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Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument: A Uranium Miner’s Dream

“Leave it as it is. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it.” – Theodore Roosevelt, speaking of the Grand Canyon

We did not heed Teddy’s advice.

The first thing visitors may see when entering Grand Canyon National Park through the main South Entrance is not the iconic mile deep, 18 mile wide chasm. It may well be the Yavapai Lodge (where “natural beauty meets the magic of convenience” according to the website). Speaking of convenience, the lodge is only steps away from the post office, a bank, and a grocery store.  Just a short distance away is Grand Canyon Auto Services, where you can get your oil changed at the very same time you’re gazing at one of the seven wonders of the world. The train station is across the street, with four other lodges and hotels within a short walk. The three visitor’s centers in Grand Canyon Village—the official name for this quasi-town of 2,000—peddle all the Grand Canyon merchandise necessary to provide a complete tourist experience.

Grand CanyonThose seeking a more—what should we call it, authentic?—experience do have an option: Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument. Created by President Bill Clinton on January 11, 2000, the 1.1 million acre Monument is nearly the same size as its sister National Park but is almost entirely undeveloped. Located on the northwestern flank of the National Park, Grand Canyon-Parashant provides spectacular views from the north rim of the Canyon and protects watersheds crucial to the health of the Colorado River system. Clinton’s Interior Secretary, Arizona native Bruce Babbitt, called the National Monument the “full and final chapter in the history of preserving the canyon” at its dedication ceremony.

The area was first considered for wilderness designation in 1975, when nearby land was added to the National Park with the Grand Canyon Enlargement Act, and Congress again took up the idea in the 1980s. Both times, intense pressure from ranching and mining interests scuttled the efforts. The political landscape changed in the 1990s however. Towards the end of President Clinton’s second term, the detrimental effects of a century of overgrazing coupled with a disinterested mining industry suffering from depressed uranium prices gave his administration both cause and opportunity, respectively, to establish the Monument. Still, it was passionately opposed by the sparse local population, Arizona’s governor, and most of the state’s congressional delegation. Arizona’s deep conservative roots (It’s been a traditional red state for two generations or more) make the federal government a quite unpopular neighbor. Perhaps those most surprised by the Monument’s establishment were environmental groups, who rarely seem to win these battles but swung for the fences by lobbying to double the size of the Monument (originally proposed at 500,000 acres) and set it up around watershed boundaries in an effort to protect the entire Grand Canyon ecosystem. Though limited grazing continues within Grand Canyon-Parashant, mining and commercial development are not allowed.

The word Parashant is derived from the Paiute Indian phrase Pawteh ‘ee oasoasant, meaning “tanned elk hide,” or “softening of the elk hide.” A small part of the ancestral lands of the Paiute people, Grand Canyon-Parashant’s variety of landscapes, from alpine mountains to grasslands to slickrock canyons, is critical habitat for numerous endangered and threatened species, including the California condor, desert tortoises, desert bighorn sheep, and pronghorn antelope. It is an ecologically unique area where the Sonoran, Great Basin, and Mojave Deserts converge. And geologists are keenly interested in the story the landscape can tell with its 1.7 billion year old rocks at the bottom of the Grand Canyon and the relatively young 1 million year old basalt on Mt. Logan’s peak.

However, it is that same geology which piques the temptations of commercial interests and which may ultimately threaten the existence of Grand Canyon-Parashant. Deep underground in the Monument’s rocks may be a bonanza of uranium ore.

Uranium is a silvery-white metal owing its uniqueness to the fact it is the only known naturally occurring fissile isotope—in other words, it can produce a nuclear reaction and make you glow you in dark if you spend too much time with it. Through a refinement process called enrichment, its radioactive and nuclear properties are enhanced to the point it can be used to produce nuclear weapons and fuel for nuclear power plants. It is also a very dense metal, leading to its use in alloys for military armor plating and armor-piercing projectiles such as bullets.

Uranium mining boomed in the desert southwest during the Cold War. The United States government set uranium prices and offered $10,000 bonuses for producing mines. Like the California gold rush of a hundred years before, prospectors flooded Utah, Arizona, and Nevada seeking their fortunes.

Within five years, the first cases of cancer in miners began to surface. A hundred miners were dead by 1966.

