End of the Season

By Hal Herring

Although I cover conservation as my writer’s bread and butter, I seldom write about the topic of global warming or climate change. I avoid the subject because it has become the equivalent of asking somebody in a polite conversation if they are a moronic Rush Limbaugh ditto-head or a filthy Mao-worshiping dreadlocked hippie. The very question has ceased to have any meaning, obliterated by an overwhelmingly stupid political context that has paralyzed us all while the CO2 continues to spew, the nitrate runoff from our farms poisons our rivers and the Gulf of Mexico, and businessmen in air conditioned Houston office parks blithely plan the drilling of 20,000 gas wells in the center of Colorado’s best elk country. Among ten thousand other, ahhh, “challenges” to our survival, not to mention our hunting and fishing, on this planet.

My focus as a conservationist and writer is on the old Serenity Prayer by the great theologian Reinhold Niebuhr:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.”

With that noble poem in mind, I study and write about the protection of our hunting and fishing conservation heritage, the restoration and protection of the irreplaceable nursery wetlands, the re-connection of our rivers to their floodplains, the basics of clean air, clean water, the thunder of waterfowl in their tens of thousands, the honest hard-won conservation success stories and how to keep them and how to replicate them. While I accept the scientific consensus on global climate change, I’m more fascinated by how we can protect and enhance our natural resources so that we as a nation can weather any storm, from war to pestilence to monstrous droughts and floods. I honestly believe that the actions we can take to make our nation stronger and more secure- ensuring that we have clean air and water, thriving rivers, the judicious use and protection of aquifers, hyper-levels of efficiency in the use of energy and water and timber, and so on, are the best ways to address climate change, too. I want to see my country lead the world in renewable energy, not because I am afraid of the super-storms or deadly droughts promised by climate change, but because we want the economic power and the national security that diversified and home-made power brings us. What would you do, basically, if you wanted to survive as a prosperous nation during a time of disastrous climate change? Well, you’d be a premier conservationist, right now.

But I am not immune to worry. I have a son and a daughter who love the outdoors, love to fish and hunt and swim the creeks, shoot and roam. I have, I hope, a lot of years yet to run with them. I see the near continuous coal trains running through Montana and Wyoming and read of the plans to mine 1.3 billion more tons of coal from the Otter Creek tracts here in Montana, for export to China. Not far north of my house, in the former semi-ghost town of Bynum, a 13,000 square foot building is rising from former grazing land once owned by a local Hutterite colony, where the construction of huge modules for turning the Alberta tar sands into oil is already underway. When I wrote about the flaring of natural gas from the Bakken oilfields in North Dakota- energy companies burning off into the atmosphere enough natural gas to heat a half million homes every day just because it cost too much to build a pipeline to bring it to market, the consensus among many people- hunters and fisherman all- that I spoke with was that such flaring was normal, and to be expected. Really? Where we American conservatives were once hard-core skeptics, proud to be beholden to nothing and nobody, we now seem to be utterly enthralled by the fossil fuel industry, as if to question it at all was a kind of blasphemy.

I see no- zero- attempt by mankind to address the issue of climate change. I read about the new plans to drill the world’s deepest well 200 miles southeast of New Orleans to seek out a pool of oil hidden 9,500 feet below the ocean’s surface. There’s supposed to be 2 billion barrels of the stuff there, enough oil to fuel the US economy for about ninety-four days. New studies of the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota and Montana show a potential for 7.4 billion barrels of economically recoverable oil- enough to run the US for 350 days. And yet, no one seems to be making a plan for what to run our economy on when these superlatives – the “deepest” the most “inaccessible” supplies have been tapped and burned here or sold abroad and burned. It seems to me that if cannot discuss that idea, then the discussion of climate change caused by all this getting and burning is completely impossible. I wish that were not true.

And so, when I watched this video made by my friends at Conservation Hawks, and saw just how much traffic it was getting on the web, I was not sure what to think. I share it here for readers to watch and ponder, as I did, whether it is a very creative Chicken Little presentation, or it is a rather funny window into an ugly future. What do you think? There is some profanity in the act, so beware.

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Hellgate Hunters and Anglers
Our Mission is to conserve Montana's wildlife, wild places, and fair-chase hunting and fishing heritage.