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Posts Tagged ‘national parks’

We haven’t talked much about Keystone XL here at Spinach HQ for a while now, mostly becauase the news on that front continues to be more of the same – and more depressing.  Quite frankly, I’m not sure whether or not the general public (those of you outside the environmental field, that is) are sick of hearing about Keystone or not.  False claims and an incredibly convoluted regulatory and political process regarding approval of the environmental impact determination as well as the pipeline itself have slowly muddied the waters better than an oil spill.  I’ll be honest, even I’ve had a hard time keeping track of the timeline and the number of times the pipeline has been resurrected and then killed.

Which is why I was somewhat surprised (but excited!) to wander into the Foggy Bottom Metro stop in D.C. on Tuesday and be greeted by something that looked like this:

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I couldn’t capture the whole ad in my camera phone (especially while trying not to look like some creeper taking a picture of the metro floor during rush hour….) but activist group SumOfUs.org is continuing to fight the good fight not just against Keystone XL, but against the expanded Tar Sands extraction that would come with it.

The ads direct you to the SumOfUs anti-tar-sands site, where they have already collected more than 17,000 of their goal level of 20,000 signatures for a petition to President Obama regarding the pipeline and expanded tar sands extraction.  Rather than solely attacking Keystone XL, the group is focusing on the impacts of the recent ExxonMobil tar sands oil spill in Arkansas.  Exxon’s response to the spill has been heavily criticized, with many community members voicing their doubts that the spill is contained or that Exxon is truly doing their part to take responsibility for the spill, contain it, and mitigate damages.

While the Keystone XL pipeline is likely to be decided by politics and not environmental impacts, the statement made by SumOfUs here is clear – and is taking the debate one step farther.  Instead of focusing on the impacts of the pipeline alone, the group is working to inform regarding some of the inherent risks (both environmental and economic) to expanded tar sands oil use as an energy source.  I’m happy to see these ads placed front and center in several key metro stations – maybe it’s a chance to finally have some dialogue about the real issue here, which is the overall direction of our energy future, and not one single pipeline.

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My grandma is a world traveler. Last summer she traveled to a few western U.S. national parks and monuments including Mount Rushmore, Grand Tetons National Park and Crazy Horse Memorial.  She showed me all the pictures and said “Ryan, everyone wants to travel overseas but we have so much here.” After looking at the pictures, I could not have agreed more and appreciated the unique beauty we have here in the U.S.  I mentioned this story because it is National Park Week!

Yogi Bear, now that’s Amurica.

You only have till Sunday to celebrate, so go to your closest national park now (just kidding). There are 84 million acres of national park land in the U.S., AND because it is National Park Week admission into any park is free!  National Geographic has put together a nice photo tribute to our nation’s parks, it’s a great lunch break distraction; I must also admit I have a soft spot for Nat. Geo. due to a family subscription that has been passed down from my grandfather to my father to me.  You can find the closest national park near you here. Take your family, your spouse, or friends to our nation’s greatest treasures and get outdoors.  See our nation’s great lands before you take that Euro trip.  You can thank President Theodore Roosevelt for his great conservation efforts in the early 1900s for creating the National Park Service and conserving the park land we all love to enjoy today. Cheers.

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Happy President’s Day!  For those of you enjoying your day off, don’t forget the reason why.  For those of you at work (like yours truly), know you’re making our presidents proud (that’s what I’m telling myself anyway).

Today is a great day to take a break from the usual headlines and highlights to instead reflect back on our nation’s history and honor our great leaders.   I’m sure many of you out there are already catching on to my direction; for those of you who aren’t, Presidents Day is a day that environmentalists can also rally around, and should (expand your mind folks, we’re not just limited to Earth Day).   Hence, we here at Spinach are going to take a quick moment to do so.

While many people contributed to the founding of the environmental movement or environmental awareness (at a minimum), one key member of the movement was also one of our nation’s presidents.  Dubbed the “Conservationist President,” our nation’s 26th president paved the way for the environmentalists to follow his lead.  If you haven’t already consulted your presidential timeline or are still scratching your head, I’ll go ahead and share:  I’m talking about Teddy Roosevelt.  Roosevelt wasn’t just some wimp in big glasses who rose up to ride it rough, become president, speak softly while carrying a big stick, and go on to lead the Bull Moose Party.  Believe it or not, there’s a legit reason why we call them “Teddy Bears.”