Over time, uranium use shifted from military purposes to civilian nuclear power when the government stopped buying uranium in 1970. Production peaked in the 1980s before abruptly crashing. When the boom ended, abandoned uranium mine sites were left scattered across the Colorado Plateau. The Government Accountability Office estimated in 2012 that just inspecting sites on BLM land would cost $39 million. Determining who pays for the cleanup of abandoned mines can take millions of dollars and years in the court system. The EPA recently settled with the Navajo Nation for $600 million to clean up 94 mines on tribal lands.

So why go to the trouble and expense of cleaning them up? And what exactly is there to clean up? Though creeks in the Grand Canyon region have trace amounts of uranium, they rarely exceed EPA standards, which is 30 parts or less of uranium per billion. However, in 1995, UNLV hydrogeologist David Kreamer found uranium levels of 92.7 parts per billion from a creek running beneath an old uranium mine on the Canyon’s south rim. In 2010, fifteen springs and five wells in the area were found to have uranium levels in excess of safe levels. So what happens when the uranium ore is disturbed by mining and released into the watershed? No one knows. Scientists still are not sure exactly how water flows underground, especially in a watershed as large and complex as the Grand Canyon’s. Water can take centuries to seep through the mile thick layer of rock from canyon rim to the Colorado River below. Downstream from the canyon is Lake Mead and the rest of the Colorado River system, which provides drinking water to 20 million people in Nevada, California, and Arizona.

In the mid-2000s, uranium prices began recovering and uranium prospectors returned to northern Arizona. Although President Obama established a 20-year ban on new mines in 2012, the number of claims staked in northern Arizona outside National Park and Monument boundaries number into the thousands. “It’s just willy-nilly. People mine wherever the hell they want,” Grand Canyon through-hiker and retired engineer Rich Rudow told The Arizona Republic for a March 2017 article. “Is that dangerous? I don’t know…There’s this mine that’s been laying fallow since probably the ‘50s, and nobody’s asking any questions because nobody’s complaining.” At least, not yet.

It is the unknown which defines Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument. Its few roads and little infrastructure leave a million acres of unknown wilderness for the public to explore. Also unknown is the impact of the numerous abandoned uranium mines in the area. Worse yet, its future is unknown by a Trump administration that has so far been unfriendly to the environment, to conservation, and the idea of protected public lands. Will this continue to be a place free from human exploitation, or will it be reduced to a bunch of holes in the ground with piles of uranium tailings and unknown ecological consequences?

National Monuments Under Attack

Ready, Aim…

Imagine the Grand Canyon with uranium mines on the rim.  Or the spectacular view of the Tetons from highway 191 (you’ve seen the pictures) blocked by oil wells or million dollar mansions.

Grand CanyonOn April 26th, President Trump announced what many in the environmental community considered an open declaration of war. After months of saber rattling on environmental issues, Trump signed an executive order directing his Secretary of Interior to commence a “review” of National Monuments set aside under the Antiquities Act by the last three presidential administrations. The review could result in the removal of the designation from some established Monuments or reduce existing Monuments in size. It is an unprecedented act, and legal experts (and administration officials themselves) are not sure it is even possible for a president to revoke the National Monument designation. It has never been attempted by a president, and has only been done by Congress a handful of times.

The Antiquities Act was passed by Congress and signed by President Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican, in June 1906. The legislation obligated federal agencies to preserve and protect historic, scientific, commemorative, and culturally significant sites on federal land. It also gave the president a means to quickly protect as National Monuments landmarks, structures, and objects of historic or scientific interest. It was the result of concerns in the latter part of the 19th century over looting and damage from commercial souvenir hunters and the general public to America’s archeological sites, and was the first legal protection of cultural and natural resources in the United States. The first use of the Act was by Roosevelt in September, 1906, when he created Devil’s Tower National Monument in Wyoming. It has been used an additional 150 times by fifteen other presidents. Thirty two sites originally protected as National Monuments have since become National Parks, including what many consider the crown jewel of the National Park system, the Grand Canyon. Wyoming’s iconic Grand Teton National Park, one of the most photographed landscapes in the United States, was also once a National Monument.

