by RIP RENSE
"And because of all their tears/ Their
eyes can't hope to see/ The beauty that surrounds us/ Isn't it a pity?"---George
I can't remember the senator's
name. And if I could, I wouldn't dignify him by printing it here. But there he was,
addressing the U.S. Senate, holding up a large square of blank white paper.
"You want to know what the Alaska Wildlife
National Refuge looks like?" he said, his voice gnarled with disgust. "This
is what it looks like!"
(Get it? Yuck yuck.)
Here's what the senator wanted to say:
Why do all them tree-huggin' bastards make
a fuss about wanting to drill for oil there? Damn eco-Nazis! Why, they're standing in the
way of progress (or "progurse," as most elected officials pronounce it.)
We need that oil! Trying to stop our country from takin' what's ours---why, they're
helpin' the damn terrorists! And what're all them caribou doin' on OUR oil?
I was in San Francisco not long ago,
where I visited the California Museum of Sciences' exhibit of Alaska Wildlife National Refuge photos taken
by one Subhankar Banerjee. You know, the same exhibit that debuted a few months back in
the Smithsonian---only to be promptly moved to the basement so as not to offend the
A trained physicist from Calcutta, India,
35-year-old Banerjee quit his job at
Boeing in Seattle, cashed in his savings, and headed to the ANWR with his camera. Aided by
a native Inupiat guide, Banerjee covered 4,000 miles on foot, raft, and snowmobile. He
spent fourteen months risking his life in temperatures nearly cold enough for Mars, taking
pictures of mountains and rivers and trees and flowers and animals that most of humanity
has never seen before. He'd never undertaken any such adventure in his life.
Give the man a Nobel Peace Prize.
For the record, his photos were not blank
squares of white. The senator's canny surmise was correct, though---there
is snow and ice in the ANWR.
There are also hardwood forests
to rival New England. In autumn, there are orange bursts of dwarf birch, golden shafts of
willow, crimson swaths of bearberry, and multi-colored mosaics of lichen. There are moose,
and polar bears, and great civilizations of caribou, and fox, ermine, musk oxen, ground
squirrels, jaegers, snowy owls, ravens, gulls. . .There is the fabulous buff-crested sandpiper, which flies
so far south for the winter that it winds up in the antarctic.
Sorry. I don't mean to turn this column into a
pastoral rhapsody, merely to rebut the senator's white squares. That would be exploiting
the North Pole for further political polarization. God knows things are frosty enough
between left and right as it is.
But I have to say that, looking at these
arresting ANWR photos---I mean, you could almost hear the primordial quiet of the
place---I kept thinking of how President Bush called up the cliché, "it's not much
to look at," in his campaign to drill for oil there.
Not much to look at. . .
Right, neither is the solar system---just a bunch of black with a lot of little white
dots. And the Pacific? How long can you stay interested in---heh heh---a bunch of
water? And don't ever subject me to the Alps---I've seen big rocks before---or that hole
in Arizona that they call the (snicker) Grand Canyon, or those "great" plains
that just go on and on and on, like Rush Limbaugh.
Bush might as well have said that the planet is
not much to look at.
What suffocating, choking, shrouding, stinking
cynicism it must take to make such a remark. What shriveled, atrophied puniness of spirit;
what dustiness of heart. Imagine sneering at nature itself! To dismiss the very stuff that
allows proud, overweight, methane-emitting U.S. citizens to exist, to think, to love, to
get in SUV's, drive a block to the market for a bag of Pringles and a six-pack of Bud,
then drive home again.
Gee, doesn't our president like flowers and
trees? Doesn't he admire polar bears, who hollow out their own ice caves on glaciers?
Maybe he doesn't. After all, he's
now pushing a bill
that is so inside-out crazy as to read like satire by Al Franken. Get this: Bush wants to
allow hunters, circuses, and the "pet industry" to go to "third world"
countries to kill, eat or kidnap endangered animals. Really! This is not Mad TV. The
rationale: if hunters, circuses, and the "pet industry" pay these countries
enough to kill, eat, or kidnap endangered animals---then the countries will have money to.
. .protect endangered animals!
The endangered snake eats itself!
Sing along with me and Country Joe
McDonald, now ---everybody!
"If it flies, I'll shoot it/ If it
runs on the ground/ If it lives in the forest and it makes a weird sound/ I'll kill all
the bears and lions and moose/With my telescopic site, you know I'm feelin' real loose/
I'll kill all the ducks and the geese and the quail/ Just for a weekend of fun out on the
wilderness trail. . ."
Hey, if you can't eat it, what good
is it? If you can't put it in a cage, what good is it? If you can't teach it stupid
tricks, what good is it? If you can't "off-road" on it, what good is it? If it's
too cold to park your RV in and have a couple brewskis, what the hell good is it?
This is Bush's attitude. The leader of the most
powerful nation on earth apparently thinks the earth is here for human exploitation,
regardless of consequences. And I'm not even touching on the global warming issue.
Oh right, about that oil. Yes, there is
certainly oil in the ANWR. Enough to, at current consumption levels, keep the USA in crude
for a whopping 641 days.
That's not leftist propaganda---it comes straight from the Interior Department's Bureau of
Dr. Phil exudes that much crude
in a week.
Intrepid photographer Subhankar Banerjee set
out to prove the cynics, the puny-spirits, the dessicated hearts wrong. Did he do it
because he loves nature? No, he did it because he realizes that he is nature---
and that this fact is lost on the likes of Senator White Squares and President Not Much to
Some of the lakes up there, he found, have
not even been named yet.
God forbid they wind up being christened for
Exxon or Condolleeza Rice.
Deuteronomy 21:23: ". . .his corpse shall not hang all night
on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day (for he who is hanged is
accursed of God), so that you do not defile your land which the Lord your God gives you as an
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