Every morning I wake up to the backdrop of the red sandstone with the silhouette of the La Sals in the distance, I am reminded of why I decided to call the Moab valley my home. I am filled with a sense of purpose to protect and defend these landscapes so that they can continue to exist in their wild states. I am also filled with looming anxiety, a sense of despair due to the climate crisis and how it will impact this desert ecosystem.
We are already experiencing the effects of long-term drought on the Colorado Plateau, and in conjunction with rapidly growing communities, water scarcity is becoming increasingly a cause for concern. On a global scale, we are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction.
While Kirstin Peterson’s recent appeal for oil and gas reforms (“The View: Bringing balance back to oil and gas leasing,” published in the Moab Sun News Dec. 12 – 18 edition) is well-intentioned, “bringing balance back” to fossil fuel leasing falls woefully short of the strong and swift action that is needed. Fossil fuel leasing on public lands is responsible for fully one-quarter of U.S. carbon emissions and ending the practice is a necessary step towards protecting our communities. In fact, effectively all of the Democratic presidential candidates have committed to doing so.
Peterson is speaking the truth when she writes “more than just written words are needed to fight for our parks and surrounding communities.” This is why today’s global youth-led movement for climate justice exists. Facing the utter lack of meaningful action taken to date by adults, young people are taking back the narrative and demanding change.
Locally, ending federal fossil fuel leasing will protect trails from further industrial development. Globally, it will be a step towards mitigating the already unfathomable amount of human suffering occurring in the era of climate chaos.
In the face of this crisis, balance and reform are not what is needed. In order to defend a future for recreation, tourism, our community and the ecosystems that support it all, we need to see a definitive end to sacrificing public lands for fossil fuel extraction.