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REFLECTIONS

DICK CARTER, HUPC COORDINATOR

I admit to feeling old (older than I am), confused most days (many, I know, have argued this, seriously, for many years!) and depressingly slower than I ever imagined I would be. [The doc said it looks like I actually broke my back when I was in high school and the lousy healing has finally caught up with me--the arthritis is profound, nerve conduction problems from back to feet, a left hip in dire need of replacement, a right hip right just behind that.]

Okay, that stuff is more than bothersome--I can’t play basketball anymore--but I do the walks and driveways of my Hyrum house and the two neighbors’ houses with a real snow shovel, work in the garden a lot with a shovel and hoe, hike steadily still for 6 or 7 miles before the pain crumples me. But if I sit I would have to stay down for hours so I keep going until it gets dark.

But what really gets me after 32 years with conservation groups [five seasons with the Forest Service, 16 or 17 years in school before that, and five years being a little kid before all of that--no this is not a woe-is-me rant] is that the disputes are the same. So much for education. There seems to be more information out there of merit-- hurray for education-- but the dialogue is more stunted and always more fundamentalist in nature. So much for education.

And even what I write here is old hack--sorry! It reminds me of discussions I had with my dear old friend Dorothy Harvey, a genuine elder and original conservationist some 30 years ago (still with us in North Dakota, though 90+ and fragile). Dorothy and I would have lunch or coffee nearly every day for many years and inevitably, somewhere in the discussion about wilderness and water (with some spirituality, religion and God tossed in), Dorothy would look at me with eyes that were already 30 years wiser than mine, and say, “But why, Dick?” I responded in a million ways, but, in essence, it often boiled down to, “Look, Dorothy, there is no why.”

I’m no longer satisfied with that answer. I probably never was but Dorothy was way ahead of me, ahead of the curve, and I couldn’t answer her.

And I still can’t. I just can’t figure out why in the face of a truly calamitous event--climate change--we stare into the headlights. We already know from a recent study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that no matter how aggressively we approach this issue the warming that we’ve created will be with us for 1,000 years. The big polar bear (threatened species, Endangered Species Act) and the tiny pika (FWS now considering listing it under the Endangered Species Act) are living ghosts.

Biologists are telling us (and we’ve reported on many of these studies in our High Uintas Bookshelf) that present ecosystem failures plainly suggest we are in the midst of an extinction event unrivaled in Earth’s history-- certainly the largest due to human behavior!

It seems to me this is the grave sin. For there is only one place in this nearly infinite Universe where these creatures, big and tiny, can live and call HOME and to be the subjects of this life that they are and not our objects. Thomas Merton wrote in his Book of Hours that the plant that stands in the light, the tree that brings forth blossoms, the stars not counted and the simple blade of grass   

          “...are worlds of themselves.  
No man can use or destroy them.    Theirs is the life that moves
without being seen and cannot 
be understood.”


As a prayer, an insight, Merton is right. As reality, it appears he is wrong.

I just can’t figure out why, right here on the Uinta Mountains, the two forests that supposedly manage the place, continue to harvest timber in light of, almost in defiance of, study after study that shows leaving forests alone is better, always, for wildlife, soils, and carbon sequestration. West-wide a recent study published in Science shows forests are dying because of climate change, prolonged drought, prolonged summers, shorter snowfall events... yet we add to that dysfunction and stress by more of our own. For decades public land forests, especially those undeveloped areas like the Uintas, have been proposed as small last remnant islands of wildness. Why can’t this be the highest priority for our public land forests?

Rather, travel planning becomes the issue of the day. And the response? Provide additional opportunities for those polluting off-road vehicles and snowmobiles. When the Ashley National Forest releases its travel plan in the next few days, it will be singular positive response to increasing motorized use despite all we know about noise pollution, air pollution, and forest fragmentation. Over 500 miles of motorized routes will be allowed within roadless areas! The islands of wildness will slowly be industrialized and suburbanized by motorized traffic? Why?

In the midst of this financial and economic crisis, at least some call it that, we are willing to throw hundreds of billions after hundreds of billions at mega corporate giants supposedly to get the economy back on track and growing again. As if the perpetual and stupid belief that an economy can grow and grow, must grow and grow, is reality. How can an economic system grow and grow? Why should it? Our never-ending effort at convincing ourselves that our economic system is disconnected from the broader ecological systems is utter folly. This we have understood for decades and are now watching the calamity unfold. Blame it on all of the bubbles you want but what we face is the fundamental belief that we can grow on and on and then grow right over the consequences. Most of those hundreds and hundreds of billions should go to assuring our basic geochemical cycles persist and pervade so all life on this planet will persist and pervade!

Sorry! Calamity (I think I’ve used it twice) is not to be used. I’ve been told over and over NOT to be too negative (or real) for that itself will slow the economy down and offers no hope in the growing ecological dilemma.

I’ve been told many times that I’m angry or depressed and that there are pills to take for these symptoms.
But first I need to apologize to Dorothy, and I am truly sorry, for not fully understanding the depth of your question, Why?

[Before the pills, though, I’ll listen to Rory Gallagher and his guitar and Van Morrison mumble through Astral Weeks 40 years later!]


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