 

A “Massive Federal Land Grab”

In announcing the Executive Order, Mr. Trump vowed to “end another egregious use of government power,” and called the process of establishing the Monuments a “massive Federal land grab.”  Yet under the Antiquities Act, new National Monuments can only be created from land already owned by the Federal government, and no private land or state land was seized in creating the Monuments, so it is unclear exactly what Mr. Trump meant by the comment—if he even knows.  Mr. Trump perhaps offered a clue to his intentions when he said, “The Antiquities Act does not give the federal government unlimited power to lock up millions of acres of land and water, and it’s time that we ended this abusive practice.”  Some environmental groups have understood that comment to mean Mr. Trump’s aims are to remove protections from resource extraction, such as logging and oil drilling, that the lands currently enjoy as National Monuments.  Trump added that he wanted state governors and local constituents to have ultimate control over what happens to areas such as those under review.  “Today, we are putting the states back in charge,” he explained.Tetons

In a convoluted way, Mr. Trump poses a valid question.  Should the Federal government cede management of public lands—or the land itself—to the states?  As it stands, the federal government owns about 640 million acres of land, which is around 28% of the total land in the United States.  Most of this is in the West and was acquired from foreign countries well over a century ago.  Congress, which has authority over the land under Article IV of the Constitution, has charged four government agencies with management of 95% of it.  These agencies include the Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, the Forest Service, and the National Park Service.  While it’s impossible to determine how much money the federal government spends managing the land, in 2016 Congress appropriated more than $15 billion to the four agencies.  And therein lies the reason the states have not taken over management of much of the land.  A recent article in the Billings Gazette suggested the cost for just Montana to take over management of the 25 million federal acres within its borders would be $500 million dollars.  This represents five percent of the state’s $10 billion budget, and lawmakers there just concluded a very tense budget battle, making difficult decisions and setting painful priorities just to make sure the state could continue to pay its bills.  This is a common theme throughout the West and the nation, with many states facing dramatic budget shortfalls and making cuts in essential services.  To be fair, the federal government has its own budgetary and spending issues.  However, what the federal government spends on the four land management agencies is less than one half of one percent (0.375% to be exact) of the nation’s budget.  In comparison, the US spends almost $600 billion dollars on the military, accounting for almost 55% of the nation’s discretionary spending.  The United States’ defense budget is the largest in the world and is more than the next seven countries combined.  Whereas the federal government’s funding of public lands is a matter of setting national priorities, state governments may not be able to adequately manage it, leading to potentially disastrous consequences.  Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, explained in a recent New York Times op-ed, “Few states can afford to take care of these lands the way we, the people of the entire nation, do by, say, paying to fight fires or maintain roads. Once cash-strapped states have squeezed all they can out of budgets for schools, highways and other essential services, they’ll sell off those formerly public lands to the highest industrial and corporate bidders.”

This is only the latest move by an administration that has been hostile to environmental causes since the early days of its campaign.  From naming climate change denier Scott Pruitt to head the EPA, an agency he sued multiple times as attorney general of Oklahoma, to slashing EPA’s funding in the proposed federal budget, to killing President Obama’s landmark Clean Power Plan, to threatening to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement, the Trump Administration is setting a clear agenda when it comes to environmental policy.  Outdoor clothier and retailer Patagonia has already announced plans to sue the government should any Monument be delisted or altered, and a bevy of environmental organizations are falling in line behind.  If the president wanted a fight with the entire outdoor and environmental community, he now has his hands full with one.

 

Review This Mr. Trump

Used with permission under creative common license CC BY-SAInterior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s review process will reportedly take 120 days.  Throughout that time, I will be releasing a feature on each of the National Monuments that are being reviewed by the Trump administration.  These features will be posted on my website and also on Medium.com.  I’ll provide a background on each Monument; detail the wildlife, archeological treasures, and natural wonders that each Monument protects; analyze the review process undertaken by the presidential administration in office at the time of the Monument’s designation; and describe what is at stake should the Monument be delisted.  I will also provide updates when more is learned regarding each Monument’s possible fate.  In an age when truth—and now our National Monuments—are under attack from forces spewing “alternative facts,” it’s important for you to have accurate information from which to form opinions and judgments.

Mr. Trump’s goal is to “end these abuses and return control to the people, the people of all of the states, the people of the United States.”  His rhetoric is a demonstration of a common misconception plaguing our country—that federal lands are somehow not ours.  The National Parks, National Monuments, National Forests—these are already OUR places, OUR land.  We do not need it returned to us.  They already belong to you and they belong to me, and they deserve our continued protection.  Our National Park system has been described as America’s Best Idea.  We cannot let one lunatic destroy our heritage and our unique places just so some soulless corporation can make a few bucks drilling for oil.

