Everybody wants to talk about the weather these days. Especially as it pertains to climate change. A more honest discourse would entail a serious discussion about the movement of Earth’s magnetic poles and the consequences of not mounting an allout effort to establish viable colonies off planet. I will save that for a future column. However, it does not mean the end of the world is near.
Tim Alberta, chief political correspondent for Politico, has recently released a book called American Carnage. If you take the time to read the entire book, you will discover that the title holds multiple meanings. The book is free to borrow from your local, amazing library. One of the basic points is the feeling that Donald Trump was elected by a large section of Americans who feel betrayed and disaffected by politicians.
It was in the mid-’50s and early ’60s that set into motion a series of events that to a large degree set the stage for today’s fractured society. Some analysts believe it started as early as Woodrow Wilson’s administration, but I think it was the advent of television that was the catalyst that catapulted our society on a collision course. In a previous column, I wrote about Marshall McLuhan’s predictions of the medium being the vessel, and how it could be manipulated for the benefit of society, or to its detriment. With the advent of today’s technology, television seems quaint in comparison, but it was television that first brought mass visual communication into a majority of American homes. With that, national campaign movements were born.
The threat of overpopulation of the Earth, given the fact that it is a finite space with finite resources, is hardly a new subject. It was in the mid 1950s and early 1960s that forward-thinking Americans began to address the issue in meaningful ways. Sen. Prescott Bush, who served as a United States Senator from Connecticut from to 1952 to 1963, was instrumental in focusing attention on America’s burgeoning population growth, and the establishment of Planned Parenthood. The conventional thinking was that if America was to leave a high quality of life for future generations, our resources needed to be conserved and all overall population growth goals should reflect that. The Rand Corporation published numerous influential white papers on the threat of overpopulation. It seemed logical.
In the ensuing years America would spend a fortune on foreign aid, education, and good will throughout the world. She sent her sons and daughters abroad through President Kennedy’s Peace Corps, followed by the Vista Program. America passed a wilderness bill to ensure good resource management for the future. To live up to our belief that all men are created equal, America passed civil rights legislation to address obvious inequalities. It seemed that as a nation, we could do no wrong. Fast forward to today, and in the words of one songwriter, “look what they’ve done to my song.” To think that the best intentions in the world have been turned upside down would not be wrong.
Cordelia Mellon Scaife May was one of the wealthiest people in America in her 20s, when Prescott Bush was at the apex of his career. She would use her vast wealth to be a force in both the population control movement and a nascent environmental movement. Wealthy East Coast elites have always had eyes on the United States’ open Western lands. The western United States isn’t a gentle environment and it has definitely become ground zero for cultural conflicts involving increasingly aggressive and authoritarian government managers and the people who inhabit the land.
Government policies of globalization, immigration, environmentalism, and national debt that is 105 percent of GDP, that politicians have recently championed seem to be diametrically opposite of what was originally proposed.
A local perspective of cultural conflict can be seen in the Rose Chilcoat/Zane Odell saga at the so-so corral in Southeastern Utah. Cliven Bundy went to jail for his principles in the conflict of livestock grazing on public lands versus over-reaching environmental activists. Eventually, Bundy prevailed, and is widely viewed as a man that was wronged by an aggressive environmental agenda. Zane Odell took the fifth when legally confronted by his actions, and has a history of cattle trespass. Rose Chilcoat’s action as an unelected and somewhat unaccountable activist also deserves scrutiny. The most interesting aspect of this conflict is whether Chilcoat’s attorney will be successful in stripping immunity from prosecution away from government entities that aided Odell’s cause.
Another local conflict would be the attempt by environmental activists to change the status of public land previously determined to be ineligible for wilderness classification in an effort to provide wildlife migration corridors from high elevation to lower canyon habitats.
At Congresswoman Dianna DeGette’s one-sided town hall meeting, a retired BLM employee, Chris Barns, advocated for the change in status by dismissing the previous vegetation study as “old” and that his study represented a more “thoughtful” approach. The Wilderness Act, that is the basis for criteria, is seven pages long. It clearly states that multiple uses specifically include grazing and mining interests. Another factor that determined the area in question as ineligible for wilderness inclusion was acreage size of the various parcels. Mr. Barnes is simply wrong, and it is worth noting that some of his previous work has been deemed legally inadmissible due to his methodology.
Movie director Sam Peckinpah saw the West as a violent, tragic landscape with misplaced innocents at the mercy of interlopers. A Kris Kristofferson song about Peckinpah captures that allegorically. An old gunfighter is ambushed by a younger man who shoots before calling him out. The old gunfighter congratulates him on being the new Mister Me, while offering the insight that he blew it.
Yet the citizens watch silently while chronicling the history of the West; clean up the carnage, and contemplate what to do about a generation of failed leadership.
Valerie Maez writes from Lewis, Colo.