The Great American Land Heist: Part 2

Today we bring you Part Two of the Five-Part Series, The Great American Land Heist. For five consecutive days, I will be posting a new article about what may be the biggest threat to the American West since Manifest Destiny.

These articles are meant to inspire action, to stir up resistance, and to make you think. If you like what you read, please, please, sign the petition, write your representatives, tell your friends, and share these articles through your social media channels. 


Part 2: Politics in the Age of the Attention Economy

There’s a ton of things vying for our attention right now, and the very real, overwhelming sense that nothing we do is going to make a difference… But the idea that we don’t have any power is NOT true. It’s just people don’t often use it as much as they once did. Sign the petition, spread the word, write your congressman. It sounds pretty basic, but it can actually make a big difference. It’s a small step into advocacy, but you have to start somewhere.” — Tania Lown-Hecht. Communications Director, Outdoor Alliance.

landheist1.jpg

I find myself constantly asking this question: “how are you supposed to care about anything enough to do something about it?” Or, perhaps more pertinently, how do you choose what to care about? There’s racism, sexism, ageism, socioeconomicism, povertyism, religionism, there’s war, famine, disease. Deforestation, deglaciation, permanent destruction of natural resources and species death on the daily. How do our brains filter through the vastness of influences vying for our attentions?

This is what I know: things I really really care about take the backseat to what amounts to little more than distractions, time and time again. There’s always a new crag, a new crisis, a new book to read, a new podcast to hear, a new idea to write about, a new story to pitch, a new venue to pitch to, a new cat meme to click on, smile, and reply with a facebook-appropriate emoji. Each time something goes viral, the earth shakes. In the aftermath of tremor after tremor, what really matters lies buried in the rubble.

Everyone and everything is vying for your attention, all the time. Attention = ad space, ad space = money, money = power, power = politics. Nothing matters except the next great story. This week we’ll debate #blacklivesmatter, the next it will be #LGBT, after that, we’ll fearmonger a little over the #middleeast, then back to some breaking news about Beyonce.

This week’s BIG NEWS is next week’s cat picture. I can’t keep track of what’s real, and what’s clickbait. It’s hard enough to simply notice when something you care about is at stake, and then zero in on it amid the clamor and cacophony. It’s almost impossible to tear yourself away from the screen long enough to do something about it.

If you’re like I was before someone asked me to research and write about this, you’ve probably missed out on literally dozens of very intelligent, very provocative, very illustrative articles that have been written about the Public Land Heist.

The crazy thing is, the people who are missing those articles – the millennials – are probably the most important target audience for them. We are the future. And we are easily distracted.

I just tore myself away from facebook for five minutes to read about the Land and Water Conservation Fund – an act more than 50 years old designed to help buy up private parcels for preservation as public protected lands. In October 2015, it expired in spite of 50+ successful years of bipartisan support. My question is, why did it take such a will of effort to leave my facebook feed to learn about this incredibly important thing that affects me directly? My values are out of concert with my habits. The things I actually care about, again, lie buried beneath the rubble.

The politics of caring, and the art of truth are losing battles. Consider the following quote “congress is authorized to allocate up to $900 million annually to LWCF, not from taxpayers’ dollars but from royalties paid by energy companies drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf. It rarely gives the fund anywhere close to that, though, and in recent years has sent about two-thirds of the allocation to the general treasury. As a result, the program has accumulated a $20 billion IOU, which Rep. Bishop cites as a reason not to continue funding it…”

Still paying attention? Did I lose you yet?

How is something like that supposed to compete with something like this: “Make America Great Again”?

The truth is a shitty soundbight. It takes too long to get out, it’s too complicated, and it’s far too boring. It is unhashtaggable. And in today’s attention economy, that means the truth does not win. 

What wins are lolcats, politicians screaming obscenities about one another, and the surreptitious backchanneling dealings of the 1% who use us, inflame our passions, and categorically discount our considerations in their politics. We would care, but, here’s a compilation of puppies.

As Trump has proven time and again throughout this election cycle: caring about what is right, or true, is a thing of the past. All that matters now is, ‘what is memorable?’