“An Inconvenient Truth” in the Age of Trump

“It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment.” – Ansel Adams

“If you really think the environment is less important than the economy, try holding your breath while you count your money.” – Dr. Guy McPherson

I’m in a race against time.  A race against the climate.  And now a race against the policies of our own government. 

GNPI first visited Glacier National Park when I was a freshman in college.  The pristine beauty, the wildlife, the rawness of the landscape burned in me a strong desire to return.  When I became a father, this desire developed new meaning—to show my children Glacier National Park before its namesake glaciers melted into history.  They are disappearing at an alarming rate; so much that they could be gone entirely by 2030, if not sooner.  I want my children, both under four years old, to see and remember those glaciers, which means I need to wait at least another 4-6 years to take them.  By then, whatever glaciers remain may be nothing more than small fields of snow.

Back home, my children’s native Colorado is one of the fastest warming states in America.  Average annual temperatures have increased two degrees in the just the last 30 years.  Hotter summers cause more ground level ozone (smog) to clog Denver’s air and leads to higher electricity demand.  Spring snowmelt has shifted earlier by one to four weeks compared to the long term average, and snowpack has been below average in all of Colorado’s river basins since the turn of the century.  Less snow reduces the flow of the Colorado River, the key river in the intermountain west, which provides drinking water for more than 33 million people in six western states.  And these  are just climate change symptoms that we see in our home state.  Temperatures are rising quickly in the polar regions, where our planet stores most of its ice.  As this ice melts (not if), global sea levels will rise between two to seven feet this century (a conservative estimate), threatening the livability of dozens of major coastal cities.  And that may be one of the more mild and gracious outcomes global warming has in store for us.

President Trump’s climate change rhetoric during his campaign was concerning—that climate change was a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese and threats to withdraw the US from the landmark Paris Climate Agreement.  His nomination of former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson for secretary of state was upsetting, and his decision to choose Scott Pruitt to head the EPA, an agency he has sued multiple times, was frankly irresponsible.  And the mass censoring of government agencies after his administration took office was nothing short of infuriating.  Webpages regarding climate change were removed from the Whitehouse and EPA websites.  This all indicates the administration is ignoring the problem so someone else can deal with it.  I hope that all of us would refuse to leave to our children a planet that’s in worse shape than it was left to us by prior generations.  Global warming, whether caused or intensified by human civilization, is a concept in which 97% of scientists agree.  Yet some politicians, who have no experience, education, or training in climate science, continue to deny the very existence of climate change.  Global warming is not a liberal conspiracy, and it sure as hell is not a damned Chinese hoax.

Those of us that care about our planet and our children’s future have unfortunately become complacent, lulled into a false sense of security by eight years of a president whose faults did not include a lack of understanding of climate change or the enthusiasm to help solve it.  The United States undertook some major climate initiatives and finally seemed to acknowledge its role in contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.  It was a dramatic departure from the Bush Administration, which the fossil fuel industry was all over like a fat kid on a cupcake.  Perhaps we felt under President Obama like we had won.  Perhaps we let down our guard because we felt we could.

So where do we go from here?  What can we do?

Being a “Facebook activist” may be marginally helpful in bringing awareness, but your posts won’t change your friends’ minds or anyone else’s.  Marching and protesting are excellent ways to bring awareness and influence public opinion, which in turn can pressure politicians into action.  But marches and protests must be large and frequent to get the job done.  One person working behind the scenes can be more effective than a few thousand protestors–if protesting is all they do.

So first of all, shake a National Park Ranger’s hand.  “The Resistance”, a euphemistic name for the startling insurgency boiling within every corner of the United States Government and the nation, was sparked by a few anonymous park rangers.  They created an alternative twitter handle for the National Park Service after their agency was silenced by the new administration’s totalitarian gag order.  Since then, more than two dozen federal agencies and federally funded foundations have similarly defected.  Inspired by their colleagues, insurgents within the government have helped scientists “borrow” climate data from US federal computers and save them to servers in Europe, ensuring it survives any purge as the Trump Administration cracks down on facts, truth, and dissidents.

Next, stop signing online petitions.  They are a waste of your time.  No one with any influence pays attention to them.  Similarly, generic form letters through online advocacy sites are just as pointless.

