Trump Advisory Panel Suggests Bringing More Private Business Into National Parks
An advisory panel appointed by Trump's first Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, has recommended privatizing National Parks campgrounds, allowing food trucks in and setting up WiFi at campgrounds while also reducing benefits to seniors, according to the panel's memo.
The advisory committee, the Subcommittee on Recreation Enhancement Through Reorganization, passed its recommendations along to Interior Sec. David Bernhardt. It is part of the Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee, which Zinke to "advise the Secretary of the Interior on public-private partnerships across all public lands," according to The Hill.
The draftees suggest that the Senior Pass, which is an $80 lifetime pass to people 62 and over and entitles them to a 50 percent discount on campgrounds, have some blackout dates that would void their discounts. The memo also suggests generating revenue by renting out cabins and having vendors rent out tents and other camping equipment within the national parks.
The memo lists food trucks and mobile vendors as part of its innovative management strategy and it suggests offering mobile connectivity throughout parks, not just at campgrounds.
The Federal government has a long history of not providing adequate funding to the National Parks System, which has created a $12 billion maintenance backlog, according to The Hill.
Drafters of the plan say their suggestions are a roadmap to a much-needed upgrade of deteriorating infrastructure that will attract a younger, more diverse audience.
Already, several private campgrounds and private businesses exist within the National Parks. Zinke expressed a desire to expand private business in the National Parks, arguing that he did not want his department in the business of running campgrounds, as National Parks Traveler reported.
Bernhardt, a former Republican operative and corporate lobbyist and now the Secretary of the Interior, oversees all 419 national parks. He has argued for an increase in private enterprise in the national parks, since the money for maintenance is easily found outside the federal government, as Yahoo News reported.
Trump plans to privatize #NationalPark campgrounds, hike fees, limit senior discounts. Just another profit grab by… https://t.co/nlrbnsoy8G— Sierra Club (@Sierra Club)1570820738.0
However, A spokesman for the Department of the Interior, contradicted that assessment. "We have not received formal recommendations from the committee for the department's consideration. We'll review the report once we receive it and respond accordingly," according to Yahoo News.
Critics were aghast at the suggestions in the memo, seeing it as a cash-grab that threatened the sanctity of America's national parks.
"Trump's scheme to privatize national parks means one thing: the park-going public's money will go to connected special interests and campaign donors instead of supporting the parks themselves. Selling out our national parks for Trump's own pork barrel political gains is something that Americans simply won't stand for," Jayson O'Neill, deputy director of the Western Values Project, a conservation group, in a release that Common Dreams reported.
Joel Pannell, Associate Director of Sierra Club Outdoors for All, was similarly critical of the recommendations.
"Now the Trump administration is trying to pass a fee hike under the radar, and pave the way for full privatization of our national parks," he said in a statement. "Turning our national parks into profit centers for a select few vendors would rob our public lands of just what makes them special. Hiking fees and limiting discounts for seniors will shut out working families and elders on fixed incomes. We will not allow the embattled Trump administration to turn our national parks into playgrounds for the wealthy and privileged, or permit companies that financially support the Trump campaign to profit from privatization of our public lands. Park lovers and outdoor advocates across the nation will rise up in resistance."
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A Game of Jenga<p>Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet's climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency.</p><p>But worse still, it could cause runaway damage: Where the tipping points form a domino-like cascade, where breaching one triggers breaches of others, creating an unstoppable shift to a radically and swiftly changing climate.</p><p>One of the most concerning tipping points is mass methane release. Methane can be found in deep freeze storage within permafrost and at the bottom of the deepest oceans in the form of methane hydrates. But rising sea and air temperatures are beginning to thaw these stores of methane.</p><p>This would release a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, 30-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. This would drastically increase temperatures and rush us towards the breach of other tipping points.</p><p>This could include the acceleration of ice thaw on all three of the globe's large, land-based ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica. The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is seen as a key tipping point, as its loss could eventually <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/324/5929/901" target="_blank">raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters</a> with important regional variations.</p><p>More than that, we would be on the irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters, roughly at the rate of two meters per century, or maybe faster. Just look at the raised beaches around the world, at the last high stand of global sea level, at the end of the Pleistocene period around 120,0000 years ago, to see the evidence of such a warm world, which was just 2°C warmer than the present day.</p>
Cutting Off Circulation<p>As well as devastating low-lying and coastal areas around the world, melting polar ice could set off another tipping point: a disablement to the AMOC.</p><p>This circulation system drives a northward flow of warm, salty water on the upper layers of the ocean from the tropics to the northeast Atlantic region, and a southward flow of cold water deep in the ocean.</p><p>The ocean conveyor belt has a major effect on the climate, seasonal cycles and temperature in western and northern Europe. It means the region is warmer than other areas of similar latitude.</p><p>But melting ice from the Greenland ice sheet could threaten the AMOC system. It would dilute the salty sea water in the north Atlantic, making the water lighter and less able or unable to sink. This would slow the engine that drives this ocean circulation.</p><p><a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/atlantic-conveyor-belt-has-slowed-15-per-cent-since-mid-twentieth-century" target="_blank">Recent research</a> suggests the AMOC has already weakened by around 15% since the middle of the 20th century. If this continues, it could have a major impact on the climate of the northern hemisphere, but particularly Europe. It may even lead to the <a href="https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10871/39731?show=full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cessation of arable farming</a> in the UK, for instance.</p><p>It may also reduce rainfall over the Amazon basin, impact the monsoon systems in Asia and, by bringing warm waters into the Southern Ocean, further destabilize ice in Antarctica and accelerate global sea level rise.</p>
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has a major effect on the climate. Praetorius (2018)
Is it Time to Declare a Climate Emergency?<p>At what stage, and at what rise in global temperatures, will these tipping points be reached? No one is entirely sure. It may take centuries, millennia or it could be imminent.</p><p>But as COVID-19 taught us, we need to prepare for the expected. We were aware of the risk of a pandemic. We also knew that we were not sufficiently prepared. But we didn't act in a meaningful manner. Thankfully, we have been able to fast-track the production of vaccines to combat COVID-19. But there is no vaccine for climate change once we have passed these tipping points.</p><p><a href="https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-risks-report-2021" target="_blank">We need to act now on our climate</a>. Act like these tipping points are imminent. And stop thinking of climate change as a slow-moving, long-term threat that enables us to kick the problem down the road and let future generations deal with it. We must take immediate action to reduce global warming and fulfill our commitments to the <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Paris Agreement</a>, and build resilience with these tipping points in mind.</p><p>We need to plan now to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, but we also need to plan for the impacts, such as the ability to feed everyone on the planet, develop plans to manage flood risk, as well as manage the social and geopolitical impacts of human migrations that will be a consequence of fight or flight decisions.</p><p>Breaching these tipping points would be cataclysmic and potentially far more devastating than COVID-19. Some may not enjoy hearing these messages, or consider them to be in the realm of science fiction. But if it injects a sense of urgency to make us respond to climate change like we have done to the pandemic, then we must talk more about what has happened before and will happen again.</p><p>Otherwise we will continue playing Jenga with our planet. And ultimately, there will only be one loser – us.</p>
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