Early last year, Jeff Goin asked me who would be the nominees for president from the two major political parties. Without hesitation I said for the Republicans it would be Newt Gingrich, and Al Gore would be the Democrat. He, of course, looked at me like I was crazy. However, on my part, this was more than wishful thinking. Anyone paying attention could tell that the center could not hold. A great rift was about to open up and anyone straddling the fence would wind up with a bob-wire wedgie. Whether it’s the bedrock values of American conservatism or the Utopian yearnings of the Left, a candidate will have to stand on something solid when the Earth opens up and swallows the middle ground.
Al Gore is going to run for President. And given the sorry state of national politics it’s a damn good thing. I worked for Ralph Nader but would never vote for him. I would make him US Attorney General. I voted for Gore for President last time although I thought he was kind of a punk back then. It was probably twice as important to campaign against global warming eight years and two-trillion tons of carbon ago, yet Gore, inventor of the internet, rarely mentioned it. Hmmm. But I cannot bring myself to blame it all on him. First of all, he did win. If the Supreme Court ruling had gone either way, and the neo-cons were right that he was an environmental stealth candidate, he might have come out with a serious program. Anyway, he could have fooled me. Sadly, Gore may have been right that the voters were not ready for a green candidate. Well, they are now, and it sure ain’t gonna be Ralph Nader.
I still can’t believe the change in news coverage of the environment these last two weeks. It seems like everybody is an environmentalist. The Oscar’s were so green I had to adjust the tint on the television set. I’m hearing some radical shit on TV, radio, and in almost every publication I see. Well, I suppose it would have been radical ten years ago, even five years ago, or hell, even last year. When billionaires and movie stars become environmentalists we all have something to worry about. The good thing is that we now have a way to measure their plans and their actions. They can be measured in the amount of carbon being released into the atmosphere verses the amount of carbon being stored in terrestrial ecosystems. The math is amazingly simple. Welcome aboard, now get to work.
And while we are talking about billionaire rock-star environmentalists, I have always believed that environmentalists had it too easy. Nowadays, environmental groups pay better, offer health benefits, and better working conditions then they did a few decades ago. They receive many hours of sensitivity training, and, horror of all horrors, they want to be listened to and respected, and they want to be appreciated for all of the hard work that they do. I went to a staff retreat for one of these organizations last fall, and when the meeting looked like it was going on too long, they took a break and did the Hokey Pokey. I am not making this up! I always thought that if you wanted to be an activist that you should be happy even if you were forced to live in barracks and eat gruel from a wooden bowl. After all, this is what soldiers do, and they are not supposed to whine about it.
So I was surprised when I arrived at the headquarters of the Buffalo Filed Campaign in West Yellowstone, Montana to visit my old friends Mike Mease, Dan Brister and Stephanie Seay. Danny Dolinger, the hardest working man in folk music and I had driven down in a blizzard from Missoula to check in on these folks and to pay our respects. Here, in the coldest spot in the lower forty eight states, in a cramped log cabin with a blinding snowstorm raging outside, thirty or so members of the campaign are in a chow line, filling their bowls with the evening stew. We have two choices, vegan, or with meat. The meat was a few chunks of venison. I had heard rumors that the BFC staff subsisted on a diet of road kill and potatoes, so I did not ask how theyobtained the deer meat. After the meal, which was hearty and delicious, a meeting was held where a work roster was drawn up for the next day’s field patrols, which the BFC had conducted every winter for the last ten years. Afterward, Danny played a few short sets and everyone retired to their bunks.
The next morning was still cold but the sun had come out. By sunrise, the BFCers were putting on cross country skies and warm clothes and preparing for the day’s patrols on the border of Yellowstone National Park, where they would scout for buffalo coming out of the park. This last snow storm had packed a small wallop, and could potentially cause the buffalo to look for lower ground and better grazing. When the buffalo leave the sanctuary of the National Park they also loose their protection. Last year, over a thousand of these magnificent animals were slaughtered by hunters when they crossed onto both public and private land. The BFC’s mission is to document the terrible situation that these wild bison are facing, and to push for more protection, more habitat, and more respect for this iconic creature.
It’s not an easy job, and there are few benefits, except experiencing the grandeur of Yellowstone itself. Yet this is the most dedicated and hard-working group of activists I have seen in a long time. While a bunch of new recruits had just arrived the day of our visit, many of the volunteers had been here for years. Returning each winter for patrols, and spending the summers traveling thousands of miles, tabling at farmers’ markets and universities on behalf of the buffalo. The Buffalo Field Campaign has recruited and trained over 2,700 volunteers since they began this work in 1997. You can read more about the BFC on Lowbagger.org, or you can go to their website. Better yet, get on the bus and go spend a winter in Yellowstone.