Supporting environmental organizations may be the best way to indirectly fight for our planet’s future.  Some credible and effective organizations include The Sierra Club (www.sierraclub.org), The Nature Conservancy (www.nature.org), National Parks Conservation Association (www.npca.org), The Wilderness Society (www.wilderness.org), Natural Resources Defense Council (www.nrdc.org), Environmental Defense Fund (www.edf.org), and hundreds of other worthy organizations in the US alone.  Many of these organizations have local chapters you can join to actually participate in their efforts.  The Natural Resources Defense Council’s “Trump Watch” (www.nrdc.org/Trump-Watch) tracks and catalogues any and all environmental policy moves by the United States government.  This in particular has become an engrossing effort, and this organization needs our support.  I have been supporting The Nature Conservancy for over twenty years, beginning as a college student who scraped up ten dollars for my first annual donation.  Any little bit helps.Capital

The best way to be involved and make your voice heard is to contact your elected representatives in Congress.  Use www.govtrack.us/congress/members to find out who your senators and representatives are.  It’s an astonishingly easy to use tool.  It provides links to website, twitter, and contact info, and includes information on each elected officials’ bills sponsored, committee membership, voting record, and much more.  Calling their local office and speaking to a staff member is the most effective method of contact.  Emails receive the least amount of attention from a Congressperson’s staff. For direct, face to face interaction with your Congressperson, attend one of their town hall meetings. These are usually advertised on the Congressperson’s website.

Two Congresspersons who wield enormous power in environmental policy are the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee chairs—Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) in the Senate, and Ken Calvert (California) in the House.  Even if you do not live in their states or districts, it is worth contacting them.

Finally, keep in mind that partisanship and narrow-mindedness are plagues infecting all parts of our republic these days.  So real solutions must include input from both sides.  For those of us fighting to protect our environment, it means listening to coal miners, oilfield workers, and anyone else negatively impacted by the changes our world needs in response to climate change.  People in these positions are not enemies, they are casualties, and their interests need to be addressed in environmental policy.  That they haven’t been is part of the reason why Trump got elected and why this fight is so intense.

Many truths are under assault in the age of Trump, and we must act swiftly and decisively to protect the most inconvenient one.  I will be disheartened if my kids never get to see Glacier National Park in the condition in which it was originally protected almost 107 years ago, but this is obviously about more than just a couple of kids and a few glaciers.  What makes my heart sick is knowing they may inherent a planet teetering on the brink of unviability because some politicians and CEOs were more interested in making a few bucks.  I do not have the power to stop the greed and selfishness that is poisoning the Earth and our future.  But WE do.

Reflecting on the Crossroads Election

You can sense the anger and frustration. People are disgusted with politics as usual in Washington DC. Our politicians have not been working for us, and on November 8, 2016, almost half of America voted to begin the process they hope will “drain the swamp.” Washington Monument

I understand what many of us have been feeling. Huge corporations and the wealthy elite have too much control over politicians, especially those in Washington. For some of us, the nightmare that was the Great Recession has yet to end. For others, the influence our religious beliefs once had on society are diminishing in the midst of a rapidly changing demographic.  Still others are apprehensive of our nation’s national debt, concerned that we have leveraged our future.  It’s not as if all of the people with these concerns have been silent.  On the contrary, they have been loud yet largely ignored.  Trump touched a nerve by doing what politicians rarely do these days—listening to people and responding to their fears.

But we have been just as guilty as our politicians.  We have simply not been listening to each other.  We have not been seeking out and understanding the opinions of others. Until we start spending some time in one another’s shoes we will not take very many steps toward bringing this country back together.

In an attempt to change Washington, we’ve sent a man with no political experience and no experience in public service.  He has no background building political coalitions or getting things done in the snails-pace bureaucracy in Washington.  He’s a reality TV star and a businessman with a checkered past, yet a man with a sharp understanding of ratings and publicity. Sometimes I’ve wondered if the things he’s done and said in the campaign were to just get attention. He’s hard to take literally. The Mexican wall, for instance, would be impractical to build and forcing Mexico to fund nearly impossible.  But I’m not sure that the American public took his ideas as seriously as they took his message.  I do think they were willing to overlook the manner in which the message was delivered in favor of the underlying idea it conveyed.

