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On The Trail: 3 steps forward, 2 steps back


Wednesday, January 31, 2018

A blue, super moon in the midnight sky can stir thoughts to the surface, spin a man off to pondering ... especially Cancer moon children like me.

Enter a topic I’ve been exploring in recent days, one focused on our government and its approach to the air, the water, the forests and wetlands. The prevailing Washington wisdom these days seems to be, “Hey, if there’s a profit to be made, that’s a good thing, environment be damned.” Well, maybe so if you’re coming from the exploitive capitalistic perspective of Mammon’s kingdom headquartered at Wall Street.

Then again, there are those of us who view it a little differently, like, “Look at the fires and floods and ocean storms, the melting glaciers and rising sea levels, the mudslides. Don’t you understand that this is our work? That we’re destroying the planet on which we live for the love of money and corporate greed?” Well, to some, including those today pulling the strings, it doesn’t matter. Fossil fuels add up to riches. Keep burning them, the more the merrier. Let the good times roll.

What I find particularly interesting is that there were canaries in the coal mine many, many years ago, prophetic little yellow birds with credible warnings countered at every turn by shouts from corporate spinmeisters. My god! Rachel Carson, her of “Silent Spring” fame, has been dead for more than a half-century. She saw it coming and screamed a clarion call for help. Then came a chorus of articulate support from fellow deep-ecologists like Edward Abbey (Monkey-Wrench Gang,” “Desert Solitude”), Gary Snyder (“Good, Sacred, Wild,” “The Practice of the Wild”), Wendell Berry (“The Gift of Good Land,” “The Unsettling of America: Culture & Agriculture”), Doug Peacock (“Grizzly Years: In Search of the American Wilderness”), Gary Paul Nabhan (“Enduring Seeds: Native American Agriculture and Wild Plant Conservation”), Peter Matthiessen, David Quammen and Robin Wall Kimmerer. That’s just a small sampling of the voices of reason. Yet now we’re back to the “good old days,” when conservation and its protective regulations were dirty, filthy words worthy of censoring.

You have to wonder how we got to where we currently are and who is pulling these destructive, diabolical strings? How could they possible have regained such traction in a modern, educated land like ours. Money talks, boys.

I think part of the problem is a short, collective memory I have many times encountered among bright, young folks. When I tell such people that, as a boy riding my bicycle across the Sunderland Bridge to a pickup baseball game, I wouldn’t have put my little toe in the Connecticut River. Why? Because back then, in the early Sixties, it was a toxic cesspool of raw human and industrial waste. Who of my vintage can forget the trips along Route 2 through Erving, when the color of the Millers River matched the toilet paper being produced that day. And that’s just the half of it. We couldn’t see the PCBs and heavy metals running untreated through metal pipes into the river. Contemporaneously, on a summer-long trip I took with my grandparents, venturing us as far west as Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, the Great Lakes were dead, so full of toxic chemicals that it was said a match could ignite the water into flames at certain hot spots. Don’t doubt it? It’s true.

That was the result of coast-to-coast industrial pollution that went unchecked before the likes of Carson went public and the “Flower Power” generation started advocating conservation and regulations aimed at ensuring that raw sewage and industrial waste could no longer flow untreated into our precious waters, that smokes stacks had to release clean emissions into the atmosphere. Yes, the captains of industry and Wall Street have been screaming bloody murder for decades, complaining loudly that federal regulations are killing our economy. While there’s no denying that regulations add to the bottom line, isn’t the cost justifiable as a way to keep out planet clean and healthy?

Not anymore. There’s a new sheriff in town. To the cheers of his throng, he’s opening our coastlines and National Parks to oil and mineral exploration. Industrialists and investors are licking their chops as a hungry, drooling fox stands sentry at the henhouse door. You have to wonder where it’ll all end, and when.

Hopefully soon. We’re swimming in dangerous waters.

The 2017 bear harvest is in, and a total of 268 were harvested during the three-segment hunting season. This represents the second highest total, just below the 283 bears taken in 2016. A breakdown by season shows 151 taken during the Sept. 5 through 23 season, 26 taken during the November 6 through 25 season and a whopping 91 taken during the Nov. 27 through Dec. 9 shotgun deer season. Seaking of which, it looks like deer hunters are paying dividends in the bear-management game.

Recorder sports editor Gary Sanderson is a senior-active member of the outdoor-writers associations of America and New England. Blog: www.tavernfare.com. Email: gsand53@outlook.com.