Monday, January 25, 2016

Man in the Wilderness

Barrack Obama wasn't forced to spend the night in an animal carcass like Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant, but the President learned a few other valuable tips from Bear Grylls on his expedition into the Arctic Circle, the first ever by a standing President.  The episode of Running Wild was made more to highlight the impact of global warming than it was to show how to survive in the wilderness, with the President and Bear exchanging thoughts and observations over bear-killed salmon.

Grylls was pleased as punch to have scored such a huge guest for his show, saying what a down-to-earth guy the President is, something that probably won't sit well with many in his audience, who had petitioned for Bear to make Obama drink his own urine, as others have done on the show.  Bear was a little put off by the all the security and press that came along for the ride, but in the end the President put full trust in Bear, and the two had a great time.

Of course, it doesn't match the real-life exploits of Sarah's exploits into the wilderness, but it does show the President's willingness to put himself in difficult terrain to prove a point.  His excursion into the Arctic was in early September, and he and Bear needed little more than windbreakers.  Bear pointed out the receding glaciers and other signs of global warming, contradicting conservative critics who refuse to acknowledge climate change.

In fact, global warming has received very little mention this political campaign by either side.  I don't think it has come up once in Republican debates, and has received only passing mention in Democratic debates.  Like most serious issues, it has been swept under by Donald Trump's outrageous acts.  Yet, the President is determined to press the issue.  For their part, the Republicans would rather hammer on ISIS, calling the President "naive" to think global warming poses a greater threat than terrorism.

However, many others think that what is driving the refugee crisis isn't so much ISIS as it is global warming.  A three-year drought in Syria probably had as much to do with so many persons fleeing the country as has the ongoing civil war.   Rural farming areas have been particularly hard hit.

Relocations have similarly taken place in Alaska, which the President highlighted on this trip.  Arctic regions are being even more greatly affected by global warming, where temperatures have risen twice as fast as the global average.  Obama visited Kotzebue, offering to provide relief to a town that has been one of the most adversely impacted by climate change.

In many ways, Obama is evoking the same message Teddy Roosevelt made a century ago, calling on America to protect its valuable lands and resources for posterity's sake.  Teddy was by far the more intrepid outdoorsman, publishing his accounts of his ranch life, hunting expeditions and the time he traveled through the Brazilian wilderness, which nearly took his life.   However, you have to hand it to President Obama for staring global warming in the face and calling it to our attention, which I imagine President Roosevelt would have done the same.

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