And that sets a dangerous precedent.  I was as appalled and unnerved as much as anyone at what Trump has said concerning women, minorities, the LGBTQ community, and practically any other group that isn’t white Christian men.  Whatever the opposite is of political correctness, Trump takes that and runs with it the extra mile.  I agree with some who believe hate groups, bigots, and racists feel validated from some of Trump’s comments.  They are the basket of deplorables, but, contrary to Clinton’s claim, these people are thankfully NOT half of America’s population.  It is up to us—the vast majority of Americans who are reasonable people that believe in unity, equality, love, and sensitivity in the face of our differences—to refuse that validation.  It is also up to us to challenge the new President, and to do so en masse, if he ever mocks and marginalizes anyone again.  Though the concept of political correctness is controversial, the merits of politeness and compassion should never be up for debate in our society.  That so many Americans ignored his toxic vitriol, and ignored what I hope was their own misgivings about it, says much about the level of our discontent with establishment politicians.

two paths 2In light of all this, Democrats wanting Trump to fail, just like Republicans wanting Obama to fail for the past eight years, would be a decidedly stupid reaction to the election. If Trump fails, we fail and America fails.  Part of his appeal as a loose canon may end up being his undoing.  His party may find him too difficult to manage, or the electorate may very well have voter’s remorse in a few years, but hoping for any of this would not be good for any of us and it may be a disaster for all of us.  The best case scenario, in the interests of the nation, is for Trump to be the unlikeliest presidential success in history.  Democrats must be Americans first and Democrats second.

Trump and the Republicans hardly have a “mandate” from the American public, as I saw in a problematic headline in the past couple of days.  A candidate that loses the popular vote hardly receives a “mandate”.  More people voted for Clinton’s vision for America than for Trump’s.  And surveys show Trump will take office with the lowest favorability rating of any presidential candidate ever.  Most Americans disagree with the Republican platform on many policy issues, from the environment to a multitude of social issues.  If Trump and his party pursue an agenda that’s too conservative, they will likely face a severe backlash in the midterm 2018 elections.  And the Democrats will be highly motivated to recover from a string of embarrassments, from losing the 2010 midterms and the resulting gerrymandering of political districts that handicapped their political power, to being the victims just now of perhaps the greatest presidential election upset in American history.

There are some Trump policies, amongst those immigration and the environment, which are so horrifying as to deserve as much fight as the Democrats can muster.  But there are a few of Trump’s proposals worth bipartisan support—infrastructure improvements is one of them (something Obama has been pushing for years but has been blocked by a do-nothing Congress). And Democrats need to work obsessively to find common ground with the Trump administration on policies where there is mere disagreement. That’s how Washington should work: honest discourse leading to common ground leading to compromise.

Eight years ago an idealistic first-term senator from Illinois electrified the country with a promise of hope and change, and similar to Trump used the message to catapult himself into the White House. He may have delivered hope to many of us, but change has been much more difficult to achieve. I imagine Trump will encounter many of the same obstacles. I hope Congress is not one of those obstacles. I will be livid if Democrats offer the same obstructionism that this country has been suffering from for the last six years. Obstructionism is not an acceptable way to govern, and there is no absolutely no excuse for what the Republicans have put this country through. But their behavior must stand on its own for history to judge.  Our political process is ripe with tit for tat revenge sentiment and it’s tearing us apart.  We must demand Funny signbetter of ourselves and our elected officials.

One man cannot change Washington—that would be a dictatorship. It takes a Congress working together—Democrats, Republicans, and Independents—to pass laws. But it takes an engaged population that educates themselves on issues and candidates in order to get the right people in Congress willing to work together.  That doesn’t mean getting our information from only Breitbart or Daily Kos posts on our Facebook feeds, or watching Fox News or MSNBC.  Despite the fact an enormous amount of factual information from reputable sources is a click or two away, I’m astounded at the magnitude of misinformation and ignorance in our culture.  Change doesn’t begin in Washington, change begins within ourselves.

This country just experienced a crossroads election, the ramifications of which will be felt long after Trump leaves office.  His actions and comments have been far worse than anything that has been tolerated from modern American political candidates.  His election has sparked fear amongst ethnic groups that should be unthinkable in a nation considered the world’s beacon of freedom and liberty.  Twenty years’ worth of negotiations on the Paris Climate Agreement, recently signed by the United States and 200 other countries, is now in jeopardy.  This is what happens when a democracy stops engaging with itself, when people stop listening and striving to understand each other.  Resentment builds.  Fear escalates.  Hate billows from the bowels of our society.  It’s hard to imagine this just happened in the United States of America.  But it did.  However, this election will not come to define us.  How we respond to it, and how we move forward, will.

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