Teddy Roosevelt Leadership on Climate

Happy President’s Day. My son has recently been doing reports on the presidents, which has been a learning experience for all of us. This prompted me to think through my favorite of this nation’s leaders: Thomas Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR. But my all time favorite is Theodore Roosevelt. By way of review, here’s my son’s report:

Theodore Roosevelt was the 62nd president of the United States. He was born in New York on October 27th, 1858. His family was a rich family. He was homeschooled. He was Vice-President when President McKinley was assassinated. He took over the presidency in 1901. He was the first accidental President to later win the election. President Roosevelt accomplished many things. He created the US Forest Service. He wanted to protect land and animals. This created 150 National Forests and 5 National Parks. On January 11, 1908 he declared the Grand Canyon National Monument. “Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is,” he declared. “You can not improve on it.”

There’s a lot of things I like about Teddy Roosevelt. I like his “speak softy, and carry a big stick.” I like his conservation values.

“We have become great because of the lavish use of our resources and we have just reason to be proud of our growth. But the time has come to inquire seriously what will happen when our forests are gone, when the coal, the iron, the oil and the gas are exhausted, when the soils have been still further impoverished and washed into the streams, polluting the rivers, denuding the fields, and obstructing navigation. These questions do not relate only to the next century or to the next generation. It is time for us now as a nation to exercise the same reasonable foresight in dealing with our great natural resources that would be shown by any prudent man in conserving and widely using the property which contains the assurance of well-being for himself and his children.” Theodore Roosevelt here.

What amazes me is that the same issues that exist today existed 100 years ago: renewable resources, deforestation, peak oil, un-natural gas, soil quality & destabilization, water pollution. The exception being climate change; the science didn’t exist then.

Last week senior officials of about 190 nations wrote down a 100-page document to begin negotiations toward a UN deal to limit climate change this December in Paris (here).

Denial of climate change, humans cause of it, and the science that overwhelmingly documents both continues to be bankrolled by the likes of the Koch brothers and Exxon Mobile (here) in order to protect their wealth. While the 1% holds our future hostage to their pursuit of wealth, we are fortunate that other government and social leaders like ‘The B Team’ are leveraging their resources toward environmental and climate solutions (here). It is time for all leaders–from nonprofits to international corporations–to improve the climate and environmental dialogue (here) by disrupting a well-funded fabrication of doubt with softly spoken truth and resources as heavily leveraged as the lie.

“What the world needs now are leaders who are willing to bridge the gap between daunting short-term demands and desirable long-term outcomes. Instead of remaining preoccupied with the present, world leaders should view 2015 as an opportunity to ensure that today’s disruptive crises provide the foundation for tomorrow’s sustainable prosperity.” Read more here.

Again I’m reminded of Theodore Roosevelt’s leadership.

“It is also vandalism wantonly to destroy or to permit the destruction of what is beautiful in nature, whether it be a cliff, a forest, or a species of mammal or bird. Here in the United States we turn our rivers and streams into sewers and dumping-grounds, we pollute the air, we destroy forests, and exterminate fishes, birds and mammals — not to speak of vulgarizing charming landscapes with hideous advertisements. But at last it looks as if our people were awakening.” Theodore Roosevelt here.

And for myself and my son, I am hopeful that Teddy’s hopes of an environmental awakening are finally realized in our generation. If it was vandalism to wantonly destroy what is beautiful in nature, how much greater is the vandalism of what is beautiful in human nature by contributing our wealth toward undermining the well-being of ourselves and our children?

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