Friday, April 18, 2008

Talkin' bout my generation gap

Last month, CPOP asked Park Friends Inc. if we could attend one of their board meetings and chat with them. They graciously agreed and placed us first on the agenda.

We were all looking forward to hearing about PFI's activities and future plans, but a few days before the meeting, Glenn Cox said the group expected us to leave immediately after our agenda item.

Oh, so that's why they let us go first...

Stacey and I attended the meeting on Wednesday night and got a very friendly reception. (Amy had to cancel at the last minute because one of her clients was in labor.) Between the three of us, we know most of the people on the PFI board.

PFI's newest and most youthful board member -- Memphis Zoo spokesmodel Brian Carter -- decided to skip his first meeting, foolishly missing a golden opportunity to gather intel for his commanders back in the bunker.

After a lengthy chat with the PFI board, Stacey and I skipped off like good little girls, as instructed, feeling pretty charitable toward PFI.

Okay, so PFI's official position on the Teton Clearcut is more about shoring up their own tarnished reputation than protecting the Old Forest, but nobody's perfect, right?

But the afterglow didn't last long. I was reading my friend Glenn Cox's guest editorial in the CA this morning (see below) and nodding my still-sleepy head in agreement, when I hit this paragraph and woke right up.

The users of any park will always have different priorities. A case in point is the recent discussion related to the zoo's clearing of a portion of the forest for construction of its Teton Trek project. What could have been a difficult issue was instead addressed productively among us all, as users of the park with common conservation goals.

I re-read that three or four times, hoping it would start making sense when my coffee kicked in, but it didn't.

The only logical explanation is that PFI operates in a parallel universe -- running about two years ahead of ours -- in which the Memphis Zoo has apologized for clearing and grubbing an old-growth forest, promised to never pull such a boneheaded move again, and donated a few million dollars toward the caretaking of the remaining Old Forest.

It's a bit premature to talk about the Teton Clearcut as if it's ancient history.

Glenn goes on to say:
The important thing is to give full worth to the value of our natural heritage. Our forebears did...

Did they, really? I always thought it was our forebears who chopped down the virgin forests of the Chickasaw Bluffs, wiped woodland bison off the face of the planet, and slaughtered millions of passenger pigeons and Carolina parakeets until they ran out of birds to kill.

Our forebears also did their level best to exterminate black bears, red wolves, elk, cougar, and numerous other species. Even resilient critters like white-tailed deer and beaver were nearly extinct by the early 1900s, thanks to the hunting skills of our forebears.

That wasn't about giving worth to the value of our natural heritage; it was about making money and "civilizing" the wild land. Exactly as the Memphis Zoo is doing right now. And as they will continue to do, until we make them stop.

As William Faulkner said, "The past isn't dead. It isn't even past."