THOUGHTS BY ALEX LEE
I am a skier, climber, hiker, and wonderer of the outdoors; public lands are part of my soul.
Land protected by federal designation is being stripped of protection in an unprecedented series of actions by President Trump and the Republican held Senate. The past four days have seen massive degradation for two National Monuments in the Southwest and the nation’s largest National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.
The 17th century philosopher John Locke said that a person can come to own land by mixing the land’s potential with their own labor. Recreation in the outdoors can certainly be hard work swimming in the potential of nature, but I think Locke had it backwards: by mixing our labor with the land, we give part of ourselves to it. Read More
THOUGHTS BY LEE BRANN
One of the most fundamental and enduring tenets of the global conservation movement is the idea that species have a right to exist. For some species advocates, this is the bedrock ethical principle on which their commitment to conservation is built. Because species have a right to exist, it follows that human beings, the most potent possible force behind species annihilation or species preservation, bear some obligation to honor and uphold that right.
Mere existence, however, sets an extremely low bar in terms of human obligations to species. Read More
Thoughts by ALEX LEE, JORDAN KINCAID, AND ADAM AMIR
A current Center for Biological Diversity call-to-action declares: “Tell Trump: There is No Safe Drilling in the Arctic.” The call aims to stop a Hilcorp effort to construct an artificial island and drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean. If the “Liberty Project” moves forward, the Arctic environment could be forever altered. Dangers of a spill loom catastrophic; development would fragment the land. The payoff would also be huge: local economies would grow and domestic energy security would advance. To the extent that possible outcomes are predictable, they are likely to be both good and bad. But are possible outcomes the only guide for decision making? Read More
Thoughts by LEE BRANN
Seeming to embrace the immense value of science to environmental decision making, many of our prevailing conservation statutes, agencies, and policies explicitly demand that decisions concerning wildlife and endangered species be informed solely by the ‘best available science.’ The ‘best available science’ is, in theory, at the heart of crucial determinations like endangered species listing decisions, critical habitat designations, and biological assessments.
Surprisingly, however, this catchy and seemingly innocuous phrase is a wellspring of controversy and complications. No human being on Earth can definitively explain what ‘best available science’ means. In fact, we can’t even define any one of those three words in isolation. Read More
Thoughts by CHRIS DUNN
Our world is quickly and perhaps irreversibly, at least in the foreseeable future, becoming significantly less wild, with or without successful climate negotiations in Paris. Allow me to attempt a brief definition of the term and briefly summarize my position. Read More
Thoughts by LEE BRANN
Some Troubling Decisions on Endangered Species by US Department of Interior
Many species advocates are understandably dismayed by the October 4 Department of Interior decision to deny federal protection for twenty-five seemingly deserving species under consideration for listing as ‘Endangered.’ Many of these species – including the Pacific Walrus, Florida Keys mole skink, and Bicknell’s Thrush – are thought to be extremely vulnerable to climate change, but will be deprived of federal protection nonetheless. Read More
Thoughts by JORDAN KINCAID
Alex Lee recently wrote that “the term ‘climate change’ isn’t working anymore” because “most people don’t understand what the term climate means.” Generally, he argues, people confuse “climate” with “weather,” “climate” is too scientific of a term, and “climate change” doesn’t really reflect the “acute environmental crisis” people actually experience; we should stick with “global warming” because floods, hurricanes, higher temperatures, wildfires, and the like, are directly tied to heat. People will better connect with “global warming” because it’s easier to understand than the broader, more nuanced idea of “climate change.”
This is a fairly common hypothesis. Essentially, the argument is that people tend to not be science-literate enough to make the term “climate change” rhetorically effective; most people know too little about science or lack the capacity to assess scientific information necessary to get a firm grip on the real risks at hand. If we take it at face value, we essentially have two options: improve public science education, or play rhetorically to science illiteracy. It seems that Lee would have us do the latter.
In truth, however, this is a false choice based on a false hypothesis. Read More
Thoughts by ALEX LEE
Close to 20 million acres of northeast Alaska became the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in 1980. Before that, it was a federally protected area; calls for the preservation of this area go back to at least the 1950s.
ANWR is not a ‘range,’ as Congressman Don Young if fond of saying, but a ‘refuge,’ set aside as a sanctuary for nature. This area is also the calving grounds for the massive Porcupine Caribou heard and home to a vibrant ecosystem. Read More
Thoughts by ALEX LEE
As the icy arctic thaws, animals reliant on sea ice are at a greater risk of extinction – plain and simple. The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) is currently leading a charge to protect the Pacific Walrus from such a fate by listing them as ‘endangered.’ However, efforts to protect these animals often come with an unintended cost tacked onto the bill and paid for by native communities who depend on these animals as an essential component of culture, tradition, and food security. Read More