Sally Jewell

Honey, We Are Shrinking the Wild

Natural areas in the U.S. are disappearing at the rate of a football field every 2.5 minutes, according to U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

“If we stay on this trajectory, 100 years from now, national parks will be like postage stamps of nature on a map, isolated islands of conservation with run-down facilities, that crowds of Americans visit like zoos to catch a glimpse of our nation’s remaining wildlife and undeveloped patches of land.

Jewell made these remarks in a speech to the National Geographic Society, marking the 100th anniversary of the creation of the National Park Service. Impressively, reports on her remarks appeared in newspapers across the U.S., including the Wall Street Journal.

The Denver Post’s Bruce Finley actually mentioned “population growth” as one of the causes of our shrinking natural landscape, even though Jewell herself never mentioned the words. She did credit humans with species extinction, however:

“…humans playing a major role in wiping out species at a rate 53 times greater than normal.”

But I have to say one would not walk away from her speech thinking we can and should stop growing our population, and let it shrink back to a sustainable level. Instead, we heard we should do a better job of funding the park system, work harder to balance our goal of economic growth with the need to protect species and ecosystems, and get more kids into the wild so they have a connection to and appreciation for nature.

All well and good. But can’t we do more than just react to the INEVITABLE population growth (which is ANYTHING but inevitable, truth be told)?  Denver resident Walt Bonora said what Jewell perhaps couldn’t in her PC Washington world, in this letter to the editor published by the Denver Post a few days after Finley’s story:

“The last thing we need is another subdivision or shopping mall. And of course the other problem is people. Too many of us. It’s not the dolphins making a mess of our world. So perhaps we need a culture change and a slowing of the growth rate. The last thing we need is more people. You want to save our planet? Stop the human tide.”

Thank you, Walt. It’s not a “slowing of the growth rate” that we need, however. It’s a reversal of the growth. The U.S. has more than twice the population it can sustain. What we need is to shrink the size of our families rather than the natural world, and to stop importing people to drive an economy that’s already too big to be sustainable. It can be done. Many countries have managed this. But it’s not likely to happen as long as good people like Interior Secretary Sally Jewell continue to tap-dance around the topic.

IF YOU APPRECIATE THIS KIND OF ANALYSIS OF THE STORIES WE’RE TELLING OURSELVES THROUGH THE MEDIA, PLEASE CONSIDER A SMALL TIP – TO SAY, “THANKS, PLEASE KEEP IT UP,” AND HELP US COVER THE EXPENSES OF THIS NON-PROFIT PROJECT.

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Dave Gardner

Producer of the documentary, GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth. Dave writes and speaks regularly on the subject of growth addiction, including the pro-growth media bias that perpetuates prosperity-from-growth mythology.

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