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FROSTMAN COLUMN: Cut through the hype to get real info on the environment

FROSTMAN COLUMN: Cut through the hype to get real info on the environment

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All around us, green brightness emerges from the dank undergrowth as spring is underway. Sounds of songbirds hard at work fill the early morning hours. The occasional nip in the air will be short-lived as days get longer.

Today is the 51st celebration of Earth Day. It’s been often shared Wisconsin’s own Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator, was a key figure in the development of a day devoted to environmental consciousness, part of a larger environmental movement at that time.

My late father took groups of students to “Trees for Tomorrow” through that time period. He was also involved in a variety of river and lake cleanups, and studied alewife populations in Lake Michigan. I accompanied him on many trips to the short piers. I have shared previously I was the only 6-year-old familiar with the term “fecal coliform” in 1968.

I offer this backdrop of an upbringing in an environmentally conscious home to counter the mantra pervasive in mainstream media and across the board all conservative people want dirty air and water. We all want clean air and clean water. As an avid fisherman, I want a solid opportunity for fishing success, and to be able to prepare an occasional meal of fresh fish if I so choose. We all want to be able to find those moments of solace in nature, and preserve natural beauty.

That admiration for nature does not mean there can’t be prudent continued development of natural resources. I recently opined about the short-sighted decision to stop the Keystone XL pipeline for purely political purposes. I support the development of the ANWR Coastal Plain, whose footprint would be three square miles in an area half the size of the state of Wisconsin.

Far more compelling than discussing rational approaches to a balance is fomenting fear through wild predictions, as was the case in the initial Earth Day. American Enterprise Institute revisited a few “spectacularly wrong” predictions from Earth Day 1970 on April 21, 2019, which included the classic from Paul Erlich, who stated “between 1980 and 1989, some 4 billion people, including 65 million Americans, would perish in the “Great Die-Off.” Erlich also opined in the Aug. 10, 1969, New York Times saying, “we must realize that unless we are extremely lucky, everybody will disappear in a cloud of blue steam in 20 years.” Over 30 years hence, still no blue steam.

An April 13, story in Nation sounded the alarm about rising sea levels with concern that “if seas rise 20 feet or more over the next 100 to 200 years—which is our current trajectory—the outlook is grim. In that scenario, there could be two feet of sea level rise by 2040, three feet by 2050, and much more to come.” Alarming, but exaggerated. A Climate Change Dispatch response on April 14, noted, “According to NASA and NOAA satellite instruments, sea level is rising at a mere 3 millimeters per year, which is a pace of just under one foot per century.”

Billionaire Bill Gates hasn’t missed a step in the climate change hysteria. A Jan. 11, Forbes story outlined Gates’ idea of spraying calcium carbonate into the sky to potentially dim the sun. If you take a TUMS for heartburn, it’s made of calcium carbonate. What could possibly go wrong? The project is rightly mired in controversy over the potential effects.

Closer to home, we examine the future of a program carrying Nelson’s name, the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship program. A Legislative Fiscal Bureau analysis in January 2019, stated the program “acquire(s) land to expand nature-based outdoor recreational opportunities and protect environmentally sensitive areas. About 17% of the state is “public conservation land.” An April 9, WXPR story covered debate over the program.

Current funding is at $33 million per year, and the governor’s budget calls for $70 million a year for at least the next 10 years. There is much merit to this program, but when do we slow or stop land acquisition? The story relayed issues raised by State Sen. Mary Felzkowski of Tomahawk, concerned about the amount of land being gobbled up in northern counties, as more land is publicly owned. The LRB analysis also referred to emphasis on purchasing land close to Wisconsin’s largest cities. Here again, we must find that balance between continuing to lock up more of the state’s own lands, and availing recreational opportunities.

Take time to weed through the hysteria that often accompanies doomsday scenarios. Do your part to care for the environment by cleaning up after yourself, prudently using recreational facilities across the state and elsewhere, and get educated on the true extent of our impact on our world. We’ll all be better citizens for the effort.

Scott Frostman lives in Baraboo, and has roots throughout Wisconsin. Opinions herein are exclusively his own. He believes anyone can make a difference and can be reached at scfrostman@gmail.com.

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