By Tommy Hough
If you've been following the news in the wake of this weekend's one-two punch of magnitude 6.4 and 7.1 earthquakes near Ridgecrest and Searles Valley, you've likely seen Dr. Lucy Jones with her U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) colleagues on television talking about the impact of the two quakes, the vigorous sequence of aftershocks, and what to expect moving forward as Southern California ends its two decade earthquake drought.
I first met Dr. Jones at the inaugural Great California Shakeout press event at the California Institute of Technology in June 2008, and had a chance to speak with her at length in Dec. 2014, when I was recording interviews for a Public News Service story I was doing on Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti's sweeping new retrofit plan for the city.
At the time I was only able to use bite-sized "actualities" as story quotes, and while I had plenty of material to choose from, being something of an earthquake student I remember thinking it was a shame I wasn't able to use more of my conversation with Dr. Jones for the story, or for a more long-form presentation similar to what I'd been doing a few years earlier with my Treehuggers International show.
After I submitted my story I moved on to my next assignment, but after this weekend's quakes I decided to go back and revisit my interview. I found several of the points Dr. Jones mentioned to be entirely relevant today, including concerns over the loss of affordable and workforce housing, being cut off from regional water sources, and the long-term economic impacts for Southern California.
Calif. State Route 178 aerial photo courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey (public domain)
Dr. Lucy Jones photo by Tommy Hough
By Tommy Hough
Visiting a National Park shouldn't be seen as a political statement or an act of self-actualizing resistance. Ordinarily, I would never advocate for such a thing in relation to America's Best Idea, or as a means to symbolically push back against a corrupt and cruel regime – even one as vile as this administration.
But at this moment, our National Park Service (NPS) could use some love and attention. It could also use some respect – and you and I can demonstrate that respect.
Our National Parks and Wilderness areas are places where Americans can, should, and frequently do, come together without obsessing over what political stripe they identify with. Our outdoors have always been part of what binds us together as Americans, serving as a common symbol of pride and expression of humility at the foot of our nation's most remarkable landscapes.
As humans we are naturally imperfect, and therefore, we are an imperfect nation. But as a nation, we also have the capacity within our founding documents to improve upon ourselves, and rise above our egos to get things right. Jefferson called this the pursuit of "a more perfect union." Conservation policy is a marvelous expression of that ideal. The benefits to humankind and our planet in doing so are self-evident, and abundant.
But today we have a president who is a liar, a destructive fool, and a resentful braggart. He has never wanted for anything, but has never felt he had enough. He is an agent of abject and malicious cruelty, like a child who stomps on snails or tortures animals because there's no one to stop him, despite having the immense power of his office at his fingertips to be the world's greatest advocate of peace and kindness. This president is not an engaged caretaker of our special places, nor does he have any interest in being one.
It's astounding that, for a man so desperate to be loved, this president can be counted upon to make the most hateful, unpopular decision even worse by twisting his knife into groups he perceives as isolated, vulnerable, or powerless along the way. He will never make a decision that isn't utterly self-centered and based upon his most immediate need to dominate. Yet he sincerely wonders why no one likes him.
He makes absurd exaggerations and fabricates conversations, like a child, about what our mayor might have said about his border policies behind closed doors, or how many people attended his inauguration. Those who fall into his orbit are irreparably damaged, and will remain marked by their association with him for the rest of their days. That he is an insatiable, emotional black hole is transparently clear, yet so many, perhaps blinded by his alleged wealth or some other odd attraction, fail to see it.
Which brings us to today. The only way this president seems to feel he receives the respect he believes is due is by ordering the military and weapons of war to surround him like a Soviet politburo stooge. His rally saw a U.S. president break with 243 years of tradition, of resistance to indulging in empty, vain military braggadocio. Today, we have a president so emotionally insecure he can't even perceive the idea that to boast shows weakness and insecurity – two things no chief executive should ever reveal.
Whether a few tanks or a few jet flyovers, the United States – the strongest military power in the world, if that means anything – has no need to parade our might before the world in a wasteful, impotent show of force that utilizes the authoritarian May Day displays of North Korea or the Soviet Union as inspiration, even though the president argues he was inspired by Bastille Day. These displays are not, and have never been, who we are as Americans.