***

Three weeks ago, the Land Heist was THE THING for me. I spent hours and hours researching, reading articles, reaching out to people who have been involved in the fight, writing notes. Then it fell off the radar for a while. By the time I was back at it again, paying attention, I couldn’t remember what I had learned, and what I intended to accomplish with all my efforts.

It’s not that I don’t care any more, it’s that this is what happens.

The world plods along slowly: the rich get richer, everyone else gets poorer, the middle class erodes but stays comfortable enough to stave off revolution. We all just amble on, checking our facebook feeds, cruising from story to story, news to news. Meanwhile, a small collection of rich, mostly old white men, who have figured out how to harness our inattention, steer it to their bidding.

It may turn out that while we all are sleeping, enormous swaths of public lands get transferred out of federal jurisdiction, into states control. It may come to pass that areas we have hunted, fished, climbed, mountainbiked, ATV’d, skiid, kayaked, walked, looked at birds, oggled native american ruins, talked to trees, whispered to the wind, felt strongly and deeply connected to for generations… it may come to pass that while we are sleeping, all of those places disappear.

Or at least some of them.

And it may be that we actually had the power and the ability to stop it from happening, but we simply weren’t paying enough attention.

***

I don’t know how to write something more viral than a puddle of puppies. I don’t know how to bring myself to action, much less you. I don’t know how to determine the size of the threat, the magnitude of the resistance, the force of the petition you can sign, or the letter you can write your state representative.

But I do know this: this thing keeps on keeping my attention. It keeps defying the odds, and rising back to the top of my to do list like a horsefly that won’t quit bugging me.

Do I feel as crooked and conniving as a horsefly asking for your attention? Yeah, I do. Do I feel uncomfortable positing that perhaps this is more important than next or last week’s political issue? Sure.

But maybe this issue is the fly biting your ass, too. If it is, then start swatting. 

Don’t forget: there’s strength in numbers. We are the ones with power. We may be big and dumb and easily bent to the will of one wretched master… but all we have to do is buck, and master will fall at our feet. They need us more than we need them. THEY are OUR representatives.

It may be that it’s about time to ask yourself, what keeps you up at night?

If the public land heist is the answer to that question, you can start by doing the following:

Step one: Sign the petition you need to sign. protectourpublicland.org is an incredible resource with an elegant lay out of the land heist situation, an extensive list of affected areas, resources for how to help, and fun facts such as: “71% of climbing is on public lands.” It is an easy website to navigate, the information is poignant and concise, and the petition takes approximately 0.05 minutes to sign.

Step two: Find your state representative, and write them. Apparently very few people do. Easy + Stupid + False = “Ah, my one letter won’t make a difference.”
More Difficult + Smart + True = “If I take it upon myself to do this, maybe others will, too. And if we all do, our voices will be heard.”

Step three: Copy paste http://www.protectourpublicland.org/ into your social media feeds, and share. If you found this article helpful for generating the stoke necessary to do steps one and two, then copy paste the url in a separate post, and share. Don’t back off. This matters. Like, actually, really, seriously, matters.

Step four: Read about it.
Here and Here: Why The Government Owns So Much Land in the West  – NYTIMES,
The Larger but Quieter Than Bundy Push to Take Over Federal Land – NYTIMES

Here, Here, and Here: How an East Coast Think Tank is Fueling the Land Transfer Movement, The Taxpayer Money That Fuels Federal Land Transfer Demands,  Public-land Transfer Proponents May Have Violated Lobbying Laws (All High Country News)

Here: The Money Behind Fox News’ Promotion of Cliven Bundy – Media Matters

And Here: It’s Not Just Militia Members Who Want to Take Over Federal Land – Mother Jones 

Step five: Talk about it. You are not alone. This is an issue that affects reps and dems, blues and reds, climbers and ATV riders, fishermen and hunters, kayakers and birdwatchers, mountain bikers and mountain hikers, backpackers and trail runners, extreme athletes and casual admirers, your mom, your dad, your sister brother and everyone you know, Americans and nonAmericans, Trumpers and Sanders thumpers, everyone, everyone, everyone. This matters. And you might just be surprised to see who is willing to fight along side you to protect our public lands.

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