Brief rants

Before I head off to work on my transition to the recapitulation of “Milky Way,” I have a couple of rants. I’ve been clipping stuff from the paper, thinking I might comment on it, for a couple of weeks now, but today had two quotes that have moved me to the keyboard.

The first is from a story, “Park Service To Emphasize Conservation In New Rules.” Well, first of all, that’s a shocker in itself, because even as recently as one year ago, the Administration Currently In Office was once again allowing industry interests to write public policy, and the snowmobile folk were making sure that the National Park Service’s actually taking care of our public wilderness took a back seat to the next few seasons of recreational profit.

As the paper says, “In this respect, as in many others, including the emphasis on conservation, the final policy echoes the one in effect at the end of the Clinton administration.”

We are living in the end times, apparently. The former Interior Secretary, Gale Norton, was no friend of those pesky tree-huggers who worked for the NPS, but she’s gone now, wanting to spend more time with her family. (I will not repeat here the facts about Abramoff/Indian Affairs/her approval. No one has suggested her implication. At all.) Her successor, Dirk Kempthorne, has surprised many with the reversal of the focus of the rewritten regulations on park management.

Now here’s the deal: at the end of the article there is a quote from the president of Americans for Responsible Recreation Access, Larry E. Smith. In a July letter to the outgoing director of the Park Service, he wrote, “Trying to accommodate the existing generation of Americans should be as worthy a goal as is preserving our parks for future generations.”

Read that sentence again: Trying to accommodate the existing generation of Americans should be as worthy a goal as is preserving our parks for future generations.

Quick thought experiment: even without knowing that one of the main funders of ARRA is the Motorcycle Industry Council (oops, now you know), would you say that the holder of that sentiment is conservative or liberal? Pace, McInturff, you know that when I say conservative I mean Dick Cheney, not you.

Now why is that? Why do you think that the person who said this is more concerned with profit than with taking care of people or the planet? And why did you assume this person/organization contributes to one party rather than the other?

The thing that makes me scream about this and other issues (second rant coming up) these days is that I thought we liberals were the profligates: tax and spend, deficit budgets, free sex with all and sundry, and plenty of cheap drugs. Weren’t conservatives all about integrity and saving and scrimping and personal abnegation for future benefit? What happened to that? Is it all about corporate profit?

The other quote that got under my skin was from an article about how the top 100 liberal arts colleges are increasingly doing away with any SAT requirements. They’re smugly declaring that they can look closely enough at their applicants not to need a suspect standardized test to tell whether they’ll be a good match for the school.

Needless to say, the College Board is fit to be tied, especially with yesterday’s report that SAT scores plummeted with the new version. (In other news, the Washington Post, owned by the same company as the College Board, reported that report in hysterical terms. Other news sources were more sanguine.)

The president of the College Board, Gaston Caperton, had this to say: “At a time when the United States is vying internationally for excellence, it’s very contrary to any decision-making process, in business or education, not to use the data that’s available. If I were a parent, applying to a selective school, I would prefer them to use all the data they possibly can.”

And so they do, Mr. Caperton, just not yours. This Bushesque statement just begs for the eyes to be rolled and the brow to be furrowed. (“At no time did I say that failure to take the SAT puts the U.S. behind in the international economy.”) It is made even more grotesque by the recent announcement of new curriculum materials produced by the CB and Kaplan, designed to boost K-12 achievement. I will leave you to presume what kind of achievement these curriculum materials are designed to boost.

Profit, profit, it’s all profit, and it stinks to heaven.

Well, that was probably incoherent, but I have sixteen measures of music to write.

8 thoughts on “Brief rants

  1. It reminds me of the rhetoric in which the “crisis in education” is linked with a concern for the “next generation of workers.” Or linking test scores to “maintaining America’s competitive edge.”

    Public education’s original mandate was to educate the coming generation of voters, not “the work force.”

  2. A question occurs:

    Putting aside profit motives and the like, is it not reasonable that park lands not be for the benefit of all citizens, current and future? I’m not personally concerned about the motorcycle, snowmobile, or unicycle lobbies, but it does seem a bit silly to build high fences around our parks and declare that we are “saving them for some day”. That would make us preservationists rather that conservationists. I happen to like the outdoors, and I also happen to enjoy mountain biking. To mountain bike, you need well maintained trails. Some of the preservation ilk would argue that cutting such trails changes the natural habitats. This is true. Tornados, forest fires, and beavers change natural habitats as well, and in arguably far more significant ways. Responsible mountain bikers cut their trails and then maintain them by keeping them clean and closing the trails when they are wet (riding when wet causes erosion and ruts = bad trails). Is there room for taking a responsible stewardship approach when it comes to environmental issues without being labeled a destroyer? I don’t want all of the world to be a concrete jungle, but I don’t think responsible use is bad either.

    Hee, hee. I ranted on your rant. That makes me laugh.

  3. I was by no means defending neither ATV manufacturers nor strip miners. I was merely challenging the fact that the statement, which you proposed was made with the most insideous of purposes, may actually have a valid point wrapped within it. That point being, we shouldn’t wrap our parks up in newsprint and stick them in the freezer for some purpose to be named later. Conservationism was, to the best of my publicly educated memory, distinguished from the more radical preservationism by the concept of “responsible use”.

  4. And you think that the tree-huggers who work for the National Park Service are not for responsible use? But the ATV manufacturers are? Ah, the naïveté of the sincerely conservative. I smile sweetly in your general direction.

  5. And no one is suggesting any such preservationism now. However, my point is that ARRA is not actually interested in either conservation or preservation, but is using a moderate “valid point” to turn public policy to their true goal: profit. They do not actually care about keeping the public lands in maintainable condition.

    And not to break into a whole ‘nother argument… I take that back, I will break into a whole ‘nother argument–I don’t think we as citizens of this country have any right to drive ATVs through the wilderness. Find a vacant lot and build a track there.

  6. You inspire me to liken the notion of “land use” to personal health. If we wish to preserve the health and vitality of our bodies, we can’t just put anything into them or use them in any way commercial interests might encourage us to use them (just because I’m told the “biggie fries” is a good bargain doesn’t mean I should jump at every opportunity to ingest). Same with the health of our public lands. Just because a certain sensibility advocating “free enterprise” and the right to “recreation” wants a particular sort of access to the land, you are reluctant to give the access unreservedly; if it is granted wholly on their desired terms, the health of the land will suffer “down the (off)road.” So by not having that “biggie fry” when told to do so by saavy marketers, am I “saving myself for some day” that will never come, denying myself a present enjoyment for some impossible future payoff (death is inevitable, after all–why sign the Kyoto treaty when you understand that entropy is ultimately our future no matter what, right?)?

    I’m reading an interesting, if clunkily written, book about our evolving “culture of enjoyment.” Either you try to squeeze every last drop of potential “enjoyment” out of the land, or you submit to a certain sacrifice, a symbolic castration, a promise of a preservation which comes with a denial of enjoyment and no necessary future compensation. The tolerance for such sacrifice is vanishing…

  7. Well put, Marc.

    I think my main point and objection to the whole ARRA mindset is that it is so obviously false. “Responsible Access” is just code. What they really mean is “We don’t want public policy hurting our right to make money using public lands,” but they won’t say that. They hide behind “Responsible.” It’s freaking code, just like words like “Heritage,” “Balanced,” or “Fair.” I challenge anyone to go to their website and find one instance where they advocate backing off on access to specific overused lands because it would be “responsible.”

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