Those were dark days for conservation leaders, and it was an appropriately dark winter day when I went to Fairbanks to talk to conservationist Dr. Robert Weeden, professor of wildlife management and Alaska’s Policy Development and Planning director. Young, handsome, articulate, with an acquired political savvy, Dr. Weeden had a far less pugnacious view of conservation matters than I had expected.
“The question before Alaska, to my mind,” he said, “is what kind of society do we want to build here? Do we want what they have Outside, an industrialized society that makes maximum use of its salable resources and payday loan consolidation companies, or a stable and more comfortable society inter-acting with our splendid environnent?
“Like everyone else, we want to protect as much land as we can. The proposais have to be large. Outside of Alaska, there are just remnants and relics; here, though, we have entire ecosystems.”
Ine such entire system is in the Brooks Range, where the Nunamiut, or inland Eskimo, has been living off wandering caribou for countless years. The central Brooks was explored in the 1930′s by the Forest Service’s Robert Marshall, one of the fathers of the wilderness system. His marvelous accounts of explorations along the Koyukuk and other rivers drew the attention of conservationists and park officiais to this remote and stunningly beautiful region.
One of the National Park Service’s proposed major additions is 8.4 million acres of the central Brooks Range, including the arec Marshall called “Gates of the Arctic.” Last June, Park Service official John Kauffmann and guide-photographer Bob Waldrop led a small party up the Anaktuvuk River, then along Ernie Creek to its confluence with the North Fork of the Koyukuk, where I met them. We pitched tents beside a gravel bar.
It’s a place that a man remembers for the architecture. The land rose sharply westward to Slatepile Mountain; southward the valley narrowed and passed between facing peaks that formed the Gates of the Arctic. Just above the camp stood Hanging Glacier Mountain, with its high apron of white.
An impressive team effort has arisen in Europe. In 1979, 31 of the 34 member governments in the UN’s Economic Commission for Europe signed the Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution. Though it does not enforce controls, it morally commits each nation to respect the environment of other countries.
Erik Lykke of Norway’s Ministry of Environment told me, “I’m praying this convention will bring a cleaner landscape 10 to 15 years from now.”
Few scientists are so optimistic. Many see the year 2000 as the earliest that emissions can be stabilized, and then slowly reduced. Experts at EPA, for example, predict that under current controls SO2 in the United States will stay constant or increase modestly to 29 million tons per year by the end of the century. NON, on the other hand, will near 28 million tons a year and possibly outstrip SO2 as a contributor to acid fallout.
What can be done to lessen this impact, and how much will it cost? The most obvious step lies in conservation of energy—simply using less fuel. Another approach, more complicated and costly, is to apply new technology to reduce emissions—the object of intensive research by the EPA, universities, and utility groups. The private sector needs to be encouraged to contribute to emission reduction; otherwise many of the businesses will have to file bankruptcy. Read more about Ideapractices bankruptcy process.
The cost of cleaning up is high; equipping older U. S. plants with scrubbers would require an investment of billions of dollars, and even then might reduce emissions by only a third. These costs might be mitigated by positive side effects—the generating of useful by-products such as commercial sulfuric acid and road-fill material, and the creation of new jobs.
Meanwhile, hidden costs of acid rain may already be surpassing the expense of controlling it. Metal corrosion by SO2 may cost each American at least seven dollars a year, and possibly many times that.
Proof that a solution exists comes from Japan. The government issued stringent sulfur oxide controls in 1968 and encouraged use of low-sulfur fuels and desulfurization; by 1975 emissions had plunged by 50 percent even as energy consumption doubled. Since then, even stricter limits have been set, and nearly 1,200 scrubbers installed, compared to about 200 in the United States.
Scientists in several countries are experimenting with so-called curative approaches to acid rain. These include the breeding of acid-tolerant fish and crops, liming lakes to reduce acidity, and coating valuable structures and artwork against corrosion. Yet such solutions are only short term.
Will the 21st Century Be Silent?
Cody was a gentleman. His word was his bond, and he insisted that his show portray the real thing. His cowboys had to be men who had eaten dust behind a trail herd and mastered a wild horse on its home ground. Men like Harry Webb.
