The world recently reacted with anger over forest fires in the Amazon Rain Forest of Brazil. The fires are intentionally set to create pasturage for cattle and new crop land. The president of Brazil responded defiantly at first, but then seemed to say the fires were illegal and blamed the fires on criminals he couldn’t control. Of course, President Bolsonaro was lying. His government’s policy is to do whatever is necessary, including burning the Amazon Rain Forest, to create wealth for his country. He believes his country has a right and obligation to use and develop its natural resources, just as the United States and the rest of the developed world have done, regardless of the environmental consequences and condemnation of other nations. Brazil has now lost thousands and thousands of square miles of irreplaceable rain forest. The fires discharge carbon into the air and, of course, the forest is no longer there to absorb carbon. The news cycle has moved on, but the fires are still burning. It’s a devastating loss, but does Bolsonaro have a point about our hypocrisy?
On Tuesday, 10/15/19, the Trump administration announced its intent to open the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, the nation’s largest national forest, to logging and construction of roads. The Tongass includes 165,000 acres of priceless old-growth hemlock, cedar and spruce. Among the Trump administration proposals is to open up about 2.3 million acres to logging and construction. The administration’s “preferred” choice is to lift all roadless restrictions on the entire area.
Destruction of the Tongass will be devastating for the environment in that specific area and for the world. Nevertheless, Lisa Murkowski, Alaska’s Republican Senator, thanked President Trump and Agriculture Secretary, Sonny Perdue, for their “hard work”. Why is she thanking Trump? The same reason Bolsonaro is burning his rain forest: money.
The crying shame of it all is that we don’t need the lumber. It’s almost as if Trump most desires to destroy the best of everything that every generation since Theodore Roosevelt fought to preserve.
If we don’t want Brazil and other nations to burn their rain forests, we should not destroy our own forests.
For an excellent book on environmental preservation and its history, I recommend, The Wilderness Warrior – Theodore Roosevelt and The Crusade for America, by the presidential historian Douglas Brinkley.
Theodore Roosevelt created the Tongass National Forest September 10, 1907. On July 1, 2008, the Tongass was merged with the Alexander Archipelago Forest Reserve.
Here is how Douglas Brinkley describes Tongass: “…snowcapped peaks, blue glaciers, clear streams, muskeg, forests and fjords…The diversity of salmon alone made the Tongass the crown jewel of the USDA’s forest reserves. King (Chinook); coho (silver); pink (humpback); sockeye (red); and chum (dog) salmon flourished in these icy waters, as nowhere else on earth except Canada. And where there were salmon, grizzly bears and black bears came in huge numbers. The creation of Tongass National Forest was a tremendous presidential accomplishment.”
If its creation was a tremendous presidential accomplishment, what is its destruction?