One of these days Texas might turn a darker shade of blue. While we wait for such better days, Democrats can indicate what they would do in power, given the opportunity. We can choose from a long, hard list of issues. Health care, education, transportation, taxation and all the other priorities pushed to the back burner by the Republican regime.
To narrow the issues, let’s pick one that many think does not get the attention it deserves. Especially because everything depends on it - the environment.
The issue goes back at least to Teddy Roosevelt, Gifford Pinchot, John Muir and the first National Parks and Forest Service at the beginning of the 20th century. It continued with films like “The Plow That Broke the Plains” (1936) plus the “Agricultural Adjustment Act” (1938). It faded in the fifties, and regained momentum with Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” (1962) and Earth Day (1970). Since then, concern for the environment has competed underneath a complex range of views.
One view has it that Nature exists for our pleasure. Nature was made for peak baggers, thru hikers, overlanders, birders, and photo opportunists as well as the souls seeking to bathe their spirits in the greenery and catch the sun and stars on display. We must include the sportsmen who dispatch the critters of land, air, and water. We want to go on adventures, get away from it all, reconnect.
When this view prevails, we get public land with public access: protected habitats, wilderness preserves. This view accommodates the many ecological and life sustaining benefits that our natural environment brings. However, in essence, it exists mainly in what remains after another view has already prevailed.
That view is commercial exploitation. Whether by conquest or law, nature is chopped into commodities, parcels, plats, grants, estates. Whatever we call them, these chunks of space and time are exchanged among bidders seeking profits, the winners being those who bid highest.
There is the obvious conflict between these views, yet a solution occurs to many. We can have it both ways. Why not manage the land?
A recent response to this version of our environmental dilemma is Elizabeth McGreevy, “Wanted! Mountain Cedars Dead and Alive” (2021).
McGreevy, after decades of research, tells us that in the case of cedars the answers have developed grotesque distortions. She states that the Hill Country was never a grassland savannah and was hospitable to old growth cedar forests and mixed oak and cedar mottes. What she calls bushy or dog hair cedars are responses to overgrazing and other degrading assaults on the land. The cedars can enhance water retention in the soil as well as provide habitat for succession grasses, flowers, forbs and brush. In particular, she condemns the standard practice of wanton cut and burn as having exactly the opposite of intended effects. It does not improve the situation; it degrades it further.
Is there is a way out? Democrats with help from enlightened Republicans can stand strongly for responsible land and water management in contrast to profit driven motives through misguided Republican policies benefiting commercial exploitation. We can use the best science to guide land use decisions.
There is yet another view among many today - the dystopian. It’s too late, too much damage has already been done. The only way out is to try to survive while the grand lie of Western progress crumbles around us. Hmmm. Something to think about while you wait your turn at the red lights on Main Street.
Tom Denyer has resided in Bandera County since 1979. Among other jobs, he has worked as an oil tools machinist, cook and union organizer.