Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Stephen Nash's "Grand Canyon for Sale"

Stephen Nash is the author of Grand Canyon for Sale — Public Lands versus Private Interests in the Era of Climate Change; Millipedes and Moon Tigers: Science and Policy in an Age of Extinction; Blue Ridge 2020: An Owner’s Manual; and Virginia Climate Fever: How Global Warming Will Transform Our Cities, Shorelines, and Forests.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to Grand Canyon for Sale, and reported the following:
If you've been fortunate enough to visit Grand Canyon National Park -- more than five million of us do that every year -- the view is usually the draw. The reason for that banal observation is that it gives me the chance to point out that much of the time, that view is obscured by air pollution, a lot of it from coal-burning power plants in the region.

That's one example of how private interests degrade our national parks, national forests, and the vast expanses of our other public lands. Mining, logging, drilling, grazing, invasive species, giant shopping malls and lucrative helicopter overflights -- they are all taking their toll on the wildlife, the solitude, the very future of natural systems on those landscapes, which take up more than a quarter of our national dirt. They're public lands -- their natural heritage belongs to us -- but powerful political forces, including the Trump administration, are hell-bent on selling them off, either outright or piecemeal.

We've worked more more than a century to protect these lands. It says that, right here on page 99 of Grand Canyon for Sale. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes ruled in 1907 that air pollution -- just one threat to public lands today -- is no respecter of legal boundaries, and that it's unacceptable: “It is a fair and reasonable demand on the part of a sovereign [state] that the air over its territory should not be polluted on a great scale by sulphurous acid gas, that the forests on its mountains ... should not be further destroyed or threatened by the acts of persons beyond its control,” he explained. Only a few years later Congress created the National Park Service “to conserve the scenery ... and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

But scientists in a variety of fields point out that future generations, even the next generation, will witness mounting degradation of parks and public lands -- their natural systems are falling apart, as study after study documents. Climate change, especially, is beginning to force open the artificial boundaries we've drawn around national forests, rangelands, parks and prairies. We will need to combine them -- and do far more to protect them from the incursions of private interests -- if we want them to survive.
Visit Stephen Nash's website.

--Marshal Zeringue