Give me green or give me death

There is some seriously sick irony in knowing that while the rest of us were consciously trying to improve our character with carefully selected New YearâÄôs resolutions, President Bush and his frat boys were gutting the American underbelly with last-minute regulations. The only thought that makes me more ill is that weâÄôre all too sunken-eyed and broken-hearted about the diminishing green in our pockets to notice the real tragedy: the diminishing green on our ground. In his final hours, former President Bush went great lengths to ensure that his legacy would never harbor any rumors of a love affair with Nature. A December 25th Rolling Stone article lists a few of the environmental setbacks injected by the Administration: the expansion of uranium mining near the Grand Canyon, the elimination of major provisions of the Endangered Species Act, and the opening millions of acres of wild lands to mining interests. In his book, âÄúThe Abstract Wild,âÄù Jack Turner upbraids our human indifference to these losses. âÄúWe have forgotten the relation between violence and the sacred, forgotten that the wars in Ireland, Palestine, and Kashmir are, in part, about sacred land,âÄù he asserts. âÄúIf you go to Mecca and blaspheme the Black Stone, the believers will feed you to the midges, piece by piece. Go to Yellowstone and destroy grizzlies and grizzly habitat and the believers will dress up in bear costumes, sing songs, and sign petitions. This is charming, but it suggests no sense of blasphemy.âÄù It is time to get pissed off. The current economic recession has shown us a need for the drastic political and economic restructuring of our world. Along with these goals, we must demand a firmer sense of environmental dignity. Because really taking care of our environment is the best long-term health care plan we could ever have. If youâÄôre already scorning me as a tree-hugger, wake up. You wouldnâÄôt scorn your mother when she fed you, clothed you, and provided you with everything you needed to survive and thatâÄôs essentially what our earth does, whether you choose to understand it or not. So if youâÄôre not angry yet, keep reading. As of November, federal agencies are no longer required to complete impact assessments on endangered species or the greenhouse effect before allowing logging, mining, or other development to commence, the Rolling Stones article outlines. Since December, mountain mining industries are authorized to dump waste into neighboring streams and valleys and air pollution standards were lifted so that coal companies can now operate closer to national parks. Predictably, oil companies got a steal. Their royalty payments were cut in half, falling from 12.5 to 5 percent, and approximately 2 million acres of scenic land in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming are now at their disposal for the mining of oil shale. This latter agreement is far from practical: oil shale mining is a process that requires an excess of the WestâÄôs already scarce water supply. If that isnâÄôt bad enough, according to the National Resources Defense Council, factory farms now operate under self-regulation. Farmers can let their animal waste seep unmonitored into AmericaâÄôs waterways if they donâÄôt âÄúpersonallyâÄù deem it dangerous enough to require a permit. The guarantee that our drinking water is safe has suddenly become significantly murkier. To me, these offenses are just as infuriating as our social security crisis and the embarrassing state of our schools. I was born a country girl and thus, I view the governmentâÄôs environmental exploitation as a personal affront to my identity. Yet this sense of place does not translate easily to the city kid or suburban slicker. As Turner lamented earlier, a disturbing divide exists in what we all define as sacred. This divide could be due to our lack of place-based education. Local ecology and environmental ethics are rarely incorporated into our school curriculum. The first time I was offered environmental science (as an elective only) was not until high school. Even then, it was widely regarded as a stoner class where one learned to identify bird calls and wander aimlessly around the school prairie. No one took it seriously. We are anthropocentric creatures by societal default, meaning: we view humans as the center of the universe. We do not marvel at nature as a spectacular entity in and of itself, we worship it only for its usefulness that it provides to humankind. We take its resources, we commoditize its beauty for profit and we make a killing. Moreover, we do a fair amount of killing in the process. If you canâÄôt take the environment seriously, at least realize that environmental greed, or the want of natural resources, is one of the leading causes of humanitarian havoc in the world. It is what led us to the war in Iraq and it is what leads us to continually exploit and oppress the Third World. While I was working as a backcountry guide in Maine last summer, I was appalled that the only way my teenage kids could express their appreciation for their wilderness experience was in terms of monetary value. âÄúHow much would it cost to buy this mountain?âÄù theyâÄôd ask, and I was tempted to reply, âÄúAbout the same as your hospital bill after I chuck you off of it, you slimy little capitalist.âÄù Kids! Yet their commentary alludes to the alarming disconnect over who is ultimately responsible for our well-being. Yes, we have lost respect for our government because it consistently manipulates our trust, but letâÄôs never lose respect for our environment. It has done nothing short of giving us everything. Turner suggests the answer is this: âÄúTo reverse our current state, we must become so intimate with the wild, that we answer its destruction from the gut. Like when we discover the landlady strangling our cat.âÄù Ashley Dresser welcomes comments at [email protected]