According to historian Michael Beschloss, who wrote a book about wartime presidents, President Eisenhower – the general who held the coalition of Western Allies together and led them to victory over Germany and Italy in World War II – had no problem reviewing military parades as a general, or reviewing formations as president when visiting military bases.
But when asked by his staff during the era of large Soviet military parades if he wanted to arrange something similar, Eisenhower said:
"To have a military parade without the end of a war or an inaugural or some big reason in Washington, D.C., that is out of our tradition."
According to Beschloss, Eisenhower also said:
"We are the preeminent power on Earth. For us, to try to imitate what the Soviets are doing in Red Square, would make us look weak."
Eisenhower also famously cut defense spending during his administration, something only a war-winning general could have done in the midst of the Cold War, and famously warned the nation about the military-industrial complex upon leaving office in January 1961.
But even shortly after taking office in 1953, as the Korean War was heading into its final, bloody months before a cease-fire, the 34th president said:
"The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people."
Those days, of course, are very much over. Today our president insists on "rebuilding our Navy," without any awareness it is no longer 1945.
Today, what interests our president isn't doing the right thing or abiding by the rational tradition observed by individuals clearly more decent and wise than he. What interests this president is the only thing that has ever motivated him – more. The question is, who does he cheat, rob, or steal from to get more.
In the case of today's display on the National Mall, where Martin Luther King gave his celebrated "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963, and where Marian Anderson performed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in the segregated Washington, D.C., of 1939, the president spent millions in seven military flyovers, with 24 aircraft costing at least $560,000 per hour, along with a variety of "unknown costs" that the White House will probably never clarify. A Defense Department estimate for a proposed military parade last year came to $92 million, but the event was scuttled once the costs were made public.
While the "unknown costs" for the president's spectacle remain, what is known is the administration snatched $2.5 million in visitor fees from the National Park Service to fully fund the "Salute to America," even as park service officers were ordered to police the event.
An agency long-maligned by this administration, the park service relies upon visitor fees collected at NPS sites to cover the shortfall politicians of both parties fail to provide, year after year, for maintenance, visitor services, law enforcement, wildlife habitat and recreation access.
That this money is being "appropriated" from the NPS at a time when parks face a massive financial shortfall, including $12 billion in backlogged maintenance aggravated by the government shutdown earlier this year, and while the administration is actively undoing the sanctity of National Monuments even at a time of renewed interest in parks and an influx of visitors, is contemptible.
That today's self-congratulatory display is taking place at a time when children have been forcibly separated from their parents and kept in cages, devoid of the love and touch any child needs, and held in filthy, unsanitary concentration camps "housing" migrants legally seeking asylum, is similarly extraordinary and intolerable. This administration continues to undo the capability of our courts, our operating agencies, and remains dead set on pitting Americans against each other in order to enhance the president's power.
The rot that this administration has enabled, with the naked aid of a foreign power has, in two-and-a-half short years, radically altered the basic tenets of our republic and weakened our democracy to the breaking point.
So with the administration's theft of the park service budgetary supplement in mind, I would encourage you to make a trip this weekend to one of our nation's National Parks, and tell the rangers and employees and volunteers there thank you. Let them know you value them, and that you appreciate the unheralded work they do, day after day, maintaining and preserving our nation's natural and historical heritage. Say the same thing to U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) personnel too, and those who operate our state and regional parks.
Park professionals and volunteers work every day to not only give visitors an amazing experience, but to illustrate how our nation's legacies have affected the wild and the land. They preserve our resources, highlight moments when our nation has succeeded and faltered, and simply in being there stand as one of our nation's great success stories.
Granted, this isn't the kind of success a man like our president can comprehend or appreciate. The humility that goes into declaring a place, an ecosystem, a historic site, or a vast wilderness as off limits so as to enact preservation practices is an extraordinary feat of humanity, and one that is constantly set upon by the temptation of greed, prejudice, waste, and a desire among some to whitewash our nation's mistakes and heritage – to deny history – in order for it to conform to a curious perfection aligned with certain political desires.
