Many folks are celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, and many of us remember it. Based on my own experiences (watching a Louisiana Pacific logging show in the Roaring River drainage on the Mt. Hood) it seems that we (in our neck of the proverbial woods, that is National Forests) have come a long way in the last 50 years.
Somewhere along the line, in the last 50 years, “The Environment” became a thing. In some organizations, it found a separate home from those engaged in otherwise doing stuff, that is, stuff that might hurt the environment. In the 90’s there was an effort to yard up all research on “environmental problems” from different agencies and create a new National Institute of the Environment. But does it make sense to divorce “environmental” concerns from research on the human activities that produce environmental problems? Could that lead to talking past each other, “othering”, and so on?
The human activities include producing food, buildings, energy, products and so on. Certainly there are people in each group who work on and are concerned about the environment. For example, when I worked at USDA in research, there were the “Sustainable Agriculture” folks (which is not to say that the other research areas were “unsustainable agriculture.”) In our own humble world, we can look within departments and see people who have different views and perspectives on environmental choices.
It’s hard to imagine a human activity that doesn’t impact the environment. It seems to me that the effort is to work together to minimize the impacts by considering the social, economic and ecological consequences of alternatives, not just “no, don’t do that.” And environmental issues are complex and reasonable people and groups can disagree. For example, EDF is working on reducing methane from oil and gas, while other environmental groups think we should just get rid of oil and gas. It seems to me that somehow concern for the environment has gotten spliced into partisan rancor and hate. People are always explaining to me that that’s the fault of the Republicans, but it might be the fault of the internet (needs to provoke people to click for ad revenue, anger promotes clicking), or the demise of classified ads making the media more partisan and less interested in seeing both sides. I honestly don’t care who started it. I just don’t think we need it, and it’s not helping.
Anyway, this Earth Day, I’d like to give a shout out to our some folks that seem mostly unsung and unseen, and invisible in many forums this Earth Day. Natural resource professionals – fisheries, wildlife, forestry, watershed, and all the rest. Folks who work for the feds, the states, other governments and the private sector. We depend on your professionalism and care for much of what happens on our land, at the earthiest of the Earth level. Thank you all!