What happened to the party of Teddy Roosevelt?

As the planet runs out of time, Republicans have betrayed their party’s conservationist past

By Cassie Price
Special to the Reader

My dad was a lifelong Republican, farmer and logger. He believed in small government and fiscal responsibility, and most importantly, conservation of natural resources. Two of my earliest memories of him growing up in the ’80s were going with him to vote on Election Day and planting hundreds of trees every spring. Back then I didn’t see any conflict between Republican beliefs and planting trees. Ten-year-old me just thought it made good sense — log some timber, plant some replacements. 

Taking me to vote taught me the importance of voting at an early age. In my more than 20 years of voting, I’ve only missed a handful of local elections and never a presidential election.

Planting trees taught me the lessons about giving more than you take and making sure you have something in the future. 

I don’t know what the Republican Party stands for anymore, but it’s not conservation. It’s not the environment. Somehow, in just over the 100 years since Teddy Roosevelt created five new national parks; 18 National Monuments; 51 bird preserves; four game preserves (including the National Bison Range, three hours away in Charlo, Mont.); and 150 national forests, the Republican Party today scoffs at the mention of the word environmentalism.

As many as 98% of actively publishing climate scientists believe climate change is man-made and causing our planet to warm up. The other remaining percentage consists of contrarian studies that cannot be replicated or contain errors.

Yet it’s the doubters — who aren’t even scientists — drawing enough press that if you weren’t paying attention it could lead you to believe that climate change was a hoax. The only parties interested in perpetuating a climate change hoax are fossil fuel companies.

The jury is no longer out. If you’re not living in a media echo chamber, everyone is in agreement that the planet is warming and it’s caused by humans.

It’s easy to see in the summer when our air is choked with smoke. But I feel it in the winter, too, when it’s 33 degrees and raining on our snow.

I know California is a dirty word in North Idaho, but California’s catastrophic wildfires are what’s next for us. Everything we love about North Idaho is at stake. Rain all winter, and none of it amounting to significant enough snowpack to prevent fires. Drying up by May. Imagine the fires starting in June and the smoke and heat all summer long.

Our tourism will wither. Our property values will sink. Who wants to visit a place choked with smoke, much less live there? And if we have no snow, we have no skiing.

That is what is coming to us if we don’t start addressing climate change.

If you didn’t like COVID lockdown, you sure as hell aren’t going to like carbon lockdowns — as in we are only allowed to drive certain days of the week to ration the carbon we are allowed to put into the air.

Burning up the planet while we dither is worse.

Don’t get me wrong here, it’s not like the Democrats are doing much better, but at least some of them pretend to care. While the West was on fire, they quietly removed climate change and Green New Deal references from the agenda at the DNC convention.

The climate clock was unveiled last week in New York for Climate Week, showing that we only have a little more than seven years to take significant measures to reduce carbon emissions and keep global temperatures from rising fewer than 2 degrees Celcius from pre-industrial temperatures.

Two degrees Celcius doesn’t sound like much, but it’s actually 35.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Imagine 115 degrees summers up here.

The Global Day of Climate Action was scheduled for Sept. 25 and I kept hoping someone else was going to set up an event for Sandpoint and no one did. There was an event in Hayden and one in Spokane. But I don’t want to live in a place that doesn’t take our future seriously, so I set one up. A good metaphor for activism and life itself.

I created a Facebook event and registered with Friday for Futures and reached out to as many people as I could. It didn’t seem like it was getting much traction, and I was preparing myself mentally to sit on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Cedar Street alone and be harassed. 

Then Ammi Midstokke reached out and said she would join me. So I mentally prepared for the two of us to stand out on the corner for hours and be harassed. But at least I wouldn’t be alone. 

I set the time for 11 a.m., but I was running late because I needed emergency supplies to keep all the signs from getting ruined in the downpour. By the time I got them covered and got to the spot, it was 11:20 a.m.

Imagine my surprise and delight when I showed up and 10 people were already there. Another five or so showed up over the course of the morning. Many of them are regular protesters. One woman shared she had been protesting for the environment before I was born. Most of them showed up because someone from 350 Sandpoint shared the event. It was a good reminder of the power of community.

I left around 1 p.m. because I was soaked to the bone with rain running down my arms and pooling in the elbows of my rain jacket.

I’m glad we showed up. I don’t want Sandpoint to be known for white supremacy and stupidity. But even if no one else saw our signs, I no longer feel alone in the fight for climate change.

Climate change isn’t a Democratic or Republican issue. It’s an American issue. It’s an every-human-on-this-planet issue. We are all on this planet together.

We are planning on making our protests a regular thing. Check the Reader, 350 Sandpoint and Fridays for Future website for updates and join us.

While we have you ...

... if you appreciate that access to the news, opinion, humor, entertainment and cultural reporting in the Sandpoint Reader is freely available in our print newspaper as well as here on our website, we have a favor to ask. The Reader is locally owned and free of the large corporate, big-money influence that affects so much of the media today. We're supported entirely by our valued advertisers and readers. We're committed to continued free access to our paper and our website here with NO PAYWALL - period. But of course, it does cost money to produce the Reader. If you're a reader who appreciates the value of an independent, local news source, we hope you'll consider a voluntary contribution. You can help support the Reader for as little as $1.

You can contribute at either Paypal or Patreon.

Contribute at Patreon Contribute at Paypal

You may also like...

Close [x]

Want to support independent local journalism?

The Sandpoint Reader is our town's local, independent weekly newspaper. "Independent" means that the Reader is locally owned, in a partnership between Publisher Ben Olson and Keokee Co. Publishing, the media company owned by Chris Bessler that also publishes Sandpoint Magazine and Sandpoint Online. Sandpoint Reader LLC is a completely independent business unit; no big newspaper group or corporate conglomerate or billionaire owner dictates our editorial policy. And we want the news, opinion and lifestyle stories we report to be freely available to all interested readers - so unlike many other newspapers and media websites, we have NO PAYWALL on our website. The Reader relies wholly on the support of our valued advertisers, as well as readers who voluntarily contribute. Want to ensure that local, independent journalism survives in our town? You can help support the Reader for as little as $1.