When visiting a National Park Service locale, consider the options before you. Instead of fighting the crowds at Muir Woods National Monument on a holiday weekend, find solace, silence and an extraordinary outdoor experience to the north at Point Reyes National Seashore. Instead of driving yourself crazy trying to find parking among the campers and fifth wheels at Yosemite Valley, explore the basin and range geologic province and ancient bristlecones of Great Basin National Park. Savor the view from our Cabrillo National Monument, or revel in the majestic natural churches of the Redwoods.
Take a stand and resist by going out into our woodlands and wilderness and heed, as John Muir would say, the "good tidings" of the mountains. Visit our parks and special places, and embrace our collective natural and historic heritage that our president sees only as an ATM to fund embarrassing, self-aggrandizing spectacles that subvert our nation's earned patriotism.
Visit our National Parks, and protect what's yours from those who would privatize it or steal it away from you in the dead of night. This land is your land.
This guest column originally appeared on the Oregon Wild website. It is reprinted here with permission from the author.
By Steve Pedery
Back in 2010, when Congress was debating the Affordable Care Act, opponents of the legislation had a problem. The things that were actually in the bill – slowing the inflation of health care costs, providing more access to health care, and ensuring coverage for people with pre-existing conditions – were very popular with Americans. So the healthcare reform opponents attacked things that were never actually in the bill, like "death panels," and launched a massive media and P.R. campaign to pretend they were.
Those same corrupt, swamp-monster politics of Trump and Washington D.C. arrived in Oregon this session, most visibly in the death of HB 2020, the Clean Energy Jobs Act that was killed in the Oregon State Senate.
Most Oregonians want our state to act to address climate change. They want more investment in renewable energy and cleaner vehicles, and a transition to less pollution from industrial facilities. They also want Oregon's forests, rivers, and wildlife protected. Voters wanted these things badly enough that they voted for a Democratic "super majority" in the 2018 elections to achieve those aims.
Oregon Wild was not a major player in the debate over HB 2020. Our work focuses primarily on protecting and restoring public lands, forests, wildlife, and rivers. The campaigners behind HB 2020 made a strategic decision early on to exempt logging emissions from the bill. By doing this, they hoped to avoid the ire of "King Clearcut," i.e. the circle of logging barons, logging corporations, chemical industry lobbyists, and the Oregon Forest Industries Council (OFIC) that funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions to Republican and Democratic politicians every year.
Getting on the wrong side of King Clearcut is viewed as the kiss of death in Salem politics, and by exempting logging emissions the bill's backers hoped to avoid being targeted by Oregon's powerful clearcut lobby.
But as the 2019 legislative session dragged on, this became increasingly difficult. First, some in the logging industry began demanding credit for the carbon being captured and stored by forests on U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land recovering from the clearcutting epidemic of the 1980s and early 90s.
They also wanted credit for simply replanting forests on private lands they clearcut (which has been legally required in Oregon since the 1970s). Since the whole point of climate legislation is to improve things over the status quo, neither condition made any sense, particularly since King Clearcut refused to consider the giant carbon debt that occurs every time a forest is logged.
Others in the logging lobby tried to push fake science, claiming that forest fires were a bigger source of carbon than clearcutting (they are not); that 2 x 4s, construction materials, and paper products store more carbon that living forests (they don't); and that dense, 30-year-old industrial logging tree farm plantations store more carbon than 200+ year-old old-growth forest (they don't). The reality is that logging is Oregon's largest source of carbon emissions, dwarfing even wildfire, and that better logging practices like restoring old-growth, longer logging rotations, and fewer clearcuts is the biggest single step our state can take to address climate change.
To be fair, not all logging interests were pushing fake science and climate denial. Some quietly weighed in to support HB 2020, hoping to sell carbon credits to industrial polluters under the "cap and trade" program the bill would create. If landowners go to longer logging rotations, thinning instead of clearcutting, or agreements not to log at all, more carbon is stored. While this creates a potential offset for carbon emissions from industrial polluters, it doesn't do much to protect clean air or the health of residents living downwind from those facilities.
In the end, this didn't matter. As the session began to wind down, some of Oregon's wealthiest logging barons, led by Andrew Miller, funder of Bundy-believing politicians and a wide variety of right-wing causes, and Rob Freres, who Oregon Wild battled to protect Opal Creek from clearcutting in the 1990s, came out against the bill and began urging Republicans and anti-environmental Democrats to oppose it. In response, Sen. Arnie Roblan (D-Coos Bay) added his -113 amendment, which specifically barred Oregon landowners from selling carbon credits instead of logging.
