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President Obama and Bear Grylls, the next Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir?

Posted in Editorials on August 31st, 2015
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Today’s news that President Obama will be on Running Wild with Bear Grylls has many fans excited for what promises to be fascinating television.

According to USA Today:

The president and the host will be trekking through the Alaskan wilderness. The episode, to be taped, will air on NBC later this year. It will highlight the effects of climate change in that area.

This is a great way to educate people on this important issue and it might even lead to policy changes. I’m especially hopeful because of the historical precedent.

In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt went on a camping trip with John Muir in Yosemite. Muir founded the Sierra Club and was one of the first American conservationists and advocates for Yosemite. Although his thin build and long beard don’t project the same image of rugged masculinity as Grylls does today, Muir was known for taking risks in the wilderness – climbing trees during windstorms so he could better understand both the tree and the power of the storm. The famous trip Roosevelt and Muir took together led to federal protections for Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove. There’s an interesting account of their journey in the Ken Burns documentary series “America’s Best Idea.”

It’s not a new idea that conservation and recreation go hand in hand. We need to protect the national parks, public space and wilderness that we have and fighting climate change is part of that.

Unfortunately, President Obama’s recent decision to allow Shell to drill in the arctic makes his conservation themed trip to Alaska seem hypocritical. But in the time he has left in his presidency, there will be other permit applications, and other decisions – like the one on the Keystone XL Pipeline – which he will have to make. Perhaps once he has seen the destruction that is taking place he will reconsider making it worse.

It would be ironic if a genre as problematic as reality television could steer us back on course to a greener planet. But as we have seen with his usage of Buzzfeed and “Between Two Ferns” to encourage young people to sign up for health insurance, President Obama is good at using new media to advance his agenda. And while the new 1560 page Clean Power Plan doesn’t easily lend themselves to a viral video, a camping trip with Bear Grylls certainly does.

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2 Responses to “President Obama and Bear Grylls, the next Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir?”

  1. Heddi Says:

    Always enjoy reading your blog posts, Elizabeth! I had to look up who Bear Grylls was… :-) Hope all is well. xo

  2. Elizabeth Says:

    Thanks, Heddi. On a totally unrelated note I will update my blogroll and change “Dairy Free Switzerland” to “Cuisine Helvetica.” :D

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