For about an hour this afternoon, maybe two, somebody with access to the Twitter account at the Badlands National Park became a hero on social media when she wrote several “tweets” about climate change and posted them on the park’s Twitter feed. This was kind of a big deal because the Trump administration scrubbed all mention of climate change from government web sites within hours of Trump taking office, and on Monday many government agencies were forbidden from releasing information to the public or make public appearances without authorization.
I let out a little cheer when I saw the first tweet, and I have to admit I got a little choked up when whoever it was kept it up through three or four tweets. In my mind’s eye I pictured a National Park Service ranger hunched over a computer terminal, hurriedly batting away at the keyboard in with one eye on the door, waiting for the sound of his supervisor angrily stomping down the hall to put a stop to her insolence. For some reason, I imagined it was a woman doing the rebelling.
She managed to write four or five tweets before she was stopped and the tweets were deleted. By then, everybody on Twitter was sharing the tweets, and by the time I got home I found that several people I knew of Facebook were sharing them, too.
I didn’t realize the deeper significance of what that ranger wrote until I read this from Angus Johnston, a CUNY history professor:
The quote in the tweet is from the 1916 law that established the National Park Service. Here’s a fuller version of the quote: “To conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such a manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”
The context for this quote is not just the future of the NPS itself, but also a Republican proposal to expedite divestment of federal land. The proposal, which already passed the House, would streamline opening up land now held by the govt to development. Dumping federal land on the cheap would be a windfall for developers and deprive the rest of us access.
The folks at @BadlandsNPS are risking their jobs to tell us that we are risking our heritage and our future. This land is our land. We must cherish it, protect it, and preserve it — unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.
The tweet with which I started this thread, a quote from the 1915 law that established the National Parks Service, has been deleted. “And by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” Deleted. Purged. A National Park tweeted a quote from the hundred-year-old law that established the National Parks Service, and was forced to erase it.
You want to know who these people are? This is who they are. You want to know what’s coming? They just gave you a taste. Totalitarians enforce compliance in small things because they know that small freedoms give you an appetite for bigger ones.