It wasn't enough. Miller and Freres, the clearcut kings, launched a major P.R. and media campaign saying the bill would regulate logging (it wouldn't), that it would drive up fuel prices for loggers, farmers and truckers (a companion bill actually gave them new fuel subsidies), and that it would ruin rural economies (when economic studies said it would do the opposite). They told these lies to the media, their employees, and to legislators, and launched their #TimberUnity log truck rally in Salem to promote them. They weaponized misinformation and told rural Oregonians to boycott businesses that support climate action.
That the entire campaign was based on lies didn't seem to matter. Employees of logging companies were encouraged to come to Salem, and company owners sent their log trucks and tractors.
Television news ran images of diesel log trucks rolling through Salem and angry speakers decrying HB 2020 as a ban on logging, while largely ignoring the presence of Three Percenter (believers in the violent "sovereign citizen" movement) and white nationalists in the crowd. Some media outlets responded to criticism of inaccurate stories with bland, stenographical-justification statements of "we are just covering what they are saying."
Just as in 2010, when a P.R. campaign firmly established the idea that "death panels" were actually a thing in the Affordable Care Act, the #TimberUnity rally firmly established the idea that HB 2020 had provisions in it that restricted logging. The pressure worked, and after three anti-environment Democrats made it known they were siding with Oregon's runaway Republicans against the bill and action on climate change, it died.
So what is Oregon to learn from this mess? For one, it is high time that elected officials and environmental campaigners all recognize that the clearcut kings of Oregon, i.e. right-wing donors like Freres and Miller, have no interest in solving environmental problems. Men who argued in favor of clearcutting the ancient forests of Opal Creek and who fund the campaigns of anti-public lands, anti-immigrant, anti-worker politicians are not going to stay neutral on climate legislation, or any other major progressive campaign in Oregon.
Second, Oregon is literally being flooded with corporate political money, and that money is corrupting our state's politics – particularly on the environment. As the Oregonian's Polluted by Money series documented, our state has some of the weakest campaign finance rules in the nation, and politicians have thus far been unable to produce a plan that would effectively combat the corrupting influence of money in our politics.
Per capita, Oregon ranks first in the nation when it comes to campaign contributions from corporations, and first in contributions from the logging industry – doubling even the money the logging industry spends in Washington and California. That money buys access, power, and favors, all of which were on display when Republican senators abandoned their jobs in order to block a vote on climate legislation, and when three anti-environment Democrats joined them. Oregon desperately needs campaign finance reform to rein in the nearly unlimited money currently coming from polluting corporations.
Finally, Oregon has to get serious about addressing our weakest-in-the-west logging rules on state and private lands. Logging barons have made millions clearcutting our forests, leaving Oregonians, rural and urban alike, to foot the bill from mudslides and polluted drinking water, degraded salmon runs, and an ongoing endangered species crisis.
They have also exposed rural families to cancer-causing chemicals, and blocked important legislation to protect health and safety. Worse, state regulators can't even say with certainty if most logging operations are even meeting our existing weak rules.
Everyone in Oregon uses wood products, but they don't have to come from clearcuts. All of us, urban and rural alike, want a clean, healthy environment. We all value old-growth forests, salmon runs, and clean water. We want meaningful action to address climate change. After the death of HB 2020, it is clearer than ever that we cannot have those things unless all of us work to stand up to Oregon's clearcut kings, and the lies and misinformation they spread.
Steve Pedery serves as conservation director at Oregon Wild, and is an avid fly fisherman.
Banner graphic and Clatsop County logging animation courtesy of Oregon Wild.
Steve Pedery and Hood River County timber country photos by Tommy Hough.
Three Percenters photo by Tim Dickerson.
Spraying editorial cartoon © 2015 Jesse Springer.
Tommy Hough is a former San Diego broadcast personality, wilderness and parks advocate, California Democratic Party delegate, and the co-founder and former president of San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action. He was the endorsed Democratic candidate for San Diego City Council in District 6 in 2018.