Roosevelt had a big soft spot in his heart for nature.  As president, he used his authority to protect wildlife and public lands by creating the U.S. Forest Service and establishing 51 federal bird reservations, 4 national game preserves, 150 national forests, and 5 national parks.  He also signed the 1906 American Antiquities Act which he then used to declare 18 national monuments.  During his presidency, he protected approximately 230,000,000 acres of public land.  Out of a total land area of over 2 billion acres—and not discounting for urban areas, agriculture, private lands, etc.—that’s not too shabby for a first crack.

So on this day, let’s remember his wisdom with a toast:

“We have fallen heirs to the most glorious heritage a people ever received, and each one must do his part if we wish to show that the nation is worthy of its good fortune.”

To learn more about TR’s efforts, visit the National Park Service’s website.

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You guys, this is big: we made it to Friday.  No, seriously.  It’s February now, which is that weird month of the year where winter is getting really, really old, but spring isn’t really around the corner yet, and the task of getting myself out of bed in the morning and on my way to work frequently seems insurmountable.  So making it to the end of a week is a big deal.

You know what else is a big deal?  This:

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This is where I wish I was updating the blog from.

In case you were wondering what the heck that is, it’s the Grand Canyon.  Here it is again:

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Not Just Your Average Canyon

“Damn!” you might say, “That’s a pretty sweet canyon!!”  Yes, the Grand Canyon is in fact, rather grand.  I supposedly visited it when I was a child, although this is something of a point of contention with my parents.  I frequently insist to them that they never took me out west when I was growing up; they like to remind me that we drove across the country from California to Virgina and hit virtually every National Park that we could manage along the way, including Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, and the Smokies.  Apparently it’s my fault that I was two and asleep for most of it, so now, I get to figure out a way to get back myself.

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And this time I'm going swimming under the water fall!

When I do, though, it’s a good thing that I’m one of those loonies who has a reusable water bottle permanently glued to my hand and another one in my bag at all times.  (Side note: seriously, if you got to write a blog post about the Grand Canyon, you would ALSO include a photo every three words because….it’s the Grand Canyon.  Come on.)

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There's a reason they made it a National Park.

ANYWAY.  Enough pictures, and on to the meat of this post.  This week, Grand Canyon National Park announced plans to ban the sale of all disposable water bottles within the park limits.  Apparently plastic water bottles bought within the park account for 20% of all litter that makes the park less grand for hiking, since nobody wants to look out over the majestic scenery of our country and see a whole mess of old plastic bottles.

Supposedly, the folks at Coca Cola and other major corporations that manufacture bottled water were pretty upset about this decision, since it will mean the loss of a major sales opportunity for them.  But, supporters of the decision say the tighter restrictions on plastics are necessary due to the amount of pollution and waste created by plastics every year. They see the ban as a step in the right direction towards lowering the amount of waste that tourism generates in our national parks – and generally moving away from our ‘disposable’ culture where we prefer to buy, use, and toss rather than creatively finding a way to limit our own consumption of materials and re-use or recycle things.

Meanwhile, if you were concerned about what to do if you forget to bring your own water bottle, never fear!  The Park will be selling re-usable bottles for the (very affordable) price of $1.99 that can be easily filled at water fountains within the park limits – eliminating safety and creature-comfort concerns about people hiking without water.

Of course, there are a slew of other questions surrounding this decision – which seems to be creating a lot of flap for something that may or may not have a real bottom-line impact.  What about the other 80% of the waste in the park that doesn’t come from plastic bottles?  And what’s to stop people from bringing in their own disposable water bottle and still dropping it or leaving it within the park boundaries?  Finally, the energy and materials that it takes to make a reusable bottle are significantly higher than those for disposable bottles – which is totally O.K. if you do plan to re-use it many times, but ends up being even more of a waste generator if people just toss those when they get home.

The unfortunate bottom line is that regulation probably isn’t going to change overnight how people treat our National Parks and the amount of abuse they endure from tourism and negligence – with the most famous and beloved parks such as the Grand Canyon often getting the brunt of it.  Really caring for our national park land is less about restrictions and more about a culture of respect.  But, what this new measure might accomplish is less about an actual reduction in the amount of waste and more about publicity.  If rules like this can raise awareness about the true impact of a “disposable” culture and the waste it generates, change might be one step closer. It’s one thing when you’re told in the abstract that plastic waste builds up in landfills, but maybe when people realize it is impacting something as symbolic as the Grand Canyon, they will stop and think.

Hey, it’s Friday, and I’m in a good mood, so at least we can hope – right?

You can read more about the ban, and how it came about here or here. Either that or you can just spend your Friday afternoon checking your email and wondering how much spinach it would take to fill the Grand Canyon.  Hint: the answer is ‘a lot.’

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