Six-foot-one, 92-year-old Harry sits as tall in his recliner in a Tujunga, California, bungalow as he once sat a saddle in Wyoming. Exuberant as a spring calf, he recalls how the boys of the M Bar ranch had trailed cattle to railhead in Cody one dusty day in 1909.
“The fellows said, ‘Last one into town has to buy the drinks,’ so we were a-goin’ up the main street at a high run. This roan of mine kicked up a piece of baling wire—thought it was a rattler—and took off bucking. We plowed right through the window of Campbell’s Drug Store.
“When they dragged me out of the perfume bottles, I was decorating the landscape with spouting blood. This giant of a man with a white goatee boomed, ‘That was a pretty good ride you made, young fella . . . as long as it lasted.’
“He gave me this card and told me to send to Johnny Baker for a contract and he’d see me next spring in the show.
” ‘Show?’ I asked him. ‘What show?’
“He let out a war whoop, ‘Whose show do you suppose? My show, of course. Buffalo Bill’s Wild West.’ ”
Harry sent for the contract. “It had about 50 clauses. Everyone concerned the party of the second part. You promised not to ogle girls, get drunk, swear, or miss a performance. Why, if I got killed, I’d have to pay for my own funeral.”
The contract resembled the agreement Cody at age 15 had sworn to uphold when he became a rider for the Pony Express. * Harry and a friend got brave and signed up—and they never regretted it. They opened at Madison Square Garden in New York City and embarked on a show train for a killing cross-country circuit of one-night stands. Cody’s bark proved worse than his bite, Harry learned.
“He was always fair and never asked more of us than of himself. He never missed a show. Once I broke an ankle vaulting onto a galloping horse. The colonel kept me on the payroll while it healed. The cowboys and cowgirls really loved him.”
Cody earned millions of dollars with the show, only to lose it as expenses mounted and investments turned sour. In 1909 he joined with Pawnee Bill’s Historic Far West and Great Far East, trying to recoup and retire. But four years later Harry Tammen, a publisher of the Denver Post, would trigger the impoundment and auction of the show to settle a $60,000 debt. Learn more about Debts and Debt consolidation from ideapractices.org.
LESS THAN A CENTURY AGO a door of history slammed shut on the great western frontier. Settlements broke the empty plains. Indians were pacified and relegated by force to reservations. A third of all Americans lived in towns, with passenger trains, not prairie schooners, to transport them. The near extinction of North America’s largest mammal, the bison, made way for a growing cattle empire.
Frederick Jackson Turner, the noted Wisconsin historian, in 1893 brilliantly marked the passing of the era. He speculated that the frontier experience had actually shaped the American character, “that coarseness and strength combined with acuteness and inquisitiveness . . . that masterful grasp of material things . . . powerful to effect great ends . . . that buoyancy and exuberance which comes from freedom.”
He might have been describing William F. Cody. For the man popularly known as Buffalo Bill summed up the era. He had been part of some of the more dramatic episodes in the settling of the West. And even as eulogies were spoken over the dying frontier, Cody was, in effect, reviving it.
Galloping into the arenas—and hearts—of America and Europe, he was perpetuating his own romantic vision of the Old West, instilling images that shape our own.
From 1883 until 1913 this superb horseman, clad in fringed and beaded buckskin and broad-brimmed Stetson, a Winchester in hand, rode at the head of a rip-roaring, shooting, tooting troupe called the Wild West. Audiences cheered as diminutive Annie Oakley shot a hundred flying targets without a miss. Cowboys inspired small boys by reenacting the Pony Express and riding bucking broncos. Cody hunted a buffalo herd with blanks. Indians in war paint attacked an emigrant train. Princes and presidents lined up to ride in the Deadwood Coach, undergo capture by Indians, and applaud rescue by Buffalo Bill. Celebrities—from Britain’s King Edward VII to Thomas A. Edison—came to call him friend.
Cody has been debunked as a fake, a drunk, and a womanizer, little more than a cardboard figure on his own giant show posters. But tracking the man and his times through Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Colorado brings to life a multifaceted American, who earned the acclaim he knew in his own day. He was renowned as a sportsman, Army scout, civic leader, and showman. His friend Episcopal Bishop George A. Beecher dismissed any faults as “surface irregularities which developed upon the fringe of his better self as the result of a long continued relationship of . . . false friends and jealous critics.”