I got an alert on my phone last night as I went to bed that this government shutdown was now the longest in U.S. history – surpassing another lengthy one in 2013. As the shutdown has dragged along, I have read discouraging reports of various pieces of The Commons that are being abandoned. Science projects going unfunded means research opportunities are being missed, never to be recaptured. The FDA has minimized the number of food inspections, this despite the massive recall of romaine lettuce this past fall. The EPA has been forced to curtail its monitoring and enforcement departments. This results in the dual issues of not being able to recognize when pollution is taking place, and then even when it is recognized, that it is not being punished as legality (and morality) requires.
All of these headlines begin to outline in detail the insidious effects on the common good that erodes our society during a shutdown, but I think the events at the National Parks have served as the color and contrast of this portrait. Overflowing outhouses, piles of garbage, fresh-cut ATV trails, fires, illegal camping and even cutting down of Joshua Trees have served as a shocking view of what happens when things are left to themselves. My parents have a trip to Joshua Tree national park planned for early February, but the events there have them rethinking their plans. Will it be safe? Will it be clean? I encouraged them to go – this is a National resource to be cherished and admired, and responsible visitors will help set a respectful tone.
Despite these dark tones, there is shining light, that gives hope not only to our national parks, but to our movement for a livable climate future. Volunteers have been piling up clean outhouses and empty garbage. Rangers have been working for free to help the protect ancient living beings. And across the country youth have been pushing for climate action on multiple fronts. Here at WNY Climate Action, we have been busily planning for our Climate Conversations on February 9th (more information is on this site!), and laying the groundwork for our third annual WNY Youth Climate Summit – the largest and most inclusive to date.
We have been creating connections to organizations throughout New York, the United States and even the world. We recently connected with a group in Zimbabwe. This is clearly going to be a movement that begins at the ground level, and grows upwards. Don’t all movements work this way? Even though the government has stalled, and pieces of our common birthright are being neglected, signs of hope abound if you know what to look for. For everyone who is working – keep it up and we will see you on February 9th at the Burchfield-Penney for Climate Conversations.