions, sustainable industry practices, and collective government regulations are critical. Many lifelong residents that have been displaced from their homes near public lands blame regulation for their property values significantly increasing from the tourism, recreation, and retirement by more affluent newcomers that pursue the West's mountains, forests, and streams. While regulations can cause hardships, it is actually deregulation of the energy industry, by the energy industry, and for the energy industry that is partially fueling America's growing stratification. In pursuit of investor happiness, lobbyists are working with a receptive Congress to weaken the Antiquities Act which has been conservation law's bedrock since 1906, the Department of the Interior (DOI) is reviewing tens of millions of acres of public lands and waterways that the past three presidents set aside as national monuments, and President Trump will possibly recombine the agencies responsible for offshore drilling safety and for leasing offshore tracts despite the Obama administration separating them in 2010 after the industry's coziness with regulators contributed to the largest marine oil spill in recorded history that followed Deepwater Horizon's explosion.

The West has long been known for its libertarian tilt and gun culture. Although I have not touched a firearm since Iraq, I do respect recreational hunters that humanely assist with the necessary population control of wildlife whose habitats are forever lost to our ever expanding network of roads, parking lots, and suburbs. The DOI should not have surrendered to gun enthusiasts and undone the five year phasing out of lead ammunition and fishing tackles intended to stop the incidental annual poisoning of millions of wild animals on our public lands and waterways. Far more alarming though is that the movement to privatize public lands for unmitigated grazing, deforestation, and extraction has radicalized Second Amendment extremists like Convicted Felon DeLemus to conspire against the United States. The infamous 2014 armed standoff on Nevada's desolate frontier that Convicted Felon DeLemus joined against the Bureau of Land Management revolved around Cliven Bundy convincing his militia of disgruntled cattle ranchers that it was patriotic to refuse to pay for the privilege to make money off grazing our taxpayer subsidized natural resources.

Greenland Norse's Hvalsey Church, Eastern Island's Moai Statutes, and the Nabataens' Petra are reminders of ancient advanced societies that collapsed due to their stratified populations' pressure impacting the environment, changing climates compounding those impacts, and their communal failures to respond adequately. The Statue of Liberty is not about to become the last remnant of American society, but the American Century that rose from the ashes of the Second World War may set sooner due to President Trump disengaging from our evermore interconnected planet with its seemingly shrinking oceans. America's failure for an adequate, unified, international response to the world's growing population, increasing resource scarcity, and changing climate has resulted in American troops being deployed to the near ruins of Haiti in our hemisphere and to combat radicals like Al-Shabaab in Somalia, Boko Haram in Nigeria, and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The United Kingdom being second on the international stage since World War Two has worked out fine for the British, but do we as Americans really desire fruition of the long predicted Chinese Century with their undemocratic institutions increasing their unsustainable mass production and use of coal, fertilizers, and pesticides that have led to their iconic smog, desertification, and dust storms?

America, America, how can I tell you how I feel, you have given me many treasures, I love you so. One of those treasures is possibly the oldest organism on Earth, a 5,066 year old gnarled Great Basin bristlecone pine that could theoretically live forever on public lands in California's White Mountains if not for human interference, climate change, or an Act of God. Archaeologists often wonder what the Polynesian was thinking as he chopped down Easter Island's last tree dooming their society to a wasteland, so this Independence Day, take a minute from the fireworks and ask how we the people can be patriotic, stop acting against our collective self-interest, and renew the American spirit.