Between the time I was born and the time I entered kindergarten, we lost John and Robert Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. But we also gained: the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and The Wilderness Act. Even amid the loss and disarray (rioting in our cities and body counts in a senseless war being my earliest memories of television), there was the promise of freedom and wholeness. At least as a matter of law, we said “enough” to the idea that people are only valuable if they are the right race, and “enough” to the idea that nature is only valuable if it has been altered to fit the short-term needs of one species.
What we saw in the election results and what we heard from the candidates’ speeches last night give me hope that we are truly on the path to realizing the promise of the legal changes of the 1960s.
Speaking as a scientist, I am also hopeful because of the mindfulness that President-elect Obama has brought, through his campaign, to the pressing issues of our day, including climate change, stewardship of our public lands and natural resources, and the simple need in our increasingly crowded and hectic lives to find peace with and in wild places. We are coming to the end of a period of hostility, not only to the integrity of our nation’s wildlands, but to the scientific basis for maintaining that integrity. I hope that we can get beyond pointing out how bad things will be if we fail to take care of wild places; I am looking forward, with my colleagues in The Wilderness Society’s Ecology and Economics Research department, to focusing on the positive scientific case for how good things could be if we succeed.
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