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Of Moose, Climate Change And Feckless Politicians

MoJo columnist Tim Crawford says true leaders say what we need to know, even if we don't want to hear it. And we need to elect them.

A bull moose wading through waters in Hayden Valley, Yellowstone National Park.  Climate change is affecting moose in many corners of the Lower 48, scientists say.  Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons
A bull moose wading through waters in Hayden Valley, Yellowstone National Park. Climate change is affecting moose in many corners of the Lower 48, scientists say. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons
A recent report from New Hampshire, published in the Canadian Journal of Zoology, notes a 70 percent die-off of new moose calves over the course of a three-year field study. It elicited this comment from a professor of wildlife ecology: “The iconic moose is rapidly becoming the new poster child for climate change in parts of the Northeast.”

The decline is happening in New England where there are no wolves to blame. In many other northern corners of the Lower 48, moose populations also are in trouble.

The scientific study, mentioned above, noted that among the 170 radio-collared moose calves, at least 125 calves died, the result of emaciation and metabolic imbalance due to winter tick blood loss. Furthermore, most adult moose also showed serious physical deterioration from the ticks. 

These ticks have benefitted from warmer temperatures, especially in long fall seasons enabling more of them to mature and affix themselves to moose and other ungulates. 

What might this portend for the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem among other changes wrought by a warming climate? And why are our contenders for political leadership not mentioning, let alone confronting, these issues? 

In political thought that which contravenes “winning” is apparently a waste, even if it is worthy of the voter’s attention.

I’ve been pondering the outcome of the coming election, particularly here in Montana. Many of our citizens display a seemingly purposeful grasp of ignorance, perhaps due to an education lacking any ignition of a thirst for intellectual curiosity especially where science is concerned or a perceived lack of opportunity, resulting in a feeling of fiscal and cultural abandonment in the digital age. 

Too often these folk embrace shallow catchphrases spoken by political figures feigning intellectual rigor. Much of this faux sophistry is really confirmation of biases held consciously or otherwise. In other words, politicians are too frightened to tell their constituents what they need to hear.

The lack of mention of global climate change by any of our candidates indicates, as a friend recently put it, “a subject so negative that mention (of it) could only cause negative reactions.” Perhaps mentioning inevitable climate peril, as confirmed in the latest analysis from the leading scientists in the world, is so counter to popular bias that dishonesty by evasion is the more appealing political course no matter what one’s personal convictions.

What kind of leadership is this?  The late U.S. Sen. John McCain was one of the few members of the GOP that trusted in the science and advocated for national action to address climate change. One can hope, however, that it doesn’t take a five-year unwanted involuntary residency in the  “Hanoi Hilton” to develop spine enough to face reality. 

The recent debased confirmation process of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh could well confirm this unfortunate thesis. Oops! I guess U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski could well be the exception proving the point. In any case, how difficult can it be for a senator (ostensibly of proven political leadership) to stand up and assume the mantle of maverick with such an open field? Can the present drift (flow) toward autocracy be of such power that safety is the prime motivator in this once land of the brave?

Moose are but one of a growing list of casualties feeling the effects of climate change and humans should stop our suspension of disbelieve that we are immune from negative consequences caused by our own actions.

Global warming is so difficult and almost unimaginatively painful to contemplate that American society, often led by a media caught up in chasing the immediacy of the day, can easily dwell on what seems to be a serial continuum of all-too-human tragic events. Let’s hope that a cohesive caring community does not further motivate violence in the alienated.

Get out and vote for those of courage, not pandering to our darker and more ignorant beliefs. Faith is a path, not a solution.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Crawford asked that his poster by artist Jeremy Shellhorn be included with his column. Link to pdf version here. "I intend to circulate it widely," he said. "I hope readers do too."

Tim Crawford
About Tim Crawford

Tim Crawford once served as a city commissioner in the resort town of Ketchum, Idaho as it contended with growth. Today, he is a downtown Bozeman businessman, a Gallatin Valley farmer, professional photographer and lifelong conservationist who loves to hunt and fish.
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