Mountain News: 

Enviros advised to link sacred with the profane

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. — If the environment is sacred, as most environmentalists would say, then how do you get support for protecting it?

That is an ongoing discussion within the environmental movement. Most people connect the sacred with the spiritual, and for many people that means churches. But in Jackson Hole, only 24 per cent of people attend church regularly – compared to 50 per cent nationally.

Other similarly outdoors-oriented ski towns and resort valleys in the West have similar no-show numbers because, as Jackson Hole writer Jonathan Schecther points out, "Many of us manifest our spirituality in nontraditional ways, especially by being out in nature."

Schechter argues that environmentalists must hold their noses and face the reality that a high-quality environment correlates with making money. He points out that Teton County, where Jackson Hole is located, has among the highest per-capita income in the United States, but with its proximity to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, it lies at the epicenter of arguably the healthiest ecosystem in the Lower 48.

Environmentalists have no choice but to link the sacred and the profane, he argues, because the profane – making money – has become the pre-eminent secular god.

"In this age, free-market economics is the world’s dominant paradigm, its pre-eminent secular god. Like it or not, capitalism is accepted, if not embraced, by more people than any religion. And while it’s taken capitalism a couple hundred years to reach this point of pre-eminence, it’s now the closest thing the world has to a universal philosophy."

What remains, he concedes, is creating economic tools that make the ironclad argument that conservation in particular, and environmentalism in general, are good for the economy.

Environmental writer Todd Wilkinson, also writing in the News & Guide, observes that when Grand Teton National Park was expanded 60 years ago, some local ranchers – including several who went on to become national political leaders – predicted economic malaise. They feared Jackson Hole’s economy would suffer from the reduction in ranching, never anticipating the much greater gain in the tourism and now the recreation and leisure economies.

Plastic may slow glacier melt

EISGRAT, Austria — Older people in Neustift im Stubaital, the village below Austria’s Eisgrat Glacier, remember that their grandparents sent a priest up into the mountains to appeal to God to stop the encroaching glacier.

Now, they pray for an end to the heat that threats the jobs of about 1.2 million Tiroleans in the Alps dependent in some way on glacier skiing.

Glaciers in Austria have been melting so rapidly, reports the Associated Press, that researchers have placed football field-sized swathes of white polyethylene on top of the snow, in an attempt to deflect the summer sun and hence slow the melting.

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